Arlene Foster, HMS Warspite and shoes

I previously likened Arlene Foster to the battleship HMS Warspite (a famously attractive and effective ship, once the most modern and best in the world) when she was sent to fight the Fermanagh by election. On that occasion it was a little like the use of Warspite in the Second Battle of Narvik. However, the DUP’s use of Foster is becoming more and more like the Admiralty’s use of Warspite during the Second World War. She along with her sister ships was used on may occasions where the British needed to produce overwhelming fire power but would not risk the newer battleships.

Bringing Foster in as acting first minister is a clever tactic by the DUP. However, it is a tactic born out of weakness and not strength. Foster is a safe pair of hands; she will almost certainly discharge her responsibilities competently and efficiently. She may even do so with a degree of flair (a little like her excellent shoes). She is unlikely to say or do anything terribly stupid during her tenure. As an aside are fancy shoes really appropriate for the DUP? If she were a man I would expect a more dour and sober type such as Church’s. I am unsure on suitable dour upmarket women’s shoes (I am really a Crockett and Jones man myself): Elenwe is currently eyeing a pair of Paul Smith’s but she has a dangerous liberal streak.
In addition she is a politician who has a track record of success in her ministerial career and indeed is the only DUP politician to have scored an unalloyed victory for the party since the 2007 assembly elections and the subsequent decision by the DUP to enter power sharing with Sinn Fein (the Fermanagh by election).

Although by all accounts Foster has been popular as well as able in DUP circles she is not from one of the three great political dynasties which appear to rule the DUP like feudal lords (Robinsons, Paisleys Dodds), though she seems fairly close to the Robinson one. In addition although a religious woman she is CoI and not Free Presbyterian. As such she does not have the sort of natural constituency which would make her a likely short term leadership rival for Robinson, nor being a Robinson loyalist, does she look like someone who would try to steer the party away from his proposed direction.

At Jutland in the First World War Warspite and three of her sister ships held off the whole German High Seas Fleet for an hour. At the end of that part of the battle, Warspite, her rudder damaged, circled twice in front of the Germans being fired on and hit repeatedly. All the time, however the 15” guns rang out smashing one German ship after another and in the process of her turns she protected the damaged armoured cruiser HMS Warrior. Again Arlene seems to be playing HMS Warspite, bravely defending Peter Robinson and at the same time I suspect she will land some heavy hits of her own on the DUP’s political opponents.

In all this use of Mrs. Foster there are, however, a few difficulties: Mrs. Foster is not really a traditional DUP member; as mentioned above she is CoI rather than a more fundamentalist Protestant denomination. This may not be that relevant in the new DUP but if an agreement is hammered out over P&J it could look to some that the relatively speaking liberals had taken over the DUP and “spoiled” it. The suggestion has frequently been made that the DUP are now where the UUP were under Trimble and even that the UUP defectors managed to take over the DUP. Mrs. Foster’s elevation could reinforce that slightly paranoid suggestion.

For Foster there are also some dangers: if there is a deal over P&J and if there is any sort of blacklash against it, she could be seen as having been instrumental in the “treachery.” If Robinson is forced to go, she could, as his chosen substitute, be caught in the fallout of his demise. It has to be remembered that mighty as the Queen Elizabeth battleships were, HMS Barham was sunk in the Mediterranean in 1941.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Turgon, if the rumours of whats to come are true, being CoI and NOT on the Christian wing could just be her winning hand and possibly save the party to boot. Always had her lined up as a leader, though was thinking off the UUP at the time though lol( saying that I spotted Trimble as the future leader too, was both right and wrong there ) and was going to give her another 4 or 5 yrs to take over in the DUP, but it might well be sooner rather than later.

  • joeCanuck

    A woman as full time leader of the DUP! Whatever next?
    The whole world is in a state of chassis. (Juno and the Paycock).

  • seamus friel

    Arlene is a female Peter Robinson (old type) who has a brass neck and who tries to intimidate reporters. Remember when she was “minded” to give the contract for the Causeway Visitor’s Centre to Ian Junior’s mate Seymour Sweeney. She was also the person behind the attempted theft of the Telehouse from Derry and its relocation to Coleraine. Seems even with all her legal training that she couldn’t understand the original proposal on which funding was granted which stated that it was to be in Derry.. She tried to brass neck that one too in true DUP fashion until threatened with legal action.
    NEW BROOM I don’t think so!!!

  • “a track record of success in her ministerial career”

    Are you sure about that, Turgon? Have you forgotten her ‘minded’ decision re. the Causeway Visitor Centre? Or when her bluff was called on called on sending in a solicitor to do battle – she’d dealt with a delegation opposing a planning application by the same developer a few months earlier. Here’s what I recall as a rather feeble excuse not to act when a developer failed to apply for a planning application.

  • Id have thought that if we were comparing DUP persons to ships someone might mention the Titanic.
    There is something of an inconsistency about the DUP and (particuarly) the Free Presbyterian Church.
    Given that a consistent trend in reformed churches is an aversion to politics (God & Mammon etc) we have the situation where in 2005 241,000 people voted DUP but according to Wikipedia (an impeccable source) the FPC only has 12,000 members

    No doubt someone on this website knows exactly the number of FP members make up the DUP MLA party.
    Id hazard a guess it was disproportionate.
    As FP members believe themselves (and several other reformed folk) to be “saved” this means that most DUP MLAs believe that most people voting for them are going to Hell……

    The extent to which a small elite can “control” the biggest Party in the North was never going to last for ever.

  • The Raven

    And to add, her tenure at DETI could only be characterised as competent. Hardly sparkling. Not much tackling of anything, even after the Barnett review gave so much of her department a proverbial yet thorough spank.

  • John K Lund / Lllamedos / Suchard

    The Dup CoI brigade want to return to The Now combined Conservatives and Unionists.

  • The Raven, how many of our Ministers or indeed MLAs are truly fit for purpose?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Thats why I am proposing a Strictly Come X Factor type audition for the positions…

    Telephone vote and all. True democracy..

    Damn, foiled again.

  • PT, I’m glad you didn’t call it Northern Ireland’s Got Talent.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Very droll… but that would be just plainly inappropriate.

  • The Raven

    Nevin. Fair point. Well made. πŸ™‚

  • Pigeon Toes

    It’s interesting to hear some public representatives criticising the fact that Castlereagh Council being allowed to essentially investigate themselves.

    I note the same representatives weren’t clamouring over other similar flawed processes.

    Flawed processes which have destroyed the careers, reputations and family lives of a number of individuals.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Sorry I stand corrected it was described as an “inept process”.

    Thank you Mr PT.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Surely politicians investigating themselves is what we would expect.

    I have never heard the British Medical Association suggest that the power to investigate doctors should not be done by …..doctors.

    And surely the Law Society investigates..lawyers.

    And the Press Complaints Commission (made up of journalists) investigates……hmmm journalists.

    I suppose the difference is that these are professional people and have got something laughingly called “ethics”

  • Pigeon Toes

    Well I could give you a very laboured and boring personal criticism of all three…Though I doubt you would want to read.

    Unfortunately this is what is sold to the public as being the hierarchy of the complaints system. Otherwise one is left with taking the issue up with their elected representative…

    Ah, I see what you mean.

  • Turgon, what are the circumstances under which you, personally, and also perhaps the TUV, would accept the transfer of P&J powers?

  • Turgon,

    as an avid fan of “Sex in the City” and a keen observer of all matters female I have arrived at the belief that there is quite a strong inverse relationship between a woman’s desire to covet expensive shoes and the likelyhood of her remaining monogamous, and that this, shockingly, holds true even after she has exchanged marital vows. I assume your comparison of Arlene to a battleship was not a suggestion that there is little cause for concern in this matter?

    It may well be that the God fearing, upright folk, that elect the leaders of the DUP may not have such base and vulgar interests as my good self (Jeffrey excepted of course) and they may therefore be unaware of the obvious danger signs adorning Arlene’s feet.

    It is therefore to be hoped, that during the next 6 weeks this unfortunate shoe business can be brought to the attention of the party elders and they can reflect on the wisdom of retaining Arlene in her new position given that any further wayward female behaviour by a senior offiical could be quite unpopular with even larger swathes of the electorate who might turn to Mr Allister’s party for moral refuge.

    I would also suggest you keep a close eye on your dearest wife, given that she also exhibits the tell tale signs of waywardness, and caution you that some of the more effective deterrents to inappropriate female behaviour, which I understand are popular in many Middle Eastern countries, are, as a result of a spineless and overly liberal legal system not currently allowed in the United Kingdom.

  • Blue Hammer

    Intelligence Insider

    For me, there are NO such circumstances.

    Our motley crew of terrorists, liars, prevaricators and fornicators should NEVER be allowed access to the controls of P & J.

  • willis


    Amazing what one will write at a quarter to two in the morning! There have been resignations from UKIP for less than this.

    Well maybe not less, but it is a great story.

  • willis

    Blue Hammer

    It is good to see you have a higher opinion of the current HMG.

  • willis
  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Sure it does’nt matter what kind of shoes that a woman wears so long as they are tied together.

    Us men thought it was us that were wearing the trousers but its women that are wearing the more powerful shoes.

    And real damage can be done with shoes. What can you do with trousers except keep yourself warm.

    The daring don’t get cold in a hurry.

  • pinni

    From what I understand the Robinsons are not Free Presbyterians, so I can’t figure out what the big deal is concerning Mrs Foster’s denomination.

    I think Foster would make a great leader, not matter what her church background is. The DUP may at one time have been dominated by Free P politicians, but obviously that is no longer the case.

    There are only about ten thousand Free P’s, but the DUP has been attracting hundreds of thousands of votes for decades, clearly from people like the Baptists, Pentecostals and Ind. Methodists but also tens of thousands of Irish Presbyterians, Methodists and C of I.

    Maybe Foster’s church background, political history and current leadership within the DUP will help to bring the two not-so-different strands of Unionism back together. After all, when you think about it, like Coca Cola and Pepsi the only difference is the label.

    On the other hand, the TUV tastes like Tonic water!

  • granni trixie

    My understanding was that Arlene F. is a Presbyterian (not COI as stated). Correct me if I am wrong.

    I was v. surprised when she jumped ship from UU as I do not see her as having a sectarian outlook -whereas I do see the DUP which she joined as having a strongly sectarian culture (and the UU as more of a mixture).

    I also think that many of the posts here under-estimate the skill required to step into the media spotlight as leader at this time of the DUP crisis – plus do you think that the DUP ‘naturally’ would have turned to a women in tese circs if they did not identify that she had what it takes?

    Also, since people are focusing on her shoes (how I hate that as an image associated with women) may I say that I also admire her for being an example of a women keeping an important job going whilst juggling with pregnancies and 3 chidren under 10.

  • Turgon

    granni trixie,
    Arlene Foster is CoI. There are actually very few Presbyterians in Fermanagh.

    As to the shoes: sorry it was a but of fun; actually I am quite into shoes albeit men’s shoes.

  • willis


    Every comment builds up a mental picture.

  • Turgon

    Thanks. I wish I could pretend to be interesting and stuff. Actually I am frightfully boring, uncharismatic and ugly; was and am hopeless at sport and have no DIY skills. Furthermore I cannot dance, am fairly awkward in company and cannot sing, paint or do anything else arty. Like all such men, as a boy, seeing as I could not get a girl friend, I got into Tolkien. Eventually I changed from being a geeky nerdish teenager into a geeky nerdish middle aged man. Surely the fact that I spend significant amounts of my leisure time blogging is proof positive of this.

  • Drumlins Rock

    how many other tolkien fans are there on here?

    think it is almost long enough since the films for me to read the books again and not be influenced by their version.

    Do you think any of the politicians would be, who has the best imagination?

    Think Arlene probably has indulged, and maybe marty, its probably not far enough out for Gerry, and big Ian might object on theological grounds, Peter probably as as “reseach” to see if any CS Lewis influence, I think Jim Well could be a Tolkienite, and most of the SDLP at one stage or another, as for the UUP well, McGimpsey seems more of a Tery Pratchet type, Sylvia Mills & Boon, and Reg well, Jeffrey Archer novels probably. lol

  • granni trixie

    Turgon:I trust that you are not basing your COI info on there being “few Presbyterians in Fermanagh”?

  • pinni

    granni trixie,
    Maybe all the ‘strong sectarian’ duppers have left and joined the TUV. More of an opportunity now for Unionist reconciliation, wouldn’t you say?

    I’m into Tolkien only recently. More into CS Lewis. But my favourite is Laura Ingles Wilder. πŸ˜‰

    Wellsy is probably really into Tolkien, tree-hugger, and all that he is!

  • willis


    Now you are taking the mick. Anyone who can make a convincing case that Arlene Foster is a battle…….wait for it…….ship, clearly has a bright future online.

  • willis
  • Greenflag

    intelligence insider ,

    ‘what are the circumstances under which you, personally, and also perhaps the TUV, would accept the transfer of P&J powers?’

    A foolish question . No point in even asking it as it’s directly embarassing for Turgon/Blue Hammer to have to reply .

    It’ll be the day when Turgon and his TUV ilk start to trust the other 50% of Northern Ireland’s population that is nominally Catholic, Nationalist or Republican or in one word .

    Never .

    You see their God is a vengeful God and if as a member of the Chosen people you treat others with the respect and trust with which you too would like to be treated then you are a ‘weakling’ in the eyes of jehovah and his grace will be taken from you and then it’s the old shish kebab for you and yours at the great sky barbecue at the end of days πŸ™

    The effects of a lifetime of brain washing cannot easily be rinsed away . I wonder if poor Iris finally cottoned on to the idiocy of the babbling tongues brigade and in a crisis of ‘sod them all ‘ went off the rails ?

  • granni trixie

    Turgon: just heard an interesting overview of Arlene’s life on Radio 4 in which it was stated that she views herself as “an evangelical Protestant”….you tell me – does this indicate COI or Presbyterian (as I STILL believe?). Lets get this right?.

  • Scaramoosh


    I think “most” people in the protestant community respect the bona fides of a person whose father was shot through the head by the IRA. That this person is prepared to be part of a team that sees fit to cut a deal with Sinn Fein over P&J, is probably good enough for most of them.

  • granni trixie, CoI is quite a broad church. You will perhaps recall differences of political opinion at the time of the Drumcree crisis.

  • willis

    granni trixie

    You are not a Prod yourself then? In N.I. there are very few Protestants who do not describe themselves as evangelical. I probably would and I am a wooly liberal.

    The important nuance is evangelical/fundamentalist. Turgon self describes as a ‘fundie’.

    A younger hairier version of myself was manning the SCM bookstall in QUB many years ago when Jim Wells engaged me in cheeky badinage. Some serious fundies passed us on their way to a meeting of the breakaway Fundamentalist Christian Fellowship which thought that Queens Christian Union was too liberal.

    I quipped to Jim “They may not know much but they know what they like” Not that clever I admit.

    Jim replied with the priceless.

    “They may not know much but they know what they don’t like”

    I know, you had to be there.

  • granni trixie

    My Catholic upbringing is showing – I find it difficult to differentiate between Protestant denominations. So educate me – is there no right or wrong “fact” that one is COI or a Presbyterian?

    Some of the difficulties I guess are to do with the differences between nuances in religious culture(s), church practices and which particular church impacts on ones personal identity.

  • willis


    You would need to read quite a bit of history to understand it all. And even then……

    There are basically 3 different sorts of Prods

    Liberal, Evangelical and Fundamentalist.

    And there are lots and lots of Prod denominations, some of which are so off the wall that they get a really hard time from the others.

    The bigger the denomination, the more room for variation. Presbyterians are the biggest so they have the most variation. BTW that is Presbyterian Church in Ireland or PCI, not Free Presbyterian, Non-Subscribing Presbyterian, Evangelical Presbyterian or Reformed Presbyterian.

    Take it from me. When Arlene Foster says that she is an Evangelical Protestant and is in the C of I, she is being entirely honest and consistent.

    If you have the time……