It seems that virtually everyone who is involved in what passes for unionist politics is reared on the fantasy of wielding great influence in a ‘hung’ parliament. This week we heard rumours of the DUP negotiating for more ex army bases to be handed over gratis from the UK Government to the Executive in return for supporting Gordon Brown over his plans to introduce 42 day detention of terrorist suspects. Others mused about re-opening the old chestnut of a special lower NI Corporation tax in return for the support of the DUP’s nine MPs when Labour are next in a tight spot. Edwin Poots gave voice to the fantasy on Lets Talk and the Belfast Telegraph ran a story about a possible electoral pact to ‘maximise’ unionist influence.
It appears many do not consider the wider implications of such positioning. The unionists portray themselves as parties with no inherent beliefs or principles that cannot be traded for some passing influence. The irony of unionists determinedly staying outside the UK party system and willing to attempt to hold it to ransom is lost on these politicians. What consideration do they give to the resentment and distaste that this must build up within the Conservative and Labour parties? The two main UK parties have governed the UK – including NI - for the vast bulk of the past one hundred years with only brief interludes of ‘hung’ or coalition situations. Is this shameless willingness to prostitute oneself to the highest bidder likely to build empathy or understanding for the unionist position?
One might even be tempted to wonder if such activity is anti-Union.
There is of course probably two years until the next election and anything might happen. For the record, however, analysis of recent opinion polls and the recent local government election results show the Conservatives heading for a very comfortable majority. One leading commentator has noted that no Prime Minister has ever recovered from such poor local election results within a two year period.
One might argue that people in NI who support the Union might be better employed building genuine relations with which ever UK party they personally felt most affinity to rather than boasting about what great whores they are.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story however… about that electoral pact.. where did I put that grail?