Proof again that Northern Ireland's unionists are loyal less to the crown that to the half-crown came with the news that the DUP "has indicated that it would demand a continuation of the £9.5 billion (€10.8 billion) block grant to Northern Ireland in return for its support in a hung parliament after the British general election."
Apparently the English Tories would like to replace the long-established and much criticised Barnett Formula, that sets the level of the block grant, with one based on need.
So all the fine words about being part of the 'British family' were hollow. At the end of the day the DUP – and by extension most unionists – simply see the British connection as a source of unearned cash.
A 'loyal' or 'patriotic' unionist would call upon his or her fellow-citizens to make sacrifices for the good of their country. Faced with excruciating budgetary difficulties to come, a 'loyal British citizen' would call for belt-tightening, selfless solidarity and a return of the 'Dunkirk spirit'.
But not the DUP. Their approach is: who cares whether the English, Scottish or Welsh have to cut back, we want a guarantee of no cut-backs for Northern Ireland. So, rather than everyone having to give up, say, 3% of their income, we want to give up zero and have the others give up more than 3%. To hell with 'need' as a criterion for public sector expenditure – the DUP want to use their short-lived political clout (if they get it) to extract money over and above any consideration of need. Is this blackmail? Is this prostitution? Is this moral? Is this 'British'?
That such a demand could even be made by a party that calls itself 'unionist' is amazing. The effect it will have on the British parties will, however, be obvious – they will see Northern Ireland's unionists clearly for what they are – fair-weather friends and spongers, content to blackmail the British for regional gains, and definitely not an integral part of a 'British nation'.
The fact that such blackmail by the DUP will harden the attitudes of the British against them almost makes this blog hope that they will hold the balance of power on May 7, because nobody likes being blackmailed, and as soon as they can, the victim gets revenge on the blackmailers.