Protesters opposed to a coalition between the Conservatives and the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party demonstrate against British Prime Minister Theresa May at Parliament Square in London.
Protesters opposed to a coalition between the Conservatives and the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party demonstrate against British Prime Minister Theresa May at Parliament Square in London. ANDY RAIN

Conservative MPs lash May over Irish deal

BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a backlash after making an agreement to govern with the help of the anti-gay Democratic Unionists.

Conservatives spoke out after a senior party figure was sent to Belfast seeking a deal that could have handed the DUP ministerial jobs, with one Tory telling The Independent it meant being "pushed out to the right”.

In the end, no formal coalition was agreed, but a "confidence and supply” arrangement was struck for the DUP to back the Tories on key votes. Cabinet will discuss it today.

It came as Ms May was also forced to let go of trusted aides Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, described as her right and left arm, to prevent a leadership challenge following her disastrous election campaign.

The PM then came under pressure from Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, strengthened by Tory success north of the border, who called on her to think again about leaving the EU single market.

The resignations buy time for Ms May, but she is still fighting for her political life amid a growing belief in Tory circles that she must go.

Strikingly, her Cabinet again failed to come out publicly to support her and her planned reshuffle had to be postponed amid the turmoil.

Graham Brady, the chairman of a key Tories' backbench committee, is thought to have personally demanded the heads of Mr Timothy and Ms Hill to prevent an immediate leadership contest.

It appeared Ms May had decided she needed the strength of coalition with the DUP to bolster her chances of keeping her government alive, amid growing pressure from angry Tory MPs and members.

Neil Carmichael, a former select committee chairman who lost his Stroud seat last week, said: "The DUP has the potential to push the Conservative party out to the right.”

Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the health select committee, insisted any deal with the DUP must not be allowed to influence policies on the death penalty, gay rights, education or abortion.

"If any of that is a condition of confidence and supply it simply won't work,” she tweeted.

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein member of the Belfast Assembly, said a deal could "prove to be reckless” for Northern Ireland, adding: "The British public should have full scrutiny of the DUP and what that party represents.”

A petition against a deal between the two parties was well on the way to 700,000 signatures yesterday.

Meanwhile, a survey by the ConservativeHome website further undermined the PM by revealing almost 60% of grassroots Tories want her to resign.



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