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?

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  • aquifer

    They made it clear they are in charge, and now the cash tin is empty they cannot spend to cover up their lack of ideas.

    Former councillor MLAs risen high on slogans now flapping airlessly and glancing downwards.

    The outsider cover story that gave them wings blown away.

    The faux respect jounalists give them lending weight to speed their descent.

    About time.

  • slug

    Well it has been the holidays Brian.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Nigel says Unionist unity would ” help” achieve his vision of an “Ulster” in which Ireland isn’t mentioned.’

    A stroke of sheer political genius from Dodds? So Nigel Dodds is another member of the The No Ireland Club of Retard Myopians that lurk within the Unionist undergrowth :(?

    Presumably if and when Dodds joins Allister and Vance and Elliot at NI soccer teams next game their collective mouths will clamp tightly shut in mid sentence/cheer as the crowd roars Northern Ireland ?

    I used to think Nigel Dodds was somehow smarter than the average bear or at least smarter than the combined Allister/Vance/Elliot combo of dunces . There you are . Out of ‘Unionism’ always something even more stupid than stupid 🙁

  • Forgive if I digress. Yes, it was ever thus.

    As one who likes to keep in touch with events beyond the fastnesses of Watford and Slough (with a particular link to things north and south of the Border), I watch the likes of The Scotsman. To be honest, on this occasion I was directed there by Alex Massie on the Spectator blog.

    Massie’s piece is entitled: The Most Useless Political Party in Europe. My initial and unkind expectation from that headline was mistaken.

    Massie is glossing, with cross-reference, a news item and comment in Scotland on Sunday, under the by-line of Hamish Macdonell:

    The Scottish Conservative Party was plunged into a fresh crisis last night after it emerged that, effectively, it has been cut loose by its parent party in London.Scotland on Sunday has learned that, since the general election, senior figures in the UK Conservative Party no longer consult or communicate with their Scottish colleagues.

    As a result, Scottish party leaders have been virtually shut out of all decision-making roles and they are no longer invited to top-level strategy and policy meetings.

    Indeed, the isolation of the Scottish party has reached such a pitch that Scottish leader Annabel Goldie has not spoken to David Cameron since the election, while SNP First Minister Alex Salmond has held five conversations with the Prime Minister since he took office.

    One party insider said the Scottish leadership had been “cast adrift” by Westminster, which had ceded political control of the country to its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.

    The piece is worth reading on its merits. It raises the question, if things are “increasingly dysfunctional” between London and Edinburgh, does the same apply to the Great UCUNF Project?

    Anyone going to the piece should not miss the arch comment (#2) by Fifi la Bonbon @ 23:50:11:

    Miss Goldie said: “I am in the position where I can communicate with him in his office any time I want, and Sandra, the telephonist, is always very good about taking my messages and always explains why he can’t pick up the phone as he has just stepped out of the room. Also, he’s got a new baby. There’s no problem, no problem at all. Me and Sandra get on very well indeed. She’s just had the sitting room done, apparently, and their girl did well in her A levels.”

    I wish I could be as bright as Fifi at ten to midnight on a Saturday night (having spent the long afternoon at the Twickenham double-header: IPA @ £4 a plastic pint).

  • Alan N/ARDS

    Is he going to be the next leader of unionism? Let’s hope not.

    I spent a night in both Watford and Slough on the way to and from France in July. Quite enjoyed the short stop overs. Mind you the parking ticket we got in St. Albans still rankles.

  • madraj55

    Greenflag. If as expected Nigel takes over from Robbo at the Duplicity party helm, everybody else will have gone to sleep out of sheer boredom at his droning on. Like others in the party, the elephant in the room as regards 2021, is avoided in these Newsletter pieces, that is the disappearance of the unionist majority. They are all in denial about it, so it dare not speak it’s name. this reveals the expectation of NI still being in the UK in 2012 [which even most nationalist expect will be the reality] is not enough for the DUP TUV or UUP. and never was in spite of their claims. They hark back still to the NI that they grew up in where croppies lay down. But NI is virtually a foreign country to them now.

  • Besides slug pointing out the practical

    “Have I missed something over here in London”

    Yes plenty.

    “no clear, driving line on unionist unity”

    Set out by Robinson back in May (IIRC) and followed up since then in statements and the Union 2021. Geoff McGimpsey has managed to have identified the narrative the DUP has been operating too even if it has escaped you.

    “displays his distance from the Stormont agenda”

    Beside you ignoring the premise of the Union 2021 series ie what it could and should be like in 2021 not what it is going on now, how is referring to the importance of the decisions it will take, saying parties will have to be clear in the budget review and assembly elections how the cuts should be managed as well as how devolution operates be interpreted as “distance”. Neither are such comments new or different – they are DUP policy.

    I sense you started with a concluding premise and have tried to push a round peg into a square hole.

  • Brian Walker

    Thanks for the link Fair Deal, You’re right. I should have checked out the latest in Open Unionism and I’m grateful as ever for your good humoured guidance.

    The unity line is not altogether clear in the old DUP style, Rather muted, I would still say. The DUP is pro- unity certainly but seems to pressing for it at constituency level out of understandable electoral calculation, while waiting to see if the UUP will either stabilise or self destruct.

    This may be an entirely fruitful strategy but it’s all very internal to the political class. Where lies the appeal to the people? If Paisley senior backed the unity line, a few more trumpets would have sounded by now.

    In the Open Unionism blog, Nicholas Whyte poses a fascinating challenge on the need for a convincing unionist narrative– viz :

    “My problem with it is that I miss the intellectual argument that a good society – inclusive, positive and pluralist, or nice to families, businessmen, farmers, children and old people – is necessarily one located within the Union. It seems to me that you can prioritise the Union (or a United Ireland, or a confederal Belgium for that matter) as a constitutional concept, or you can promote a state which is generally nice to all of its citizens, but you have to choose one as the priority over the other, and my choice will always be for the second, with deep suspicion of anyone who tells me that the only way to achieve that is by accepting their vision on the first. And my suspicion is that more voters in Northern Ireland are beginning to feel that way; and I am not sure that any party with ‘Unionist’ in its name can ever appeal to them.”

    Amen and amen to the “ intellectual challenge” bit. Unionism ahould accept the challenge of Whyte’s zero sum alternatives. It apples to both parties – even if it seems more directed to the UUs than to the DUP who did almost as much to collapse one party rule as did the Provos.

    Today’s UUs may be the lineal descendants of the old party which relied on its monopoly and patronage in government to survive.The rump cannot be expected to bear the weight of upholding the essential tradition. Neither can the once radical DUP which wrecked the old party in order to save unionism, as it were. In those terms their mutual failure was nearly calamitous, the breach in tradition almost fatal.

    So who can claim convincingly to be upholding that tradition? Either of them? The yawning gap is there to be filled. Perhaps they should start again.

    They could begin by pointing out that UUP rule ended 38 years ago. Defending it is like Gorbachev proclaiming himself the heir of Stalin in 1991, just after the USSR collapsed. Past its sell by date.

    What about a new unionist rationale to embrace the political settlement warmly ? Can unionism re-invent itself or is it doomed to be reduced to squeezing a few more seats out of the system? That surely is the big question. “A settlement, not an accommodation,” to reverse Pat Doherty’s neat little maxim.

    Now that would be interesting…

  • Fair enough: I think I can see and appreciate where that’s coming from and going to.

    Does it fully recognise that in any “reunited” Unionist party, the UUP “rump” will be wiggled, if not forcibly wagged, by the DUP dog?

    Nor is this an “ideological” moment. Anyway, the folk of the archipelago are a trifle leery of “thousand-year reichs” and “the inevitable day of universal proletarian revolution”. Ten-year plans and “visions” don’t wash, except for journos with columns to fill and academics lacking essays to mark.

    Perhaps, too, the present DUP leadership, lying low and playing doggo, reflect a public mood. I don’t see that mood as demanding “interventionist government”. This May’s General Election was a case of “Err …um …” If anything, there is latent fear that “the smack of firm government” is all too imminent and predictably painful.

    What can intervene between now and (?) 5 May 2011? Very little that will be primarily decided and directed from inside NI.

    We await the Deep Thoughts of Chancellor Osborne. Whatever impact that has on NI Executive monies, it’s going to hurt at the personal level. Not a good moment to trumpet the UCUNF connection, methinks. A good time to be as semi-detached as possible?

    [Meanwhile, to confuse an overstrained metaphor, beyond our semi’s party wall … Paddy Power, at the last count, was offering 6/5 on an Irish General Election this year: 6/4 on 2011. Only when the scope stretches to 2012 do the odds widen to 3/1. That’s a racing certainty to be an “all-change” election with a FF majority is quoted at 80/1!]

    So, whichever side of the Great Divide one senses belonging, there are a couple of budgets and a further alienation of discretionary income between now and any lyrical future, with or without Nigel as our Great Helmsman. Outside the columns and chat-rooms, employment, house-prices, bread-on-the-table and children’s shoes are Bigger Issues than anything constitutional. If Nigel, or Peter, or Máirtín or any other “face” fail to recognise that, they are dim beyond even my expectations of them.

    And, more to the point, this is not a time for any non-oppositional political face to become identified as the lightning conductor, the one in charge in these days of the 24/7 media.

  • Greenflag

    I read Nigel Dodd’s contributory piece in the Newsletter and the only conclusion I can come to from it’s perusal is that Mr Dodds is a politician waiting to see which direction the wind will blow come the hour – a not unusual or particularly ‘unionist’ trait .

    At one time I had thought of Mr Dodds as the champion of the subdued ‘repartition’ wing of the DUP and he may still bark down that road if the opportunity ever presents itself . Unionism now finds itself in the position of depending on dissident republicans raising the ante so that ‘unionist’ paranoias and phobias can be dragged out for a public airing come the next election .

    I would not rule out Paisley II (the second ) as a future leader . Nigel may have quite a struggle to hold his North Belfast Westminster seat next time out. Horseman’s ‘apocalypse’ is gathering speed .

  • aquifer

    ‘the subdued ‘repartition’ wing of the DUP’

    First time I have heard of such a wing but it is the way their actions and attitudes point. An attempt at repartition would be a disaster. Dropped by the brits it would be a bombsite run by rabid armed teenagers on coke. Just so you know.

    Maybe senior DUP figures like rabid young male teenagers on coke. Murder and death the aphrodisiac of true blue connisseurs.

    I like politics. It punishes crass sectarian stupidity severely in the end.

  • Greenflag


    ‘but it is the way their actions and attitudes point’
    Ditto for Allister and Vance . Elliot however being Fermanagh based is in a bit of a quandary . How can he support ‘repartition’ when it would mean he would be ‘parted’ from his ‘constituency’ ? Whatever Elliot is he’s no Brookeborough;)