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Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party just agreed to the principles of a “confidence and supply” deal that would pave the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to form a minority government.
Agreeing to a “confidence and supply” deal means that it will support May’s Conservative party to form a minority government:
1. Pass a Queen’s Speech (which May did immediately after the general election).
2. A Budget – supply part of the deal.
3. Help stop and votes of no confidence in the House of Commons – confidence part of the deal.
A minority government needs to rely on the support of other parties to get through these votes and anything else it wants to get done. They lend their support to form a working majority on issues with which it agrees
The Conservatives failed to win 326 seats in the general election – the number needed to have an outright majority. But the party still won the largest number of seats and votes – with 318 seats and 12,667,213 votes (42.8% of the overall vote).
This resulted in a hung parliament. When a hung parliament is returned, there are three main outcomes:
- A coalition government. A minority government. A second election.
The Tory Party opted for a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, the last time a hung parliament occurred. This meant that the two parties officially agreed to go into government with each other and draw up a shared legislative programme. However, the Liberal Democrats ruled out a coalition in 2017’s election.
May, therefore, opted to form a minority government. This is where a cabinet is sworn into office despite not commanding a majority in parliament.
The DUP won’t be involved with jointly running a shared legislative programme, if it helps May have a minority government, but it would support the Tories when it pushes through legislation through votes.