Shacking up with the DUP: reckless, wrong and dangerous to UK democracy.

Alarm and revulsion has been variously expressed at the prospect of the UK parliament being held hostage to Northern Ireland’s DUP (Democratic and Unionist Party), on the basis that it wants “to allow people to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds, opposes liberalizing abortion rights in Northern Ireland, has repeatedly vetoed marriage equality and counts a number of creationists and climate change deniers among its senior members” (Esther Addley & Caroline Davies, 10 06 2017).

If that isn’t enough, there is the constitutional inappropriateness and risk to the peace process and power sharing at Stormont, posed by the UK’s role as mediator being severely compromised if the DUP and the English Tories join together to impose their values and policies on the UK following the GE result. As Alastair Campbell, Shami Chakrabarti (BBC Question Time, 09 06 2017) and others have warned, the Tory party and its government are no longer neutral agents in this vital process, if they are overtly in bed with each other politically, exerting mutual influence.

In addition to these two serious social and political objections to the DUP acting to guarantee the survival of Theresa May’s damaged Tory government, there is a third factor which should cause more than hesitation: the role of Robert Mercer, US billionaire hedge fund owner (Trump’s biggest donor and close associate of Steve Bannon), and his organisation, AggregateIQ, the data analytics company based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

“A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum” (Carole Cadwalladr, ‘The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked’, 07 05 2017).

Mercer owns Cambridge Analytica, which funded several of the Leave campaign organisations in the UK; its vice-president during the UK EU referendum period was the infamous white supremacist, Steve Bannon (close associate of Trump inside Whitehall, and friend of Nigel Farage). The DUP spent £32,750 with AggregateIQ as part of its Brexit campaign (Cadwalladr). In February 2017, “the DUP Brexit campaign manager (MP Jeffrey Donaldson) admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service” (Adam Ramsay & Peter Geoghegan, opendemocracy.net, 16 05 2017). Ramsay & Geoghegan note that, “Being forced to return a donation of this size [£435000] could leave the DUP at risk of bankruptcy”.

May’s reckless desperation to remain Prime Minister and keep the Tories afloat as the party of government, is further evidence of Tory indifference to matters of legitimacy, corruption and democracy. The craving to hang on to power overrides ethical considerations, and by extension, the best interests of the country, as opposed to short-term party political advantage.

val walsh / 11 06 2017

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