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?

  • percy

    Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death,
    Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
    Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

    ode to a Nightingale

  • JG

    the possibility of attack from the DUP’s right following their shift to the left had never been considered

    Must have missed that!

  • BonarLaw

    Turgon

    “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.”

    I tend to agree but you have reminded me of a passage from Powells’ book (page 290):

    “On the weekend of 2/5 November I managed to satidfy most of Sinn Feins’ niggles, but they got hung up on a particular paragraph in the changed Strand 1 paper that unintentionally had the effect of meaning that only a unionist could be First Minister. They had a good point in logic but this particular paragraph had been agreed by everyone in 2004…”

  • RepublicanStones

    King Arthur….does that make you Lancelot, Turgon?
    Stay away from Mrs Allister (if there is one).

    If it is to be an internal coup, that is Robinson’s undoing, the interesting thing is finding out if it was a case of….

    “Not that I loved Caesar less,
    but that I loved Rome more”

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Bonar

    There are a number of – so far unmentioned – nuggets in the Powell book that are like that! Maybe someone should compile a list of what parties said and what Powell says they said behind the scenes and bring it out for the next election…?

  • gus

    Robinson’s waxy visage is warming up a little as he flies closer to the sun.. Now he’s rooted out everyone he can think of whose popularity or intelligence threatened him, put a few deadpan reciters in their place and smoothed out diffs for the entrepreneurs of the east, he and Vi – no, Irus might just enjoy life in the glossies for a time. He’s in danger of liking being liked, despite the lesson of Dr P. But sure when his reign is over, wouldn’t Nigel and Jim Allister make a pair? They don’t need smiles from anyone.

  • Have I missed something?

    The St Andrews Agreement says:

    “9. Appointment of Ministers in the Executive.

    An amendment would be made to the 1998 Act on appointment of Ministers in the Executive. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the largest designation in the Assembly shall make a nomination to the Assembly Presiding Officer for the post of First Minister. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the second largest designation in the Assembly shall similarly nominate for the post of Deputy First Minister.”

    That seems to be quite different to Turgon’s ” … 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”. Is St Andrews not saying clearly that the FM must come from “the largest party in the largest designation”?

  • A bit more digging seems to show that I haven’t missed anything.

    The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 puts the StAA into law, as follows;

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060053_en_1

    “8 First Minister, deputy First Minister and Northern Ireland Ministers

    (1) For section 16 of the 1998 Act (First Minister and deputy First Minister) substitute—

    “16A Appointment of First Minister, deputy First Minister and Northern Ireland Ministers following Assembly election

    (1) This section applies where an Assembly is elected under section 31 or 32.
    (2) All Northern Ireland Ministers shall cease to hold office.
    (3) Within a period of seven days beginning with the first meeting of the Assembly—
    (a) the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister shall be filled by applying subsections (4) to (7); and
    (b) the Ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers shall be filled by applying section 18(2) to (6).
    (4) The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the First Minister.
    [my bold]
    (5) The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the deputy First Minister.”

    So what exactly was Peter Robinson’s “strategically awful decision”, Turgon?

  • Delta Omega

    Horseman

    Keep reading

    “8 First Minister, deputy First Minister and Northern Ireland Ministers

    Section 16 c part 6

    If at any time the party which is the largest political party of the largest political designation is not the largest political party—
    (a) any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(4) or 16B(4) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party; and
    (b) any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(5) or 16B(5) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation.

    This means that the largest political party will nominate the FM even if it is not the largest political designation, and in such circumstances the largest party of the largest designation will then nominate DFM

    This was designed and implemented by Peter to use as an electioneering tool to force unionists to vote DUP in case the dreaded shinners get the FM post. Pity he didn’t realise that they are so joined at teh hip with the Shinners now that if MMcG was FM we wouldn’t notice any difference – nothing would still be getting done.

  • More:

    Jim Allister, leader of the TUV, said this in a press release on 17 November 2006:

    [http://www.jimallister.org/default.asp?blogID=541]

    Comment from DUP MEP Jim Allister on the St. Andrews Bill

    “The St Andrews Bill contains a political bombshell for Unionism. Bad as it was, the Belfast Agreement, at least, guaranteed that a unionist majority in the Assembly would always result in a Unionist First Minister. This Bill (Clause 8) changes that. It now affords the prize of the top office to the Party with the most seats. Thus, in future, we could have a Sinn Fein First Minister, in spite of a Unionist majority in the House, if they were the party with the greatest number of seats.”

    He is surely wrong, as the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 (see previous post) makes clear. Why is this simple issue causing the TUV (including Turgon) such trouble?

  • Delta Omega

    Thanks for that. That’ll teach me to read to end of the page!

    Anyhow, while this may give SF the right to nominate the FM in certain circumstances, the FM/DFM happy couple still need to be voted into office by a cross-communiity vote in the Assembly. I.e. the DUP would have to give their blessing. Likely? I think not. Consequences? Maybe we’ll find out in 2011 …

  • Delta Omega

    Horseman

    IMHO if the circumstances arise I think that the DUP will find some methodology of spinning this so that they can give such an unholy alliance their blessing. They have already proven that they will forfeit any promise and forsake any voter in their lust for power. The consequences of them bringing down the executive and assembly will be felt in their back pockets and governmental trappings so it is unlikely that they will risk this.

  • Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of Ballymena, hi.

  • Turgon

    Delta Omega,
    Thank you for that and my apologies for not specifically mentioning you with the other potential grumpy garden centre Prods.

    Sammy Morse,
    I am waiting for the opportunity to say “Cry God for Jim, Ulster and St. Patrick” (or maybe St. William) and also “He that hath not courage for the fight”

  • Delta Omega

    Turgon – pleased to be numbered among the eldar and edain

  • darth rumsfeld

    well Turgon, we can be sure that Punt is no Prince Hal-even one in reverse. Just can’t see the DUP MLAs coalescing behind the cry “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers”, as Punt turns to Bresland,Plug, and Arlene shouting “Slip loosed the dogs of war!”….

    And I really hope he doesn’t now try to “do” charm in his new post- It’d be like King Herod at a creche

    BTW- I’m too poor to have a garden, so next election if there’s no TUV/securocrat/rejectionist I’ll have to look out at my wee patch of scrubby grass and seethe

  • Delta Omega

    Darth

    Don’t worry about your wee patch of scrubby grass – you’ll have a good view as you help us rearrange the deck chairs on RMS Ulster as Punt sails us straight for the iceberg

  • Moloney’s book on Paisley puts the FM rule change down to a London meeting where the DUP was represented by Messrs Robinson, Donaldson, Bullick and Johnston. Others were kept out of the picture until the change was agreed. When the St Andrews legislation was going through the Lords, Trimble pointed out the implications of the change should unionism ever be split enough to make SF the largest single party and forced a division on it. Of the DUP contingent, I think only Morrow voted for the Trimble amendment. I don’t believe any of the DUP MPs mentioned the matter when St Andrews went through the Commons. Of course it was a cynical move by the DUP to force the unionist electorate to support it forever at Assembly elections but I think it will come unstuck sooner or later.

    I also agree that Robinson made a big mistake to bring back Allister just to keep Boxcar Willie away from Strasbourg. For years until Trimble got in hara-kiri mode, McCrea was a very good reason to vote UUP. He certainly would not have threatened the Punt succession. Allister, on the other hand, whether you like him or not, is and always has been (a) independently-minded, (b) a big beast and (c) close to the disillusioned right wing, a group that is far larger than most supporters of the Agreement like to recognise. I think unionism might well continue its realignment, with the DUP gobbling up the tottering UUP (whose vote fell in Dromore) and the TUV establishing itself to the right of the DUP.

  • Delta Omega

    To give Willie McCrea his due, I think he was one of the senior DUP figures who was kept out of the loop on this. Prior to the legislation changes I had challenged Punt on this at a public meeting and followed up with McCrea later, to receive assurances that it could never happen. Once the legislation had been passed Willie personally apologised for misleading me, stating that he new nothing about the changes. Punt’s response at the meeting was noteworthy – he said that if the unionist people allowed SF to become the largest party then they would get what they deserved.

  • “Punt’s response at the meeting was noteworthy – he said that if the unionist people allowed SF to become the largest party then they would get what they deserved.”

    There speaks a Control Freak (Punt not Delta Omega). To paraphrase, all unionists are servants of the DUP, not the other way round. Punt’s micro-management may have been useful in making the DUP top dog but it will cause no end of problems now.

    Darth: “I’ll have to look out at my wee patch of scrubby grass and seethe”

    They have grass on the Death Star?

  • Turgon

    Darth,
    Do not worry: you, delta omega and the Watchman would all be most welcome at my garden; it is not that big but we could have a barbecue using manifestos containing old abandoned DUP election promises for fuel. I suspect we could cook a few burgers with that much paper.

  • malteser

    “Robinson’s waxy visage is warming up a little as he flies closer to the sun..”

    Rumour has it he’s had his teeth whitened too although how anyone could tell I’ve no idea.

  • Inspector Cleauso

    Turgon,

    Don’t take this personal but your last post about sums up evangelical prods. They have burgers on their barbecues instead of sirloin steaks!

  • Turgon

    Inspector Cleauso,
    Thank you I stand corrected. For so august a group as Darth, The Watchman and Delta Omega (not forgetting Ahem and any other flat earthers) I would have to have much better food than burgers.

  • Anyone want to roast Jeffrey on a spit at Turgon’s barbecue?

  • Da Silva

    Wow when did slugger take over tangled we?? The transition is seemless!

  • Da Silva

    Thats a tangled web of course, as opposed to the tangled we above

  • Debbie

    Turgon how can you compare Robo with Macbeth even in jest? Do you really think that dark forces are afoot for unionism or Robo? Except of course in his lust for power or unfairly as you have done above. It is hard to see how Robo’s anxieties? would get the better of him?

    I don’t think he has any anxieties at all, I think the DUP is in good shape, still the strongest party within unionism, and I don’t think it will swallow up the UUP. This eating up of the smaller parties by the bigger ones (a banquet? )is unlikely to happen in my view, nor the attack from the right by Alister. I think the three way split will stay with the transfer of votes going between them to maintain unionist hegemony. The scare tatic of the southern FF coming along eating up the SDLP and obliterating the shinners in order to bring about a UI by stealth is nothing more mere anxieties and visions getting the better of Unionist commentators rather than the political reality imv? NO?

    Great political metaphors btw. Interesting and very different.

  • Debbie

    Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

    Turgon I would take this as a reference that the status quo will stay the same with the three way split as it is only tedious to go o’er not impossible. So they could go forward or back but why bother? What say ye will the three way split stay or not in your view?

    Great stuff!!

  • willowfield

    BONAR LAW

    You quoted from the Powell book:

    “On the weekend of 2/5 November I managed to satidfy most of Sinn Feins’ niggles, but they got hung up on a particular paragraph in the changed Strand 1 paper that unintentionally had the effect of meaning that only a unionist could be First Minister. They had a good point in logic but this particular paragraph had been agreed by everyone in 2004…”

    I don’t understand this. Surely the changed paper would have had precisely the opposite effect?

    DELTA OMEGA

    Punt’s response at the meeting was noteworthy – he said that if the unionist people allowed SF to become the largest party then they would get what they deserved.

    Reminds me – perhaps unfairly – of Hitler’s comments in 1945 that if the German people didn’t show the will to win the war they would get what they deserve if Germany were defeated and destroyed.

  • Bigger Picture

    Yes comparing any politician to Hitler, says it all about where this line of argument and reasoning is going. I’ll leave you to it gents.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Turgon, I thank you for your kind invitation, and will bring a bottle of my finest Islay malt to conclude the feast, while we can depend on the Watchman for some fine Havanas as the sun goes down. If it’s wet I’ll bring my DVD of the history of the Rhodesian Light Infantry

    We traditional Unionists may be a bit shabby, but we still have standards, as I often say in the Ulster Reform Club when I’m forced to share the dining room with powersuited women wearing trendy spectacles and dangly earrrings- some of whom have even had the nerve to sit at the members’ table. It’s that sort of wilful neglect of our values that has got us in the mess we’re in.
    Why next they’ll be putting in a (shudder) “fitness suite”. Omigod, they have!!! To the lifeboats everyone-all is lost

  • Turgon

    Darth,
    You would be most welcome as would you The Watchman and delta omega. In all seriousness if you ever want to drop me an email I would be delighted.

    Regards