I can imagine Theresa May waking up one morning, still half asleep, imagining that it was all a terrible nightmare and that she has a 100 seat majority, with all the power to pass any legislation she wants. No opposition, no House of Lords or no rebellious back benchers to stop her. This lasts for a few glorious second before she remembers that it is real, she did gamble her party's majority on an election no one wanted and lost it. Now she has to limp on, wounded, demoralised and without a clear mandate.
Never was a truer word in politics was said when May addressed The 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, saying: "I got us into this mess and I'll get us out of it." Well, the first part is true. It was May who called the election and then put herself front and centre during the campaign, labouring under the misapprehension that people liked her. It was her bad judgement that led to an awful manifesto that people appreciated about as much as an unexpected trip to the dentist. It is her advisers whose heads have rolled, but to quote our other female Prime Minister: "Advisers advise and ministers decide." The blame for the Tory’s current woes can, and should, be laid squarely at the feet of their leader.
May's judgement is so poor that I half expect her to call another snap election in a few months, which Labour could easily win as Jeremy Corbyn’s approval is now higher than the Prime Minister’s. May’s proposed alternative to a Labour government is a "confidence and supply" arrangement with the DUP, a party so odious that I almost feel sorry for slightly likeable Tories like Ruth Davidson who have to be nice to the DUP in public.
The Tories must be desperate to consider this. They are frightened that any fuck up now could hand Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Downing Street. They are frightened of hanging on as an ineffectual monitory government that achieves nothing for the next five years (apart from screwing up Brexit because they are beholden to the most madly Eurosceptic Tory MPs) by the end of which everyone hates them so much that a bucket with a red rosette on it could beat them in an election.
The Tories are desperate to try something that is likely to reflect so poorly on them. Remember when Nick Clegg was blamed for the worst aspects of everything that went on in the coalition? Well it's going to be like that, with the Tories being blamed every time a DUP MP suggested we should bring back hang, drawing and quartering.
Do not be fooled into thinking that the DUP are regular conservatives, whatever the Tory Party tries to imply. DUP are more like American Conservatives; in other words, a bit much even for the sexually repressed, red trouser wearing, Daily Telegraph reading, retired Colonels living in Oxfordshire wing of the Tory Party. Even those guys are worried that global warming might affect the grouse season.
Here's a roll call of only some of the repugnant things that are perfectly acceptable in DUP circles: being against equal marriage (same sex couples still can't get married in Northern Ireland), being against abortion (see previous bracket) and denying climate change (in a scary Sarah Palin way, not in an annoying Jeremy Clarkson way) and supporting Loyalist militias (remember, it’s not terrorism if they’re waving the union flag while they murder you). Meet your new best friends everyone who voted Tory to keep Labour and Corbyn out. I hope you're happy with what you got.
It was May who coined the term nasty party during the Tories’ wilderness years to describe how the party is viewed by lots of people. She wasn't wrong, and before David Cameron detonated his own premiership on an unnecessary vote (Tory leaders should stop making the same mistake over and over) his biggest accomplishment was making people, ordinarily put off by the strong whiff of awfulness that the Tories give off, comfortable voting for the party.
May had the right idea back then, which is odd because since entering government she has become the poster child for everything that is nasty about the Tories. From savage welfare cuts to vans bullying immigrants into going home, May’s prints are on all of it. I thought that the lesson of the whole Tory revival post-2005 thing was that slavishly following whatever the Daily Mail wants alienates voters with even a little bit of conscience. Now May plans to out-Daily Mail the Daily Mail by finding some really backwards social conservatives and giving them actual power.
Of course the DUP are the real nasty party. They think that LGBT rights and women's rights are some sort of metropolitan thing that only people in London who queue for restaurants, drink hoppy craft beer and cycle everywhere think are important. You can tell they're the nasty party when you look at what they want from the Tories in exchange for not putting their wounded government out of its misery: the right to do their provocative marches through Catholic areas (and generally inflame tensions like only the Northern Irish know how), amnesty for people facing court cases (always a good sign, a politician who wants legal stuff to go away) and keeping their disgraced leader in charge in Stormont (after a terrible piece of legislation she supported that wasted nearly £490 million and brought down the government there). This is only the beginning. It will get worse over time. Confidence and supply means that I have confidence that the Tories will supply whatever the DUP want.
I doubt any good will come from this, but there is always a small possibility that the DUP will stop the Tories doing something mad involving a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. They may also get the Tories to go down to the basement and bring out the magical money tree they have hidden down there (found next to the box where they keep Theresa May's human nature). It always rains in Northern Ireland, but now that will take on a whole new meaning. Soon everyone else on these damp isles will want the government to make it rain on their communities. In the next election, jibes about Labour spending will be worth about as much as May's claims to "strong and stable leadership."
We shouldn't underestimate the DUP. They may be dinosaurs, but they don't have brains the size of a pea. They are smart and good at politics. They didn't get to be the biggest party in Northern Ireland and the natural home of most unionist voters by accident. They'll milk this opportunity for all it's worth, but the strong and sweaty cheese that comes out of this won't be good for anyone except a few extremely conservative evangelical Christians.
Everyone who is to the left of Elien Foster on social issues (which is basically everyone) needs to keep pressure on the government to stop them from backsliding on a whole raft of basic rights for women or LGBTQ people.
Theresa May wanted to stop the at Tories being the nasty party. Now she may have ensured that this is what they're known as for years to come by getting into bed with a really nasty party.