Dodds, battleships and Balrogs

I know some do not like my historical analogies but since I have not done one for a while, I hope I will be indulged. The British battleship HMS Rodney along with HMS King George V are largely credited as having sunk the mightiest warship then afloat, the German battleship Bismarck which itself had sunk the pride of the British fleet, the battlecruiser HMS Hood and damaged HMS Prince of Wales. Most credit Rodney with major part of the victory; that was, however, the high point of Rodney’s career and thereafter she was rather unsung, regarded as a bit slow, uncharismatic and maybe old fashioned.

As a follow up to Mick’s blog (itself from Ignited) of a couple of weeks ago about Nigel Dodds being the DUP’s candidate for MEP I have heard rumours that there is a short list headed by himself, then Jeffrey Donaldson, then Edwin Poots. The disadvantages to going off to Europe are obvious. However: “Tis an ill wind that blows no good.”
Apparently Dodds is not especially keen on the idea and one can see why: he is currently finance minister, deputy leader of the DUP and quite clearly the current heir apparent. As such to go off to Europe would significantly reduce his profile and with it most likely his chances of getting the leadership after Robinson. There might, however, be some advantages to being temporarily semi detached from the rest of the DUP. If (big-ish if, but if) the DUP are forced to, or decide to, agree to some form of compromise over policing and justice, the shrine or the ILA, then there may be a significant backlash from the unionist electorate. In such a scenario Dodds might be able to come back and rally the party; he might even be seen as having gone to Europe because he did not support such sell outs. Sometimes being away from the fray can be an advantage, it lends a plausible air of not supporting a policy yet being too loyal a party member to participate in an open revolt.

Of course exactly similar advantages and disadvantages are present for Donaldson, though their balance is a little different. His position is less prominent and less important than Dodds’s. As such he has less to loose from fading for a while to Europe. In addition moving off to Europe would allow him to stop having to be seen with Gerry Kelly at joint junior minister events. These meetings have already caused Donaldson embarrassment and he might well be safer in Europe. In addition Donaldson cannot hope to be in pole position for the leadership at the moment. Again, however, if Robinson (and in this scenario Dodds) had been involved in a sell out it would allow Donaldson to return and offer a straight forward traditional appeal (back to basics?). Remember that unionist leaders always seem to fall to complaints from, or be deposed by, people to their right.

In the case of Edwin Poots, however, the advantages of going to Europe are clearer. Despite what Robinson may have said, I would be surprised if Poots was rapidly returned to the executive top table. Like de Brún he has had his chance at ministerial office and a speedy return whilst not impossible, seems unlikely. Whilst he is unlikely ever to be challenging for leader, moving off to Europe would allow him a position of at least some importance and prestige.

There are of course other possible candidates: I have heard Diane Dodds’s name mentioned; others might conceivably include Simon Hamilton, Arlene Foster or of course the old warhorse William McCrea, so foolishly overlooked by Robinson last time: surely Peter Robinson’s most serious political mistake (though he has made at least one other).

To be considering such high profile candidates as Dodds and Donaldson for Europe might seem a little odd. People like Dodds who are doing a job as important as finance minister are rarely considered for Europe. Of course the unmentionable enemy in all this is Jim Allister. The DUP clearly need to defeat Allister and ideally annihilate him with one fell swoop. Although any defeat at the European elections would very significantly weaken the TUV, depriving as it would their leader of his public platform; a very heavy defeat would be preferable for the DUP. It would deal a blow to the TUV from which they would find it difficult to recover. To deprive a political party of success often sets in train a series of centrifugal forces which can rip it apart. Victory on the other hand often has a centripetal effect. Hence, to destroy Allister’s representative position prior to the next Westminster and Stormont elections would be an excellent plan and might help rid the DUP of the TUV, allowing them to concentrate on the UUP.

Taking on Allister is likely to be something which any DUP representative would view with mixed emotions. To be the slayer of the DUP’s nemesis would gain great kudos for the Beowulf like hero who achieved the feat. Equally, however, the risk of defeat would stalk the candidate, as would the fear of irrelevance after the victory had been won. The contradiction here is that the mightier the warrior which the DUP send into battle, the greater the probability of, yet the less sweet, the victory; and most likely, the less keen on the fight the warrior, knowing as they would that victory would also bring European semi irrelevance. As with HMS Rodney, victory might be the prelude to irrelevance. Unless of course as I suggested at the start, hiding in Europe would allow the hero to then return and rescue the party from Lundies.

As I said at the start these are of course all rumours but they are interesting none the less. In addition as I will mention above I am beginning to wonder whether or not there will be a major election before the next European. If that is the case then the monster which is the TUV might, hydra like, have grown additional heads before the European elections. Or (for the only time so far that I have ever alluded to Lord of the Rings) the Morgoth like dark lord Allister might have Balrog helpers. Yes before you all tell me Turgon’s city of Gondolin was destroyed by Balrogs.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.

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