On a thread about the DUP St. Andrew’s consultation I mentioned I had submitted a qualified No and was asked why. Here is the fifth of six parts of an article explaining why.Beyond the document
There were also a number of inactions/actions by the DUP that meant I was less willing to take things on faith in the DUP. These include:
The internal consultation – During the consultation it became clear that the party had not engaged in sufficient preparation of the party membership or education of its electorate. The Hearts and Mind poll shows how 1 in 5 DUP voters is implacably opposed to power-sharing but opposition to St Andrews is at 3 in 10 and scepticism at over half. The failure to prepare has created a stick for their own back.
Too keen – In the immediate aftermath the DUP seemed to think it was wise to appear keener on the deal than the SF. Keeness means your concerns get ignored.
No new approach to selling a deal – Any Unionist party adopting the same approach as the UUP to selling a deal will create bad vibes. The DUP leaflet on St Andrews made the same mistakes as the UUP’s guide to the Belfast Agreement. The temptation to declare victory was as great as it was unwise. The electorate should not be treated like mushrooms but treated with respect. Any new deal should not have been sold as triumph but an honest assessment offered – this is what is good, what is not but why on balance it is good enough.
Where was the opposition research? – The Irish Language Act seems to have caught the DUP completely on the hop. This indicates a lack of basic opposition research. The indicators were all there. POBAL, the republican think tank on language issues, had been developing and pushing such a proposal for years. Foras na Gaelige had adopted the idea as part of its policy. Sinn Fein had latched on to an obscure assault case in Belfast as the basis to push such a demand publicly. This is important. The DUP are potentially sharing power with SF in a matter of months but seem not to have bothered to assessed what SF’s government agenda will be. Combine this with a seeming lack of importance by the DUP attached to the confidence building and equality measures for the Unionist community and it raises the question does the DUP know what it wants to do when it gains power? The UUP didn’t and it hurt them.
The final push towards a No was the DUP’s question itself. It was a ‘push’ question trying to skew results towards a Yes answer. I don’t appreciate manipulation most particularly an unabashed display of it.
Altogether this would give rise to a concern that the DUP is becoming complacent. The lack of competition from the UUP and the absence of a Unionist Plan C would encourage such a sense. However, it does not serve the interests of the DUP brand or Unionism to fall into complacency.
(I will be unable to respond to comments because I have important domestic matters to attend on Thursday followed by a romantic week-end. I will reply as best I can upon my return. The remaining pieces are timed to appear at 9.00am and 2.00 pm each day.)