The DUP and General Von Manstein

After the defeat of the German army at Stalingrad it briefly looked as if a complete German collapse was imminent. However, General Erich von Manstein launched a quite brilliant counter attack known as the Third Battle of Kharkov. From a position of apparent critical weakness the Germans salvaged a good military position.

Mick has covered the fact that Sinn Fein have ended the talks about P&J below. This is hardly the outcome the media or many others thought likely a few weeks ago. In the immediate aftermath of Irisgate and the DUP’s apparent weakness many thought that an agreement was likely and one which would not be on the terms particularly favourable to the DUP. It seemed that Irisgate had given SF the whip hand over the DUP and that they could dangle the threat of a Stormont election over the DUP like a Sword of Damocles. The suggestion was that the DUP would be heavily damaged in any ensuing assembly election and that that was not a risk which the DUP were willing to take. This was a logical assumption and it seemed as late as week that an agreement was imminent considering the positive noises coming from the DUP. Indeed there was the suggestion that persuading the remaining sceptics within the DUP was the only obstacle left before an agreement.
It is unclear exactly what has prompted the sudden change in fortunes. The talks last Sunday between the UUP, DUP and Conservatives may well have been a large part of the equation. There have been quiet mutterings for some time that in the event of a Stormont election yielding SF as the largest party, the UUP and DUP needed a contingency plan. That had always seemed unlikely in the presence of the Conservative / UUP pact.

It is of course highly unclear what exactly was discussed at the Hatfield House talks though Mick quotes Ken Reid as suggesting that it may have included unionist unity. Whether or not it actually did include that, the unionist parties are making little pretence otherwise which has disquieted Sinn Fein. Their Sword of Damocles to wave at the DUP may become about as effective as the one waved at Harrison Ford in the famous Raiders of the Lost Ark scene. At this juncture it is not what was actually discussed between the parties at Hatfield House which matters but what Sinn Fein fears was discussed. All of a sudden the Sinn Fein calculation that the DUP would do a deal to avoid an early election and regroup before Westminster looks utterly flawed.

There are also additional reasons for the DUP to avoid an early election. Had they made an agreement in the current climate they would have handed the TUV an even larger stick to beat them into Lundism with. In addition they would have offered the UUP a perfect opportunity to cross their T on a major issue and to quote Jim Molyneaux “outright” them. Furthermore there is the strong suspicion that some of the more sceptical DUP politician, especially the MPs such as Gregory Campbell (whom Robinson cannot resign form Westminster) would have jumped ship. In the current climate the DUP need Campbell and indeed Dodds much more than they need the DUP.

Hence the DUP had good reasons both positive and negative to strengthen their line against Sinn Fein. What Sinn Fein will do now is unclear. If they collapse the agreement they can test the mettle of any supposed DUP / UUP pact though that will require an election to occur and there is no guarantee of this. If on the other hand they do not collapse Stormont then yet again they will have had their bluff called and will have marched up the hill only to march back down again.

Again Sinn Fein may have overreached themselves: once again they have reached out to grasp victory in a crisis which they have manufactured and once again that victory has turned to ashes in their mouths. Had they proposed an extremely reasonable compromise to the DUP two or more weeks ago they might well have managed to bounce the DUP into it. Had such a compromise been anything less than an agreement to end mandatory coalition in exchange for P&J devolution it would have been seen as a victory for SF and a defeat for the DUP. Ironically of course such a political defeat might well have been at least as damaging in the longer run to both the DUP and overall unionist confidence than the collapse of the assembly or possibly even than an SF First Minister. Sinn Fein have difficulties understanding the unionist mindset and on this occasion seemed to have misread both the severity of the DUP’s weakness and the circumstances which would most allow them to exploit it. That is of course understandable as no doubt many DUP politicians and apparatchiks (the unionists SF must be most used to dealing with) will have been terrified of the imminent loss of jobs and money which the end of the assembly would have entailed. The DUP’s leaders, however, whilst they at times be better at tactics than strategy, seem to have foreseen that a bad agreement which saved their vulnerable MLAs and hangers on in the short term, would damage the whole DUP project much more in the longer term. As such they have once again (on this occasion possibly with UUP and Conservative help) outmanoeuvred Sinn Fein. Whether this is the beginnings of realignment within unionism remains to be seen.

At the start of this piece I pointed to Erich von Manstein and the Third Battle of Kharkov. That was a major setback for the Red Army. However, this battle is not necessarily over yet and even if it is within just over two years the T-34s were rumbling down the Wilhelmstrasse. Republicans are used to playing a long game and unionists need to remember that.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    I think that Jeremy Kyle is getting involved to see if the Dup and the UU can get it together.

    For side entertainment Iris and Kirk come on to explain their business macinations.

  • Dec

    Had such a compromise been anything less than an agreement to end mandatory coalition in exchange for P&J devolution it would have been seen as a victory for SF and a defeat for the DUP.

    Sorry Turgon but this line demonstrates your utterignorance of the nationalist mindset but also of Inernational agreements.

  • Turgon,

    Looking good, but as you say long way to go yet.

    Surely this is excellent news for the TUV with the merger of two more or less pro-agreement parties, Allister should be able to mop up quite a few Assembly seats as the anti-agreement opposition.

    If SF force an election in the next few weeks will there be time for the DUP and UUP to form an electoral pact? Presumably there will be some leakage of party members to the TUV (from the DUP) and some to the Alliance(from the UUP) and Sylvia exiting fairly swiftly.

    Exciting times.

  • JNM

    Too many ifs.

  • Scaramoosh

    I am pretty sure that only last week I heard Foster state that the DUP was a broad church; a coalition of right and left…..

  • LabourNIman

    a merger would get rid of the worst parts of the dup… to the TUV and frankly if they went up against the joint DUP and UUP brains they’d be a two assembly seat, one term party. Lets have it!

  • “a merger would get rid of the worst parts of the dup”

    and perhaps some of the best parts of the UUP.

  • Stephen Blacker

    The DUP are weak, the only thing they could lead is a marching band. Going back to the good old days of sticking their chests out and noses in the air proving that no one is going to dictate to them will lead us nowhere.

    It seems to me that the DUP were scared to do a deal with Sinn Fein because putting perades as a pre-condition made the deal impossible. Dawn Purvis was quoted,

    “If the DUP had negotaited with the Shinners four years ago on product on parades, they would have found that the Shinners were in a position to deliver, but the Shinners dont have the same control or influence in those communities. An example of that is how the independent councillor Breandan MacCionnaith has joined eirigi.”

    I think this statement hit the nail on the head, progress is beyond the reach of a leadership that has its electoral interests ahead of the best interests of our country.

  • tacapall

    The DUP are weak, the only thing they could lead is a marching band. Going back to the good old days of sticking their chests out and noses in the air proving that no one is going to dictate to them will lead us nowhere.
    Posted by Stephen Blacker on Jan 22, 2010 @ 11:16 PM

    So what would the TUV do if they get elected, “Demand” that the largest Nationalist party be excluded from the Assembly, go back to the “Good old days of not a catholic about the place” Unionists are living in fantasy land if they think that Nationalists will agree to Voluntary Coalition with a weighed majority, as for Turgon quoting past battles, he would be better off inventing a time machine and set it for the 21st century, the TUV brand of politics is as outdated as the horse and cart.

  • Paddy Matthews

    they have reached out to grasp victory in a crisis which they have manufactured

    Are you trying to tell us that Iris was a long-time sleeper?

    Maybe I should rephrase that…

    Nah. 🙂

  • I don’t agree with Gerry Adams on a great many things but I do believe he’s spot on when he says this much:
    ”It’s sad that even now sectarianism and triumphalism still has such a huge grip on a large section of the unionist psyche. The orange card, played so often in the past to get their own way, is being played again as the DUP try to get the Orange Order what the Orange Order wants.

    Sorry folks – it doesn’t work like that anymore. Those days are gone. The orange state is gone. The remnants remain and its legacy of institutionalised bigotry will take a long time to eradicate but change has taken place and the clock is not for going backwards”

    This is what a vote for the TUV or a vote for ‘unionist unity’ represents. The recoourse by Turgon to the Battle for Stalingrad – or the Third Battle of Kharkov – is typical of this mindset. Sure, in his view, unionist polticians//leaders may have been tactically more astute than their circumstances dictated in the recent past – but ever since the beginning of the Orange State they have led their people down a cul de sac. What Turgon needs to recall about Stalingrad is that the Russians eventually won and reclaimed their city and their country.

    This is not a vote for SF – this is a vote of no-confidence in the DUP/UUP/TUV and this ‘unionist unity’.

  • Turgon

    Concubhar,

    Had you read to the end of the blog you might have noticed I said exactly that about the war in Russia.

    However, a nationalist pointing out things like reclaiming cities and countries is sadly indicative of a mindset. One that states that unionists views are of lesser value.

    Unionists have the right to remain within the UK whilst they have a majority; it is called democracy. Of course Gerry Adams was never much interested in democracy.

  • Rory Carr

    “Unionists have the right to remain within the UK whilst they have a majority…”

    It seems Turgon that you are in agreement with Ali G who considered that the unionist mindset believed that they, “is only here on holiday”.

    Remember Kursk! Victory to the Reds!

  • Dec

    Foster state that the DUP was a broad church; a coalition of right and left…..

    That comment reminds me of this.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Dec,

    Brilliant!