So, Brian Feeney has a typically combative column in the Irish News on the whole #flegs thing. And I think he is on to something, when he argues that his own party workers scuppered his plans for building a brand broad enough to take in a wider chunk of the Protestant middle class and start making an appeal to new Catholics.
Instead of killing off Naomi, she’s reminded people in Northern Ireland, never mind East Belfast why she was a popular opponent of Robinson’s in the first place. And now having rushed to the defence of the flag (sabotaged it has to be said by probably the only party not to have had a serious threat to them in the last week, the PUP) Feeney observes:
What you’ve been watching in the past fortnight is Robinson acting out the role of King Canute with Nesbitt playing the part of Baldric, all mouth and no trousers, trying to halt the tide of change coming in.
He goes on to note that the change in the figure means there is only a three per cent difference in the communities now (once ‘others’ have been repackaged into their original constituencies). I remember one particular criticism of the UUP from a few years back, to the effect that they did not know whether to punch with their left or their right.
The DUP, having fallen into a dilemma are not planning to make the same mistake. They made a pitch first and foremost to be the party of the Union, and that’s the side they are planning to punch with. No ambiguity, and no moving back. They are determined not to be ‘Trimbled’ and cut off from their base.
But as Alex Kane cautions in his column, at some point both main parties need to ‘man up’ and put the future of Northern Ireland first. To to paraphrase, if you constantly insist on playing brink politics, sooner or later you need to be prepared to dive into the abyss…