Talks between Theresa May’s Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are set to go ahead today, with the Conservatives hoping to secure a minority government with the Northern Ireland party.
‘Coalition of chaos’
Sinn Fein Gerry Adams has offered his views on the potential minority government, saying it would be a ‘coalition of chaos’, that could “undercut” the process of restoring the government in Northern Ireland. The DUP is the only major political party in the Northern Ireland to oppose the Good Friday agreement, which led to the creation of the Northern Irish government.
Despite these concerns, Mrs May said yesterday she was “absolutely steadfast” in her support for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – which created the Northern Ireland Assembly – and efforts to revive the power-sharing executive.
The party also has a controversial record on human rights and equality, with the party historically opposed to abortion and gay marriage. Despite this, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she has received assurances from the Prime Minister over gay rights, perceived by many to be under threat as a result of the Conservative’s deal with the DUP. “It’s an issue very close to my heart and one that I wanted categoric assurances from the prime minister on, and I received (them).”, she said last week.
Senior politicians from the left and the right have offered mixed opinions on the current state of affairs. In amongst those who are less than hopeful are ex-Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major, who yesterday said he was “dubious” about the idea and its impact on the peace process.
Returning to Parliament
Yesterday, Newly-elected MPs, together with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, gathered in the House of Commons for the first time since the 2017 general election.
Theresa May’s first prerogative was to make a rare, self-deprecating joke. Upon congratulating John Bercow for his reelection to the House for the third time the prime minister quipped “At least someone got a landslide”.
Theresa May spread congratulations across the commons for several cases, including the increased number of women in parliament, a record number of MPs from minority groups, and disabled MPs. The speech was light on hard politics, and more involved with the issues seen during the general election. Addressing the London Bridge terror attack, which took place during the campaigning period, the prime minister said that “whatever the result, general elections are above all, an exercise in democracy and our values, the very democracy and values, that the recent terror attacks sought to undermine.”
On the election itself, the prime minister said that the country faces “some of the greatest challenges of our time”. These challenges being “keeping our nation safe”, by defending against “Islamist extremism”, securing “the best possible Brexit deal”, and spreading opportunity equally across the country. She acknowledged that the country remains divided in many places. This was by far one of the more reserved, and less impassioned, but overall patriotic speeches of the prime minister’s tenure.
Jeremy Corbyn, returning to the podium for the first time since his shock result, taking the Conservatives majority away in a resoundingly successful general election, took no time in hitting out at the Tories. Quoting previous comments from the Rushcliffe MP Ken Clarke, who once hit out at fellow Conservatives for anti-immigrant politics, Corbyn said that this was putting it generously, as the party had also displayed “anti-worker,anti-disabled people, anti-young people, and anti-pensioner”.
Before long, Mr.Corbyn threw the Conservatives, election slogan back at them, saying that he looks forward to welcoming the Queen’s speech “as soon as the coalition of chaos has been negotiated”, and if this is not possible, the Labour party “ stands ready to offer strong and stable leadership in the national interest.”
Theresa May faces more pressure than ever as the upcoming Brext negotiations create a sense of urgency for a successful deal to be reached. Figures from earlier this week showed inflation has surged to a four-year high as sterling continues its post-referendum fall.
The prime minister’s original stance on Brexit, nicknamed the ‘hard Brexit’, is now likely to change. Originally, the prime minister looked ready to bring the UK out of the single market and the EU court of justice, saying that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. This will now likely be contested by many in the House of Commons, as a significantly weakened Conservative party will be relied on to support her negotiating position.
Whilst the EU Commission is said to have its negotiating position ready for the talks, originally set to go ahead on 19 June, the governments hand is now weakening ahead of inner conflicts and delays due the shocking aftermath of this general election.
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Dan Cody is Editor-in-Chief at No Majesty.