Where is her cunning?

In the last few months Arlene Foster has developed a habit of surprising us when we least expect it.

And now that ‘blonde-gate’, or whatever you want to call ‘that’ interview on the greens of Hillsborough, is fading from the corporate media memory its worth a little further analysis.

In response the DUP deployed the usual suspects to shout down the reaction to the former First Minster’s interview with Niamh Horan. Sammy Wilson said that 

“Michelle O’Neill is blonde, unless she’s dyed her hair since the last time I’d the misfortune to see her on TV.”

Charming as always. Sure wasn’t it was all a storm in a teacup?

However the real story is not what Arlene Foster insinuated by her comments but the fact that a political leader would allow another flank to be opened on her and her party by an answer to a basic question. The lack of political nous, judgement and sharp political antennae that until recently we all assumed she had was not there.

Newton Emerson isn’t far off the mark in today’s Irish News:

“Foster was almost certainly all over the place by accident rather than design, so the key question her performance raises is one of competence. How could she let this accident happen?”

Lets recap the present political situation. The Assembly collapsed after the revelations surrounding the RHI scheme . Agreement seems to be unreachable any time soon unless relationships improve considerably. The most important political relationship is and will be the one between Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, the joint Premiers in waiting. The electorate are acutely aware of this hence the collective appreciation for that picture, captured at Martin McGuinness’ funeral, of both leaders reaching out to clasp each others hand.

To make such a personal comment towards your potential co-equal in ministerial office was ill-advised at the very least. If the comments were not intentional or an effort to subtlety undermine O’Neill’s authority as a political figure then they were politically naive or politically clumsy. Not good either way.

There is no doubt that Foster received significant sustained abuse via social media in the past year. That needs to be recognised as does the enormous impact that this would have had on her family.

Politically speaking though there is a view that Peter Robinson would not have found himself in the same position in regard to the crocodile remark or the blonde comment. Emerson raises the question that many DUP supporters must privately have :

“Where is her cunning?”

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  • Dan

    The ludicrous nonsense is dying a deserved death, quick, roll out Daithi to try to breathe some life into it…

  • Zorin001

    The main thrust of this article isn’t wrong though Dan, Foster keeps getting herself into these situations through her own poor judgdment. Thats not a good trait for any politician, never mind a party leader.

  • Zorin001

    Sinn Fein must thank the Gods every day that Arlene was made DUP leader, they know if they miss out capitalizing on one gaffee then another will be coming shortly.

  • Dan

    Personally, I think she’s been dreadful from the day and hour she took up the DUP leader job. Thoroughly unconvincing.

  • Gopher

    I think Sinn Fein thanks the lord that we have popcorn journalism here.

  • Zorin001

    She’s quite the contrast from Robinson, even if he did get himself in a hole he knew how to dig himself out of it.

  • Zorin001

    I’m waiting for Sammy to claim it’s “fake news”

  • Dan

    Yes, but who took him seriously?
    His credibility was gone years before he finally cleared off the scene. Noone’s given him a moment’s thought since.

  • AntrimGael

    Mark Carruthers really made her look very foolish last night. She was all over the place and there’s no doubt she has lost that confident air she had this time last year. However it’s been all of her own making. She hasn’t got that political street fighting ability to fend off journalists who now know she will probably come out with a new clanger.
    Sinn Fein should really have her on their payroll, she has been a Godsend for them.

  • Granni Trixie

    But ultimately he did not….and possibly he’s still in it.

  • Zorin001

    Hmmm true but he did dodge the bullet on numerous occasions until bad health gave him the easy out.

    He was a cannier political operator than Foster though, we wouldn’t have had the shambles of the past 6-9 months under him.

  • Gopher

    Its hardly “news” so does it really justify someone with attributed insight of Newton providing a popcorn piece that can be cut and pasted by Daithi. In all seriousness it aint been exactly a slow news week in Northern Ireland, personally I would much rather judge Newtons ability on meatier stories not with the bar set on bottom feeding. Has he the “nous” to even dig out a story? Its looking more and more unlikely. Journalists fall into two categories the first are the “Uncle Tom” types who just provide what the base readership want to read, the second are the ones who provide the analysis irrespective of that.

  • james

    Egads…. are we to be treated to yet another round of flogging this dead horse. Mr McKay should be careful – having already failed as a politician, he’s in danger of failing as a journalist, too, if he cannot come up with fresh material now and again..

  • Zorin001

    See I would disagree as to me it’s not so much the blonde comment that is the newsworthy element but that Foster seemingly being unable to stop gifting Sinn Fein open goals due to an innate ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

  • Zorin001

    Maybe but he successfully kept Sinn Fein in a box and the assembly running for near a decade, nearly sidestepping his own personal crisis and external factors.

    Arlene wastn’t even in a year and the house of cards came tumbling down, needlessly too as a better political operator (i.e Robinson) would have sensed the traps and taking steps to avoid them; soaking up some temporary pain probably but paying off in the long term.

  • Gopher

    With all due respect you are an easy audience to reach. Your opinion on “Brit” being used as a derogatory insult? Is that worse than calling someone “Blonde” and then qualifying it in positive terms.

  • Dan

    The assembly’s gone too and nobody’s given it a second thought either.

    (Nobody’s probably a bit strong, but apart from those who get a job out of it, who else gives a fiddlers)

  • james

    Not so much fake news as endless rehash of a story that wasn’t even much of a story to begin with….

  • Gopher

    Machiavelli himself could not make Stormont work in its present format and that is crystal clear.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I thought that Mark did a good job in demonstrating her lack of judgement but that he went to far in attributing ‘You’ll just have to take my word for it’ to her as her definitive response to questions about the CRC donation. While she did reply in the affirmative to his similarly-phrased question, she went on to say that the DUP have satisfied the electoral commission – that was the substantive point in her answer. There is a story in the donation, and the DUP are hiding something, but let’s be fair in quoting people.

  • Zorin001

    Of course it’s derogatory, as is calling someone blonde when they really mean dim and then trying to act offended that that’s not what they meant.

  • Dan

    Come on Daithi, have the courage to answer Nolan’s questions.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Arlene kept on referring to this being a ‘reheated story’. Unfortunate phrasing.

  • Jordy

    As if you care Diathi, poor wee fall guy for your terriost godfathers.

  • Deeman

    It appears that Arlene lacks intelligence or a lack of “cuteness”. Everytime she opens her mouth she wins more votes for SF.

    She has surrounded herself with too many “super prods” or big DUPers.

    Robinson, being from Belfast, always seemed more cosmopolitian and clever.

    There is a lesson for the UUP, SF and SDLP here, you need to try and motivate your base without antagonising the opposition.

  • Nevin

    It seems Daithí is having a ‘bad hair day’!

    I don’t suppose this curious piece of blarney is linked to this week’s stories about the vast increase in proxy voting in the last Assembly election, a diversionary tactic:

    The number of proxy votes leaped from 6,644 in the 2016 Assembly election to 9,920 in the 2017 Assembly election. [Apparently the figure for Wales is about 3000 votes, a region with a much larger population]

    In addition, a breakdown of the statistics by the News Letter shows that proxy voters are concentrated in six consitituencies, all nationalist/republican dominated – namely, West Belfast, Newry and Armagh, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Foyle, Mid Ulster, and West Tyrone. ..

    Arlene Foster had voiced concerns in the article, saying there was “little rational explanation” for the sharp jump, or for why proxy voters are concentrated so heavily in some areas, not others. ..

    Meanwhile, Mark H Durkan wrote on Twitter: “The system is open to abuse and has certainly been abused in Foyle recently… some people signed postal applications only to have proxy section completed afterwards.” .. Source

  • Surveyor

    The blonde comment or their refusal to reveal where the donation came from?

  • johnny lately

    Indeed Zorin and coming after previously describing O’Neill as a Puppet on a string the blonde comment cannot seriously be claimed to be a compliment there’s not much difference in meaning between the two descriptors. Peter Robinson must be delighted with his choice as lets face it what political leader chooses someone better than themselves to take over the reigns.

  • Deeman

    Democracy is great when you have the majority.

  • johnny lately

    “In addition, a breakdown of the statistics by the News Letter shows that proxy voters are concentrated in six consitituencies, all nationalist/republican dominated – namely, West Belfast, Newry and Armagh, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Foyle, Mid Ulster, and West Tyrone. ..”

    Dont Unionist also claim those are the area’s that have the highest disability claimants in the UK ?

  • Katyusha

    The reasons for an increase in proxy voting are abundantly clear. In an election that saw a significantly increased nationalist turnout, the reason should be obvious. Arlene’s antics have encouraged nationalists to turn out and vote, even when they can’t be there to vote in person,. It should also be of little surprise there is a higher level of proxy voting in nationalist areas of NI than somewhere like Wales, when a significant proportion of the population there work or study away from home, on a permanent or temporary basis. Expect the proxy vote to rise in the upcoming WM elections as the net for eligible voters becomes much broader.

    Personally I will be getting a proxy vote for the upcoming WM, and other members of my family are also voting this time out by proxy. Neither of us have used the system before.

  • Granni Trixie

    Maybe. But have to say that AF gaffs really surprise me…she had such promise. ..experienced, educated etc.

  • Katyusha

    Say what you want about Robinson, but one thing you could not accuse him of is lack of cunning.

    Quite apart from her tendency to gift her opponents political ammunition through silly comments, Arlene’s predictable and consistent​ reaction is also a liability. Whether it is over RHI, the Irish language or her silly comments, her response to pressure is always to dig into the trenches, to deny she has done anything wrong and immediately go on the defensive. It never works well for her and it is as predictable as clockwork, and a clever political opponent will play on that and use it.

    Sinn Féin should honestly consider paying her the average industrial wage at this point.

  • Nevin

    Katyusha, those who are living and working away from home have a postal voting option. Mark H Durkan has highlighted the potential fraud option in the proxy system.

  • Deeman

    The wife wants to vote in person, she can vote for me in a proxy vote as I will be working away from home.
    P.S. she is more likely to corrupt my vote voting for some middle ground fence sitters like Alliance! 😉

  • Jag

    3% of the votes cast in Fermanagh South Tyrone were proxies.That’s the highest across all 18 constituencies.

    That was in May 2016 (and in March 2017).

    FST is Arlene’s constituency.

    Surely it is the Shinners who should be making a beeline for the electoral commission asking about voting in FST.

  • Jag

    Although Daithi’s no longer in SF (dramatic arch of neck, slow-mo wink), he says today that he doesn’t think Arlene can’t be first minister, as long as other equality issues are addressed. If that position were embraced by SF, that would be a dramatic u-turn while the RHI investigation is really just starting.

  • Deeman

    I thought the orange lodge is driving the registration in the nationalist areas to get the unionist votes up?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Come on Granni, this is NI. Her tendency to revert to type was evident before she became DUP leader.

  • the keep

    Or could we discuss SF and their dodgy money collections.

  • Katyusha

    They have both a postal and a proxy option. The same form is used to apply for either or both. It’s the same system. Not to mention, proxy is just easier.

    Secondly, I expect you will find a rise in proxy voting for this election. More people are eligible to vote by proxy than by post – to qualify for a postal vote, the address has to be in the UK. And more people are eligible to vote in WM elections than for the Assembly.

  • Jag

    I think the proxy numbers are surprisingly high. After all, you can only have a proxy vote if you fulfill these conditions:

    “you will be required to provide a reason why you cannot reasonably be expected to go to the polling station in person. In most cases the application will also need to be attested (where someone else certifies that the information on the form is correct).”

    http://www.eoni.org.uk/Vote/Voting-by-post-or-proxy/Voting-by-post-or-proxy-FAQs#q119

    The Shinners have suffered in the past from low turnout. Maybe they’re driving the increase from people who couldn’t be bothered to vote, and who will provide a reason for not voting, work commitments, family function. But in FST, where Arlene is getting elected despite all the bad publicity, maybe other factors are at play.

  • Nevin

    I’ve not seen a complaint by SF about the potential for fraud in proxy voting; the issue has been raised by other parties.

  • Nevin

    Can I assume that she won’t be naming you as her proxy voter, should the occasion arise? !!!

  • Granni Trixie

    Have just watched her Cruthers interview on The View. Car crash! I nearly feel sorry for her.

  • Nevin

    Proxy impersonation isn’t the only weakness in the electoral system:

    Judge’s concern at ‘serious breakdown’ in voter ID security

    Judge Babington added: “It seems to be quite ridiculous that you are able to obtain a false identity card without any real checking by the Electoral Office.

    “It seems to suggest some serious breakdown in their security, which one would not expect in these times of identity fraud.”

  • 1729torus

    The DUP is becoming an increasingly rural party due to demographics.

    SF don’t suffer the same degree of ossification and decline from the duopoly as the DUP, and stodgy monolithic Unionism has always been an asset for SF. They have no incentive to avoid a two party system, worst case scenario for them is that FF comes up.

  • the rich get richer

    Seriously though ! Who gave the Dup all that money for the Brexit Referendum ? ?

    I wasn’t all that bothered but because Arlene won’t fess up I really really want to know now……….

    Arlene can be a bit of a tease…………….

  • Nevin

    “The most important political relationship is and will be the one between Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill”

    Daithí, you’re overlooking the relationship between those two blond crocodiles that were spotted on Rathlin last week!

  • Gaygael

    I thought that too!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I would say that as Pengelly’s South Belfast Election Campaign Manager he has a bit of a smile on his face with the latest Alliance – SDLP – SF Spat ! Now I wonder who can concoct such situations to arise ?????? To be quite honest I am glad that Peter has got his paws into SB it certainly is going to be some fun from now to 8th June !

  • james

    It is generally worth a closer look, which scandal the Shinners are trying to bury whenever they go on a noisy offensive, in this case using a frightfully tame ‘journalist’ (objectivity, Daithi??) over some non-issue.

  • james

    Gildernew has in the past been the beneficiary of some strange goings on in FST…

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I said before the March Assembly Election Jag that the Red Line SF put up against Arlene was foolish at the time even Chubby Nolan took Daithi apart on this morning radio programme about it ? They are boxed into a corner on the subject !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “The DUP is becoming an increasingly rural party due to demographics” ????? Watch the Belfast Returns after 6th June Election ? You might want to rethink that statement ? I am estimating that they will return 55K votes from Belfast making them the biggest party in the city !

  • Surveyor

    Newton always goes down well on Slugger whenever he turns his spotlight on Sinn Fein, regardless of what sort of story it is, ask Pete Baker.

    Seems though they take a harder line when it swings around to the DUP.

  • Katyusha

    Not really, T.E: SF are quite right in saying that Arlene shouldn’t be able to continue as First Minister while there is an inquiry into the RHI debacle that she was responsible for. Having said that if the they win agreement on an Irish language act, on marriage equality, and put a stop to the British government’s ridiculous attempts to let its soldiers get away with literal murder, then I think SF will be quite happy to let the DUP nominate their tarnished leader as a lame duck first minister.

    SF’s voters aren’t going to give a toss about whether AF is FM or not. What they need is actual movement on key issues, and without that there is nothing. If the DUP wanted to damage SF, they might consider replacing her with someone competent, but if they want to nominate someone who slips up on a regular basis, I’m sure SF and their voters won’t be too upset.

    In the meantime I’ll be able to cement my forbidden love at City Hall by signing the marriage papers in Irish, and after that I couldn’t care less about the playground spats up on the hill.

  • Deeman

    I hear Saudi Arabian intelligence were keen for brexit.
    Something to do with buying british munitions without european interference.
    I am sure the Saudis also thought that brexit would benefit NI….

  • james

    “Arlene can be a bit of a tease…………….”

    Good man, TRGR, good to see the Republican trolls quickly reverting to type with their derogatory, sleazy innuendo-laden jibes towards Foster – now that the blonde thing has failed to take off.

    In its way, what you’ve just written there is far more offensive to women generally than anything Foster said (and let’s face it, she didn’t say much) – but I doubt if a single one of the Republican brethern on Slugger will have a problem with it.

    I wonder why that is…

  • chrisjones2

    Indeed, stuff like this is taking the heat off SF in so many areas. The DUP appear either indolent or paralysed

    First are all the open lies about a hard border and the comic opera of SF members parading like 1960s Irish Customs Officers only for REAL Irish Customs officers make it clear in the Dail that this is more hot hair than the average RHI boiler produces in a month

    Then today in Dublin the SF Councilor who had previously pleaded guilty to kidnapping a man, torturing him and threatening to kill him and harm his family in a dispute over the sale of a motorcycle suddenly tried to change the basis of his plea.

    http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/former-councillor-now-denies-telling-torture-victim-he-was-in-the-ira-or-a-friend-of-gerry-adams-or-mary-lou-35733372.html

    While still pleading guilty he now declared that he never held the victim captive or claimed to be in the IRA or to be best mates with Mary Lou and Gerry. No siree. Never did that despite previously pleading guilty to it

    The Prosecution challenged this sudden and utter change in the basis of the plea and the Judge seems to be having none of it. He has adjourned the case and it may have to now go back to the start and be tried as a not guilty plea.

    I am sure that Mary Lou will be both shocked and surprised at this sudden and utterly unexplained change of heart . She may take comfort from the fact that the accused now says that he doesn’t really know her and Gerry although he has been photographed with her many times and she had praised him publicly before this unpleasantness came to public attention. At least he did shop short of denying that Gerry had ever been in SF.

    Now any competent political party would make a real meal of this and demand a full inquiry into why this had changed ……….. but the DUP are utterly silent. It’s almost as though there isn’t an election on

  • chrisjones2

    Ah…bless ….. the old MOPE tope?

  • Gopher

    The DUP are an easy target and dare I say not the most intellectually challenging to redicule from the Irish News Plantation. Its getting to be like a trip to Bedlam for enthusiasts of such articles. Personally I would like to address the reasons why the politicaly absurd party are returned rather than throw rocks and poke it with sticks to prove we are normal.
    Nope I would rather we got to the causes and try and change them once that occurs I think we will have a better body politic and may I say it proper journalism.

  • The Living End

    Yaawwwnnnnnn

  • bbacon122

    The DUP is hiding the fact that it was not a “donation”. It was the cash obtained by putting its Brexit support up for auction—-which not only contravened the referendum rules but—if recognised for what it was—would render the referendum result null and void,, The question is: why are the other parties conniving in the DUP’s passing off its ill-gotten gains as a “donation”?

  • the keep

    That comment could equally be directed at Michelle as well.

  • Reader

    Deeman: Something to do with buying british munitions without european interference.
    “european interference”? You reckon the Germans have been trying to block their British rivals from the Saudi arms market?
    http://www.euractiv.com/section/trade-society/news/german-weapon-sales-shoot-through-the-roof/

  • gh lettings

    Arlene’s no oil painting either, I’d say if you put your hand up her skirt there’s a fair chance you’d find yourself holding a pair of balls

  • John Collins

    The ‘carry on’ of Arlene and Paul Givan just might something to encouraging easy going Nationalists to vote.

  • John Collins

    Has it ever really worked in any form?

  • Zorin001

    What a charmer!

  • Nevin

    “Politically speaking … Emerson raises the question that many DUP supporters must privately have : “Where is her cunning?””

    Cunning synonyms: guile, craftiness, wiliness, artfulness, deviousness, slyness, trickery, trickiness, duplicity, deceitfulness, deceit, chicanery.

    I prefer straight-talking – of a civil nature – and unpalatable truths to cunning and artful lying. By way of an example, I’ve just posted a blog which illustrates how organisations can tie themselves up in knots when they attempt to change the narrative.

  • Dónall

    Is Wales a region or a country/nation Nevin?

  • Nevin

    All three, Dónall; it’s also known as a principality.

  • Dónall

    Is England also a region?

  • Nevin

    Yes – and a collection of regions.

  • Dónall

    I suppose it is only semantics but I would regard both as countries.