British PM Theresa May to form govt with Northern Ireland party's help

The leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party says talks are ongoing with British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party with a view to supporting their minority government.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip receiving applause from staff at 10 Downing Street after her audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace yesterday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip receiving applause from staff at 10 Downing Street after her audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British PM forced to enter alliance after losing parliamentary majority in snap polls

Britain's embattled Prime Minister Theresa May has been forced to enter into an alliance with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), after her Conservative Party suffered a stinging setback at the polls which left it with no majority and the country with a hung Parliament.

Making the announcement outside 10 Downing Street after a 20-minute audience with the Queen yesterday, a solemn Mrs May kept her speech short, saying that she will form a government "that will provide certainty" and lead the country into the complex Brexit negotiations while sticking to the timetable.

She also promised to deliver the changes she set out after the two recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, giving police more powers and tackling radicalisation.

The shocking election result has caused great embarrassment to Mrs May, who called a snap election in April believing she could wipe out her opposition and gain greater control in the House of Commons.

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Instead, her political gamble backfired dramatically, with the Tories losing 12 seats while the main opposition Labour Party gained 31. The Conservatives did manage to increase their share of the vote to 42.4 per cent, as did Labour, which received 40 per cent.

Mrs May gave no details of the pact with the pro-Brexit DUP, whose 10 seats, when combined with the Conservatives' 318, will give the party the majority it needs to form a government.

DUP leader Arlene Foster told a news conference later that her party will begin discussions with the Tories, suggesting that the deal is not yet in the bag.

Unlike the alliance between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in 2010, when the election also resulted in a hung Parliament, the new government will not be a formal coalition but one where the DUP supports the Tories with votes in Parliament.

The loyalist and socially conservative party, the biggest in Northern Ireland, has drawn controversy for opposing same-sex marriage and any reform of the province's strict abortion laws.

The DUP's deputy leader Nigel Dodds confirmed that the party's condition for shoring up the new Tory government is an assurance that Northern Ireland will not be accorded special EU status after Brexit that will keep it distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Even though Mrs May has managed to hang on to her job after the severe battering at the polls, the question is: for how long more?

Her party colleagues are furious at the losses chalked up, blaming Mrs May for calling an unnecessary election three years ahead of time, for running a disastrous campaign centred on her and her "strong and stable leadership", and for an unpopular manifesto that was designed by her inner circle.

Opposition party leaders were also quick to call for her resignation, including the Liberal Demo- crats' Tim Farron, who said: "We will now have a government that is weaker and less stable at a time when we are about to embark on the most difficult and complex negotiations in our history. If she has an ounce of self-respect, she will resign."

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is waiting in the wings to form a minority government should Mrs May fail to deliver. Buoyed by the gains his party received, leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday said Labour was "ready to serve this country".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'May to form govt with N. Ireland party's help'. Print Edition | Subscribe