There’s a fantastic episode of the political satire The Thick of It where the senior minister from the Department of Social Affairs is off on an away day, and the Coalitions Junior minister is back at the department setting up a £3 billion community bank with his senior advisor and an economist. When the senior minister and his advisors find out, they simply question him – “Is that the £3 billion we keep in the biscuit tin?”. Last Monday, it was revealed that in an attempt to prop up their hilariously weak minority administration, the Tories have announced a gift package of £1 billion to the DUP and Northen Ireland for infrastructure, the NHS and education. The episode of The Thick Of It was the first thing I thought of. So, either the Tories have a bloody massive biscuit tin, or they have in fact found the ‘Magic money tree’ whose existence they continuously denied all throughout the election whilst lambasting Corbyn and Labour over ‘Unrealistic’, ‘Vanity’ spending commitments.
To be perfectly honest, it’s rather laughable. After 7 years of austerity measures imposed by the Tories which have crippled local government budgets, the NHS budget, comprehensive school budgets and public sector workers wage packets, this government is clearly willing to pay any price to cling onto power. After years of being told that this was the only way – austerity was an economic necessity helping us ‘Live within our means’ – the government have slipped up and ditched all that in order to keep the keys to no.10. Its laughable but at the same time absolutely disgraceful.
When questioned across the dispatch box by Emily Thornberry on Monday, First Secretary of State Damian Green had little to say on the matter apart from the fact that they could give the DUP the £1 billion because they had a ‘Strong economy’ built up over the last 7 years by Conservative governments. Classic Tory. No economic viability, no certainty or assurance – just soundbites. And they hammer Labour over fiscal credibility? It really is just ridiculous because when you think about it, it’s practically £100 million for every DUP MP. A bribe used to ensure they remain loyal in parliament. Someone take note, because when the next election turns up the Tories will use the same old, recycled nonsense about Labour’s economic plans – and we should be using this as ammunition.
James O’brian from LBC radio put out a tweet which I thought was really permeant also. He rightly pointed out that if the election had gone the other way – Labour with the most seats but not enough to form a majority government – if Corbyn had given Sinn Fein £1 billion as a tool to hold onto power, the country would be up in arms! That is what this country has come to. We are allowing the political wing of the establishment to get away with buying power, buying legitimacy, buying democracy.
What is so important about this story is the hypocrisy of it all. The standard Tory hypocrisy. Tell the country for seven years that we need to ‘Live within our means’ by cutting public sector pay, cutting local council budgets, cutting away at the NHS, cutting comprehensive school budgets and then Magic up £1 billion for infrastructure and public sector spending once your whole existence in government depends upon it. Telling the country that if you vote Labour you vote for a ‘Coalition of chaos’ between Corbyn, the SNP, Greens, Playd Cymru and the Liberal Democrats THEN having to form a coalition of chaos yourselves with a reactionary, far-right, socially Conservative party founded by people with links to Loyalist paramilitary organisations. It’s farcical – their narrative does not add up and we should hold them to account for that.
The money seems controversial enough, even before you look at what this could do to the Northen Irish peace process that was so hard fought for over many decades. The UK government is supposed to show neutrality to issues between the Republicans and Unionists. But that doesn’t square up with the fact that the Tories and the DUP are pretty much in bed together now, when it comes to parliamentary voting. Chris Patton, former Tory party chairman came out on Wednesday with exactly these concerns. He also went onto question – “Would the DUP really have got rid of a Conservative government with the risk of Mr Corbyn, who has a certain relationship with Republican Sinn Féin, being the next prime minister? I rather doubt it”. This raises a very important issue. With this in mind, it appears that the £1 billion given to the DUP is rather unnecessary as it would be the DUP MP’s who would have to go back to their voters and tell them that they sank Theresa May’s ship and hailed in a Corbyn ascendancy.
So what if the ‘Magic Money tree’? Where is it? Why can’t we have access to it? Why are our public services getting bled dry, but we have £1 billion to give to the DUP? In an election publication entitled ‘Cost of Chaos’ published on the 3rd of May by the Conservative Party, the Tories outlined the ‘unrealistic’ economics behind Labour’s manifesto pledges such as ‘£0.8 billion on Royal Mail renationalisation’ and ‘£0.54 billion for the Carers pass’. Corbyn and other Labour Shadow ministers have literally been laughed at across the dispatch box for these costings, but now there is up to £1.5 billion available for the DUP? It’s reckless and irresponsible government and exposes the Tories for what they are – a power-hungry parasite party.
The Tories have been careless. They have allowed for a party with 10 MP’s (who are all from Northen Ireland) to lean on them, squeeze them of £1 billion of taxpayers money just in order to cling onto power. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘Confidence and supply’ doesn’t it? You supply us £1 billion, you bolster our confidence! Once again the Tories have shown their true colours – 50 shades of red in the face.