“The DUP are, let’s face it, the Wahhabists of Protestantism,” Labour’s Angela Eagle told the audience of the BBC’s Have I Got News For You on the evening of 16th June. Not a word was uttered in their defence; no one was invited by the BBC to put an alternative view. And so the Wahhabist slur was allowed to stand: about five million viewers left with the impression that the DUP sell their daughters into slavery, crucify or behead Roman Catholics, and hurl gays off very tall buildings. The extremist DUP are, basically, evil: that’s the essential narrative. If you oppose abortion and same-sex marriage and seek to defend some essence of Christian morality in the public sphere, there is no place for you in public life. They are a “homophobic, creationist, anti-women throwback to several centuries ago”, wrote Owen Jones in 2015, reminding us two years later that he is a prophet of the progressive enlightenment, and his secular mission is to expose the Conservative-DUP deal as a work of the devil.
Labour’s hypocrisy stinks to heaven.
In 2008 Gordon Brown narrowly won a House of Commons vote to extend the maximum time police could hold terror suspects to 42 days. The result was 315:306: the Bill passed only with the support of the nine DUP MPs. Then Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said Labour had “bought the vote”. The allegation was that a string of inducements/bribes/bungs had been offered to this “homophobic, creationist, anti-women throwback to several centuries ago” in exchange for a bit of ‘confidence and supply’.
It was denied, of course. But a year later:
…it was announced that Bombardier Aerospace was investing £500m in Northern Ireland, securing more than 800 jobs at the Shorts factory in Robinson’s East Belfast constituency.
“They [the government] came up with the goods in terms of the Bombardier deal … which was the largest single investment in Northern Ireland,” said Robinson. “They bent over backwards to help us.”
In November a £900m deal to kick-start the devolved government was finalised after talks with Brown. Robinson said: “Would we have got the £900m if we had been irresponsible in the way that we behaved at Westminster?”
And let us not forget that Gordon Brown bunged a peerage to the Rev’d Dr Ian Paisley in his Dissolution Honours List a year after that. Funny, isn’t it, how the Wahhabists of Protestantism are so ecumenical in their political theology that they can cut a deal with all shades of heresy and all shapes of heretic. Even funnier that Labour supporters froth and spit when that deal is cut with the Tories rather than with them. They’ll all sup with the devil if it keeps them in power, and they know it.
The Conservative-DUP deal which Theresa May has thrashed out with Arlene Foster makes the government a bit stronger and a tad more stable, but there is no question of the DUP seeking to impose its sanctity-of-life morality on the rest of the UK: these are devolved matters, and Arlene Foster has no interest at all in being “a menace to LGBT rights and women’s rights”, as Owen Jones squawks. Quite why he should think that a pragmatic political arrangement to ensure a government majority on important matters of legislation (Brexit, finance, security, etc) should impinge at all on the freedoms of LGBT people and women in England is a mystery: it didn’t for Gordon Brown. Unless, of course, little Owen seeks to deflect from the reality, which is that he and his left-liberal intolerant ilk seek to limit the freedoms of Christians in Northern Ireland and beyond to influence law-making in accordance with their precepts.
Unlike previous leaders of the DUP, Arlene Foster is not a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (like Ian Paisley) or a child of born-again Protestant Evangelicalism (like Peter Robinson): she is Anglican; a communicant of the Church of Ireland, who are not generally known for being a “homophobic, creationist, anti-women throwback to several centuries ago”. It certainly does not oppose fundamental human rights or seek to undermine the essential dignity of human person. Theologically, Arlene Foster’s Anglicanism has much in common with Theresa May’s Anglicanism; and politically, both seek to steer a via media between the competing wings of their parties while holding to an essential philosophical integrity.
Both deserve to be judged on how they deliver for ordinary people.
And now, a parable:
There was a women who ruled a land, and it came to pass that power began to slip from her hands. As she came near a village to which she was going, she walked ahead as if she were going on. But her hangers-on urged her strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So she went in to stay with them.
When she was at the table with them, she took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised her; and she vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while she was talking to us on the road, while she was opening her vision to us?” And they wondered wither she had disappeared, and why.
The ground of a certain party in a neighbouring land was yielding an abundant harvest. Because the harvest exceeded the storage capacity of their barns, they needed to tear down the old ones and built newer, bigger ones. But they could not afford it: they had no money until they could sell a portion of their abundance, and they could not harvest without a workforce and a secure place to store their grain. And the people were in danger of hardship and suffering.
The woman ruler had heard about their plight, and sought to cut a deal. If they would assist her in the maintenance of her kingdom, she would give them all they asked.
“Tell me,” she said, “What is that you want? I can give you millions and billions of pounds; I can give you whores and rent-boys; I can give you offices of power with all the trappings state; I can frustrate your enemies and help propagate your beliefs. Just tell me what you want.”
The party considered carefully, and after a while responded: “Many of our people are oppressed and depressed, with crises of confidence and a surfeit of suicides. Please give us £50m for mental health services.”
“Yes, yes,” said the woman, “But what do you want? What can I do for you?”
The party considered further, and responded: “Many more of our people are poor and destitute. They have insufficient food and live in cold, damp shelters. Please give is £100m for tackling deprivation.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” said the woman, “But what do you want? What can I do for you?”
The party considered further still, and responded: “We have children who fare poorly at school, and parents who are sick from all manner of ailments and who can’t care for their children. Please give us £100m to address the pressing problems we face in health and education, and maybe a further £200m for the improvement of specific health services over the coming years.”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” said the woman, increasingly exasperated. “But what do you want? What can I do for you?”
The party considered prayerfully and further still, and responded: “We have elderly people who are lonely, and houses which are isolated from the world of knowledge. Please give us £150m for ultra-fast broadband so that they may fellowship with the world and feed on Archbishop Cranmer each day.”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” the woman ranted, incredulous that these people wanted no money for themselves. “But what in the name of all that’s holy can I do for you? What is it that you want?”
“We do not want anything for ourselves except the opportunity to serve our people across all communities without discrimination; to feed the starving, house the homeless, educate the ignorant, heal the sick and to generally make their lives better. If you would like to give them another £400m for infrastructure projects like the York Street Interchange, which gets jammed up every day, that would be a blessing indeed,” they said.
And so the woman sealed the deal with the party, and both lands prospered as their sovereignty was restored. This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for the poor and seeks to do good to widows and orphans and those who can’t read the Archbishop Cranmer blog with ultra-fast broadband. All donations to heaven’s treasury are an investment that will pay dividends in the life to come.
And if Peter Robinson is elevated to the Peerage, it will be nothing but a well-earned coincidence.