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It is true that the opposition votes are fairly solid. With the exception of the pro-Remain and usually anti-Tory but more fiercely anti-Republican independent Unionist MP for North Down, Lady Hermon, there are hardly any opposition MPs who could be persuaded to back the Conservative government on anything. On EU matters the government may also receive occasional support from the three remaining pro-Brexit Labour MPs on the Right of the party: Frank Field, Kate Hoey and John Mann. With the possible exception of Graham Stringer, the other Labour Brexiteers — men such as Dennis Skinner and Kelvin Hopkins — are on the far Left of the party and are committed Corbynistas. And the Conservatives will certainly not be able to make another deal with the Liberal Democrats so long as Brexit remains the central issue of the day.

As in 2010, when the Conservatives also fell short of a majority, the Cabinet Secretary — this time Sir Jeremy Heywood — favoured a full coalition government rather than a more modest “confidence and supply” arrangement, i.e. the smaller party backing the government in votes of confidence and on budget matters. The logic of the senior civil service is that a full coalition would lead to greater stability, but this time it will not happen although the option of moving from confidence and supply to coalition has deliberately been left open.

There is every reason to believe that the Conservative-DUP arrangement will be an extremely stable one; from the DUP point of view Corbyn is anathema because of his virulent support for Irish Republicanism. The DUP might well have been happy to have come to an arrangement with Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband, or at least used the potential of such a deal as a bargaining chip to obtain better terms from the Tories. With Corbyn, the sole concern of the DUP is keeping a Republican fellow-traveller out of Downing Street.

Conservative MPs wish to avoid an early election at all costs. If the Tories failed to achieve a majority when they entered an election campaign with a 20-point poll lead it will be extremely difficult to persuade MPs that another avoidable election — even if the party were led by Boris Johnson, with all his apparent voter appeal — is a good idea. Conservative back-bench MPs are generally willing to give in to any DUP demands so long as they are financial. They have come to terms with the idea that Ulster will be awash with pork. They would also have no objection to seeing a new phalanx of DUP peers in the House of Lords.

If the DUP were to make demands on moral or sectarian issues this would create greater problems for some Tory MPs, but such demands seem extremely unlikely. Concerns have been raised that the DUP takes an anti-abortion stance and is traditionalist on gay marriage and other moral issues. These are, however, devolved matters. It is inconceivable that the laws covering England, Scotland or Wales will be reversed at the behest of the DUP. The United Kingdom parliament will not now be imposing liberalisation on Northern Ireland, but then neither did the Coalition and Conservative governments over the last seven years, or indeed the previous Labour government over its 13 years.

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