'Morally reprehensible': Theresa May's deal with DUP descends into farce

Theresa May tried to shore up her position with a slew of Cabinet appointments on a day in which she came under a mountain of pressure over her attempts to strike a deal with the DUP to prop up her own Government.

The Prime Minister pledged to work with “talent” from across the Tory Party as she brought Michael Gove back into the Cabinet – less than a year after sacking him.

She also promoted Damian Green, one of her closest Cabinet allies, to First Minister of State – a title associated in the past with the role of deputy prime minister.

But in what was being seen as a sign of her weakness nearly all the rest of the Cabinet remained in their current posts.

If the PM was trying to move on the narrative, it is unlikely to have worked.

She came under sustained attack throughout the day over desperate attempts to strike an agreement with the DUP, a deal which was described as “morally reprehensible” amid concerns it could threaten the Northern Ireland peace process.

Shaun Woodward, the former Northern Ireland Secretary who served in the Cabinet from 2007 to 2010, warned the PM not to play with fire.

“Since John Major, we have had a position where the British Government must be neutral in dealing with the politics of Northern Ireland,’ he said.

“That was how we put together the Good Friday agreement.”

“Theresa May, for her own survival, is going to drive a coach and horses through that principle of neutrality.

“It’s inconceivable that nationalists in Northern Ireland could possibly look at a Conservative minority Government propped up by the votes of the DUP as being one about neutrality.

“Northern Ireland doesn’t even have an assembly at the moment.

“Theresa May is risking getting that up and running – and that is morally reprehensible”

Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach, also said he had warned Theresa May over her deal with the DUP.


The deal descended into farce on Sunday when the Northern Irish party denied Downing Street claims that a “confidence and supply” arrangement had been reached with the DUP.

No 10 initially said on Saturday an outline agreement had been reached with the DUP, but it later disclosed no deal had been finalised.

On Sunday, the chances of a deal strengthened with Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, confirming she would travel to No 10 for talks on Tuesday after saying “good progress” had been made.

The strength of any potential deal looks set to be tested when the Commons meets on Monday, with Jeremy Corbyn vowing to try to bring down the Government by defeating Mrs May in Parliament and insisting: “I can still be prime minister.”

On Sunday morning, Mr Corbyn cut a relaxed figure on the Andrew Marr Show, vowing to vote down Mrs May’s Queen Speech and lead Britain out of the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn: Man of the Year. #Marr pic.twitter.com/rV27q3frfV

— EL4C (@EL4JC) 11 June 2017

And Mrs May appears to be losing her grip on true blue Tories, with the influential ConservativeHome website “reluctantly” calling for her to resign on Sunday morning.

Also on Sunday morning, the former Chancellor George Osborne added to Mrs May’s woes by describing her as a “dead woman walking”.

Deal or no deal?

The deal between Mrs May and the DUP has been little short of a fiasco.

On Saturday evening Number 10 released a statement saying: “We can confirm that the Democratic Unionist Party have agreed to the principles of an outline agreement to support the Conservative Government on a confidence and supply basis when Parliament returns next week.”

Following talks between Mrs May and the DUP on Saturday night, a second statement confirmed that no final deal had been reached.

It read: “The Prime Minister has tonight spoken with the DUP to discuss finalising a confidence and supply deal when Parliament returns next week.

“We will welcome any such deal being agreed, as it will provide the stability and certainty the whole country requires as we embark on Brexit and beyond.

“As and when details are finalised both parties will put them forward.”

Boris on the march?

In another sign of the dangers facing Mrs May, Sunday papers reported that Boris Johnson was either being encouraged to make a leadership bid in an effort to oust her, or actually preparing one – a claim dismissed as “tripe” by the Foreign Secretary.

ally of Mr Johnson told the newspaper: “We are facing a populist and they have realised we need someone who can talk to the people.

“We need a Brexiteer. Boris is the only option with the liberal values, Brexit credentials and popular appeal.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The Foreign Secretary is 100% supporting the PM and working with her to get the best deal for Britain.”

Day of drama

Yesterday, two of Mrs May’s closest advisers quit; and the PM was further battered by a new poll showing support by the party faithful plummeting.

Almost two-thirds of Conservative Party members say she should resign after her general election disaster.

A snap survey by the Conservative Home website found that 60 per cent of Tories believe the prime minister has to go.

And two of the PM’s closest advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, quit suddenly after they were blamed for the humiliating result. They had been ‘destructive and arrogant‘, a former communications aide to Mrs May said.

Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill leave Conservative Party HQ after the election campaign (Picture: PA)
Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill have quit (Picture: PA)

Many Tories blamed them for calling the election and for helping craft such a damaging election strategy including a number of damaging policies such as the “dementia tax“.

However, writing on the ConservativeHome website, Mr Timothy denied claims he was responsible for the controversial plans.

He wrote: “I would like to make clear that the bizarre media reports about my own role in the policy’s inclusion are wrong: it had been the subject of many months of work within Whitehall, and it was not my personal pet project. I chose not to rebut these reports as they were published, as to have done so would have been a distraction for the campaign.”

Of the 1,500 Tory Party members polled, only 36% thought Mrs May should stay.

‘It is the most damning finding in one of our polls that I can remember,’ said the site’s editor, Paul Goodman.

‘Party members and our readers are angry in the election’s aftermath. That two in three of her own members, according to this survey, believe that a Conservative leader should resign is astonishing.’

Public have their say

An online petition set up to stop the Conservatives forming a new government with the DUP has attracted more than 600,000 signatures.

There has been widespread criticism over Mrs May’s willingness to jump into a bed which has anti-women and anti-gay policies.

Mrs May and her husband Philip put a brave face on things during their return to Number 10 (Picture: PA)
Mrs May and her husband Philip put a brave face on things during their return to Number 10 (Picture: PA)

The prime minister is still reeling from the result of Thursday’s poll in which she failed to secure an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Although her party came out of the poll the strongest, with 318 seats it fell short of the 326 mark needed for a majority, leaving Mrs May to turn to the DUP and its 10 seats for support.

Before the vote, there was speculation that the prime minister would use a predicted huge win at the polls to shake up her cabinet, but any such plans have gone out the window.

Instead, Downing Street revealed on Friday that she will stick with her key personnel – chancellor Philip Hammond, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, home secretary Amber Rudd, defence secretary Michael Fallon and Brexit secretary David Davis will all keep their roles.

Any changes to her cabinet will only arise from the departure of the eight ministers who lost their seats in the snap general election.

Tories turn on Theresa

Mrs May’s decision to deal with the DUP drew criticism within the Conservative Party ranks.

Scotland’s Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, who in contrast with Mrs May had a successful election night north of the border, took a very public swipe at the prime minister’s move to welcome the DUP into the government fold.


Ms Davidson, who became engaged to her partner Jen Wilson last year, tweeted a link to a speech she made in Belfast in support of same-sex marriage, something the DUP opposes vehemently.

Ms Davidson later said she had received assurances from the prime minister over gay rights.

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson is unhappy with the proposed union with the DUP (Picture: PA)
Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson is unhappy with the proposed union with the DUP (Picture: PA)

She told the BBC: ‘I was fairly straightforward with her (Mrs May) and I told her that there were a number of things that count to me more than the party.

‘One of them is country, one of the others is LGBTI rights.

‘I asked for a categoric assurance that if any deal or scoping deal was done with the DUP there would be absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK, in Great Britain, and that we would use any influence that we had to advance LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland.’

Danger to the peace process?

Nationalist politicians are concerned that any Conservative/DUP deal could lead to an imbalance in Northern Ireland politics.

Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey told BBC Newsnight: ‘I think this current arrangement may well prove to be reckless, but we will have to wait and see.

‘We will expect the British government to honour their commitments in respect of the Good Friday Agreement. And that means they have to remain neutral. We will watch what’s happening very carefully.’

DUP leader Arlene Foster and her party have 10 MPs (Picture: PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster and her party have 10 MPs (Picture: PA)

It is the first time Labour has won the seat since it was established in 1974.

The win took Labour’s tally to 262 MPs as Jeremy Corbyn’s party secured a 40% share of the vote.