It was one of the Tories’ favourite soundbites during the General Election campaign, we couldn’t afford to give the likes of nurses a much-needed pay rise because there was no “magic money tree”. But with a little help from their friends in the anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, climate change denying DUP, and the Tories’ sheer desperation to cling onto power, they have now found it.
We should all be rejoicing, as this will inevitably benefit us all, no? This new-found source of money will mean much-needed funds for our NHS and public services, a pay rise for those in the public sector, and more funding for our schools etc will it not?
In short, no. That’s not how Torynomics works, money can only be found when it suits the Conservative Party or their rich friends. The Tories’ programme of austerity is a con, an ideology that has caused immeasurable and unnecessary hurt and pain. It is a means by which wealth is being transferred, from the bottom to the top. But now, in light of this deal, the austerity argument lies dead in the water.
Let’s not dress this deal up, it’s a simple cash for votes agreement, akin to political bribery – it is using public money solely for party interest. The Tories are prepared to alienate the rest of England, Wales and Scotland to desperately try and cling on to power.
The amount spent in Northern Ireland in 2016/17 was just under £10bn, so the extra £1 billion agreed represents more than a 10% rise in spending in Northern Ireland. Unprecedented when councils in the rest of the UK have had their budgets slashed by nearly half since 2010 in many cases. It is grossly unfair.
Scotland would get an extra £2.9bn and Wales would get an extra £1.7bn under the Barnett Formula for proportional funding in the devolved nations. But the government have announced that there will be no extra funding for Scotland or Wales, despite the extra money agreed for Northern Ireland, all but killing the idea of fair funding. Also, there will be no extra funding for regions in England.
Austerity is effectively over for Northern Ireland, but not for the rest of us. The 97 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom that does not live in Northern Ireland are effectively paying a subsidy to the province in return for no advantage at all.
On top of that, the deal may actually cost more than just the £1 billion promised over two years, with DUP sources hinting that they will ask for more cash when the deal is “reviewed” in two years’ time.
However, the money is perhaps not the most worrying thing. There has been a lot of talk about how this might impact the peace process in Ireland, with talks that Sinn Fein believe the deal could threaten of the Good Friday Agreement, if not actually be in breach of it. Sinn Fein has denounced the DUP-Tory pact, and there will be no return to power-sharing while it is in force. There will be a political vacuum in Northern Ireland, and that has always been a dangerous position. Arlene Foster has the ability to claim that she was the one who negotiated extra funding out of Westminster in future elections – that can hardly be impartial as the terms of the agreement demand.
Theresa May claims this deal brings stability, but it is only likely to bring civil unrest throughout the UK, and perhaps most worryingly in Ireland, whose peace process was so hard fought for.
One startling point to have come out of this fiasco is the realisation that we don’t seem to do consistency or objectivity in this country. Imagine that Jeremy Corbyn had announced he was giving £1 billion to Sinn Fein in order to prop up a Labour government, the likes of the Daily Mail would probably spontaneously combust.
Theresa May is in dangerous denial of her position. “nothing has changed” she infamously quoted during the election campaign, an insistence she still seems to hold. In reality, everything has changed. Jeremy Corbyn has seen to that. And no she can no longer claim that there is no “magic money tree” to fund the NHS, and public services. She is will be unable to make such a case for further cuts in the Commons.
The “magic money tree” soundbite has been consigned to the political wasteland. It turns out that money can be found, but only for party political gain on behalf of the Conservative Party. When they are desperate to cling to power, money can be found, but not to save the NHS and other vital services that we rely on.
It would only need the Conservatives to lose a small number of seats in by-elections for the deal with the DUP to prove insufficient, so this deal is far from “strong and stable”. It is a deal which will further lower trust in British institutions, which will only strengthen Jeremy Corbyn and his movement as they pursue their anti-austerity agenda.
The Tories are prepared to risk crash landing out of the EU with a return of the troubles in Ireland, this is how desperate they are to do anything required to cling to power. They will inevitably pay the price, but at what cost to the country.
The message from the government is clear, they care only about themselves. There is nothing about this deal which is in the national interest, despite the Conservative statement claiming so. But the people of this country are becoming increasingly angered by the Conservative regime and its hypocrisy. Theresa May and the Tories have bought themselves time, and that is all.