There is no conclusion more compelling than the conclusion arrived at through personal experience. You can lecture all you like about the dangers of, say, drink-driving, but it’s only when you stare at a mangled mess of bodywork and human beings that you truly get the message.
The Westminster election was a bit like that. For days, weeks, months, the press in Britain had taken out their spikes and mallets, and nailed Jeremy Corbyn to the political wall. He was a joke, he was a throw-back to the 1970s, he was worse than Michael Foot. How could he be a leader when his own parliamentary colleagues couldn’t stomach him? The Labour Party was peering into the abyss.
Only then Corbyn started going around Britain talking to people, and the truth emerged: the people liked the cut of this man’s jib. His words made sense. And he had a manifesto that made a lot of sense. Next you know, massive crowds are cheering him wherever he goes. When the election results came in, they showed how out of touch with reality the mainstream media really are.
But don’t tear off your blouse and start dancing on the table just yet. Because look who’s rolled up at Westminster and is putting a gun (metaphorically, of course) to Theresa May’s head: none other than our very own darlin’ DUP.
For years nationalists and republicans here have known that the Democratic Unionist Party is stuffed with politicians holding stone-age views on things like climate change, Brexit, the Irish language. British politicians, for their part, have averted their eyes and moved on, murmuring sadly about how the paddies were incorrigible squabblers.
But now the DUP are making eyes at the Tories and the British populace are being forced to look at the nature of this strange political congregation called the Democratic Unionists. People who deny the existence of man-made climate change. People who insist that God created the world 60,000 years ago. People who believe homosexuality is upchuck-making and that gay marriage is against the Bible’s teaching.
All of which are views anyone can hold if they wish. But these particular day-dream believers are in London and want to get into political bed with Theresa and Co. No wonder a lot of MPs, including some Tories, feel embarrassed to be seen hunkering down with such Irish flat-earthers. Given the desperate straits they are in, however, the Conservative Party must swallow hard and ask the DUP what is their price. So what is it? Unclear, at the time of writing.
Maybe nice roads and new hospitals? If so, hooray. Maybe an increased subvention? If so hooray hooray. Maybe more control over taxation matters, similar to those wielded by Scotland? Then hip-pip-pip hooray.
However, one other possibility exists which may not be availed of but is worth making. In case you’ve forgotten (and who could blame you), our former First Minister Arlene Foster set up a Renewable Heating Initiative which is costing us £80,000 a day, and a review is being set up to find out who’s responsible for all the lost money. Until that matter’s resolved, Sinn Féin are not going back into the Executive with Arlene as First Minister. They’ve no objection to the DUP deciding who’s their leader, but they won’t agree to Arlene as First Minister.
So try this: what if Arlene were to be offered a place in the Tory Cabinet? Since she’s not currently an MP, the Tories would probably want to make her a member of the House of Lords. What fun for Arlene, booking a restaurant table: “Oh, you want my name? I’m Baroness Foster – that’s B-a-r-o-n-e-s-s.”
Besides giving intense pleasure to Arlene, the move would also open the way for some other DUP worthy to replace her as First Minister. Fret not: there are lots of DUP candidates just gagging for it.
All that, of course, is assuming that the Tory-DUP love affair is going to last. In respect of which, Gerry Adams’s warning is worth heeding: when British Torydom hooks up with Irish Unionism, it has a habit of ending in tears.
Who would ever have dreamed that the path to being king-maker would be bristling with so many explosive devices?