Of Ritchie, Robinson and the UDA

According to the Newsleter and the BBC: the executive met last week to discuss Margaret Ritchie’s approach to the CTI funding. We are none the wiser as to how the meeting went as Pete mentions here and here.I am normally quite a fan of Gregory Campbell but I think he has a problem saying that if Ritchie loses in court her place in the executive will be open to question. The reality is that Ritchie’s decision was extremely popular with the general public. If she is found to have acted illegally she will indeed lose in law but it will not change her moral, political and PR victory. Instead the law will be seen to have been an ass and will be seen as supporting the UDA. Whatever protests the DUP make; they will be in grave danger of also being seen by the public as supporting giving money to the UDA. All the protestations about legal correctness will be seen as spin and weasel words. If Ritchie were forced to resign she would be a martyr to very many of the population.

If Ritchie wins she will be seen as a bit of a hero: she will have taken a very popular decision, will be seen to have deprived the UDA of money, and will be seen as having stood up to the DUP and SF and won.

It looks as if SF have worked this one out and according to the BBC are going to support Ritchie; by the time of the result of the court case the fact that they initially opposed her may well be forgotten. If the DUP continues to oppose Ritchie they are setting themselves up for a political no win. Robinson who took the lead in attacking Ritchie will be seen in the worst light.

Robinson is a very cunning tactician as I have mentioned before. However, on this issue he seems to have had a bit of a blind spot as to the public’s mood. It may be that he is now torn between maintaining the pressure on Ritchie, facing her down and stamping his authority further on the executive: or the alternative; making a tactical withdrawal. The fact that he has kept quiet on this issue recently and has been quite nice to Ritchie suggests that he may well have chosen the latter course, which is almost certainly the wiser political one. If he has I suspect the public will rapidly forget his spat with Ritchie. Could this be why Campbell is being more vocal; in order to cover Robinson’s retreat? Or will Campbell’s remarks merely remind people of the previous DUP position? Any thoughts?

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