The Mechanics of the DUP Leadership

Neil Matthews is Research Fellow in Queen’s University Belfast. He is currently working on the Northern Ireland Assembly Election Study 2016.

The cloak and dagger nature of the DUP’s latest episode of leadership change provides us an excuse to revisit Hugo Young’s wonderful description of how, prior to 1965, the British Conservative Party handled the tricky process of succession. Tory leaders were, Young observed, ‘removed and replaced by the informal alchemy of a charmed circle of elders’. By 5pm tomorrow, with the closing of nominations, we will know whether Peter Robinson has successfully – and in his own charmed way – lanced any prospect of the first leadership contest in the DUP’s history.

However, even before Nigel Dodd’s shock shredding of ‘the dream ticket’ and Robinson’s Twitter coronation of Arlene Foster, many curious observers were asking questions about the leadership selection method adopted by the DUP. How is the party’s leader selected? Who is granted a ‘voice’ in the process? And how democratic is it?

Those entitled to select the DUP leader are the parliamentary party group, loosely defined. This ‘electoral college’ includes the party’s MLAs, MPs and sole MEP. Prior to a rule change in 2003 this cadre was smaller still, with MLAs monopolising the franchise. All in all, accounting for the double-jobbing Gregory Campbell, the DUP selectorate is 46 strong. While the party’s executive will be required to ratify the parliamentarians’ favoured candidate, this stage in the process can be (dis)regarded as a symbolic rubber-stamping. The kingmakers are those with a seat in the DUP’s ‘party room’.

Set against the British Labour Party’s hyper-democratic leadership race in the autumn, and the SDLP’s recent (if not particularly thrilling) contest, the exclusive nature of the DUP’s process is stark. Certainly, from a comparative standpoint, the party is rather exceptional. In the largest study of leadership selection to date, only 6 of 71 parties placed selection rights solely in the hands of parliamentarians. The most popular form of selection worldwide is the delegate assembly (à la Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance), followed by a ‘One Member One Vote’ primary (as adopted by the UUP in 2007). Closer to home no major party in the UK or Ireland leaves selection entirely in the hands of its parliamentary party group.

Indeed, in the modern age, it can be easy to label the DUP’s process as ‘undemocratic’. The image of Arlene Foster being anointed in a meeting room in The Park Avenue Hotel undoubtedly sits rather uneasily with many peoples understanding of participatory democracy. However, and this is an important distinction, holding intra-party democracy to the same standards as we do system-level democracy is potentially ill-advised. Democracy, when it comes to how parties are structured internally, is highly complex. For instance, evidence suggests that the larger and wider a selectorate – in other words the more people granted decision-making rights – the less likely it is that the final result will be representative. This tension between process and outcome – between participation and representation – is often observed in the practice of candidate selection; where selectorates composed of local party members are most likely to return unrepresentative candidate slates. A smaller, more strategically-minded selectorate – such as a central party committee – is better-placed to produce a final ticket with more women, ethnic minorities and other under-represented groups.

So, in terms of the DUP, what, for you the reader, is more democratic? That members be granted a vote? Or that the exclusive nature of the process is likely to result in Northern Ireland’s first female premier and unionist party leader? If the choice of leader was left to the DUP membership – a body which has stridently conservative social attitudes – the odds of Arlene Foster being next DUP chief would likely radically lengthen. What is ‘democratic’, in this case, is therefore very much in the eye of the beholder.

This normative debate aside, what is the likelihood that the DUP will move to democratise its leadership selection process in future years? The evidence presents something of a mixed picture on this front. Among senior DUP figures there is a clear appreciation of the current system’s merits. They argue that MLAs, MPs and the MEP are better judges of character and leadership potential than the party rank-and-file, on account of working closely alongside any candidate on a regular basis. They also argue that selection by parliamentarians in a private forum makes it easier to manage the process, avoiding the broadcasting of party disunity to the watching electorate (and media).

And yet there are those in the upper echelons of the DUP who admit that the current process will become increasingly difficult to defend or justify in future years. They acknowledge that as the party has moved from the political fringes to occupy a position of power the membership – for decades content with fundraising and campaigning – is becoming (or will become) increasingly disgruntled with the ‘top-down’ organisational culture within the party.

Finally, the experience of parties with similar foundations to the DUP – built around and dominated by a central, totemic figure – also suggests that change to its leadership selection methods might be on the cards in the not too distant future. Canada’s Bloc Quebecois, New Zealand’s New Zealand First party, Italy’s Forza Italia and Ireland’s (now extinct) Progressive Democrats, all represent cases of parties outlasting their all-conquering founding fathers and widening the leadership franchise. One could easily make the case that as much as Ian Paisley founded the DUP, the modern DUP is Peter Robinson’s creation. And as memories of Paisley and Robinson diminish (including the internal culture they helped cultivate) the more likely that the party will widen selection beyond just the (mainly) men in grey suits.

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  • Korhomme

    Harold Macmillan, the Tory Prime Minister in the early 1960s, had an episode of acute retention of urine – he couldn’t pee – and was admitted to hospital. He had an emergency operation to remove his prostate gland; this was complicated by an episode of ‘clot retention’ which was relieved by the resident surgeon. (This post was a sinecure, allowing the incumbent to ‘bone up’ for examinations, and allowing him to network with the great and good of London surgical practice.) Whether Supermac had had urinary problems beforehand isn’t clear; notwithstanding, he suddenly announced his resignation as Premier. You might well think that his decision was influenced by illness, anaesthesia and surgery. Supermac thought his illness was fatal; he survived for almost 30 years.

    The Tory party meanwhile were congregating for their annual conference. The grandees invited senior Tories, individually, to meet with them to discuss the succession. They had a paper with two names, RA Butler and the 14th Earl of Home, before them; this indicated who preferred which ‘candidate’. Those invited were, shall we say, ‘influenced’, to indicate that the Earl was the preferred person to ’emerge’ as the natural leader.

    This information was then communicated to the Palace. In what was almost certainly the last act of Absolute Monarchy, The Earl was summoned and asked to form a new administration.

    Even then, the idea that an Earl as a member of the House of Lords, was a suitable person to be Prime Minister was unacceptable; under the ‘Stansgate Relief Act’, he disclaimed his peerage, a malleable underling was encouraged to vacate a safe seat, and the then Sir Alec Douglas-Home was duly elected as an MP.

  • aquifer

    Elected members want to get re-elected, so they should make a better stab at selecting a leader than doctrinaire party members. The Tories do it the same way I think.

  • Pete

    I think the Tories have their MPs select 2 candidates, and then a vote is held for all party members.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This is a relatively mute point, we know Sammy and Ian Óg aren’t going to put their names in, unless Arlene rules herself out of leading the contest too this one will be a formality.

  • Granni Trixie

    As a female in such a high position AF will ofcourse change the face of politics. Will be fascinating to see however will she do the job ‘like a man’ ( a Mrs Thatcher?) Worth noting that the women’s coalition consciously set out to contribute to the creation of less adversarial system matched internally by emphasis on value for equality – look what happened there.

    I suppose I’m posing the question : given politics is a mans world, do women in politics just adapt to that or do they tend do politics differently?

  • Robin Keogh

    Women are brighter, more rational and far more reasonable. Countries with high levels of female elected representatives tend to be happier, more equal and far less combatative.

  • Chingford Man

    I think Arlene Foster will do just fine. As a minister she has been very competent, she’s a good public performer and instantly she will redefine the DUP’s rather angry, snarling image under Paisley and Robinson. The DUP has probably shored itself up against the UUP, whilst possibly weakening itself against the TUV.

    Dodds was wise to decline the party leadership that would have been his had he really wanted it. The “power-sharing” arrangement between him as party leader in Westminster and Foster leading the Stormont group would have been disastrous for the DUP I thought it was significant that when he had to choose between Stormont and Westminster he chose the latter. Dodds is well placed to be Foster’s Willie Whitelaw and perhaps a potentially outstanding Speaker of the Commons.

  • Granni Trixie

    I see you are resurrecting the ‘Dodds as potential speaker’ story….a prediction which never happened despite his many strategically placed stories. Is this what his change of heart is really about?

    Do you know something we don’t?

  • Granni Trixie

    You jokin’?

  • Zig70

    Alex Kane got it this morning when he noted most of the top DUP brass are ex UUP. Leaves the UUP scrambling for air especially coming up to the election.

  • Robin Keogh

    No, not in the slightest. However, I dont believe AF will bring much in the way of equality or happiness to the wee six.

  • Chingford Man

    You overestimate me.

  • Granni Trixie

    Still leaves MPs in gate keeper role. Hardly modern system of selection?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It still seems to depend on the political culture of the parties in which they are members, Robin. A radical party is far more likely to find women of this sort than a party with a macho culture where they are having to prove that they are every bit as ruthless as the men.

  • Reader

    Or: Countries that are happier, more equal and less combative are more likely to have female leaders.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While this is the canonic version, by 1963 Mac was under considerable pressure to resign from his party dissidents, as even the major re-shuffle of an unprecedented number of the most senior and authoritative cabinet ministers July 1962 had failed to purge this dissent. The Profumo scandal in the spring of 1963 brought this unpopularity to a head. A few days before the Conservative Party Conference that October he went into hospital for the prostate operation. By then he was well aware that it was simply a benign expansion of the prostate, but took the opportunity to stand down to avoid damage to the party from what would have been a very public fracas at the conference that would (anecdotally) have removed him anyway.

    The loose parallels are pretty clear. The only question will be, will Arlene “stand down from being a woman”, by adopting the belligerent machismo of her party culture as Thatcher did.

  • Reader

    Granni Trixie: Will be fascinating to see however will she do the job ‘like a man’ ( a Mrs Thatcher?)
    I’m not quite sure what that means, though I have seen it before, always in the context of an attack on Thatcher, the Conservatives or the UK.
    What is the correct way for a party leader to interact with the elected representatives and party machine, and are men (or women) handicapped in doing the job right?

  • Pete

    Seems sensible to me. MPs are probably going to be better at making a sensible judgement in the best interests of the party.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    same in other places. eg Labour Party leader is nominated by MPs.

  • Korhomme

    Well, when AF gets elected, I don’t want her to follow the machismo example of this republican US politician:

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2015/dec/08/las-vegas-republican-michele-fiore-christmas-card-weapons

  • Granni Trixie

    As far as I know The person/people at the top can have a crucial influence on the culture/values of an organisation.

  • Granni Trixie

    Not really for you may have put your finger on an alternative explanation for Dodds apparently changing his mind. Makes more sense than that “after prayerful thought ” he did the right thing.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have little faith that Arlene will not be required to reflect a very similar mindset. None of these faces would look out of place when I shop in my local supermarkets, and the fields around me are regularly loud with the sound of gunfire as my DUP voting neighbours set out to eradicate every lifeform other than themselves across their farmland. When the shot-gun cartridges run out its out with the tractor/sprayer or on with the spray backpacks and another afternoon of using up the herbicides and pesticides they stockpiled when EEC banned them as highly toxic a few years back………..

  • Reader

    Well, that’s not very helpful. How is a party led by a free-market, anti-establishment manly Thatcher any different from a party led by a free-market, anti-establishment womanly Thatcher?
    And how about Corbyn and Ford – manly or womanly leadership?

  • Tochais Siorai

    It was also historic in that Macmillan’s resignation prompted the first ever betting market by a high street bookmaker on a political race in Britain. Douglas-Home was a decent bet – a 16/1 outsider at the outset, Butler was 5/4 favourite.

  • Korhomme

    Much the same here. Why they try to exterminate the buzzard is a mystery to me. I’d rather they tried to rid us of that nasty over-sexed American import, the grey squirrel.

    As for tractors, I’ve no problem with the grey Fergies or Massey 135s which are still a common sight; but, otherwise, these immense, priapic things must be the farming equivalent of Beemers.

  • Korhomme

    That I didn’t know – thanks!

  • Chingford Man

    Actually I suspect Dodds, at his age, simply prefers life as a prominent backbencher in London, like Molyneaux and others before him, as opposed to the hard grind in Belfast. I think he really made his decision when he chose to step down from the Assembly and not Westminster. If he really had wanted Robinson’s job he would have stayed in the Executive.

  • sadie

    The need to dominate and control knows no bounds.Some passage in the bible speaks of mans right to dominion over the beasts and fowl. One Duper now an MP wanted the right to shoot endangered wild birds in an ASSl.

  • Pete

    Women have pretty variable personalities, as do men. I’m sure Arlene will be herself.

    She doesn’t have to act in some ludicrous notion of “womanly behaviour”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I am amazed at just how it is impossible for such people to understand that we are in a “whole picture” balance with the rest of nature in order to survive. But survival may not be a consideration for those gazing up in expectation of the rapture….

    A neighbour remarked at the great amount of wildlife, especially birds, on my little treed in acre of hillside. I told him I imagined it was the only “sanctuary” available amid the stripped down fields around me. sometimes I wonder what the countryside would look like if sheep could graze concrete.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nor does Arlene have to act out some ludicrous notion of dumbed down red-neck macho “loyalist–lite” ideology, but her party will start haemorrhaging votes to those who do if she fails to do this.

    Being “themselves” is something no really serious politician can ever contemplate in this present age of political marketing with any security. Although I’d certainly agree that, as George Burns used to tell us, “Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Politicians by necessity are always the product of external demands nowadays. Just look at the “before and after” pictures of the “Iron Lady”…………..and hey, you don’t really think most of that was actually her?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m on the way to the Glynnes by a back road, and we had red squirrels up until about seven years ago. The Grey has taken over.

    Years back I animated a Disney pastiche ident for MTV where in the midst of some quite saccharine wildlife, a smart red squirrel catapulted a dopey grey into the open mouth of a surfer girl destroying the peace of the woodland with a beach boys rendition. About as far as I could get to right the balance, and all sadly only on 35mm film (I did say “years back”) and 1″ tape….

    A lot of gentlemen retirees around my way who let out their acres con acre to practicing farmers seem to affect baseball caps and massive tractors on the roads. People who do not turn a hand at any real farming work, but still think their neighbours will mistake them for “real farmers” as long as they use tractors….

    Surreal!

  • Granni Trixie

    From a distance Corbyn seems totally old fashioned but then I do,not like th cut of his Jib, mainly because of his misjudgement concerning NI.
    Closer to home I am sure that Ford has modernised his party. I for one would not nowadays chose to be in a top down party where activists have little or no say in choosing candidates or party officers.

    I recognise however that there is still a lack of definition or agreement here on question of do men and women do politics differently.

  • Korhomme

    I had a long ‘phone conversation with the squirrel officer in the Dept of the Environment years ago. I was trying to get the reds reintroduced locally; but while he agreed that the environment was very suitable, he said that trying to halt the progress of the greys – the tree-rats with good PR – was doomed. He said the greys were advancing to the north-east, in keeping with your observation; they were then at the edges of the Glens.

    I’ve only seen reds twice in Ireland; once in Birr Castle grounds, and once near Annaghmore in co Armagh, where the map below does show a small colony. I’m not sure if this colony still exists.

    http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/ukrsg_NI_Red_squirrel_action_plan.pdf/$FILE/ukrsg_NI_Red_squirrel_action_plan.pdf

    (scroll down to get the maps)

    Greys were released at Castle Forbes in Longford in 1911. In Italy, greys escaped from the American Ambassador’s garden in Rome, and have been spreading northwards to the Alps, where they threaten the native species which are very dark brown or almost black.

  • Korhomme

    Your reference to 35mm made me look at when I changed over to digital; just a few “years back”, I thought…it was in Spring 2000.

  • Korhomme

    “Being “themselves” is something no really serious politician can ever contemplate in this present age”

    That’s an interesting thought; it might explain the Corbyn paradox – a politician with views that resonate with so many of the electorate, yet one who is equally seen as “not Prime Ministerial material”.

  • tmitch57

    As long as the inner circle is not some sort of aristocracy, I see no problem with it rather than the party membership as a whole choosing the next party leader. In parliamentary democracies, as opposed to presidential or semi-presidential ones, the MPs choose the prime minister so it makes since for them to choose the party leader who will be their prime ministerial candidate for the electorate as well. For NI it makes sense that this caucus consist of both the parliamentary caucus and the Assembly caucus. The perils of allowing the party leadership as a whole to elect the party leadership is that it leaves the party open to a mass infiltration from outside as Militant Tendency attempted in the 1970s and 1980s and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters pulled off recently.

    One might well ask who chooses the party leader of Sinn Fein and on what grounds?

    As for the woman vs man debate, the main difference that a female party leader brings to the job is the experience of being a woman in the workforce and possibly a working mother. But with so many politicians being lawyers by training and profession, even this is not assured. Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Angela Merkel brought more of their individual drive, intelligence, and personal professional and family/community experience to the job than anything that can be specifically traced to their gender. If one adds Indira Gandhi to the mix what is more important is her membership in a powerful political dynasty as the daughter of India’s first prime minister rather than her gender.

  • tmitch57

    That should read “makes sense” rather than “makes since”–I’m still waking up.

  • chrisjones2

    DUP Leadership Contest over

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Television had long gone on to 16mm film for cheapness, but because thirty seconds of animation (the usual commercial or ident) only used 45 foot of stock, we used to shoot on 35mm rostrums. Otherwise 35mm stock would only be used for feature films, in order to ensure highest quality. By the 1990s we’d cut on video from transfers onto one inch video tape instead of the film rushes, but I was one of the first people asked to test drive Avid because of my expereince with film editing.

    Although I’ve needed to keep up with everything technological as it developed, I’m still a bit of an old technophobe who prefers handling actual film rushes, and listens to Vinyl lps at the same time.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ve seeen reds up the Glynnes. You used to find them hit by cars at the roadside in Glenarm when I lived near there back over fifteen years ago. I even had a pair in my “mini-woodland” on my own land, but again a car got one of them. The greys seem to be more traffic savvy.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Do you remember Adam Curtis’s Century of the Self documentary? The fourth part expalins all:

    http://watchdocumentary.org/watch/century-of-self-episode-4-eight-people-sipping-wine-in-kettering-video_68abaa72a.html

    “This episode explains how politicians on the left, in both Britain and America, turned to the techniques developed by business to read and fulfill the inner desires of the self.Both New Labour, under Tony Blair, and the Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group, which had been invented by psychoanalysts, in order to regain power. They set out to mould their policies to people’s inner desires and feelings, just as capitalism had learnt to do with products.

    Out of this grew a new culture of public relations and marketing in politics, business and journalism. One of its stars in Britain was Matthew Freud who followed in the footsteps of his relation, Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations in the 1920s.

    The politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual. But what they didn’t realize was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them.”

    I believe that Jeremy is quite self-consciously trying to break out of this old “New Politics” impasse, a dead end for anyone who really cares about that much misused word Democracy.

  • mushroom man

    Arlene says now that she realises Sinn Fein have a mandate from the people for their executive seats. She should be a progressive pro peace process leader

  • Pete

    I certainly don’t disagree with that most recent post, but I don’t see what that has to do with “acting like a woman” or “acting like a man”. I don’t see why we should expect people to act differently on the basis of their gender.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The inner circle is, in fact, a kind of aristocracy.

    A matter that Neil did not touch upon is the system under which the DUP select their candidates. It’s heavily influenced by the party leadership who can – and often do – overrule the decisions of local associations. They’ve even, in the recent past, deselected sitting representatives; I know of one case where a councillor was deselected, and I do I recall that they deselected an MLA once ?

    Anyway – with the party leadership, ie Robinson, tightly controlling who actually gets to be an elected representative in the first place, it’s a foregone conclusion that many of the electoral college will automatically be loyal to him anyway.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I agree with you for once CM, I think Dodds enjoys Parliament and being on a national stage, and he got out of the Assembly at the first chance he got.

    The Speaker thing is very unlikely. First, I don’t think Dodds would want to be Speaker, largely for the same reasons that he doesn’t want to be a Minister in NI. Being Speaker would mean he had an administrative job to do (something he doesn’t seem to want) and he would no longer be able to participate in debates.

    The second problem is that it’s constitutionally tricky, as traditionally the Speaker stands for election unchallenged, and I don’t think that is a realistic possibility in NI.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Thatcher ?

  • Mike the First

    Unless they decide to nominate one of the more fruitcakey candidates not because they support said candidate, but to ‘widen the contest’…

  • Robin Keogh

    Thatcher was neither Man nor Woman.

  • dodrade99

    The traditional three main parties do not field candidates against an incumbent speaker but UKIP and the SNP have done so in the recent past. I doubt SF would give Dodds a clear run but the prestige of being speaker would probably boost Dodds’ slim majority (which will probably increase due to boundary changes anyway).

  • Granni Trixie

    To clarify, I was referring to Dodds ambition to be Speaker of Westminster. Me thinks he overestimates his ability to attract support for this but nevertheless I do thnk he aspires to do so hence why he doesn’t want to be DUP head boy.

  • Hugh Davison

    The solution to the grey squirrel problem is the Pine Marten. They can catch the greys but the reds are lighter and can escape on branches that are too slender for the Pine marten.
    Sorry for contributing to the meander this thread is taking.

  • Reader

    Catcher in the Rye: Anyway – with the party leadership, ie Robinson, tightly controlling who actually gets to be an elected representative in the first place, it’s a foregone conclusion that many of the electoral college will automatically be loyal to him anyway.
    Except:
    1) They are all thran.
    2) With PR having announced his retirement, the sensible ploy for the MLAs is to start being loyal to the *next* leader ASAP.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The late Lord Bannside developed a culture of not backing down, something that is traditionally seen as a characteristic of “manly pride”. While this is all a play of archetypal tropes in what I’m saying above, there are evidently genuinely strong differences between how men and women approach things:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-hardwired-difference-between-male-and-female-brains-could-explain-why-men-are-better-at-map-8978248.html

    From other sources:

    “The frontal lobe (which is responsible for problem solving) and the limbic cortex of the female brain tend to be larger than in male counterparts, which appears to provide women with an advantage (over men) in problem solving and emotionality.”

    “The male brain contains more grey matter whereas the female brain contains more white matter. White matter basically increases the speed of transmission of all nerve signals which ultimately allows women to process thoughts more rapidly than their male counterparts.”

    While human rights should utterly ensure a level playing field for equal gender opportunity, men and woman, if not constricted in their thoughts and actions by a culture of behaviour (such as our political parties develop) that will shape them through conformity, will develop quite different approaches to particular tasks. When I was making films you’d notice these differences when you were casting crew for a project, and I’d certainly expect far more “empathy” as a rule from a female, as opposed to a male cameraman or pa, or in the production of certain styles of artwork. Women also generally tended to look beyond ego confrontations to other ways of resolving differences, although this expressed in a vast spectrum of behaviours, and there are notable exceptions.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Actions, not words….”

  • chrisjones2

    “”stand down from being a woman”, by adopting the belligerent machismo”

    You don’t have much experience with women do you?

  • chrisjones2

    ….but at Executive meetings will she pour the tea?

  • chrisjones2

    Bercow will be toast as soon as it suits the Tories. The knives are already sharpened …only the whips are restraining them

  • chrisjones2

    “Women are brighter, more rational and far more reasonable. ”

    Sexist? Moi?

  • Robin Keogh

    I am absolutely sexist and make no apology for it either.

  • Chingford Man

    Diane Abbott?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sixty and more years of experience with perhaps every imaginable kind of woman on four continents. Lots and lots….but, Chris, I’m truly, sincerely, sorry that that you have mistaken that fabrication of Airey Neave and Conservative Central Office for any sort of realistic woman.

  • Robin Keogh

    She’s lovely

  • Sharpie

    Tollymore Forest is coming down with Red Squirrels. Its a result of active management by the red squirrel group down there and despite a serious outbreak of the pox a few years ago. They trap the grey squirrels. Apparently they are really tasty to eat – according to someone from the Appalachians I was talking to last week. Not sure they are on the menu down there.

  • Sharpie

    Watch out France – head explode moment coming – The two most powerful women in the country are Front National Le Pens who brilliantly ousted the crazy old guy but their very worrying legacy is to make far right palatable. One of them is mid-twenties.

    There is a lot wrong with your statement. And a lot right. But a bit simplistic.

  • Korhomme

    I’ve not been to Tollymore for years. What you say is very encouraging; I should go sometime soon. I’ll pass on grey squirrel stew.

    What about the arboretum in Castlewellan? Do they have reds as well?

  • Korhomme

    Did I hear that the pine martens are making a comeback, specially round Lough Erne?

    And this meander I find more interesting that the mechanics of the DUP; says a lot about my views on our local politicians.

  • Robin Keogh

    I am a simplistic person. Obviiusly there are female nut cases like le pen, thatcher and Foster but where we see women coming through politically en masse and not as the exception, their contribution and success levels far outweigh that of men.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    It’s clear that OMOV is now becoming the new standard process for electing party leaders. I still have a nostalgic leaning for the delegate system, which maintains the focus on local branches as the seat of internal political activity. If your armchair members who just pay their dues but aren’t otherwise involved with the party still share the same values as the activists and elected representatives, that’s OK. But it doesn’t always work out like that.

  • John Collins

    As they did with Charlie Haughey down here. Then he was elected even when the contest was not widened