The DUP, Diane Dodds and Germany

From the start of the nineteenth century until the end of the First World War Prussia was one of the major powers in Europe. After uniting Germany she managed to defeat the Austrians and the French. Prussia’s problem, however, was that she was always confronted by powerful enemies on both sides: the Russians to the East and the French (later joined by the British) to the West. The German high command produced a very well organised plan called the Schlieffen Plan in order to try to win a war on two fronts. They came remarkably close and had Britain remained neutral they would probably have won.The DUP has some similarities to the Prussians. They have managed to gobble up a number of the members of other unionist parties: gaining considerable talent along the way (Arlene Foster, Peter Weir and Nelson McCausland spring to mind if only because I know them). The DUP have always had to fight elections on essentially one front: against the UUP. Now, however, like the Germans in 1914 they have to contemplate a battle on two fronts against the UUP and TUV.

In selecting Diane Dodds I would suggest that they DUP are deciding it is more important to defeat the TUV than the UUP. I would submit that that calculation is the best one open to them but there is no way of knowing whether or not it is correct.

Dodds is in reality a reasonably good candidate. Her husband would have been better but Mrs. Dodds is far from a fool. She is well educated and as a number of DUP commentators have suggested on other threads she did capture a seat in West Belfast which is not an achievement to be laughed at. She also has name recognition. She is not a perfect candidate and can be a bit shrill when interviewed. However, as someone to take on Allister she is not ideal (I would have chosen Nigel Dodds or Nelson McCausland) but is reasonable and may be good enough. Certainly she is seen as on the harder line of the party which is important in preventing slippage to the TUV. In addition being from Rathfriland she is a country girl but now representing Belfast she has a foot in both town and country camps.

In choosing Dodds the DUP are signalling that they wish to destroy the TUV and Allister. I presume they regard the strategy as destroying the TUV and then returning to deal with whatever is left of the UUP. That may be a reasonable calculation as the UUP have until very recently looked dead in the water. I have been repeatedly dubious regarding the benefit to the UUP of their link up with the Conservatives and since they are running Jim Nicholson I think that that will further dilute any bounce from this. However, the public do seem to be a bit disillusioned with the current Stormont regime and the DUP being the leading unionist party have the most to lose from that. More liberal DUP supporters might feel that Jim Nicholson is not too liberal and modern and might switch allegiance to a comfortable UUP stalwart, the more so since a lot of those new DUP votes are old UUP. However, the prospects of a huge surge in UUP support, though not absolutely impossible, look remote.

An alternative strategy for the DUP might have been to choose a more liberal candidate and go hard after the UUP in the assumption that the TUV would lose anyway or would end up gaining Nicholson’s old seat. That, however, would have left the DUP with two enemies: one right and one left. As such destroying Allister is without doubt the right idea. The problem, however, is that really the DUP do not need to beat but annihilate Allister and the TUV and at the same time heavily defeat the UUP. That is a hard ask for any political party and there is a danger unless they achieve it they will remain surrounded.

The DUP is without question the strongest unionist political party. However, with an only fairly good candidate and a very difficult mission it is hard to know what the outcome will be. I avoid making political predictions but I am sure many commentators will: though that is more likely to be spin than real confidence (and I am sure I will do some spinning before the election is over). What will actually happen is in reality very hard to call. No one really knew what the outcome of the First World War would be either.

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