The Democratic Unionist Party’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, receives our Hero of the Week award
If, seven days ago, you had suggested that the DUP might win our hero award, we would have probably laughed in your face. What a difference a week makes.
On Wednesday, Nigel Dodds set out his party’s preconditions for support for a government if May’s general election resulted in a hung Parliament. None of his original three demands would be a redline for a Labour-led government (although a fourth added later for a European referendum, would cause more difficulty) but one was for the Conservatives: the abolition of the Bedroom Tax.
As I explained on Friday, it is not even as if the Bedroom Tax (and just calling it that is enough to set Tories teeth on edge) even currently applies to Northern Ireland.
The consequence of the DUP’s precondition on this is that unless the Conservatives and the Lib Dems can muster a majority between themselves, it looks likely that the Bedroom Tax is dead. UKIP, which will probably have fewer MPs than the DUP and would certainly be a less welcome partner to Cameron, has already set out its opposition to the Bedroom Tax, albeit in less strident tones than the DUP.
But besides the policy implications, there is something admirable about a small party setting out very clearly what its negotiating stance will be before the election starts. The DUP are being very principled in setting this all out before the campaign proper starts.
There is of course some self interest in this for Dodds: fear of the Bedroom Tax being imposed on his poor North Belfast constituency as part of further austerity could be politically toxic for him.
But the odds now are against the Bedroom Tax surviving are now lengthening: even if Cameron holds on, it may well only be through ditching it. And for striking this blow against the Bedroom Tax, Nigel Dodds deserves our thanks.