It seems Theresa May is trying to employ brinkmanship – brinkwomanship? – against Arlene Foster in her talks with the DUP over a ‘confidence and supply’ deal to keep the Conservative Party in government.
It seems the Treasury has balked at the possible cost of a deal, as there are questions about whether Mrs May is trying to bribe the extremist right-wing Northern Irish party with promises of cash (“Austerity is dead”, remember).
In response, it seems Mrs May is delaying talks – for example by visiting Grenfell Tower today (June 15) – while setting a date for a delayed Queen’s Speech, only two days after it was originally due to take place. It will now be on Wednesday, June 21.
It’s interesting to note that Mrs May has absolutely no problem with knocking the Queen’s nose out of joint. Her Majesty is likely to have wanted to spend the day at Royal Ascot but will instead be required to attend Parliament at the whim of an arrogant upper-middle-class middle-manager.
The Guardian quotes part of a Times story (that This Writer can’t see because it is behind a paywall) suggesting that the Treasury has raised concerns about bribes:
Theresa May’s hopes of securing the support of the Democratic Unionist Party for her minority government were faltering last night as the Treasury dug in against the costs of a deal ..
Mrs May faces an internal battle over “bribes” to Northern Ireland. One stumbling block is the “Barnett consequentials” — the system supposed to ensure fair funding for all four nations of the UK.
Downing Street figures want to give funds directly to Northern Ireland as a part of a deal to secure the support of the DUP’s ten MPs. However, the Treasury has warned that higher spending in the province must normally go through the Barnett formula, requiring additional funds for England, Wales and Scotland as well. This makes funding projects in Northern Ireland very expensive, since for every £1 spent there, an additional £35 must be found for the other nations. Although the Barnett formula can be worked round — the government once gave funds direct to Glasgow city council — senior officials and Tory politicians warn that this could create imbalances and cause resentment in Scotland and England.
One source said: “The Treasury feels like it is being bypassed in these discussions. This deal risks failing the smell test and looking like it is nakedly bribing the electorate.”
Financial expert Paul Lewis commented:
DUP deal faltering over money and peace process https://t.co/WJX2fvue9I coalition – chaotic or not – harder than May thought.
— Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) June 15, 2017
Reporting the announcement of the new date for the Queen’s Speech, the Graun suggested that the Tories were “confident” of a deal with the DUP before then.
It is far more likely that, with the Treasury balking at the cost, Mrs May has been forced into bullying tactics: “If you don’t agree to my terms, you won’t have any influence at all because neither of us will!”
The Daily Mirror seems to believe that to be the case, suggesting Mrs May is scrambling for a deal.
Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun‘s political editor, reckons Mrs May is calling Ms Foster’s bluff:
Queen's Speech announced for Weds June 21, with or without a DUP deal. PM is calling Arlene's hand.
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) June 15, 2017
This would set Mrs May up to form a minority government. The Graun (again) explains:
If the DUP and all the other opposition parties were to vote against the Queen’s speech, the Conservatives would lose. But the DUP have said they would not do anything that might make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister (because of his support for Sinn Féin and his sympathetic approach to the IRA during the Troubles) and, even if the DUP abstained, the other parties combined would not be able to outvote the Tories (unless Sinn Féin’s seven MPs took their seats, which they are adamant they won’t.)
There’s just one problem with this: Mrs May’s government would be very short-lived and would not be able to get much done.
Rebellions in their own ranks – and occasions when the DUP is likely to vote against the Tories – mean that each vote would be on a knife-edge and only policies that are likely to be supported by Labour and other opposition parties are likely to be passed.
In that case, Mrs May might as well accept the inevitable and let Mr Corbyn try to put together a government.
Or – and this is our best hope – it will be back to the polls in July or August.
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