And with one bound she was free – or was she?
At a cost of £1bn of taxpayer’s money – around £500 for every Northern Irishman, woman and child – the Conservatives have bought themselves precious time and frustrated Jeremy Corbyn’s hopes of sliding into No 10 through some parliamentary accident.
Theresa May’s Faustian pact with the Democratic Unionist Party, signed after a good deal of haggling, seems to secure her position, that of her party and, most importantly, of Brexit for the next two years at least. In a sense, and by an extremely circuitous route, she might even claim to have delivered “strong and stable” government, though even Theresa May, newly pledged to “humility”, hasn’t the chutzpah to revive that old slogan. With the Paisleyites, her position remains precarious, and a few defections or by-election losses would be sufficient to make it untenable.
The two-year horizon set out in the accord would take the nation to the formal point of departure of the UK from the EU, whatever “transitional” arrangements may be put in place for after that point. That, Tories are obviously supposing, is also the point when the ill-starred May premiership passes into history with as much dignity as it can muster, and the Conservatives start the process of recovery under fresh leadership in the exciting new world of post-Brexit Britain. She, as she recently said to her MPs, had gotten us in this mess and she was the best person to get us out of it. Maybe she isn’t, but they rightly calculate that the mayhem caused by a further leadership contest would stretch them beyond breaking point. So the course of the next two years seems set.
The document, indeed, goes beyond a traditional confidence and supply agreement – which doesn’t require a grand constitution in any case – but not as far as a full coalition. It agrees priorities for government and also commits the DUP to support the Brexit legislation, even though no one has…