The recent UK general election results were, as usual, a little bit of a shock. Firstly, despite a very popular campaign by the Labour Party, fronted by Jeremy Corbyn, and their popularity increase by almost 10% of the vote share, they failed to get majority. The Conservative Party, who were ahead by only 2.4% of vote share, were given over 50 seats more than Labour, due to our First Past The Post voting system hyper-representing the party receiving the most votes.
However, this wasn’t the biggest shock. The real shock was yet another Hung Parliament, mirroring the result of the 2010 general election. A hung parliament basically means that no party got enough seats in parliament to secure a “majority” of 326 seats.
Once the election results were announced, and it was clear that there would be no Liberal Democrat coalition with the Conservatives, nor the Labour Party, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May almost immediately proposed forming a minority government with Northern Irish party the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The DUP are the fifth largest party in Westminster, with their main identifier being the idea that Northern Ireland should remain in Britain (unlike The Republic of Ireland, which is not part of Britain). The potential minority government has been received with hostility by Sinn Féin, the second most popular party in Northern Ireland, as it believes that the minority government would breach the Good Friday Agreement, by removing Britain’s neutral position within Irish politics.
The potential DUP/Conservative minority government has been met with hostility by the general public due to several controversial views held by members of their party.
The son of the founder of the DUP, Ian Paisley Jr, has been recorded making grossly homophobic comments. Only two years ago, the health minister for the DUP, Jim Wells, had to apologise for his comments about the children of homosexual couples being “more likely to be abused or neglected.” He also had a lesbian couple call the police after he made a comment during a doorstep campaign about how he “disagreed with their lifestyle.”
The police were called after a member of the DUP made homophobic comments.
He has since resigned, but party leader Arlene Foster has openly stated that she believes that “marriage is between a man and a woman” and the Scottish Government has confirmed that she wrote a letter to an MP in Edinburgh trying to prevent Northern Irish couples from turning their Civil Partnerships into official marriages.
Unsurprisingly, the DUP also have a controversial stance on abortion. Abortions remain illegal in Northern Ireland, and can be punished by a potential life sentence in prison, so it isn’t unusual for a party in Northern Ireland to be anti-abortion. However, the DUP are reported to have an incredibly hardline stance on abortion, and do not support the allowance of abortion under circumstances or rape or fetal abnormalities.
The DUP support abortion under no circumstances and voted against its decriminalisation in Britain.
Again unsurprisingly, given Amnesty International’s concern with racism in Northern Ireland, the DUP have also been met with allegations of racism. In 2016, DUP MP Sammy Wilson reportedly responded with “You’re absolutely right” to a call from a member of the public to “Get out of the EU […] and get the ethnics out too”. Both Wilson and Foster defend his actions by stating that they believe it was clear he did not agree with the final part of the comment. Foster, a white person, insists that Wilson is not racist because “she knows him very well”. Wilson also stated that the idea of climate change caused by human activity was a “con”.
The DUP do not acknowledge or seriously investigate allegations of racism within their party.
Usually, the UK is blissfully oblivious to the politics of Northern Ireland, but as the proposed minority government dawns it has become increasingly relevant and important to understand the role of the DUP.
Talks between the DUP and Conservatives have now been postponed due of the recent tragedy in a London involving a tower block catching fire, with the death toll currently at 17 and predicted to rise. Many have attributed the disaster to poor response from members of parliament to warnings about the state of the tower block.
Affinity extends its thoughts to the victims of this tragedy, especially during such trying times. We can only hope that the eventual result of this hung parliament leads to a better scheme of management, better representation, and closer listening from members of parliament both local and national.