Friday, June 9, 2017

Chris Morley on UK Election Results and What They Mean: On-the-Ground Report from Manchester

And since we're talking politics here today, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you one of the wonderful reports Chris Morley posts in comboxes here on an ongoing basis — this one having to do with the election that just took place in the UK. Chris lives in Manchester, and so his commentary is on-the-ground commentary from that part of England. Here's Chris's report:

Almost all the results of the snap UK general election on Thursday are now out. Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's partisan gamble to snatch a big majority for bashing the EU Brexit negotiations into shape (and hammering the Labour party) has blown up in her face. 

She's lost her small but workable House of Commons majority and will now have to govern through a coalition. She now has a much weaker negotiating hand and less legitimacy in Britain and Europe.

Her administration will be propped up by the conservative party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists (DUP). 

This major electoral upset was driven by leftish younger voters flexing their muscles. It's surprised everyone. 

About the DUP's role now:

The DUP’s "price' for propping up a new Conservative government will include a promise that there would be no post-Brexit special status for Northern Ireland, the party's leader in Westminster has confirmed. 
Nigel Dodds, re-elected as North Belfast MP, said that among their preconditions would be an insistence that there was no separate deal that would effectively keep the region with one foot still inside the EU. 
The DUP fears that special status after Brexit – a key demand of Sinn Féin – would de-couple Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. 
The [DUP] will return to the House of Commons with 10 seats and in all likelihood will only support a Tory administration, Dodds said.

How might this affect the prospects for marriage equality in Northern Ireland and for reform of its Victorian era prohibitive abortion law? Not a lot. Marriage equality and abortion reform fall within the law-making rights of the Northern Ireland Assembly, not Westminster. 

The Assembly is still suspended following the collapse of the cross-community power-sharing Executive over the cash-for-ash scandal earlier this year.

The UK has past experience of the Westminster Conservatives being propped up by Unionists from Ulster. Unionists in Ulster are to the right of British conservatives and have exploited their government breaking power in the past. They are an uneasy political bedfellow.

Westminster Conservatives won't have significant bargaining power to press the DUP to relent in its opposition to marriage equality and abortion reform, nor to resurrect the Northern Ireland power-sharing Executive and thus restore the democracy of the Assembly.

Westminster's Northern Ireland Secretary didn't call another Northern Ireland Assembly general election to coincide with yesterday's Westmister election. British and Irish government attempts to revive the power-sharing Executive were suspended during the election. 

In the Northern Irish Westminster seat election, there were further significant power shifts as seen in the two recent Assembly elections, of May 2015 and March 2016. Sinn Féin is now the only Westminster party for Irish nationalists. (Sinn Féin refuses to take its seats in Westminster, out of nationalist principle). The SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) lost both its Westminster seats to Sinn Féin. There was similar realignment among Unionists, with the Ulster Unionists (who once were the entrenched power monopolists in Northern Ireland) losing their two Westminster seats to the upstart DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).

What will emerge next remains unclear. Sinn Féin and the DUP are almost as far apart as ever in reconstructing the legally essential power-sharing Executive. 

Effectively we are now in a zombie version of direct rule from Westminster, without an Executive and with the Assembly suspended in the Executive's absence. Westminster hasn't procedurally recognised the direct rule realiity, so there is no real democratic accountability of the Northern Ireland Secretary for his direct rule decision making. 

The lack of Assembly government means everything is left in suspended, zombie, annimation. The province also has no representative voice to articulate the people's and its interests in the Brexit negotiations.

Once upon a time, US administrations would lend a helping hand in such situations to press Northern Ireland community reconciliation. 

We must hope this impasse escapes tRump's bull in a china shop attentions.

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