If you’re anything like most Americans you’re likely aware that our international ally the United Kingdom runs their country a bit differently from our own. They are a parliamentary democracy, a form of Western liberal democracy where the party that has gained an absolute majority of seats in parliament (legislature) forms the standing government and appoints its party leader as Prime minister. Once the Prime Minister is appointed he or she creates their cabinet by selecting active Members of Parliament, usually from their own party.
You are likely also aware (at least vaguely) of the fact that the United Kingdom just recently held a general election, the results of which have been both messy and impressive. Jeremy Corbyn’s leftist Labour Party made serious gains while the conservative Tories under Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership lost quite a few seats in parliament. This shake up has not only caused the Tories to lose their standing majority, the entire basis of May’s ability to operate as the Prime Minister, but has caused what is known as a hung parliament. In a parliamentary democracy when the parliament is referred to as “hung” it lacks any one party with an absolute majority of the seats meaning that there is no party with the position and representation to form a government. Theresa May, unfortunately, has decided on a method to counteract this problem.
In order to create enough of a majority to form a fully functional governing body Theresa May and the Tories have made the decision to form a coalition with a right wing party out of Northern Ireland called the DUP. The DUP, or Democratic Unionist Party, holds just enough seats in parliament to help push the Tories back into a governing majority. So, the question must be asked, who are the DUP, and what do they stand for?
First and foremost the Democratic Unionist Party, currently headed by Arlene Foster, is a right wing group based in Northern Ireland and founded in 1971 on Protestant fundamentalist principles. Already this should be ringing alarm bells in the minds of those who recognize that, like in the United States, the governed citizens of the United Kingdom are a plurality of religious beliefs. Any government by one particular religious group is bound to discriminate against or at least ignore those that do not fall into their rigid system of ideals. Although they have loosened this influence slightly to try and bring socially conservative Catholics into the fold, this is still rather worrying. Thankfully the DUP are not the ones forming a government, they are simply a supplement to the waning Tories, but they get much worse than just playing religious favoritism.
These heavily conservative roots have led to a variety of problematic beliefs, actions, and statements over the years by the DUP and its members. One of the most commonly cited issues with the DUP is their historically bad record on women's reproductive rights. For example on the abortion issue they are so firmly against extending abortion rights to the women of Northern Ireland that even victims of sexual assault are not allowed an exemption. What makes this worse, however, is that they only begrudgingly allow abortion in cases where the woman's life is endangered and, when a UK High Court ruled that banning abortion for rape victims went against human rights the DUP elected to mostly ignore it.
Next come their unsurprisingly archaic views on the LGBT community. A quick Google search will present you with a variety of astoundingly absurd and offensive quotes ranging from calling gays "offensive and obnoxious" to saying "you certainly don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That child is far more likely to be abused or neglected." These statements are as bigoted as they are completely ignorant of fact, though the DUP's relationship to facts seems to be a bit rocky.
Their touch and go relationship with facts and information is on full display in the party's views on scientific matters. Although these things are not officially party policy climate change denial and Creationism have found a home amongst several of the party's governing members and, possibly, amongst their voting base. Just like with their rather nasty quotes on LGBT issues a Google search is well worth it for more in depth examples and breakdowns of these problematic views.
Now why exactly should you, as an American, care? It isn't our country's election, we have enough craziness going on in our own government right now as is, and the DUP are not the powerful party in this new coalition. So what exactly about this coalition is so wrong? Well, firstly by allowing the DUP representation in an empowered government coalition they are being given a stage to attempt to validate their views and policies. They are also working alongside the Tories, a party of dangerous conservatism that has allowed privateering in the National Health Service and that has worked to consistently undermine the middle and working classes. This is an unstable match, one of dangerous, mismatched ideals, and if it continues it will be the government moving to negotiate Brexit with the European Union. Without a strong, intelligent governing body that is sure of its demands and working for the benefit of the middle and working classes first and foremost the negotiations could become historically disastrous.