So Nigel Dodds, the Mr. Bland of Unionist politics in Ireland and the leader of the DUP’s motley crew of MPs in the British parliament, is shimmying around the newsrooms of London hoping to attract the further interest of the Conservative and Labour parties, as polling predicts an inconclusive outcome to the next UK general election. So far only David Cameron’s centre-right Tories have responded with much enthusiasm, hosting a not-so-secret garden-party for the avowedly right-wing DUP in the grounds of Number 10 Downing Street. Presumably the Dupes were on their best behaviour and didn’t frighten the horses. If neither of the big two players of British politics achieve an overall majority at Westminster in a few months’ time they may well be tempted into doing a sneaky legislative deal with some of the nuttier groupings of the political (and in the DUP’s case, colonial) fringe. The centre-left Labour Party under its charisma-free leader Ed Miliband can at least look to small, if rival, mainstream parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and our very own expeditionary force in Westminster, the SDLP, to form some sort of alliance. None of those formations are likely to have any truck with the Tories. However there is no guarantee they would be keen on supporting a minority Labour government either (excluding the SDLP, of course, or a greatly expanded number of SNP MPs). Which means that Labour is keeping its options (and back-channels) open in relation to the DUP.
The Tories on the other hand have a limited number of likely partners to entice into their boudoir. The ideologically-confused Lib Dems, the current junior coalition party, are probably going to take a severe mauling in the election and might be in no fit state to prop up any government; on their own or with anyone else. That leaves David Cameroon with his pick of the crazies: the right-wing UKIP and even righter DUP. The former is a major threat to the Tories in Britain, if only because they will bleed away votes from the party so allowing Labour to take a number of marginal seats. However the Nigel Farage led UKIP is unlikely to see much benefit from those borrowed votes thanks to Britain’s barely-democratic first-past-the-post system of elections and can expect to gain only a handful of new MPs. UKIP also has the problem that pretty much every other party in Westminster, bar the Tories and DUP, regard it as political poison. So the Conservatives may need to look elsewhere for additional support. The Lib Dems, even a rump half-dozen, wouldn’t be part of a Tory-UKIP coalition but the DUP would probably crawl across broken glass to get near such an alliance.
However if the Conservatives were just a few seats short of a Westminster majority would they simply ignore their UKIP rivals (and former Tory rebels) and go for a London-Belfast axis? Play the old Orange Card? David Cameron as prime minster, Nigel Dodds as deputy prime minister? Ian Paisley Jr. as the secretary of state for health and Sammy Wilson as the secretary of state for education?
What was that old phrase about appalling vistas?