Is DUP-Tory courtship cooling off?

DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street in London for talks Image copyright PA
Image caption The DUP have been negotiating a deal to support the Tory elected government

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has poured cold water on reports that his party was seeking an extra £2bn in health and infrastructure spending.

That was - according to the Lagan Valley MP - "wild speculation" and "wide of the mark".

However, the sources for those reports were reliable - so is it possible the DUP is now seeking to manage down the expectations of its supporters?

Perhaps Newsnight's Nicholas Watt was closer to the mark when he reported that the DUP was looking for £2bn, but the government was offering only £750m.

Although the big cash sums are eye catching, the negotiations are more wide ranging. The DUP also wants changes, for example, to Air Passenger Duty and the bill for lowering Corporation Tax.

But these would have year-on-year financial implications, and Labour put a warning shot across the government's bow when it calculated the potential lost revenue from Air Passenger Duty at £90m a year, but also the number of extra firefighters who could be hired (2,000 according to the Shadow Chancellor).

There are now reports that a cooling in the courtship between the DUP and the Conservatives might lead to a more short term, less comprehensive arrangement than Downing Street originally envisaged.

The DUP won't put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10, but they may feel free to vote as they choose on a wide range of individual policies.

Arlene Foster told me it was "right and proper" for her MPs to back the Queen's Speech.

But some DUP sources aren't ruling out their 10 MPs backing amendments to the Speech if they regard them as in line with DUP policy.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Queen opened parliament with her speech in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday

The delay in the London talks means things are now getting perilously close not just to next week's vote on the Queen's Speech, but also to next Thursday's deadline for restoring devolution at Stormont.

Does it suit the DUP to present the other Stormont parties with their deal as a last-minute fait accompli?

Sinn Féin is getting increasingly restive, pointing out that, having laid down the 29 June ultimatum, it's the Westminster government which has used up all the DUP's time and energy in talks designed to save the Conservatives' skin.

In these circumstances, can the 29 June Stormont deadline hold?

I'm not sure, but I do know that this recent turbulent period in UK Politics will be remembered, at least in part, as the time the DUP demonstrated to Westminster what Stormont-style brinkmanship looks like.

More on this story