DUP to strategise on Friday

The DUP will meet on Friday to discuss future strategy and plan for the proposed elections. Martin Purdy says it hopes to address “tensions” within the DUP. What are these about?While many are falling for the usual suspect, “It’s the Free P’s not wanting a Catholic about the place” that is a red herring. In past years Free P members have been developing a greater distinction between church and party. The line “I accept we are going to have to share power with SF, difficult as that is…” is common in many DUP’s members debates and conversations and characterised by Jim Wells’s radio comments.

From my soundings the areas of debate are:
Play keen or Treat’em mean – Does the DUP gain more leverage with the government by being keen for the St Andrew’s timetable or by playing hard to get?
Satisfactory progress on the remaining issues – How seriously is this taken? How much progress is needed? The power-hungry attach less seriousness, would take less and are willing to be more cavalier with the electorate. Others attach greater importance as they believe it is essential to address concerns to maximise support. Its base certainly wants to see more.
What are the priorities among the remaining issues? – You never get everything so what takes priority?
When do we want the movement from government? – Is it better to have it at the end as one big package or is it better to take them over time? One big package may grab a bigger headline makes you look effective negotiators but it is dependent on everything else going through. Over time may make less impact but means gains are banked. Also the nearing elections will increasingly prey on MLA’s minds is it better to face the electorate with a bird in the hand than two in the bush? Republicans tend to do a bit of both (at the moment getting the the Gaeltacht quarter and Conway Mill development as they go along), how does that effect perception of who is delivering for their respective constituencies and the need for things sooner rather than later?
The Leader v Joint Leadership – Is it best for Paisley to be in the forefront with the key statements, meetings etc or is it the leadership team? The DUP’s electoral growth over the past 8 years was built on the strengths and attractions of its leadership team. It has developed beyond Paisleyism as the 2004 European election proved. However, Paisley has a personal pull over a large amount of the core DUP constituency (although the consultation showed his pull is not as strong as many thought including myself). However, the pull of the broad range of prominent figures is stronger again.

Is the party split? In my assessment no it isn’t. There is no great ideological division here with the possible exception of Jim Allister (although he has said he will accept the party’s decision after a full and fair debate). Also there are no set camps in each of these debates. For example, four MP’s signed Friday’s statement but on Monday in parliament Sammy Wilson expressed scepticism about the March timetable. There is a common tough position on policing and justice powers, Dodds talked of a political lifetime on policing while Peter Robinson said it could be several. Dodds, Paisley and Robinson all said confidence was the key to progress on the issue. Also the supreme decision-making body of the DUP is the Party Executive not Paisley and after a rocky consultation it adopted a unanimous position on the St Andrews Agreement.

At its core it is about how to manage the process to the Party’s and Unionist community’s best advantage, manage the political risks and maximise support. There is nothing that the leadership need force a split over and plenty of scope for movement over the five key issues. Crucially, there is complete unanimity on what they require from republicans.

  • joeCanuck

    Excellent analysis Fair Deal

  • unionist

    “Is the party split? In my assessment no it isn’t.”

    How does that fit with the decision of the six councillors in Antrim including the chair of the DUP’s south Antrim Association to issue a statement condemming the party leadership. The statement was issued after a meeting with Dodds and McCrea. The statement issued referred to the press release by the “12 disciples” (their term not mine)
    “They were right to issue that statement because there was to be no nomination. The party leadership caved into pressure from Ahern and Hain and the councillors in Antrim believe that Jim Allister was right to go on the record to criticise him for doing that”
    Some of the blame was also placed on “latecomers to the party”

  • fair_deal

    Unionist

    Simple tensions over the five matters I have listed

  • Trurh and Justice

    It seems from the outside the DUP are not so much split on power sharing but there seems to be problems with the delivery in terms of how things are done! As for allistair he is just in a world of his own and really needs to stop the silly stuff!

  • Yokel

    Unionist…just like those peeling off from Sinn Fein, same question as others have posted elsewhere, whats their alternative?

    They don’t have one that anyone else involved in the wider political process is going to buy in the long run.

    How about one other area of debate ‘How well are wiping the eye of everyone else?’

    Whilst I know there are going to be differences, particularly at grass roots I have my doubts that the people at the top are quite as divided as they appear. It does good for Paisley to appear to be under massive pressiure from within just as it does for Gerry to be under a death threat….

  • Frustrated Democrat

    In the end it matters not about the schism in the DUP, it matters what the voters on the ground think about the massive flip flop the DUP have done in the couple of years since the last Assemble election.

    Those members who are rebelling are reflecting their communities feelings………the DUP always thrived historically on telling people what they wanted to hear.

    Now the DUP leadership have stepped out of their comfort zone and have found that leadership is much more difficult than being a reflection of their members voters as Trimble found out to his cost.

  • McBurney

    “It seems from the outside the DUP are not so much split on power sharing but there seems to be problems with the delivery in terms of how things are done! As for allistair he is just in a world of his own and really needs to stop the silly stuff!”

    Is Allister not saying the same thing, i.e. ‘the delivery in terms of how things are done’? That’s certainly what I’ve read into his statements. So therefore how can he be ‘in a world of his own’?

  • Tabbycat

    On the BBC it said the meeting was to be held outside Belfast. Any indication of where it is to be held and what levels of the party will be invited?

  • digger

    Much of this analysis appears based on assumption that DUP can afford to play longer game. With Blair and Hain in a hurry, they won’t keep the more controversial concessions on the table if the DUP appear to be wasting time.

  • PP

    “Also the supreme decision-making body of the DUP is the Party Executive not Paisley and after a rocky consultation it adopted a unanimous position on the St Andrews Agreement.”

    In theory that is correct. But everyone within and without the party knows that only Dr Paisley can sell a deal without shedding a huge chunk of the core vote.

  • fair_deal

    PP

    “everyone within and without the party knows that only Dr Paisley can sell a deal without shedding a huge chunk of the core vote.”

    That would certainly have been the perceived wisodm however as I point out:

    “the consultation showed his pull is not as strong as many thought including myself). However, the pull of the broad range of prominent figures is stronger again.”

  • Harry

    Smoke and mirrors, the lot of it. Paisley won’t do any deal; anyone who thinks he will is deluded.

    We are in a state of deferred war. Unionism and the british will do what they have always done – string out everything for as long as they can without making any real changes. Certainly in 10 years we have seen no significant constitutional changes, just a lot of waffle.

    Republicans are waiting until the election in the south. After that, and depending on its outcome, all bets are off.

  • Mick Fealty

    Intriguing Harry,

    “Republicans are waiting until the election in the south. After that, and depending on its outcome, all bets are off”.

    What are drawing from that leads you to that conclusion?

  • PP

    FD
    I’m hearing from party insiders that major themes from the recent party consulatation meetings included “Widespread support for Party leadership in general and Dr Paisley in particular”

    However I think that Paisley personally and specifically his authority was damaged by last Friday’s events.

  • fair_deal

    PP

    There has been spinning and downplaying the level and degree of concerns particularly at the Ballymena meeting. Also never underestimate the willingness of people only to hear what they want to hear.

    Also it all depends on what you think is worthy of emphasise. Does the vast majority of the party membership have confidence in “the Party leadership in general”? Yes It does. Does the same apply to Ian Paisley? Of course it does. Admiration for Paisley runs deep especially in the Free P’s. Look for example at any criticism is still so heavily couched. Ivan Foster’s, even though he fell out with Paisley years ago over politics, when he gave his interview it was full of admiration for Paisley.

    Does all that correspond to equal levels of satisfaction with the SAA? No it doesn’t and the two issues should not be confused.

    If that is HQ thinking it may be why they are playing the Paisley card so heavily. A card too often played loses its value and looking round the DUP they have some other very good cards to play as well Robinson Dodds Campbell etc.

    I agree with your comments about last Friday.

  • joeCanuck

    Fair Deal

    I take it that you’re still in the qualified “No” Camp then.
    You seem to have a lot of insight into the inner workings of the DUP (which helps us a lot). Any chance of hinting to us how high up you are in the party? Without compromising yourself of course.

  • slug

    JC

    FC isn’t in the DUP.

  • fair_deal

    JC

    I have not moved but still open to persuasion. I am not a member of the DUP.

  • McGrath

    Castro was to ill to attend his 80th birthday, Thatcher has lost her marbles and my 80 year old father-in-law isn’t even trusted with the TV remote any more.

    I get the impression that the DUP may be in a stronger position if they played Paisley from the sidelines, if he would agree to it that is.

    I think Mr. Fair Deal may share some of that sentiment.

  • james orr

    I’ve not met anyone – ordinary Unionist Joe Public that is – who has any sense of comfort about the current political situation.

    I’ve spoken with Orangemen, churchgoers, atheists, UUP voters, men, women, young, old, business people, civil servants, employers, employees, private sector, public sector – and none of them have told me they’re confident about coming out of the StAA process with any significant advantage, whether economic, political or cultural.

    The DUP may have a tough job on its hands internally, but externally the challenge is (IMHO) far greater. Since 2003 the majority of the Unionist community/electorate has given the DUP its opportunity to make a difference. “Leadership to Put Things Right” was a noble slogan they used in the South Antrim by election some years ago. I believe the confidence of ordinary Unionist people has been severely damaged since the detail of the StAA began to sink in, and particularly since the “is he isn’t he” last Friday. Hence the need for the DUP to create the most significant election strategy they’ve ever developed.

    This will be the election of all elections. But all I see and hear at the moment on the ground is apathy and demoralisation, and a slowly growing resent that people and their votes have been taken for granted.

    This is not about slogans or posters – it’s about securing a rolling series of major tangible “wins” for their electorate and for Northern Ireland as a whole, the sort of wins that will give people sufficient confidence and to use a Blairism a “feelgood factor” to want to come out and vote. No amount of spin will paper over a lack of delivery.

    Now the DUP is in the driving seat, delivery is everything. I wish them well.

  • Digger

    I tend to think these so-called wins or confidence builders are hugely over-rated. The Republican Movement supporting the PSNI, courts and rule of law and doing politics at Stormont within a stable Northern Ireland framework is what people want. Paisley seems to have caught that on. The voters who have made the DUP the main unionist party want a deal. The last thing they want is devolution held up by some eedjits moaning about Orange parades or Ulster Scots

  • Yokel

    Spot on Digger.

  • 2050

    Will they be stealing votes from nursing home residents, come next March election or has that been removed from their strategy?.

    Far as I see their strategy can be summed up in two letters & remains NO. Lets hope those who want progress recognise this when they are marking the little x in March.

  • DUP voter

    James Orr,

    Independent polling shows that post St Andrews talks the DUP could get 32%.

    Some within the DUP had expected to get even more support than that for the party when they had a deal that they could support.

    However I think last Friday’s drama could mean that votes will start draining away.

    A factor in the favour of the DUP is that there is nobody with the popularity of Jeffrey to lead a charge against party policy.

  • fair_deal

    DUP voter

    1. It also showed almost a quarter of that 32% were implacably opposed to powersharing with Sinn Fein. It also showed that those unsure and opposed to the SAA outnumbered those in favour of it. Polling information has to be taken in the round not pick the figure you like. Trimble used to do that with UUP private polling and look were it got him.
    2. The poll is now almost a month old and there has been much more debate and expansion on detail since then.
    3. There is also an election campaign to be gone through and none of the DUP’s opponents will be doing anything to make the party’s life easier.
    4. The critics may have no alternative but the voters do – sitting at home.