Hello DUP. Is anybody at home?

Have I missed something over here in London or am I the only one to be struck by the absence of the smack of firm leadership in the DUP? There’s been plenty of noise from the engine room but precious little sense of direction  from the bridge at time of tension over rejectionist republican activity, the post-Saville agenda, waiting for the spending axe to fall, and the publication of the FMDFM Cohesion strategy. Since when, silence. And no clear, driving line on unionist unity. While I speculate that Peter has been concentrating on personal recovery over the summer, there’s  been no sense of anybody temporarily in charge in these days of the 24/7 media.

Nigel Dodds, the most obviously qualified alternative leader displays his distance from the Stormont agenda in a notably limp contribution to the Newsletter’s interesting Union 2021 series. Nigel says Unionist unity would ” help” achieve his vision of an “Ulster” in which Ireland isn’t mentioned. If the “mandatory coalition” fails, it should be replaced by ” an inclusive executive with minority protection”.but he doesn’t favour us with an explanation of how in practice this would differ from what we’ve got.

The NI of 2021 would be “radically different” from today’s, but over the impact of spending cuts and Westminster reform, nothing uniquely regional. Has Nigel’s long standing frigidity towards powersharing with SF and his opt-out from the Stormont front line finally got the better of him; or is he keeping his powder dry for big changes in the party?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London