Thou shalt not gamble with the DUP: some lessons for lessor political mortals

Thou shalt not gamble with the DUP: some lessons for lessor political mortals

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Tuesday 27, June, 2017

GOD AND MAN in Ulster have done it. A Christian, really conservative, barnacle free unionist party just clinched the most progressive regional deal I can remember.

Brazen, ruthless, uncompromising and very Old Testament in its dealings, the DUP was never going to sell out the union or their values.

But there are reasons as a Eurosceptic that I have to say made this inevitable. Triangulation again rules the roost. The great conservative philosopher Kenny Rogers said it best in how the DUP have become master card players. His version of Don Schlitz's song The Gambler is a 70s classic, a time when the sage and cynicism of middle aged men was last rightly cherished.

Round 1 was telling the PM straight just how wobbly she has become.

"I made my living out of reading peoples faces, knowing what their cards were by the way they they held their eyes. So if you don't mind me saying I can see you're out of aces".

Round 2 is the chorus,

"You got to know when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away and when to run. You don't count your money when you're waiting at the table. There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing is done"

This is where Team May and Team Scotland, to borrow a phrase, buggered it up. We were in no position to bluff with the DUP.  Rushing out to declare the deal sealed, and then pluckily declaring what the DUP would not be doing in government. 

Scotland called for gay rights in Ulster... rather niche if I may be so bold.  Scotland demanded the Barnett formula be respected. Such briefing against the PM was at best opportune. At worst recklessly I'll disciplined, fatally overreaching and interfering - without even understanding how Barnett actually works.

The BBC's mission was that nation shall speak unto nation. Looks like we're not in Broadcasting House anymore, or Kansas for that matter.

From their alcove the DUP has been watching with the silence and patience that 4000 years of Scripture teaches one. They have seen Christianity ridiculed, LGBT emerge as a religion of itself, a Labour party in hoc with their nemesis Sinn Fein, a Europe ever more centralised, secular and decadent. I doubt they are impressed.

They have learned defence as an attacking art form. Harry Enfield satirised them all too well. Completely uncompromising and grabbing everything they can for their wee kingdom. No public gestures. Privately they want Brexit. Big time. And they want security. And cash. And the elderly protected UK wide. And education. And infrastructure.

This is a party of the long game planning for the long term. No surprise it is the most family-centred party leadership there is.

Four out of five Holyrood parties have no parental leadership. The previous Tory leader was also unmarried. The last SNP leader not a father. The DUP is the polar opposite. A father-son enterprise still carries sway in the Paisleys. Like it or not the DUP MPs all have a strong family and Christian background. Nothing is ever for a season. Their survival depends on careful tending of the family croft that is unionism in Ulster.



Their ability to negotiate is beyond this islands understanding. The wrong deal used to mean a bomb, a murder, a government breakdown, Irish reunification, the end of their heritage.

They have witnessed too many tricks from the EU. Too many sell outs to republicans. The DUP love the temple of the Union but have been less enamoured by those who have been looking after it.

Now it's about squeezing Westminster for Meccano to rebuild the province, some beer money for the assembly and shutting the door on those who have proven unrelenting in challenging their world view. A walk in the park.

Team Scotland got their tweets in and a few disposable headlines out of this.

Team Ulster got everything they asked for. Brexit safe, pensions safe, NHS safe, border safe, Christ safe, Ulster safe. LGBT lobby stonewalled. 

The old country has knocked the metropolitan statists for six. And I doubt they've even started.

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