British Prime Minister David Cameron is actively courting the Democratic Unionist Party ahead of his country’s next general election according to reports.
The Guardian newspaper in London reports that the Conservative party leader recently hosted a garden party for the DUP at his Downing Street residence.
The event took place on the same night that Gerry Adams was arrested in Belfast in connection with the investigation of the Jean McConville murder.
The paper reports that Cameron is ‘wooing’ the DUP, the fourth largest party in the British parliament at Westminster.
The report says Cameron is concerned DUP may be crucial for his survival in government ahead of a possible hung parliament.
Claims have been made that Cameron is prepared to play the so-called ‘Orange card’ if he fails to win an overall majority in next year’s British general election.
The British PM hosted an informal drinks party for the DUP MPs, deputies, after a meeting to discuss Britain’s efforts to persuade the Libyan authorities to offer information relating to shipments of weaponry by the Gaddafi regime to the IRA in the 1980s.
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson was joined at the Libya meeting by the DUP MPs Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson.
The Guardian says the DUP delegation were given the impression that Cameron was going out of his way to lay on the charm by allowing his children to play among the guests as drinks, including non-alcoholic ones for the teetotal drinkers, were served.
One senior DUP source told the Guardian: “It would be fair to say that a lot of wooing is going on. You don’t invite eight parliamentarians to such a reception and have the children playing round unless you are seriously interested.”
The report adds that the DUP is already drawing up the demands it would table as the price for supporting Cameron in the event of a hung parliament.
DUP sources say they have raised the prospect of a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with Cameron in a hung parliament which would ensure the Queen’s speech and the budget would be passed but would offer support on everything else on a case-by-case basis.
Under this arrangement there would be no DUP Westminster government ministers.
The DUP source told the paper that Cameron was careful on the night to say he was confident of victory at the election.
But the DUP delegates were left with the distinct impression that Cameron is keen to ensure relations remain warm.
The source said: “There was nothing as crude as saying I might lose and so I need your help. The prime minister said he is confident he will win. But it is clear he wants to keep lines open. He understands Northern Ireland well. He knows the personalities. He has a feel for it. That helps.”
Another DUP source said: “If someone wants my vote then of course I will talk to them. If they have made an effort before they need my vote then relations will be better when they need it.
“We are in contact with all parties. We would go and see Labour and Ed Miliband on such terms.”
A British government spokesman said: “The prime minister has regular meetings with MPs from Northern Ireland to discuss a range of issues.”