After an election campaign in which Theresa May tried to paint Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as an IRA sympathiser, the election result is full to the brim with irony as the Tories negotiate a coalition with the DUP, a party with ties to Northern Ireland terrorists. 

Illustration by Rachael Bolton

Hey, UK voters. How did you vote in the last election? Did you vote for a party whose leader wants to criminalise abortion, even in the case of rape? Did you vote for a party that appointed a climate change denier as an environment minister, flying in the face of science and seriously hampering the world’s attempts to slow down the destruction of our planet? Did you vote for a party whose education committee is chaired by a member of the Caleb Foundation, a creationist organisation that thinks the world is only 10,000 years old?  And does 40% of its activists want creationism taught as science in public schools? Did you vote for a party that has repeatedly blocked moves towards marriage equality, with one senior member telling schoolchildren “Homosexuality is an abomination”? And did you vote for a party whose leader accused Jeremy Corbyn of supporting Ulster terrorists, when she herself had close links with other Ulster terrorists?  No? Well, if you voted Conservative, you helped these people into power anyway.

The Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, is arguably the most politically extreme mainstream party in the UK. Founded in 1971 and standing exclusively in Northern Ireland, they won 10 of the 18 in the province  – their best electoral result ever. Normally, this would be an unremarkable result that didn’t much affect the country as a whole. But as the 2017 General Election saw the Conservatives lose their overall majority – winning only 318 of the 326 seats needed – Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government is dependent on DUP support. But what does this mean for the ordinary UK voter, and for Brexit?

Perhaps the most immediately worrying thing about the DUP is its links with Northern Irish terrorism. After repeatedly trying to smear opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as at best soft on terrorism and at worst a terrorist sympathiser, in a shocking display of hypocrisy, the Conservatives are now climbing into bed with a political party that has strong historical links with loyalist paramilitary groups. Peter Robinson, the DUP’s leader until last year, was an active member of the terrorist organisation Ulster Resistance,  and has been photographed wearing the paramilitary ‘uniform’ of beret and military fatigues at one of their rallies. According to Metro.co.uk, the DUP ‘also collaborated with other terror groups, including the Ulster Volunteer Force, to smuggle deadly arms into the UK.’  The party has since disowned violence.

The term ’Coalition of Chaos’ was coined by Theresa May to describe a potential Corbyn-led government where Labour was propped up by support from the SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. But it has since been applied to her own coalition with the DUP.  And May’s Coalition of Chaos could see paramilitary terrorism return to Northern Ireland after almost a decade of peace. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a vital step in the peace process, eventually leading to the IRA ending its armed campaign in 2005.  But it has been suggested a DUP/Conservative coalition would break the Agreement’s Impartiality Clause.  If this causes the Agreement to fall apart, the results could be disastrous.

Another possible result of the DUP/Conservative coalition is the potential breakup of the UK. Although the failure of the SNP to build on its massive gains in the 2015 election might have led us to consider Scottish independence off the agenda in the immediate future. But the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson – whose 13 seats north of the border represent a massive gain over the single seat won in 2015 – is working on a deal to break away from the UK Conservative Party and form a separate organisation.  Perhaps this is unsurprising as Ms Davidson is openly gay and engaged to her same-sex partner, and the Conservatives’ coalition partners the DUP has repeatedly blocked marriage equality in Northern Ireland and once backed a campaign called “Save Ulster from Sodomy”.

Although a break between the Scottish and UK Conservatives wouldn’t necessarily be a stepping stone to an independent Scotland, it might well put a second referendum back on the agenda.

And, of course, there’s Brexit, the elephant in the room in any political discussion. The DUP is an enthusiastic supporter of Brexit, but for once, its stance on the subject might actually soften the Conservative’s position. According to DUP leader Arlene Foster, “No-one wants to see a ‘hard’ Brexit, what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union, and that’s what the national vote was about – therefore we need to get on with that…No-one wants to see a hard border, Sinn Fein talk about it a lot, but nobody wants a hard border.”

But perhaps we should leave the last word on the coalition and Brexit to a viral tweet currently doing the rounds. “Looks like we’ll be sending Brussels the Conservative and Unionist Negotiating Team. I hope they can come up with a handy acronym.”

Ian Osborne

Ian Osborne

I was born in the British midlands, but currently live in Devon. After taking a degree in history, I became a video games journalist, working on and editing a series of games magazines. After a short stint on a local newspaper and then working in PR for a video games peripherals manufacturer, I moved on to technology journalism, specialising in Apple devices. As well as gaming and technology, I also have a keen interest in history, and have written four major bookazines on famous World War II battles. I’ve also written a tragi-comic science fiction novel, Reality Check, which I hope to see published some time between now and my death.

How do you spend your days?

I’m a tech journalist, and spend much of my time researching and writing about the inner workings of Macs and iOS devices, and writing it up as tutorials for a series of Apple bookazines. I’ve worked in tech journalism for around 20 years now, but have also written about video games, history and other subjects. When I’m not working, I enjoy reading (doesn’t everybody?), playing with my cat, working on my novel and playing on my Xbox One.

Why is …. this important to you?

Reading is important because it’s impossible to be a writer unless you’re also a reader. It would be like training for soccer without joining a team. There’s only so much you can do on your own. My cat is important as he brings me down to Earth. When life seems complicated, he sits on my lap and all is peaceful. I enjoyed writing my novel, as it’s something I always wanted to do, but now I just want to get it out there. And the Xbox One? I enjoy video games. Even at my age. So sue me.

What drove you to focus on journalism & writing? Was there a particular moment you can remember that led you to this field?

My career began when I chanced upon an advert for games reviewers in a local paper. After becoming a journalist, I endeavoured to write about things that interest me, so from games, I moved on to tech, politics, entertainment and more. It’s amazing just how pivotal that advert turned out to be in my life.

What drives you professionally?

I always like to make the next piece of work I do a little better than my last. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and turn out the same old stuff time after time, and I can’t claim I’ve never fallen into that particular trap, but if anything drives me professionally it’s the desire to build on what I’ve done before rather than repeat it.

In your opinion what are the three biggest problems facing the developed and developing world?

For the developed world, I’d say, complacency, apathy and a lack of self awareness. We’re far too quick to sit back and congratulate ourselves on what we’ve done, without looking beyond that and looking at what we’ve still to do. We also need to understand how others see us, and take the appropriate action if we don’t like what we see.

The main threats to the developing world are instability, exploitation and environmental issues. A stable political system is a prerequisite for prosperity, and although free trade is equally essential, this shouldn’t lead to an exploitative relationship between workers and business owners. Environmental problems are frequently caused by the first world, but have a devastating affect on the third world.

If you hadn’t become a journalist what would you have done?

I suppose the obvious alternative career for me is in PR and marketing, something I’ve actually done for a while. I’d love to have been a novelist too, but my lack of success in flogging my first effort would suggest I was right to go into journalism instead.

What led us to this moment in history?

Regarding politics, as the philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Unfortunately, we forget the past far too often, and it results in our repeating the same old mistakes. But what really defines the modern world isn’t its politics, but its scientific achievements. Even then, we hold ourselves back by repeating past mistakes. Vaccines, for example, have doubled our lifespan, but we’re cursed by an anti-vax movement that makes no more sense than a medieval doomsday cult.

What are the lessons we failed to learn during and since the 2008 crisis?

Greed and rampant inequality are a recipe for disaster, and you can’t have power without responsibility. Allowing the banks to get too big to fail and then leaving them largely unregulated was a ridiculous move. Only time will tell whether this lesson has been learned, but I’m not optimistic.

Can you list some ‘Baby Steps’ out of the current economic mess?

Austerity has been a disaster for the UK, and has greatly increased the national debt. Brexit is set to stifle economic growth still further. So for starters, I’d ease off on the cuts and stay in the EU. Whether this would be enough is open to question, but it’s a start.

If you were a global President what would your first three pieces of policy be?

Tell us something you have been wrong about?

I’m certainly not as left wing as I was in my youth. Mass public ownership of businesses would lead to stagnation and decay; the profits would go to the state instead of shareholders, but there would be less and less profit. I still feel effective monopolies like the railways should be nationalised, though. Rail travel in the UK is among the most expensive in the world, and we pay more in subsidies now than we ever did when it was British Rail.

You are stuck in a ski lift for twenty four hours - you can have one person (living or dead) with you who will it be?

Superman. I’d get him to fly me down to the ground.

Name the book that changed you….

‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. It’s an excellent guide to communication, and helps you see things from other people’s point of view as well as your own. Apply these skills on a macro level, and interaction between groups and countries would improve too.

What would you do differently if you were to start all over again?

Not much. There are things I know I should have done differently but wouldn’t change. I should’ve done a more career-related degree, for example, but if I had, I’d have missed out on some of the best years of my life, and never met my partner. Early in my career, I wish I’d have looked out for myself a little more, and not let loyalty make me stay in situations that were doing me no favours.

Give our readers, members and subscribers a piece of advice that has served you well…

Work hard and work smart, and don’t tolerate laziness and disorganisation from others. And if you’re planning to be a freelancer, ALWAYS get your work in on time.

Anything you would like to plug? Now is your chance.

One day, I’ll have an Amazon link to my novel to share with you. But not today.

Twitter: @ijosborne
Ian Osborne

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