It has to be said that internal cohesion has not historically been a great specialism of Northern Ireland’s party system. Sinn Fein has long since been famous for its command and control structures, and often been unfairly judged against wider standards that look almost laissez faire in comparison. But they are no longer the only ones looking to assert control from the ‘centre’ over the ‘edge’. The DUP’s central party headquarters is now demanding their MLAs sign a two page contract (with accompanying letter of resignation which apparently can be triggered automatically)… Martina Purdey:
“Another clause, which has also caused upset, asks candidates to sign a letter of resignation which could be invoked by the party leader Ian Paisley if the member is in serious breach of his or her obligations under the contract,” she said.
“These obligations include regularly attending meetings and obeying party policy. Under the contract, the party leader having consulted a majority of party officers could submit the letter to the speaker’s office.
“Another source, upset by the contract, said it was an attempt to stifle dissension before election day. Party officers are currently meeting, but it is not clear if the contract forms part of the discussion.”
She also noted that one of the clauses imposed a £20,000 fine on members.
Some questions arise, not least whether it is actually enforceable under a concerted legal challenge? Or is it just a ploy to concentrate the minds of potential rebels. Either way, it could be a serious gamble…