Peter Robinson will not win over nationalists with gloating like this

I know we’ve taken this subject apart before but blame Peter not me for returning to it. His speech to a home crowd welcoming a softening of political attitudes illustrates perfectly what’s defective in his approach.  He is guilty of reducing what could be a tentative change in political attitudes requiring respect and real understanding of difference  to the tired old zero sum game between unionism and nationalism. This risks hardening attitudes up all over again. And by failing  at least to balance the gloating  with  an account of the reasons for the DUP’s own softening towards the nationalist agenda he gifts a point to Jim Allister and patronises his own audience.

Nationalism is in crisis as more Catholics define themselves as Northern Irish, Peter Robinson has claimed.

No Peter, nationalism is not in crisis (I think you really mean Sinn Fein) and you know it. Like you SF overstates tiresomely. Are you seriously claiming that all nationalist accommodations are made out of weakness rather than strength? Do you seriously wish to test that proposition out?

There is new political space developing in Northern Ireland…. It is the DUP’s aim that unionism will own it and lead it.

No Peter, the DUP won’t own it.  Although we know you don’t really mean it and  realise the “space” has changed fundamentally, you sound like Craig in 1921.  Or are you starting up a New DUP? Not like this

The people in this space do not fit the stereotypes.

Too right, Peter, so why pretend they’re following a DUP line?

Their (SF) grand plan by their grand strategist (Gerry) Adams has failed.

Maybe.. time will tell.. Certainly the SF “plan” is as full of posturing as anything from you. But do you seriously think your little bits of rhetoric will fare any better?

“To avoid the hard truths of home he ( Adams) wanders the world trying to convince the ignorant and the gullible  that it’ll ( a United Ireland) happen any day now.

Isn’t your pretence that the Union is secure just as phoney?

We are all used to politicians playing their tired old games with a future that no party can control, desperately trying to face both ways at once and so far lacking enough authenticity. The constitutional future is in the hands of more than them thank goodness. The two governments first and finally the people will decide if it ever comes to the point of decision. But I mustn’t exaggerate either. There may be a new political space and unless new games are devised that appeal to the people, the old parties with too many of their old ways will continue to fill it. At the very least, Peter, the time is overdue for more real leadership which points out honestly what will work better in the interests  of your own supporters,  rather than what you think they want to hear. They just might surprise you.

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