Yesterday, the Ulster Unionist Party joined its rivals the DUP in announcing that it would not support a Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn.
For Corbyn, and the Labour Party, this can’t be surprising. Northern Ireland has only really been an issue during the main General Election Campaign because of the Conservative Campaign HQ’s decision to attack Corbyn over his past links to Irish nationalism.
The Conservative attack angle has been enthusiastically adopted by our two main unionist parties. Predominantly, this is because the two parties still (rightly) believe the Tories are likely to win the election.
However, there is also the fact that both parties have been through rather a lot of elections recently! Therefore, when presented with an opportunity to piggyback on publicity generated by the fabulously wealthy Tory campaign it makes sense to take it.
In the unlikely event that the Conservatives don’t hold an outright majority, the near-guaranteed support of the DUP and UUP ought to be enough to push them over the line. On top of this, the Electoral Commission has reported that the Conservatives hold a huge campaign funding advantage – receiving over ten times as much in donations as the next highest campaign, during the last period for which figures are available.
On the other hand, Labour has few options for support in Northern Ireland. The SDLP will probably support them, but are likely to be too small to make a real difference – meanwhile Sinn Féin, while supportive of Corbyn, don’t really come into the reckoning when forming a government because of their abstentionism.
Labour can’t even say that it’s willing to look at coalition government, lest the Tory “coalition of chaos” line stick. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry announced yesterday that Labour was instead looking at options for governing in a minority, in the event of a hung Parliament.
With all these advantages, and still holding a lead (albeit much diminished) in the polls, it’s fair to say that the Tories are ‘sitting pretty’ with less than a week to go…
This article was originally published as part of the Chambré Public Affairs General Election 2017 Bulletin – your free guide to the 2017 General Election in Northern Ireland. To subscribe, please click here and fill out the short form.