The name of the Westminster TV reality show that makes such compulsive viewing these days has been changed to Protection Racket.
You can’t blame the 10 Democratic Ulster Unionist MPs for copying the Corleone family and making Theresa May an offer she can’t refuse. Give us a billion pounds or we’ll cut off your horse’s head, said the DUP (well, not in so many words), and like the movie producer in The Godfather the Conservatives quaked and coughed up.
The noisome part of the deal is that they are fundamentalist Protestants with a world view firmly stuck in the 17th century. Their hardline denunciation of just about every liberal belief we hold dear should have kept them well and truly beneath the stone from which they’ve been allowed to crawl.
But how about this for an alternative? If our MPs in the north had any backbone perhaps just 10 of them could have banded together as a block vote under a Democratic Northern Party flag of convenience and trousered on our behalf the £1bn-plus protection money that’s now going to Northern Ireland.
After all, by propping up the Tories’ minority government the DUP MPs have copped for £33 from every taxpayer in the UK. They get to spend almost half of it on infrastructure developments, things like new roads and public transport upgrades, while another £200m goes into improving the province’s health service.
Perhaps keeping the already neutered Conservatives in government until the money was spent would’ve been a small price to pay to bring such benefits to the north. I’m sure we could all draw up a shopping list of projects we would love to see if the government saw fit to splash the cash.
My own list would absolutely not include new roads, since I’ve reached the conclusion after 40 years of driving that roads have their own version of Parkinson’s Law. The number of vehicles simply expands to fill the available road space and the intended easing of traffic congestion doesn’t last very long.
But I would want to see a major expansion of the rail network. For starters, the restoration of the old railway line between Skipton and Colne would provide an important link in the north’s rail network that’s been sorely missed since the 1960s. Another line I’d restore is the one from Scarborough to Whitby. I would also properly fund rural bus services and reverse the obscene programme of library closures that was instigated by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in 2010. I would build a serious amount of social housing in towns and villages to halt the constant drift of the population to cities. And just think how £200m could ease the problems in northern hospitals.
Oh well, playing Fantasy Lobby Fodder with our MPs is a lot of fun but politics is far too tribal for it to work, even though the unholy alliance that’ll keep the Tories in power will stop them rolling out the extreme austerity policies revealed in their election manifesto. But since the magic money tree that Theresa May denied existed turned out to be growing in the garden of 10 Downing Street all along, if it was going to be shaken to provide a bit of Godfather-style protection money I’d rather it came up here.