If the exit polls from today’s British general election as reported by the BBC tonight translate into actual results, then stand by for the dawning of the age of the DUP.
The exit polls suggest that Cameron’s Tories will win 316 seats, more than the last election but still short of an overall majority. Thanks to Sinn Fein’s abstention from the House of Commons, the number of votes needed to form a government is 323 and Cameron is seven votes shy.
By happy, or unhappy coincidence, the DUP currently hold eight sets which, if they are retained, would give the Tories their majority; and the DUP may actually increase to nine seats which would give Cameron some breathing space.
However, if Sinn Fein took its seats, and swore the necessary oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, then according to the BBC, the Tories would need 326 votes and currently, on the basis of the exit polls, they are ten seats short of that and the DUP contingent at Westminster would not be strong enough to push them over the line.
However the UKIP could come to Cameron’s rescue; its predicted two seats would mean the stage would be set for a Tory-DUP-UKIP government with a majority of a single vote. Now wouldn’t that be something to contemplate?
Nonetheless, if ever there was a compelling argument for Sinn Fein to drop abstentionism at Westminster it is the prospect of denying the DUP the whip hand over British politics for the foreseeable future at best, or, at worst, making votes at the House of Commons a weekly nightmare for Cameron’s Whips..
All this, of course, is contingent upon the exit polls translating exactly into the BBC prediction and a shift of two or three seats either way could make an enormous difference. However not for the first time in the last forty years of Troubles and ‘peace’, the arithmetic at Westminster may have utterly unforeseeable consequences for that wee place and its politics.
Tomorrow could be a very interesting day.