Perhaps it was reconsideration of his own words that no one could effectively lead from Westminster. Perhaps it’s the dual commitment he and his wife (a genuine tight political team) have to Westminster and Brussels.
In all likelihood it’s the realisation that as First Minister Foster would be seen as party leader anyway and the title would come to be seen as a fop to his ego. In any case, Mr Dodds seems to be doing just fine in London.
To be spoken of – even in absentia by failed plotters – as a replacement Speaker demonstrates a status unusual for any Northern Ireland MP in Westminster. Despite the unravelling of the Labour party, his eight MPs still have potential to broker.
More importantly perhaps though, Dodds’ late move – and both his and Robinson’s strong sponsorship of Foster – looks like presaging a proper changing of the Guard at the DUP.
Only the second major Northern Irish party leader to be a woman and a former UUPer, Foster’s rise runs counter to a long favoured analysis in the NI political media that the DUP consists mostly of a few modernisers living in fear of backwoodsmen.
That’s a perception that will be harder to sustain under Foster than it was under Robinson, or would have been under Dodds. Or even Wilson. Just when things were starting to look up for Mike Nesbitt and the UUP…
As our own Chris Donnelly put it on Twitter last night…
@mickfealty Robinson had his failings, but in succeeding in preparing DUP for governance & for succession he was miles ahead of northern SF.
— Chris Donnelly (@chrisadonnelly) December 7, 2015
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