What will inform any DUP decision on Peter Robinson’s future? Firstly Peter might simply cut to the chase and declare he is leaving public life. He has a sick wife in Iris. The former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon’s wife Gertrude was unwell and Mr Mallon walked away from the public spotlight and to this day he hasn’t told a sinner why he did so.
I hope he doesn’t mind my drawing attention to what he did. Should Peter Robinson act unilaterally what follows is straightforward. The party elects a new leader. I will debate that at another time. I am being asked where Peter Robinson stands with elected members and the party right?
There is no simple answer. Many people around Mr. Robinson depend on his patronage and particularly those who are directly employed under his tutelage. They need him to stay. Their very livelihoods probably depend on his survival.
Then we come to members of that party who at no point ever really liked Mr Robinson but respected him and watched him strategically develop the party and he gave some of these people a leg up.
Jim Wells fits into this category as a true and true party man despite being his own man.
Willie McCrea fits into this category too. There are others in this mould too. You have men like Sammy Wilson who have always been loyal to Peter despite his insubordination from time to time. Sammy likes Peter and will want to do the decent thing by him.
What is at stake here is however the battle for the heart and soul of the DUP. If Peter Robinson becomes a liability it is curtains for him. There was genuine affection for Ian Paisley senior. He was taken out by the roots when he was adjudged to be a liability to the party electorally.
He was seen to be too friendly with Martin McGuinness. There were allegations the Executive was not functioning properly and the DUP had a bad Dromore council by- election. That was enough.
Ian Paisley was history all be it that his demise was planned and executed with ruthless aplomb to disguise the brutality of it. There are genuinely decent members who will not have blood on their hands. If members reach a point where they believe the party’s chances at the polls are being diminished Peter Robinson is in trouble.