“With Paisley out of the way..”

Over at the Guardian’s relatively new Politics blog, Henry McDonald suggests that the fall of the house of Paisley could have some, perhaps, unexpected results.

Party sources are briefing about a new leadership replacing the Paisleyite dynasty – possibly as early as this autumn. Finance minister and DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson will in all likelihood replace Paisley as first minister. Meanwhile, according to senior party figures, the DUP leadership will pass over to North Belfast MP and enterprise minister Nigel Dodds. The Cambridge-educated, Everton-supporting Dodds represents the DUP’s second generation; he is still in his late 40s but is someone who straddles the two wings of the party, both a fundamentalist Christian and, like Robinson, a technocrat.

The Robinson-Dodds DUP dream ticket would also open up the possibility of a radical reshaping of unionist politics. Robinson is known personally to favour the creation of a single super-unionist party. With Paisley out of the way (a man who historically generated almost as much loathing and mistrust within the Ulster Unionist party as among nationalists) a pathway could be cleared leading towards a unionist fusion.

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  • kensei

    Unionism, under a single party, therefore could harvest further electoral gains in the assembly as well as Westminster, thus strengthening the hand of the pro-union electorate.

    So the paradox of the fall of the house of Paisley could be the bolstering of unionism and the frustration of the republican dream of securing a united Ireland by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

    Some faulty assumptions there. First is that a single Unionist Party won’t result in a net loss of votes to Unionism, even while they pull in a short term seat gain. I have never understood the Unionist desire for a “Single Voice” and much prefer a variety of parties offering different ideas and different routes for nationalism.

    Second, in any case having a single party immediately opens up political space around it: for independents or smaller parties or even the TUV. That could still amount to a significant factor in siphoning off votes.

    The third is that Nationalism will just roll over and take the manipulation of the democratic process, rather than either come to their own arrangements, or strongly back whichever party is looking like a winner in a given Constituency.

  • Briso

    With Paisley out of the way (a man who historically generated almost as much loathing and mistrust within the Ulster Unionist party as among nationalists) a pathway could be cleared leading towards a unionist fusion.

    Good point, as Robbo is universally beloved.

  • Hogan

    Don’t know where the notion of Peter the punt running stormont and Nigel running Dundela Ave came from but i’m sure Henry didn’t dream it up?

    Anyone else heard mumorings of this nature?

    My thoughts would be that Robinson would be a man unlikely to create accept rivals or pretenders to his throne. Maybe a granita style pact of promises of limited terms of office and support when leaving would be a cleaner deal?

  • Dec

    the DUP leadership will pass over to North Belfast MP and enterprise minister Nigel Dodds. The Cambridge-educated, Everton-supporting Dodds represents the DUP’s second generation; he is still in his late 40s but is someone who straddles the two wings of the party, both a fundamentalist Christian and, like Robinson, a technocrat.

    And so popular he trailed in with 10.6% in the Hearts & Minds ‘Next DUP leader’ poll in late 2006.

  • Twinbrook

    [play the ball – edited moderator]

  • “Some faulty assumptions there. First is that a single Unionist Party won’t result in a net loss of votes to Unionism, even while they pull in a short term seat gain. I have never understood the Unionist desire for a “Single Voice” and much prefer a variety of parties offering different ideas and different routes for nationalism.”

    It pains me to say it, but I actually agree with this. Unionism is not a monolith and nor should it aspire to be. Healthy unionism will reflect a spectrum of views and offer that spectrum to the voter. Voting in South Belfast for example I could not see myself voting for Jimmy Spratt or someone like him. I’d rather take my vote to Alliance. One unionist party will not strengthen unionism.

  • Twinbrook

    no idea why that post was moderated…

    maybe I`m on a sticky wicket!

  • [aside]Some papers from DETI prior to the arrival of the Chuckle Brothers. They reveal Junior’s unstinted efforts on behalf of his constituents.

  • joeCanuck

    Before people rush to embrace this wet dream, they need to ask themselves why the previous monolith imploded, not into two, but into multiple parties. That whole monolith existed for so long for one reason only, to keep certain non-citizens in their proper place. Under the new dispensation, there are no non or second class citizens and the union is guaranteed for a while, probably a very long time. What would be the cement that would hold a new monolithic party together?

  • joeCanuck

    Twinbrook,

    I’ve noticed recently that the moderators have been cracking down more, not just on offensive remarks, and some people can be quite offensive, but also on comments that are simply man playing.
    Don’t know if that helps you.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The rumour mill is currently in overdrive!

  • bob wilson

    I agree with Kensei and others this single United Unionist Party is not only not achievable but from a pro Union prespective totally wrong.
    Pro Union opinion covers a very broad spectrum at present and if anything needs to broaden further a single Unionist Party could not do this.
    A truly Coulteresque load of nonsense

  • Joe, didn’t those ‘non-citizens’ opt out to form a ‘society within a society‘ at the time of the formation of the two states, a form of self-imposed apartheid? Some institutions attempted to affiliate to the new Dáil.

  • Twinbrook

    Thanks joe…

    but the mods were spot on,they were in a sticky situation….

  • joeCanuck

    Perfectly true, Nevin, and that was a huge if understandable mistake made by their politicians on their behalf.
    At the same time, the monolithic party didn’t do anything to encourage them to engage. Indeed, quite the opposite. Same as now to some extent, themmuns weren’t (aren’t) to be trusted.

  • Turgon

    The discussion of a single unionist party has been around for a long time. I think in a way it is a harking back to a largely mythical golden age with the UUP ruling Northern Ireland. I guess a few probably largely nationalists may (using some pseudo psychology) see it as harking back to the siege of Derry and Enniskillen and such nonsense. I honestly think no unionists apart from some hopeless classical romantics would look at it that way.

    In the early 1990s when it looked possible that the DUP would go away after Paisley there was talk about this. Now with the UUP weak the same discussion is being had. It is true that when I used to canvass in my youth for the UUP people did say that there should be one unionist party and then they would be more likely to vote. I have no idea how widespread that notion is and whether it would counter balance the number of votes likely to be lost if there was only one unionist party: the “I am not voting for him/her” response.

    It is quite possible that Robinson would like to gobble up the rest of the UUP vote and maybe membership. He is, however, quite a divisive figure himself. Many Fermanagh unionists give him the “credit” for assisting in the initial loss of the seat to Gildernew by the DUP’s tacit support for Jim Dixon.

    Robinson, I am sure would like to rule unionism. He has, however, never factored in the danger of being attacked by a party to the right of the DUP: the TUV. Even the TUV’s appearance may, however, give additional impetus to a DUP desire to have a single party. The clear danger is a loss of votes to the right or even the nightmare scenario of a squeeze of the DUP. Whilst I suspect that is fanciful, I would suggest that Robinson feels that he can get more overall votes and power by swallowing UUP votes and even the party than he will loose to the TUV. As such it makes sense for Robinson to “radically reshape unionist politics” ie swallow the UUP. It also gives the impression of further gains to the DUP grass roots, allows them to feel the party is succeeding hence stifling dissent and of course bringing in less hardline elements would dilute hard line suspicion and opposition to Robinson.

    Overall the plan makes some sense from a DUP perspective and is probably neutral to mildly disadvantageous to unionsim as a whole. I think it is, however, unlikely to happen in the near future though continued gradual decline of the UUP is likely and the prospects for the TUV are difficult to be certain of.

  • perci

    PAISLEY SNR QUITS BBC

  • susan

    Here’s the link — Paisley stepping down as First Minister and party leader in May:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7277886.stm

  • perci

    Great
    One Unionist Party vs SF/SDLP/FF Merger and the Debate on a United Ireland to come, and be won by a pan-nationalist front…..
    UI by 2009.. Bets on paddypower 😉

  • joeCanuck

    Kudos, Perci.

  • Joe, I’d have thought than pan-Unionism was rather less monolithic than pan-Nationalism.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Nevin

    “Joe, I’d have thought than pan-Unionism was rather less monolithic than pan-Nationalism.”

    I’m sure you would have thought that all right.

    But then Nevin, you demonstrate with monotonous regularity that you understand nothing about the nationalist community, and probably aren’t curious to either.

  • stewart

    “One Unionist Party vs SF/SDLP/FF Merger and the Debate on a United Ireland to come, and be won by a pan-nationalist front….. ”

    That’s why a single unionist party wouldn’t be counter productive for unionism in the long run.

    Fianna Fail’s move into the north will destroy the SDLP with it being in the main replaced by Fianna Fail (a few going to Alliance and Irish Labour). In the context of an all Ireland SF v FF contest the merging of the DUP and UUP into one broad Unionist Party would result in the Unionist Party being a regional party within and all Ireland party system – Coulteresque nonsense and hence not the route Unionism would take.

    Unionists need to forge a new six county party system based around bread and butter issues – not one party to haggle with all Ireland Parties.

  • Oh dear, Billy Pilgrim, you’ll make no progress with that affront …

  • Adacentatheist

    Surely the demographics of N.I. make it only a question of time(and not too long a time either if you look at recent denominational growth projections) until Unionism will have it’s back sufficiently to the wall to have no choice but to rally round a single leader and single party.
    In the end even that party will have to come to some accommodation with the rest of Ireland as they become outvoted by Catholics in the North. That time can only be delayed by stopping squabbling and uniting around a single party focus. If any of them want to be pragmatic and long-sighted they should not choose Robinson. Whatever you think of Paisley, he is charismatic; whatever you think of Robinson, he isn’t.