A Tory-DUP coalition is the only option, but it won’t be easy

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

An extraordinary general election has ended in a spectacular upset.

Jeremy Corbyn had been rising clearly in the polls, yet few observers actually thought that he would defeat Theresa May.

And the Labour leader did not quite defeat the prime minister, but he did deprive the Conservatives of an overall majority and so may yet be found to have landed a mortal blow.

The simple fact of the matter is that Mr Corbyn saw off his many critics, this newspaper included, that tried to highlight his past IRA support or his tax-and-spend economic policy.

Even so, he had a remarkably high vote share of 40%, higher even than Tony Blair got in his victorious 2005 election.

In Northern Ireland the DUP, and to a lesser extent Sinn Fein, swept the board. Even Lady Sylvia Hermon came close to losing her once safe North Down constituency.

Five respected MPs – Mark Durkan, Tom Elliott, Danny Kinahan, Alasdair McDonnell, Margaret Ritchie – have lost their seats in the tidal wave. It was a disastrous night for the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP.

After a poor Stormont election that seemed to threaten her leadership, Arlene Foster has presided over a triumph for the DUP. It won 10 of the 18 seats and pulled well ahead of Sinn Fein in votes. The republican party has only itself to blame – it mocked Mrs Foster over a lack of ‘respect’, but its leaders behaved in a disgraceful way that she would never have done.

Theresa May, with 57 more seats and 800,000 votes more than anyone else, has a clear mandate now to form an administration with the DUP. Indeed it is the only viable option in the House of Commons now.

But it won’t be easy. Another election within a year is quite possible. Brexit negotiations will be fraught.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein is suddenly talking about a deal. After its destabilising behaviour, the party must be treated with caution. It will have a shopping list, much of which must be turned down, even if that means direct rule.