Northern Ireland

David Trimble says DUP may back Labour if hung parliament

David Trimble
Image caption Lord Trimble said although the DUP and Conservatives shared many values that did not mean they would automatically work together if there was a hung parliament.

A former Ulster Unionist Leader has said the DUP may back a Labour administration if there is a hung parliament after the general election.

Polls suggest there is a strong likelihood neither Labour nor the Conservatives will have an overall majority at Westminster.

Lord Trimble said the DUP and Conservatives shared many similar values.

The former Upper Bann MP joined the Conservatives after leading the UUP.

Lord Trimble said although the DUP and Conservatives shared many values that did not mean they would automatically work together if there was a hung parliament.

Circumstances

The Conservative peer thinks that if the DUP agreed to support a new government it might come down to money and the issue of what projects central government was prepared to fund in Northern Ireland.

Lord Trimble told BBC's The View that under those circumstances the DUP may find themselves attracted to "a party of public spending".

He added, that could mean the DUP could be "moving towards Labour".

Image caption Nigel Dodds said whatever discussions took place after the election in May his party would not have "a begging bowl approach"

The DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said in the event of a hung parliament his party would do "what is right for Northern Ireland".

The DUP will not go into formal coalition with another party at Westminster and their voting record indicates that they have supported both the Labour and Conservative party in crucial votes in the Commons.

Nigel Dodds said whatever discussions took place after the election in May his party would not have "a begging bowl approach".

Lines of communication

He told the BBC that there were "many arrangements that can be put in place".

What is clear, is that at Westminster, senior figures in the Labour and Conservative Party are keeping the lines of communication with local parties open and they both know that the views of smaller parties should not be dismissed this side of an election.

Whilst the Conservatives and the Labour Party do not want to talk publicly about multi-party deals, it is a hot topic of conversation in the tea rooms and cafes in the Palace of Westminster.

Image caption When John Major was in Number 10 in the 1990's there was a similar agreement

Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, thinks the election result could be incredibly close and if one of the bigger parties is eight or nine seats short of a majority, the DUP would be a "perfect fit".

He says in that scenario the DUP were likely to come with a "shopping list".

Last week, the Labour leader Ed Miliband visited Nigel Dodds in his North Belfast constituency but Labour insist that they are not wooing the DUP.

'Nonsense'

The Shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis said his party were working to achieve a majority in the Commons and he told the BBC "there are no secret deals in place".

The MP dismissed media reports that there had been discussions with Sinn Féin as "total nonsense".

Sinn Féin insist that even in the advent of a hung parliament they would not change their position of boycotting the Commons chamber.

The party's Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy told The View that his party were elected on a strong mandate of abstentionism and they were "not likely to change that".

If the DUP win eight or possibly nine seats in May and the general election is as tight as some pundits predict, then the role of Northern Ireland parties could be crucial.

There is a history of co-operation between local parties and the Conservative and Labour parties.

In the 1970s, on occasions the Ulster Unionists supported the Labour government when Jim Callaghan was prime minster.

When John Major was in Number 10 in the 1990s there was a similar agreement.

At the last election the Ulster Unionists had a pact with the Conservatives although it did not produce a single MP and the arrangement has since ceased.

The SDLP, which has three MPs, traditionally backs Labour and that arrangement looks set to continue.

Although linked to the Liberal Democrats in this parliament, the Alliance's Naomi Long sat on the opposition benches, as did the Independent North Down MP, Lady Hermon, who left the Ulster Unionists over their pact with the Conservatives.

Over the past five years coalition government at Westminster has been a new experience.

If the opinion polls are right, it could be here to stay and Northern Ireland's parties could have a defining role.

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