My favourite Sinn Fein line of the last week was Danny Morrison saying that Peter Robinson wishes he was dealing with Gerry Fitt, but he’s actually dealing with Gerry Adams. [So Martin McGuinness is the office junior after all? – Ed].
This morning, Newton Emerson has nailed Peter Robinson’s problem more precisely than anyone else commenting this week:
Peter Robinson is all tactics and no strategy, which is how his brinkmanship ended up going over the brink. Each step the DUP leader took during the past two weeks to triangulate himself between the UUP and Sinn Fein made sense on its own but taken together they carried him too far.
Naturally, the master tactician had packed a parachute, in the form of a resignation that turned into seven days notice of a resignation with a non-resigning colleague minding his seat. But as he stood before the media in Stormont’s Great Hall and pulled the rip-cord on this life or death contrivance, its canopy seemed to open and immediately transform into an enormous pair of comedy bloomers. Tactically, he should still land in one piece.
Strategically, no-one will ever take his threats to jump seriously again.
With the exception of that last point (if only on the basis of let’s wait and see), yep.
To this we could also add the SDLP leader, who tactically dodged several bullets by putting Robinson in this awkward and humiliating position (I don’t think he saw that one coming).
Sinn Fein who had been gleefully preparing a gallows for them will have to wait another day for another easy tribute payment off the Stoops. It’s done internal morale some good and probably shut down internal dissent, for now.
But tactics aren’t strategy. Nothing in this engagement has done anything to define the party’s purposes and goals more sharply in the minds of the voters.
Robinson’s problem is the opposite. The sharp delineations of Gregory Campbell’s Curry My Yoghurt look just a little more smudged than it did before. For a party that has prided itself on crystal clear messaging that’s a problem Mike Nesbitt will/should seek to exploit.
Meanwhile, despite all the popcorn Martin McGuinness is willing to see method in Peter’s madness because he wants this gapping wound closed as quickly as possible. In the midst of this is another political collapse and a cold blooded political assassination.
He will want both events tidied away as quickly as possible before next year’s southern General Election possibly as early as March, and no later than April. This hasn’t played out yet.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty