Because of Theresa May’s general election own-goal, Labour are more influential and united in the House of Commons, and indeed the Tories and now descending into their latest Europe-based civil war. In an attempt to appear more Prime Ministerial, Theresa May gave a speech today in which she reached out to the Labour Party and other parties to work with the government on delivering Brexit. May said “I say to other parties in the House of Commons- come forward with your own views and ideas about how we can tackle these challenges as a country”. Labour needs to seize this opportunity in order to preserve the more positive aspects of EU membership whilst also exploiting the fissures currently opening up in the Conservative Party.
When Theresa May took over as Prime Minister she spent a great amount of time trying to convince people that the Conservatives were the party of working people. Naturally people like myself laughed in her face because all of her policies tell the complete opposite story, but for many the message was believable. However within a few days of the Queen’s Speech, this narrative has been undermined the Tories’ own actions. The Conservatives and the DUP voted in lockstep to maintain the public sector pay cap at a 1% annual rise which, in practice, is a pay cut.
The general election result caught many by surprise but when it became clear that the Tories would fall short of a majority all media attention turned to the prospect of the Tory-DUP agreement to keep the government going. This went into overdrive when Lib Dem leader Tim Farron ruled out any coalition or agreement with the Conservatives. With all other MPs in parties openly hostile to the Tories, with the exception of the DUP, the Conservatives found themselves backed into a corner but there remain problems with what they wish to achieve.
LGBT people across England, Scotland and Wales have been getting married for up to four years now but marriage equality has still yet to be achieved in Northern Ireland. A number of separate attempts have been made to legalise the practice through legislation at Stormont, but so far all have been unsuccessful. These attempts include one vote where a majority of MLAs backed same-sex marriage but didn’t pass because of a unionist petition of concern. However it does appear that political leaders in Northern Ireland are beginning to change their tune as public opinion has shifted. Although the existing dispute goes largely down green and orange lines, some unionist politicians seem to be softening their stance.
In the 2015 the DUP and the UUP formed an informal electoral alliance whereby the parties agreed not to run candidates in certain constituencies so as not to split the unionist vote. The result of this, in collaboration with some other local factors, was that unionist candidates in two constituencies, namely Fermanagh and South Tyrone and East Belfast, defeated non-unionist incumbents. However, in the last few days it was announced that the DUP and the UUP will not pursue such a pact in the upcoming general election. This needs to be exploited by the republican movement before the opportunity passes.
After a short election campaign full of tense exchanges and talk of the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement, the results are in. The story from the election is complex but the immediate reaction is the following. Sinn Féin wagered that bringing down the executive, in my view justifiably, would curry favour with the electorate. This shows to have been a correct estimation as the party massively increased their share of the vote Alliance also gained and this is thought to have come from unionists who are disaffected with the DUP.
Arlene Foster today unveiled the DUP’s manifesto for the assembly election that will be held on 2nd March. However, rather than outline a detailed plan about what the DUP was planning to do, she mentioned general policy goals with a lack of substance to back them up. Rather than talk about the issues that the people of Northern Ireland are desperate to have resolved, the former First Minister emphasised the potential electoral success of Sinn Féin in an attempt to scare unionists into voting for her party. This cannot be allowed to stand.