There is unlikely to be much of a legacy from Theresa May’s premiership, which could yet be truncated a short way into its second year. Yet one very good thing looks like coming out of it: the strengthening of the United Kingdom. The Union suddenly looks in better health than it has done for several years. Nicola Sturgeon did not quite scotch her dream of a second independence referendum this week, but in delaying the required legislation until the autumn of 2018 at the earliest she has bowed to the inevitable. She has been sent, as the Scottish national anthem says, homeward tae think again.
Meanwhile, the importance of Northern Ireland in Westminster has been enhanced. The deal between No. 10 and the DUP certainly looks like a grubby case of cash for votes, but it is also more explicit and honest than the kind of pork-barrel spending that is now routine in Westminster to soften up marginal constituencies. Many of those most critical of the deal with the DUP have spent the past few years denouncing ‘austerity’ and decrying the lack of investment in the provinces. The SNP seemed quite happy to lap up extra money offered to Scotland during the independence referendum.
The DUP’s leader in Westminster, Nigel Dodds, pointed out in the Commons this week that much of the opposition to the agreement is sheer hypocrisy. He even threatened to publish the correspondence between the DUP and Labour in 2010 and 2015, when the two parties discussed their own arrangements in the event of a hung parliament. Others, such as Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Greens, have championed the idea of parties working together — except, that is, when the parties in question fail to conform to her idea of a ‘progressive alliance’.