The Unique Democracy of the DUP Part 1…

In the advent of the Jim Wells debacle at the South Down hustings I found myself in an unfamiliar situation, I, as a liberal pro-union voter, had front row seats to a DUP disaster movie that I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch but yet couldn’t look away from. I’m on record stating how comfortable I am with voting Sinn Féin, I probably sit very close to Alliance-but-not-quite-entirely-there but ultimately, if I had my dream scenario, there would be a dominant party that leans towards the union but isn’t even remotely afraid of nationalists. A party that understands that there is a place for economic conservatism in the free market. A party that by all means has members who are of a religion or religions but that understands that the party itself does not. A party that acknowledges that in a society where a person has to ask for equality and that another person has the ability to give equality, we are not yet equal.

I could set up a new party, try and try and try to gain the kind of dominance that the DUP enjoy, maybe in a couple of generations (or more) with the right kind of weather I could see a pro-union party established that I could vote for. Do I have that ability? Probably not..Do I want to wait that kind of time to finally have a party I could comfortably call home?…Probably not. So what choice do I have?

Back when the BNP were unfortunately having to be acknowledged I regularly suggested that people of different ethnicities should hijack the party. The BNP had just over 4,000 members at the end of 2013…so if 12,000 people flooded their ranks from differing ethnicities they could internally vote to change the direction of the party, make them the party that celebrate differences, vote to change the name to the Be Nicer Party… essentially, hack the BNP and repurpose it using it’s own mechanisms. Can this concept transfer to the DUP?

There are quantities within the DUP that are unknown to many, statistically speaking there cannot be as much value-cohesion within their ranks as the spokespeople would have you believe, and those cracks are beginning to show. Many people within the politics industry (for it is such) speak of the DUP in multiples, the Free P’s, the moderates and the Robinson acolytes. We as a society rounded on Jim Wells last week, but is Wells the head of the snake so-to-speak? Given that following Wellsgate very few people within the party spoke out, Gavin Robinson said the minimum that needed to be said and Pam Cameron said what we all think should have been said…Peter Robinson gave his excuses and said very little whilst saying a lot… Does this indicate that the party was rocked by the public & media furore, fearful that the prevailing opinion from the benches were so nearly outed? Perhaps it means that the benches were more populated by MLA’s silently grateful that the extremely-religious-conservative fringes of the party will have realised what public outcry will follow their outing if and when it arrives.

AlanInBelfast wrote that

One thing is for sure: Pam Cameron won’t be getting a ministerial position any time soon!

In response to Pam Cameron tweeting re: Wellsgate

If what I am hearing from is being reported correctly I as a DUP MLA disagree and disassociate myself from such comments.

Whilst Peter Robinson said in his Belfast Telegraph response to Wellsgate

As Jim has said, those comments were neither his view nor the view of the Party. Indeed, they never will be the view of the party.

Is what Pam Cameron said really that different from what Peter Robinson said? How many within the party would have acted in the same manner as Cameron? Is Robinson so set on pleasing the super-conservative cabal that he would echo what an MLA said and at the same time punish someone who he essentially publicly agreed with?

There are many rumours circulating on when Robinson will step down as leader, with Edwin Poots famously saying in late 2014 that Robinson would step down before the next election, with 1 year to go…what kind of a DUP will Robinson leave behind as his legacy? Will it be the same old-same old of Wells, McCausland, Storey, Campbell et al or will he aim the party towards the future? Putting a “lowly councillor” in to run against Naomi Long in East Belfast is setting an interesting precedent, is he perhaps acknowledging that he lost in 2010 against the Alliance party because he is too intrinsically linked with old-school-DUP? Gavin Robinson is a political lightweight in comparison to some of the battle-hardened old dogs standing for election around the province, yet Peter Robinson has put him into arguably the seat they covet most? Did he not trust someone like Wells to win back East Belfast?

There is dissent within the party, we should acknowledge this and try to shine a light on the moderates, I and many others want a future away from “all of this”, as Megan Fearon said in her assembly speech in favour of Equal Marriage…

…the reality is that those who will vote against this today will be on the wrong side of history.

I’m not for one minute suggesting there is severe internal bickering going on within the DUP on equal marriage, but how many MLA’s see comments such as Wells’ or Peter Robinson saying on The View that if homosexuality was made illegal, he hopes people would obey the law, and think “I am in their party…I am on their benches, but this does not represent me.” Robinson said that the party have supporters who are gay & lesbian… more than that Peter, your party has relatives who are gay & lesbian… how long will these elected representatives within the party sit quietly and nod at the appropriate times along with statements such as these… How many MLA’s are truly comfortable thinking ahead to their retirement, however far away that may be, and mulling over what their legacy will be. We saw recently with the passing of Ian Paisley that despite all he achieved, his place in the good books of history is far from assured… When this generation of DUP politicians passes the torch down will they be handing down something they’re proud of or will it be a case of “here you go…sorry about this but good luck and all that…”

It is a widely held belief that had NI21 flourished from the beginning instead of it’s inward trajectory, it was a game changer for the DUP and unionism as a whole, a step away from “if you’re unionist, you have to be ok with being socially conservative” giving an actual alternative choice that hasn’t really existed before, the UUP & DUP being not-too-far-away on most things… Who knows when next the DUP will have to take a seriously hard look at itself, now is the ideal time. Now is always the ideal time, look at the double-back that Peter Robinson has had to make on the Fatal Foetal Abnormality-Abortion issue, this was promised to be a free vote by the leader of the party himself, and then suddenly he backtracks to “this isn’t going to pass…it’s doomed,” this says to me as an onlooker that the party is polarized, that those in the same corner as Wells have kicked their heels in, will anybody be kicking back on the other side?

By all means I intend to look at the DUP through a glaze of disappointment, that this is what my forefathers left me as the face of unionism…but with the right winds of change and a few, just a few MLA’s who understand that for the party to survive it has to adapt and engage, I also intend to look with a little wisp of hope, I will note vote DUP this election but I do think that some day it will be a party I can vote for, not because I want to or need to but because it needs me to want to.


Their core vote are dying out, apathy is the opinion du jour… and what are they going to do about it…? And what specifically needs to change…I know my “DUP policy shopping list,” what else is there?…and is there anything left within the party that can surprise us…?

Part 1 of 2…

, ,

  • DisparityNI

    Nail on the head. You hit it. Looking forward to part 2.

  • Deke Thornton

    Why not just vote Conservative?

  • lukeuser

    You could be right about the DUP eventually changing, but only if a well-placed challenging party with the right policies doesn’t displace it before then. I also think this process could be hastened by some sort of reform of the constitution; sectarian party lines are past their ‘sell by’ date and holding us all back.

  • tmitch57

    Because the Tories can’t get a dog catcher elected in NI.

  • Martyn

    The DUP will change – the only question is – when? They will change when the current old guard fade away and the more moderate (I couldn’t say moderate) wing takeover. But change may be forced on them sooner than that. If these Westminster elections see their overall vote go down significantly (whether they take East Belfast back(wards) or not), they will have to change before next year’s elections.

  • Zig70

    Is being led by the nose by a militant masonic-style sectarian battle re-enactment organisation not on the list?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “my dream scenario, there would be a dominant party that leans towards the union but isn’t even remotely afraid of nationalists. A party that understands that there is a place for economic conservatism in the free market. A party that by all means has members who are of a religion or religions but that understands that the party itself does not. A party that acknowledges that in a society where a person has to ask for equality and that another person has the ability to give equality, we are not yet equal.”

    Sounds like Labour to me. I’ve joined and would urge others to. Who knows they might even put up candidates in NI some time 😉

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Kris – grasp the nettle and set up a Party. I’ll vote for you. Just don’t call it NI22!

  • Korhomme

    Kris/BB, you refer to ‘economic conservatism in the free market’. Could you explain this, further; do you mean a return to neo-classical or even Keynesian economics? Do you mean the reintroduction of controls etc which were destroyed under neo-liberal economics?

  • Granni Trixie

    Have you any evidence for asserting that “it is a widely held belief that had Ni21 flourished …….it was a game changer for DUP and unionism” . To me you are
    Exaggerating the potential of NI21 – which it doesn’t warrant. True,it drew in new blood who were idealistic but it got just about everything wrong (for which its leaders have to bear most responsibility). The much (unfairly) maligned WC was a much better model of new politics iMo.

  • Zeno

    The Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP ended up being overtaken by the more extreme DUP and SF. Any new party that becomes successful might just be even more extreme, be careful what you wish for.

  • NMS

    Surely the core problem with the Protestant Regionalism/Nationalism being pushed by most of the various strands of “unionism”, is their discomfort with modern Britain? The logical step to guarantee the union is integration, as the late Jim Molyneux recognised. The retention of local political structures of itself creates the separation from Britain.

    The annual departure of many middle class youngsters to Scottish & English universities robs the community of the forces of internal change. While proposing an innately conservative vision of society, one which resonates with many “nationalists” they then mess up any chance of a reconciliation by referring back to symbols. The party’s policies mean nothing when the picture over your policy on culture is of lambeg drums and you include under, “PARADES

    Support a new start on parades including abolition of the Parades Commission, working alongside the Loyal Orders to achieve this.”

  • ted hagan

    I left Northern Ireland 15 years ago. If I ever returned I would vote for a party that was socialist and non sectarian. That supported integrated schooling. That supported the state of Northern Ireland, rather than working to dismantle it. That believed in taking religion out of schools but promoted an understanding of all cultures. Also the promotion of closer ties with the rest of Ireland.

  • Deke Thornton

    At the moment, no. When the electorate ‘grow up’ it becomes a possibility. Leaving the tribal reservation (which includes Alliance) is a big step that only a few who haven’t emigrated are willing to take.

  • Zeno

    “Now I believe that the interests of all the people of Ireland will be best served by unification I have yet to hear an argument that convinces me that the continued division of Ireland makes economic sense.”

    I’ve yet to hear an economic case for a United Ireland that makes any sense. So I’m all ears if you have one.
    I agree with you on Integrated Education. It’s not a magic bullet and is simply dumping the problems the adults can’t solve on the kids.

  • Zeno

    “I could set up a new party,”

    Yeah, do that. Call it The Shinner Democratic Unionist Party and promise Northern Ireland will remain as it is for the foreseeable future.

  • tmitch57

    “There is nothing I see in Irish unionist philosophy that would ever
    convince me that they have a point let alone a rational argument.”

    My, aren’t you the open-minded one!

  • DisparityNI

    Even if they do change in the next, let’s say 10 – 20 years – however long it takes the current dinosaurs to die out, other parties will have grown stronger in that time. Even at that, they’ll still be a tory party, at heart.

  • kalista63

    Here’s one, economics 101…..economies of scale.

  • Zeno

    a proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production.
    “mergers may lead to economies of scale”

    Hmmmmmmmm in a merger they close branches and pay off workers to make savings and increase production per head.
    Can’t really do that with Northern Ireland. Though to be fair all the economics arguments for UI do include massive redundancies.

  • kalista63

    Look, my partner and I have done everything that’s been asked of us to avoid poisoning the next generation. The child went to an integrated primary achool and is at an integrated college now. My partner is astonishingly apolitical and I keep my views and past to myself.

    She’s now 14. Although I’m quite Catholic, the child is a Dawkins and Hitchens fan. Now, she’s noticing stuff both in the flesh and via the net. Last year, a gun was found in her school grounds and apparently the kids all assumed it was loyalists and wished the Shinners would deal with it as they haven’t faith in the PSNI. Last week she asked who we would be voting for and I told her I remain to be convinced by any of them. She then told me why I should vote Sinn Fein and told me how awful unionist parties are as they are all creationists.

    As she goes to school waaayyyyyy across the city, she was doubly affected by the flegs dispute and couldn’t understand, rightly, why the police did nothing.

    Honestly, as a republican, I coudnt ask unionists to do anything different to stop NI ever becoming stable. Today’s Talkback had yet another caller from a unionist background saying he’s going to vote SF. Imagine how well they would do if they took the broom to their walking dead.

  • Zeno

    “Today’s Talkback had yet another caller from a unionist background saying he’s going to vote SF.”

    I think there is a good chance that SF vote will drop again in these elections, but with all these “unionists” becoming shinners, it’s throwing my figures out.

  • kalista63

    Problem with Ireland, North and South, is that it’s like a 50 year old man who still lives at his mammy’s. Besides, 1.8 million consumers added to the southern economy will be as handy as 6 million added to our’s.

    Then there’s the already evident matters. Our international airport isn’t at Aldergrove, it’s in Dublin. Specialist healthcare is already operating cross boarder and we all know about the hildren’s heart speciality situation.

  • kalista63

    There was also one who is going SDLP, not happy with Alliance going AWOL on last week’s vote. Yes, it was pointed out to him that SDLP members did it too but as I recall, he said it was the whole religion inolitics thing.

  • kalista63

    I always think of 1922. Did a unionist on the ‘north’ side of the border suddenly consider his neighbour, possibly friend, ‘south’ of the border as a foreigner when the switch of partition was thrown?

  • Zeno

    Just on memory we have around 50,000 unemployed, 180,000 on DLA and something like 550,000 economically inactive.
    NI runs at a deficit of around £10 billion, but we don’t need to worry about that as we get that from London every year.
    So how could the ROI afford us?

  • Zeno

    People vote for the strangest reasons.

  • kalista63

    Yeah, like policies rather than what colour is pinned to the donkey.

    Fekn madness.

  • kalista63

    Maybe we could stop being spongers?

    Just a thought.

  • Zeno

    I heard an interview after Thatcher was elected. Two elderly women said they voted for her because her Father owned a shop and she used to work in it, so she would be great running the country.

  • kalista63

    And things worked out well for corner shops.

  • ted hagan

    Borders do strange things. Take as an extreme, East and West Germany. An artificial border for only 40 or so years, and yet they emerged as different peoples, and in many ways they still are.

  • kalista63

    That was decades of those in the east living under thay regime

  • Zeno

    I don’t know where you get the “We” from. Do you mean they? The unemployed and those on DLA and the economically inactive? Who do you mean?

  • ted hagan

    Take a leaf out of the French system and keep religion out of educational and governmental affairs. I know. A pipe dream.

  • Turgon

    Ah yes change the electorate: the solution for ?democrats? everywhere.

  • kalista63

    You know what I mean and I know that you know what I mean.

  • kalista63

    When you think about it, it’s hilariou that political unionism violently hates socialism but DEMANDS that the state of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland takes much needed money off English people to pay for NI, somewhere that contributes sod all to it’s wellbeing

  • Zeno

    I know what you think you mean, but break it down to who all these spongers are and you’ll find they are few and far between.

  • kalista63

    You’ve heard of Harold Wilson, right?

  • kalista63

    Can you tell me what unionism, what NI gives to GB?

  • Reader

    Economies of scale: I.e. expand the UK…

  • Catcher in the Rye

    That widely-held belief isn’t actually that widely held. NI21 are nothing except a rebranded version of Alliance – you would be hard pressed to identify a difference between them. I think the difference between success and failure for Alliance comes down to a lot more than branding, and with respect I think it will take a lot more to shift people away from the unionism and nationalism.

    The issue you identify is right. Unionism is basically a coalition of three distinct groups who are united around one particular common cause (the union). Fundamentalists, pragmatists, and loyalists. The DUP reflects this coalition internally, with different groupings having different emphasis at different times.

    I think DUP members occupy one camp, but leaders need to occupy two of the camps in order to control the party. Paisley, latterly, occupied all three but I don’t think there will be another DUP leader who does. Robinson, and Sammy Wilson, are obviously on the pragmatist-loyalist end and remain in control because of their track record at winning elections and appeasing the fundamentalists. Up until now they have been able to easily triangulate across the three camps.

    The pragmatist wing also includes people who don’t care at all for the loyalist or fundamentalist stuff, but are only in the DUP because they know they need the party and the machine to win an election as a unionist. I’d place Gavin Robinson and Simon Hamilton in this camp. You can almost hear them grimace every time Gregory Campbell or Jim Wells open their mouths.

    However, triangulation is becoming more difficult. The pragmatists know that they can’t win elections if they hold on to the obviously homophobic and anti-abortion policies demanded by the fundamentalists. They are also aware, more distantly, that going mad over flags turns away prospective future voters. The loyalists don’t care about fundamentalism and are angry about their gay family members and friends being marginalised. It seems clear that there is a schism in the immediate future. A good election result will delay the schism, but only a little. A bad election result – which at this point means the failure to win East Belfast or to a lesser extent the loss of Upper Bann – will accelerate it.

    Part of the driving force behind this slow collapse is the fact that unionist voters may be beginning to realise that they don’t need to accept the package of crazy fundies, off the wall loyalists, and generally sensible chaps in order to protect the union. And that’s what’s really scaring the DUP.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You’re arguing for rejoining the UK again.

  • kalista63

    Been done. The colonies enjoy their freedom from it.

  • Zeno

    What has that got to do with it? What does Offaly, the poorest County in Ireland give to Dublin? What does Wales give to London?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    So we can just leave out that economics 101 thing you were trying to advocate earlier then, because Brits Out.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I keep my views and past to myself.

    If only.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Not to far from what Harold Wilson said “….people who spend their lives sponging on Westminster and British democracy and then systematically assault democratic method”

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Ah, just read this after posting my Wilson comment above, soz…

  • kalista63

    Well, we had Sammy Wilson tell Nolan, this morning, that homosexuality is a choice and they’re going to back the £12 billion Tory cuts in welfare.

    Yet another car crash interview.