During the Second World War the Germans became obsessed on two occasions with capturing Soviet cities which arguably may not have been that important. Their failure to do so changed the war. The non historians can look up the two links: (1) and (2). The historians can point out how poor my analogy is.
There is a small town in Northwest Co. Down. The largest Northern Irish political party appear to have become obsessed with winning a council seat there and in the process may do themselves significant harm. Not as much as the Germans in the Second World War but in the DUP’s case the risk seems much more unnecessary.
When Jim Allister left the DUP he was dismissed as a flat earther and a man of no political importance; when he formed the TUV they were dismissed as a group of flat earthers and of no political significance. We now, however, have the spectacle of the DUP, fighting tooth and nail to defeat this supposedly trivial, irrelevant bunch of “flat earthers” for the Dromore council by election, even being willing to send two MPs into the fray at the very start.
Whilst no election should itself be seen as trivial; had the DUP not made a great fuss over this council seat they might very well still have won it. Had they won it they could have sailed on and at the same time pointed out that the TUV were irrelevant. Had the TUV won they (the DUP) could (quite rightly) have pointed out that it was a single council by election; had anyone else won they could again have dismissed its relevance.
Now, however, if the TUV get any percentage showing at all the fact that the DUP have highlighted this election will make people scurry off and work out how many seats that would equal at the main council elections or at Stormont. Provided the TUV vote is better than Bob McCartney’s percentage in the area at the last Stormont elections it will be seen as progress for those unionists opposed to the agreement. If the DUP loose to the UUP (or conceivably Alliance) it will be seen as the DUP making a big push yet failing. If, however, by some chance the TUV win then this election (realistically irrelevant in total Northern Ireland political terms) will be seen as a major set back for the DUP.
Peter Robinson has always been seen as politically very astute and cunning; possibly not the greatest intellectual or thinker but the mastermind behind the practical destruction of the UUP in 2005. How then has Robinson, a genuinely good political tactician allowed this to occur (or to allow his minions and spin doctors to allow this to occur)?
One thing which might be suggested is that this obsession is because Robinson knows that he personally has helped create the TUV. It is widely accepted that it was none other than Mr. Robinson who went and persuaded a barrister who had once been a DUP politician to come back to the political fray. Hence, it is Robinson who has created his own nemesis by bringing Jim Allister back from the political wilderness.
We all know that Dr. Paisley cannot remain leader of the DUP forever. Robinson has been his most successful deputy and is still the obvious heir apparent. However, in reactivating Allister; Robinson has shown an error in political skill and cunning which is most unlike him. This will not have been lost on the DUP members who will elect Paisley’s replacement. As such, not only do the DUP wish to destroy the TUV before they can get going but Robinson needs to utterly eliminate the threat to, not only his own party, but also his own leadership ambitions. Hence, Robinson must ensure a total defeat of the TUV candidate. That helps explain the apparent overkill on one council by election. That decision may turn out to have been his next political misjudgement.