Today’s big news in UK politics is that the Tory lead in the polls has been cut so much that the outcome of the Westminster election, if held now, would probably be a hung parliament. It seems the Tory nightmare is coming to pass.
Over the past few weeks the polls have gradually whittled down the expected Tory lead:
ComRes show polls narrowing again … Ipsos MORI show lead Tory narrowing to 8 … YouGov show Tory lead cut to 7 points
And now this: Hung Parliament. Conservatives short by 3
Of course, the way the British look at these things, the 18 Northern Irish seats are all just put under a heading of ‘other others’ (the real British others – SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens, Respect, etc – are just ‘others’. Northern Ireland is, of course, beyond the pale), and are not counted towards the Tories total.
For the English Tories this cold news must be focussing their thoughts on the problems they are facing in Northern Ireland. If only they could get a guarantee of 10 or more seats, then they’d be home and dry. But the UUP, re-dressed as UCUNF, seem to be screwing up royally, and their only MP seems determined not to support the Tories.
The Tories have three targets now in Northern Ireland:
- Get rid of Sylvia Hermon – but make it look ‘accidental’, i.e. it must be done out of plain sight. Expect some unpleasantness, therefore – perhaps an unsavoury revelation, some publicity concerning her expenses, or something of a personal nature. They won’t find a toy-boy like Iris Robinson’s, but they are busy looking under every stone at present.
- Reinforce UCUNF – this is going to be hard because the greater part of it comprises the tired old bigots of the old UUP. The ‘new’ blood has, so far, been conspicuous by its absence. How can they re-package the same old shoddy goods in shiny new wrapping?
- Cuddle up to the DUP – this, of course, has been happening already for a while, but in secret. Perhaps now it will happen more overtly. If the DUP retain the bulk of their seats, then they will be far better allies in Westminster than the poor old UUP, who may end up with no seats at all! But the DUP has to lose its ‘un-British’ image – dumping Iris was a good first step, but more may be needed. Expect to see some public pronouncements from the DUP that come closer to supporting actual British values, and not the odd values that many unionists mistakenly believe to be British. The DUP will then become more palatable to the English Tories – at least until they are no longer needed (then they’ll be dumped or betrayed again). Behind the scenes, of course, this scenario requires the Tories to promise satisfaction to the DUP – so the current ‘talks’ may be made to fail, in order that the Tories can then impose their pro-DUP solution after May if the support of the DUP gets them into power.
Tomorrow will be interesting. If the Tories weigh up today’s poll results and decide that they really really need the DUP, then by tomorrow morning the DUP may go into the reconvened talks with big smiles on their faces, believing themselves to be in a win-win situation. Watch tomorrow’s body language for hints of what may even now be happening behind closed doors.