The Democratic Unionist Party has provided a political lifeline for embattled prime minister Theresa May, but some of the party’s election manifesto commitments are at odds with those of the Conservatives while others propose radical civil service reform.
Party leader Arlene Foster – who is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, not one of her party’s 10 Westminster MPs – was selling the DUP somewhat short when she wrote the foreword to her party’s 23-page manifesto for this month’s snap election.
“On this occasion our votes may not be required to help form a government at Westminster but the implications for politics in Northern Ireland could not be greater,” she said.
At the time she could not have predicted that Theresa May’s sky-high opinion poll lead over Labour would plummet.
One clear collision course the DUP has with the Conservatives is protecting the “triple lock” on state pensions that Theresa May proposed to jettison.
In the public sector, the DUP said it wanted to build on its track record of reducing the number of government departments from 12 to nine, and introducing a £100m voluntary exit fund for the civil service by embarking on a new “national reform plan” for Northern Ireland.
It suggested the introduction of alternative models of service delivery, such as increasing the use of social enterprises, introducing increased levels of digital government, and expanding shared services provision.
A 'civil service reform plan' would be a key feature of the long-term, cross-government vision – which the party said needed measurable targets and agreed dates.
The manifesto also supports the urgent reform of National Health Service in Northern Ireland, including the Bengoa Panel’s recommendations on delivering a new model of health and social care.
However devolved delivery means there is likely to be little conflict with any health and social care reform in England that the Conservatives choose to progress following the election campaign's embarrassing U-turn on capping social care costs.
One area in which Theresa May could buy support from the DUP would be the tourism pump-priming, inward investment and infrastructure packages the party is seeking.
They include a cut in the VAT rate for tourism businesses, the creation of a capital-investment fund to develop tourism products, and the creation of a Trade Advisory Board to help capitalise on the opportunities that could arise from UK’s departure from the European Union.
The manifesto also vows that the DUP will continue press Westminster to create city-region growth deals for Northern Ireland.