by Paul Braterman
“Our MPs will be the kingmakers, playing a huge role”
(From victory speech of Gregory Campbell, on right, 1 a.m. Friday 9th June, 2017)
Overview: I am assuming as I write this that the Conservative Party will remain in power in the UK for the immediate future. As a matter of arithmetic, this will require the cooperation of the Democratic Unionist Party. All this may, however, change at any time.
Update on the Orange Walk issue: it's already happening: “Supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are demanding Theresa May allow a banned loyalist march as part of an agreement by the Northern Irish party to prop up a minority Conservative government.” Independent, Monday 12 June
Kingmakers. There is no doubt that this is how the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) see themselves. And there is no doubt that they aim to exploit this role to the full. Not by formal coalition, the trap into which Nick Clegg so disastrously led his party in 2010, but “confidence and supply”, which will leave them free to make new demands and to threaten to withdraw support at any time. I will not attempt to unravel the complex affairs of Northern Ireland, but with the settlement there more fragile than it has been for some years, the strengthening of one partisan faction must be a matter of concern. Anyone requiring evidence of the DUP's ruthless political infighting, inflammatory rhetoric, and skill at reopening old wounds is invited to visit their web site at http://www.mydup.com/.
L: Saint John's College, Cambridge, where Nigel Dodds studied law
Nor should we fall into the trap of underestimating the DUP intellectually because of the crudeness of their dogmas. Nigel Dodds, of whom much more below, has a first-class honours degree in law from Cambridge University, while Ian Paisley Jr., MP for North Antrim and son of the charismatic Reverend Ian Paisley who founded the party, holds BA (hons) and MSSc degrees from Queen's University Belfast in History and Irish Politics.
Sectarianism and links to violence: The DUP is a sectarian party, founded by former members of the UUP (United Unionist Party) who considered that party's leadership too conciliatory towards the large Republican (i.e. Catholic) minority. In the late 1980s and 1990s, there were strong links between the DUP and Protestant paramilitary groups involved in arms smuggling and assassinations. The DUP now renounces violence, but there are strong family connections between the current contingency of DUP MPs, and the former leadership, and one of these MPs, Sammy Wilson, is on record as saying that if politically ignored, the people (i.e. Protestant people) of Northern Ireland may need to resort to violence.
Welfare: On welfare policy, the DUP is to the left of the Conservatives. They are opposed to the bedroom tax and means testing the winter fuel allowance, and wish to keep the “triple lock” on pensions.
Immigration and Brexit: Even in the run-up to the 2015 General Election, at a time when no one thought that Brexit would actually happen, they were pressuring for the UK to be able to restrict EU immigration. They are strongly pro-Brexit, although in the referendum 57% of Northern Ireland voters chose Remain. They are also insistent that Northern Ireland should not have any kind of special relationship with the EU, for fear that that would put them on a slippery slope towards unification with the Republic. However, they do not want a hard border with the Republic, and their leader, Arlene Foster is “acutely aware of the importance of the ability of people and goods to move freely across the land frontier with the Republic of Ireland.” Nor do they want any kind of internal border within the UK. These inconsistencies could remain concealed as long as they were a fringe group, but not now when they find themselves at the centre of power.
Death penalty, and abortion: The DUP has (in 2015) called for a Parliamentary debate on reinstating the death penalty, and supports and helped strengthen Northern Ireland's abortion laws, which allow abortion only in the case that the mother's life is in danger, even if the foetus is not viable, and even in cases of rape and incest. Opposition to abortion is widespread in Northern Ireland, on both sides of the sectarian divide, and that is by law a matter for them. However, Owen Paterson, who as former Northern Ireland secretary has had dealings with the DUP, has suggested on Radio 4 (10 June, 2017) that they might press for a debate on lowering the time limit for abortions in the rest of the UK.
Climate change denial: One MP (Sammy Wilson) regards concern over climate change as a “con” (see his individual entry, below). At one time it seemed as if his views might resonate with those of Nick Timothy in Theresa May's office, but fortunately Timothy has been replaced by Gavin Barwell, a Cambridge Natural Sciences graduate.
The Caleb Foundation: At least three of the ten DUP MPs have close links to the Caleb Foundation, a biblical literalist evangelical group. This organisation has its own declaration of faith, which says that “The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God. It is final in its authority. None may add thereto or take away therefrom except at their own peril,” and that God will visit “eternal conscious punishment of the unregenerate in hell”. Yes this does mean Young Earth six day creationism, and homosexuals (unless, I presume, they adopt lifelong chastity) are certainly among the unregenerate. They also claim that there are Young Earth creationist scientific alternatives to the standard scientific account, and wish these to be presented in schools and museums. More on the Caleb Foundation at the end of this post.
In fairness, I should point out that Arlene Foster, leader of DUP, has distanced herself from creationism, saying “We have to see the Bible in the context of the scientific developments” and that Caleb is not the DUP.
L: Orange Parade, Omagh, 2008; Kenneth Allen via Wikimedia Commons
Orange Order, sectarianism, and minor violence: The DUP remains strongly connected with the Orange Order, and the Apprentice Boys of Derry, whose principal activity these days is to stage noisy uniformed parades commemorating the 1690 (!) victory of William of Orange over James II. These marches are regularly associated with minor violence, these days directed mainly at the police as they carry out their duty of preventing the parades from marching through mainly Catholic residential areas (see notes below on Nigel Dodds MP). Thus we have the absurdity of self-styled Loyalist organisations throwing bricks at the representatives of the authority to which they are demonstrating their loyalty. We may a month from now see the arrangement between the DUP and the Conservatives tested to its limits over where men in bowler hats wearing orange sashes will or will not be allowed to march.
Implications: Despite all this, Theresa May felt able to say, on the day after the election, “Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years”.
These sentiments may not be shared by Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who is one of the few people to emerge with reputation enhanced from the recent UK general election. In this, under her able leadership, the Conservative party in Scotland increased its representation from 1 to 13 seats, without which it would be impossible for the Conservatives form a government. She is openly lesbian, and plans shortly to marry her partner. She is fervent in defence of LGBT rights and protections, which she would like to see further advanced, and has urged Theresa May to challenge the DUP on its anti-gay attitude. She also wants to remain within the European Free Trade Area, which is of course incompatible with the tight control over European immigration that the DUP demands. There is already talk of Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives being prepared to split from the main body of the Party over this issue. That would leave the remaining Conservatives unable to form a government, even with the help of the DUP.
It is beginning to look as if Theresa May's key policy of “Brexit at any cost” will not be able to command Parliamentary support.
This just in: Petition: A petition against the Government entering into an alliance with the DUP has already gathered over 690,000 signatures at the time of writing (Sunday, 18:00 BST).
This post is also appearing on Paul Braterman's blog, Primate's Progress, where you can see more of his writing
Some notes on the individual DUP MPs (alphabetical order), and the Caleb Foundation
Gregory Campbell, MP for East Londonderry. Member, Independent Orange Order.
On the Caleb foundation: “There are a number of evangelical Protestant groups who I would support, and Caleb is among them. I have never been asked to join the group or subscribe. I am not a member. I see their newsletter and I follow their campaigns.”
On homosexuality: “It's an evil, wicked, abhorrent practice… something which is totally and utterly depraved, and to me anyway the AIDS scare which is currently running through America is proof that homosexual practice is something which calls upon the curse of God.
On the death penalty: “What are those advocates who don't want capital punishment going to advocate in its place? … I've yet to hear these alternatives to capital punishment
On the role of the DUP after the election: “Our MPs will be the kingmakers, playing a huge role”, victory speech 9 June 2017, delivered when it was already clear that the Conservatives would not have an overall majority.
Nigel Dodds, MP Belfast North, Deputy Leader DUP, and member of Privy Council. First class honours in law, Cambridge, professional legal qualifications from Queen's University, Belfast. Worked at the Secretariat of the European Parliament from 1984-96. According to the Belfast Telegraph, his wife, Diane Dodds (MEP for Northern Ireland) is closely associated with the Caleb Foundation, of which his former adviser, Wallace Thompson, is chairman.
On Orange Walks: Member, Orange order. He was knocked unconscious by a brick thrown at police by fellow-loyalist when taking part in a predictably violent Orange parade in 2013, but blamed the police for causing this violence by blocking the march from the Catholic Ardoyne area. Shortly before this, he was briefly expelled from the Commons for accusing then NI Secretary of being “deliberately deceptive” about such parades.
On defence, welfare policy, and immigration, see here and here: He says (18 May 2017) that he wants strong military spending including aircraft carriers, describes the bedroom tax as “inhumane and ineffective …We're very clear, of all the changes to the welfare system the bedroom tax is the most iniquitous one”, and seeks “UK border integrity”.
Link to the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force: Together with the Rev. Ian Paisley, he attended the wake of UVF leader John Bingham.
Jeffrey Donaldson, MP Lagan Valley, was Enoch Powell's campaign manager. Member, Orange Order.
Expenses claim: In the 2009 MPs' expenses scandal, it turned out that Donaldson's Commons second home expenses claims included the cost, which he was made to repay, of watching 68 pay-to-view movies. He denied, however, that these were of an adult or pornographic nature.
Attitude to Catholics: Defending the law that debars a Catholic from the throne, he descibed Catholics as “owing allegiance to another state [the Vatican].” This was not considered a helpful thing to say.
Paul Girvan, MP South Antrim
Attitude to minorities and to Republicans: In 2015 he was criticised for saying that scrap metal dealers should be armed with guns to protect themselves from what he called “gypsies” (a term now regarded in Northern Ireland as a slur, and replaced by “travellers”). He also said he saw no problem with Irish flags being burnt at loyalist rallies, in my opinion an admirable defence of freedom of expression, provided he would say the same of Union flags being burnt at Republican rallies.
Attitude to Orange parades: Said that the Parades Commission was unfairly restrictive, and an unelected quango that should be scrapped.
Do not confuse, as at least one journalist has, with Paul Givan, MLA Lagan Valley, who joined David Simson (see below) in urging the teaching of creationism in schools as an alternative to evolution.
Ian Paisley, MP North Antrim, son of the Ian Paisley that you may well have heard of. Orange Order.
Attitude to homosexuals: In 2007, said “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harmed themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.
Censured by theNorthern Ireland Policing Board in 2005, for saying, of the then leader of the rival Ulster Unions Party, “It is really astounding that David Trimble should have had a man such as this [a gay who married his partner in Canada] giving him advice – and must surely cast grave doubts on his own political judgement. I think these sorts of relationships are immoral, offensive and obnoxious.”
However, he now says “I think I have grown up since then. I have strong Christian beliefs and moral viewpoints, but you have to realise that while sin is black and white, life is a lot of grey. You have to be mature about these things. I can strongly disagree with those viewpoints, but the point is how you disagree.”
Shoot to kill policy: In 2008 he said that police should shoot dissident republicans on sight. He later explained that he really meant that officers should have the opportunity to employ lethal force against those who would seek to kill them. “I believe the community will accept such measures and if dissidents are shot on sight, the community will accept that it is a necessary use of lethal force to prevent dissident republicanism from growing.”
Financial controversy: Paisley was on his father's payroll as a researcher in the constituency of North Antrim at the same time as being an MLA and a junior minister. He resigned ministerial role on exposure.
Emma Little Pengelly, MP Belfast South, daughter of the North Belfast loyalist gunrunner Noel Little. However, such connections are not uncommon among the close family connections within, and between, the DUP and the former loyalist paramilitaries.
Gavin Robinson, MP Belfast East, Orange Order
Jim Shannon, MP Strangford, Orange Order
David Simpson, MP, Upper Bann. Orange Order. Connected to Caleb Foundation.
Homosexuality: He voted in 2013 against same sex marriage in England and Wales, although family lawis devolved in Northern Ireland, quoting the 1970s vintage quip:”In the garden of Eden it was Adam and Eve it wasn't Adam and Steve.”
Creationism in schools: He has lobbied for teaching of creationism in schools, arguing that “There is a huge library of [creationist] resource material and a huge body of research by many reputable scientists that can be accessed very easily by schools”, and describing evolution-based teaching as “narrow and limiting.” He questioned the Education Minister on the availability of materials for teaching alternative scientific theories to evolution, and asked for an assurance that pupils who gave creationist or Intelligent Design answers to GCSE questions about the development of life on Earth would not be marked lower than those who gave evolutionist explanations. According to the Belfast Telegraph, a DUP spokesman confirmed that Mrs Simpson's views were in keeping with party policy.
Sammy Wilson , MP East Antrim. Orange Order. Posed for Belfast Telegraph with toddler (grandson?) at Junior Orange Parade. (Photo not shown for copyright reasons, but click on link). Connected to Caleb Foundation.
Attitude to violence: “I don't like bloodcurdling speeches, to be quite truthhful. I don't like issuing bloodcurdling warnings, because we have to live amongst this, so I'll be quite careful in what I say. But all that I can say is that once we as a Unionist population feel that our future is under threat and that no one else is listening to us, and we've done all the political things we can do, there will be a turning to other methods. And my fear would be, and we've already seen this in small measure to some extent, that once that process starts, it's not the kind of thing you can tum on and off like a tap.”
Climate change: Regards man-made climate change as a con, and concern about it as uninformed hysteria. In a 2008 speech, said “I think in 20 years' time we will look back at this whole climate change debate and ask ourselves how on earth were we ever conned into spending the billions of pounds which are going into this without any kind of rigorous examination of the background, the science, the implications of it all. Because there is now a degree of hysteria about it, fairly uninformed hysteria I've got to say as well.”
Attitude on racism: Following racist attacks on Romanian people in Belfast, he said that “charges of racism were always coincided with the holding out of the hand for more money”.
Caleb Foundation: This was the subject of an extensive report in the Belfast Telegraph in 2012. Its website, last updated 2 June 2017, is now barred to the public, although links to individual pages still seem to be working.
The Caleb Foundation exists in order to promote hard-line evangelical biblical literalism, including the inclusion of creationism in schools science classes and a museum displays. Its successful campaigns include making it illegal to purchase sex, the (short lived) inclusion creationist material at the Giant's Causeway visitors' centre, making abortion illegal even in cases of rape and foetal abnormality, and banning adoption by same-sex couples.
According to the Foundation's Statement of Faith, “The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God. It is final in its authority. None may add thereto or take away therefrom except at their own peril,” and God will visit “eternal conscious punishment of the unregenerate in hell”. Members of different denominations can join the Foundation, but must accept both the Foundation’s Statement of Faith, and the corresponding statement of their own denomination.
The Foundation clearly states its intent to affect political decisions, urging its followers to “Ask them [candidates] to spell out in detail precisely where they – and their parties – stand on key areas such as same-sex marriage and reform of the law on abortion. There can be no room for compromise on these matters. The time has come for Christian politicians to stand up and be counted. And now is the time for us to do our best to ensure that strong Christian politicians are returned to Westminster.”
The Foundation opposed the opening of a Stopes (Family Planning) clinic in Belfast in 2012.
It considers that evolution is” a theory and not a fact” and complains that the Ulster Museum fails to mention “any other theory of origins such as the Biblical account of creation, for which there is strong scientific evidence.”
Its links include Answers in Genesis, Truth in Science (which distributes “creation science” materials in schools), Creation Ministries International, and Creation Research. Under the heading of “Creationist issues”, it asserts that “There are across the scientific disciplines – including geology, palaeontology, physics, genetics, biology, astronomy, biochemistry, geophysics, microbiology, chemistry, nuclear physics, botany, astrophysics and anatomy – scientists who hold to a young earth view. In addition, there are also examples of scientists who abandoned the old earth view on the basis of the evidence and subsequently became Christians.”
The site records its dismay at materials in the Museum's “Nature Zone”, including statements that Triceratops lived -65 million years ago, that the Allende meteorite is around 4,560 million years old, that four billion years ago earth was very different from today, that numerous exhibits are assigned ages of between a million and 800 million years old, that two billion years ago the only life on earth was microscopic bacteria and blue-green algae, and that most plants and animal species that have ever lived on earth are extinct, thanks to evolution. Moreover, the Museum argues in favour of rock layers of different ages, and asserts that “Planet earth was formed more than 4500 million years ago”. Such is the material that Theresa May's presumed partners wish to be balanced by the creationist alternative.
1] Bedroom tax, the provision whereby housing support for those on benefits is based, not on the accommodation actually occupied, but on the minimum size accommodation deemed necessary by the regulations, even though, in general, no such accommodation is available. Winter fuel allowance, a tax-free annual payment to people over 65. Triple lock, a guarantee introduced in 2010 by the then Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to increase the state pension every year by the highest of inflation, average earnings or a minimum of 2.5%.