DUP would not have ‘any difficulty’ backing Tories to keep out leftist coalition

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson

Sammy Wilson has said that the DUP would not have “any difficulty” supporting the Conservatives if it means seeing off a left-of-centre coalition.

However, the veteran DUP figure said it is too early to speculate on what the DUP might demand in return from the Tories.

He was speaking as polling indicated that the Conservatives could be short of an overall majority in the Commons – leaving them casting around for potential partner to help them govern.

The long-time East Antrim MP, who is bidding to retain his seat, said that “under no circumstances will we acquiesce in a government led by Jeremy Corbyn – Sinn Fein’s friend and [an] IRA supporter”.

However, on the issue of a pact with the Conservatives, he said: “Well, if it was a choice between a Conservative administration and an administration made up of the Labour Party, the LibDems and the Scottish Nationalists, I don’t think that we would have any difficulty in making a decision as to what direction we would go there.”

He said, given that the DUP is pro-Brexit, “of course we’d be supporting the Conservatives in getting a Brexit which reflects the views given at the referendum a year ago”.

As to what the DUP’s price would be for joining any Conservative pact, he said: “That would be something obviously we’d get into negotiations with the government about, and I don’t think we’ll even speculate on that at the moment.”

He added that in any such negotiations, “what is best for Northern Ireland” would be at the forefront in the DUP’s mind.

He said he was “confident” of holding his own East Antrim seat, adding that he gauged views at all 30-plus polling stations in the constituency in a single day.

He expects to “increase the majority this time”.

He first took the Westminster seat from the UUP in 2005, winning 49.6% of the vote.

But his share of the vote at Westminster elections has fallen since.

In 2015, he won 36.1% of the vote, with the UUP on 18.8%.

Him holding the seat is not in much doubt, based on past performance.

However, he was asked if there was any figure which he would consider a failure; for example, if his vote share fell below a certain level.

Such a question often elicits a vague response from politicians.

But Mr Wilson gave a specific response.

He said: “I’d think if it fell below 37%, I’d be disappointed.”

Last time, in 2015, Ukip had taken a surprisingly-large share of the East Antrim vote – over 10%.

With the party not in contention anymore, many of these votes might perhaps return to Mr Wilson.