Unionists will need to cultivate friends at Westminster

Morning View
Morning View

The general election has ended up in an extraordinary stand-off between England and Scotland.

The Scottish nationalists swept the board north of the border.

South of the border, English voters backed the Tories in sufficient numbers to get David Cameron an overall majority, something almost no one had predicted.

But this outcome was all the more remarkable given that Ukip polled almost 13 per cent of the vote, something that in theory should have wiped out Tory seats.

A number of reasons are being cited for such dramatic results but the main conclusion is that it was reaction to the prospect of a Labour-SNP government.

Middle England has woken from its slumber.

Unionists, who could over the course of this Parliament have critical influence at Westminster, need to tread carefully amid such tensions.

Prior to the election, Ian Paisley Junior said that the price of DUP support for any minority government was £1 billion.

His party made abolition of a key part of the Tory party’s flagship welfare reform (ending the spare room subsidy, but dubbed by opponents a ‘bedroom tax’) a central demand.

This sort of talk fuels the sense that Northern Ireland is only ever interested in handouts (a sense that the English already have about Scotland).

Welfare reform was popular with the British public and will now press further ahead, given the Tory majority.

Unionists will need to cultivate friends at Westminster.

They will need to remind Tory ministers that Northern Ireland is a dedicated part of the UK that willingly sends soldiers into battle in defence of the realm.

Danny Kinahan is the sort of diplomat who will be able to convey this message to the Conservative high command.

It is badly needed, so that the current frustration in England with Scotland does not extend to Northern Ireland.