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16 January 2019

Sylvia Hermon will always back the government in confidence votes. Here’s why that matters

The independent unionist MP for North Down says she will never vote to let Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street, meaning Labour must convince a Tory MP in her place.

By Patrick Maguire

Sylvia Hermon, the independent unionist MP for North Down, will back the government in this evening’s vote of no confidence, the New Statesman has learned.

Hermon – the only sitting MP for Northern Ireland who is not a member of the DUP – voted for the Withdrawal Agreement last night, and confirmed to the NS that she would vote against Labour’s motion.

“I will be voting in support of the government tonight,” she said. “I will not be assisting Mr Corbyn in being given the keys to No10.”

Unlike her DUP neighbours, Hermon is clear that there are no circumstances in which she could support or facilitate the election of a government led by Jeremy Corbyn. 

Given Labour’s plans to table multiple motions of no confidence in the hope of eventually succeeding, Hermon’s unconditional opposition matters. The opposition is playing a game of fine margins and will need to peel off the DUP and Tory Brexiteers if it is to succeed. 

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With Hermon guaranteeing the Conservatives an extra vote, Labour would accordingly have to convince another Tory. That’s to say nothing of the risk that ex-Labour independents who believe a Corbyn premiership to be beyond the pale could vote the other way. Even in an optimistic scenario that sees the DUP abandon the Tories or abstain, the opposition’s job is still harder that it looks.