Monday 30 November 2009

Out of the doldrums

Over on the neighbouring island something unexpected is happening. And that something will have significant consequences for Northern Ireland.

The consensus over the past six months or so was that Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was a (political) dead man walking, and that the Westminster election – due by next June at the latest – would result in a walk-over for the Tory Party.

But the opinion polls are starting to show a very clear and sustained climb-back by the Labour Party:
The Tory Party need a very large swing in order to achieve a majority in the House of Commons – the second largest ever recorded, apparently. Up to recently it seemed as if such a swing was possible. But now things are looking less certain, for two reasons:
  • Firstly, the Labour Party is fighting back – and with up to six months left before the election, anything is possible.
  • Secondly, the Tories are increasingly coming under pressure from the even-more-rightwing UKIP, and could lose a number of seats to them.
The significance of these developments, which will be closely watched in Northern Ireland, is that the outcome of next year's Westminster election may lead to a hung parliament – one in which no party has an overall majority – and thus may vastly increase the opportunities of the smaller parties who could act as kingmakers. But at a price!

If there was a hung parliament, horse-trading would be required by any party that wished to try to form a government. If the gap between, say, the Tory total and the number needed to form a majority was small, then the DUP could find themselves in a position of strength – especially since the Tories would be unlikely to want to get into bed with overt nationalists like the SNP or Plaid Cymru. The DUP, despite being seen by many as 'Ulster nationalists' are at least not actively seeking the dissolution of the UK. As social and economic conservatives they would have little ideological difficulty in cooperating with the Tories – the main problem may lie in the Tories non-merger with the DUP's rivals in the UUP. For the Tories, of course, the DUP's record of tolerance may reduce their salonfähigkeit, but where power is at stake, the Tories may be prepared to hold their noses.

There are a lot of 'ifs' in any scenario that can be imagined, and it is well known that a week is a long time in politics. So what might, or might not, happen in six months is strictly fantasy. But the evidence of the recent polls is pointing towards a much more interesting election than many thought only a few months ago. And for Northern Ireland, the future lies wide open.


Mack said...

Do the DUP not normally vote along Labour rather than Tory lines?

hoboroad said...

UKIP's new leader is also adding anti-Muslim feeling to the political mix. This might go down well in the White working-class areas where Labour traditionally draw most support. And offer another option to people who could never bring themselves to voting for the Tory party no matter how angry they may be with New Labour.

hoboroad said...

The new UKIP leader offered the Tory Party a deal he would disband his party in exchange for a referendum on Europe so far no reply from Cast-Iron David Cameron. And according to the Daily Mirror David Cameron is going bald!

pippakin said...

A lot of traditional white working class areas are now immigrant (largely Muslim) strongholds. This is where any governments main problem starts. Labour dare not offend its increasingly strong Muslim support. Traditional labour voters are not voting tory they are voting UKIP and even BNP. The good news is both of those parties are strong believers in the Union, the bad news is a lot of their potential supporters are strong supporters of an independent England. The union has been governed by Scotland for the past 12 years. The result has angered the English.

Watcher said...

The Conservatives will have absolutely no problem taking support from The DUP if they need it - they won't even have to think about it.

Before nearly every election polls show the gap between Conservative and Labour tightening.

Horseman said...


Perhaps the DUP helped Labour on occasions (42 day detention, of course), but I think that they would happily prostitute themselves to Cameron for a few items on their wish-list. Don't you?

hoboroad said...

Every opinion poll in the run up to the 1992 British General Election showed Labour winning. But John Major and the Tories still won it. Still John Major had more hair than Neil Kinnock!

picador said...


If you are going to use big German words can you at least provide a rough translation. ;)


Horseman said...

LOL picador,

It's one of my favourite German words (after Schadenfreude, of course).

Salonfähigkeit is one of those untranslatable words, meaning something like 'house-trained-ness'. Which, of course, the DUP aren't.

hoboroad said...

Of course if the opinion polls look good and the economy shows any signs of recovery Gordon Brown might call a snap General Election in March 2010.

picador said...


[i]Salonfähigkeit is one of those untranslatable words, meaning something like 'house-trained-ness'. Which, of course, the DUP aren't.[/i]

Be fair! They were going to make Reinhardt Heydrich Culture Minister - until they realised he'd joined the TUV

Anonymous said...

An an outsider, if I may, there are a lot of things about the British parliamentary system I think are just plain wrong and unfair. First the incumbent party can choose when to call an election and have up to five years to do so. This gives it an unfair advantage. There should be fixed-term elections. This creates a more level playing field. Two, the "first-past-the-post" system seriously misrepresents political realities. In a multi-party environment it is quite possible to get many more seats then your fair share of the vote would properly warrant. I would also mention that there are ridings in places like Scotland that have a population only fractional to some ridings elsewhere in England. Finally Labour has crassly flooded the U.K. - at least England - with black and brown foreigners to create future voters for their party. They have dissolved the English people and elected a new one. There is an awful lot of rot in the British political system. Perhaps the U.K. would be better off dissolving altogether? England certainly would.