By Simon Green
After a humiliating loss of her majority in the House of Commons, Theresa May is being forced into a pact with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. Although this would only give the Conservatives a majority of two, it seems the only option the PM has to form a government, whether or not it is a credible one.
Naturally, there will have to be some concessions to the DUP and therefore minor changes to the Tory manifesto, although it didn’t seem May was too troubled in making u-turns during the campaign, so there should be no real issues there.
Economically, the DUP are very similar to the Conservatives in wanting to increase the Personal Tax Allowance and the National Living Wage, both important for those of you with the horrific possibility of going off into the ‘real world’ after graduating.
However, there will be a crucial difference in that the DUP will demand all things Northern Ireland, perhaps including a complete replacement of EU subsidies for the country, which could cost the new government more than they had bargained for. The DUP also want things such as the abolition of air duty, which could also cost the Treasury dearly.
There will almost certainly be no change on tuition fees or maintenance grants as a result of this pact, as the DUP are, economically, far from the socialist policies of abolishing tuition fees that gave Labour such an appeal among the 18-25 year old bracket.
The key difference between the two parties is on social issues. The DUP are famously anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. Although this will make very little difference to Tory policy on these issues, it is still potentially worrying that they would form a coalition-style agreement with a party that seem so conservative on issues of equality.
Furthermore, there is the potential for clashes on issues of climate change, demonstrated by DUP MP Sammy Wilson’s denial of the existence of global warming whatsoever, dumbing it down to a ‘natural phenomenon.’ With many Durham students and the university itself very concerned about energy efficiency, recycling and other ways to help the environment, this is another potential worry should the Conservatives need to rely on the DUP to form a government.
Largely therefore, don’t expect any drastic change in the Tory policy to end the unfair burden of debt on students or an avoidance of a ‘Hard Brexit,’ as a result of the DUP’s influence. However, their presence as kingmakers should put into question the kind of party Theresa May is willing to co-operate with to regain power.
The decision to get in to bed with an anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, Hard Brexit-supporting, climate change-denying party to form a ‘government of certainty’ at any cost could be far naughtier than anything the PM has ever done in a wheat field.
Photograph: Kristin via Flickr