I am in blood stepped in so far

I am in blood Stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er. (Macbeth III iv)

Before Dundela Avenue’s finest start, it is rather unfair to compare their new leader with Macbeth. He may have helped in the slaying of his leader to accede to the throne but I do not think Iris is Lady Macbeth (though I always imagine Lady Macbeth with red hair). However, Macbeth is often suggested as a great and brave soldier, a man of action, but not a great thinker like maybe Hamlet.
I have previously suggested that Robinson is a brilliant tactician but not a great strategist and little I have seen since the announcement of Dr. Paisley’s retirement makes me change that opinion.

The idea of stopping the chuckle brothers and getting closer to a battle a day is a good tactic but the mutual veto, enforced coalition etc. is all still there and the strategy for ending these problems seems sketchy to say the least.

The recent suggestions regarding increased unionist cooperation have already been mentioned by fair_deal. Some see this as the beginning of a strategy by Robinson to bring together the unionist vote in a smaller number of parties and increase turn out. If so that is indeed the beginnings of a strategy and although I am an opponent of the DUP; as a unionist I would welcome it. However, I am left with the nagging doubt that this is simply an extension of the extremely effective tactics by which Robinson masterminded the defeat of the UUP. This may simply be a way of taking some more UUP votes by stealth and indeed maybe in the fullness of time gobbling up the UUP. In this I think he has “stepped in so far that …. Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

In addition what I suspect was the most classically tactically good but strategically awful decision was to take the First Minister from the largest single party rather than the largest party of the largest community. That did indeed allow the blackmail of the unionist electorate at the last Stormont election but in the new reality with quite possibly three unionist parties it was a disastrous blunder; one for which Robinson seems to be principally responsible. His only hope might be that such a possibility might force the UUP to join him after a subsequent election. Truly Machiavellian but I suspect impossible and I doubt Robinson thought that far ahead.

All this tactical brilliance yet strategic failure is of course summed up in the person of one man: Robinson and the DUP’s nemesis, Jim Allister. At the time it seemed a brilliant tactic for Robinson to call back the man who has subsequently become rejectionist unionism’s King Arthur (or for Allister’s detractors, opening Dracula’s tomb). It stopped the possible enemies of Robinson becoming MEP: people like McCrea. It also temporarily strengthened Robinson’s hand. However the wisdom of bringing back from the wilderness a man who had previously shown a willingness to be quite independent, who had previously walked away from political power and was sufficiently independently successful and financially secure never to be beholden to Robinson, was a strategic blunder. The subsequent attempts to play down and laugh at Allister after he left, followed by the panicked reaction to Dromore all showed that the possibility of attack from the DUP’s right following their shift to the left had never been considered. Indeed with the exception of this most scholarly contribution by fair_deal (surely one of the best unionist blogs this site has seen), I have seen little sign of a coherent strategy to deal with the TUV having been considered.

Strangely there is a way by which a unionist strategy might be put back together. I am inclined to agree with Alex Kane’s thesis that overall unionism’s best interests are served by having two unionist parties. Of course the TUV might just vanish but that might end up with a new group of rejectionist garden centre Prod, a sort of me Darth, the Watchman et al. sitting in our gardens looking cross and not voting. Alternatively if the DUP do manage to gobble up the UUP they will have to move further to the left and as such open up more space for the TUV. We could therefore end up back where we started with a liberal unionist party (the DUP/UUP alliance) and a hardline unionist party (the TUV). That is, however, the unlikely and ideal end to the current situation. I suspect more likely is further damage within unionism by the presence of three parties albeit mitigated by electoral pacts.

As I said at the start, I do not doubt Robinson’s tactical brilliance; I just doubt his strategic abilities and fear that like Macbeth he will continue with a flawed or non existent strategy (not in fairness in Robinson’s case of murdering people which seems to have been Macbeth’s solution to most things) to the detriment of unionism. Alternatively Robinson may find himself the victim of either Trimble’s fate of electoral defeat or Paisley’s of an internal coup. The question for the Shakespeare buffs of course is which politician was born by Caesarean section (“from his mother’s womb/ Untimely ripped,”) was it Jim Allister or Nigel Dodds?