I’ve read three senior opeds over the weekend, all of which excoriate the DUP (or Unionism in general) for past or present crimes against political decency. Each supposes the DUP is the problem explained, and that they will pay for their obstinacy sooner or later.
In his Sunday Business Post (SBP) OpEd Tom McGurk notes
…the DUP’s 15 minutes of fame might yet prove to be electorally every expensive. I cannot imagine that moderate unionist opinion, especially among the business and farming class, will just for what they have done.
In a world where policy and actions in government mattered more than identity, that would be substantially true. But because, more than 20 years after the Belfast Agreement, it still doesn’t then such fiery contentions and disdain surely miss the point?
North of the border, the DUP has been left to get on with things (in the forlorn hope they make some fatal gaffe). But Newton Emerson observes in his Saturday morning column, the DUP is not the monolith many of its liberal critics like to project:
THE sudden sidelining of the DUP at Westminster, with Prime Minister Theresa May reaching out to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has forced differences of opinion within the unionist party out into the open.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson promptly mentioned a customs union, albeit as a transitional measure, before distancing himself from the idea the next day.
Fellow MP Sammy Wilson continues to push the hardest of Brexit lines. Wilson has always been the most stalwart of the Brexiteers within the parliamentary party, so Donaldson’s wobbling is likelier to reflect pragmatic panic among his colleagues.
However, one cabinet minister told the influential Politico website: “The DUP if anything have moved further away [from the government]. Their demands are almost less reasonable than Labour’s.”
Being sidelined clears the way to a more cynical and typical pragmatism.
It means the DUP can sit back and let others deliver a soft Brexit for it, while it roars and flag-waves from the back benches. [Emphasis added]
Whilst its critics would like to hang the DUP for a No Deal Brexit that cannot yet be entirely ruled out, they are actually leaving the ultimate decision to the numbers in the wider UK. And, perhaps, a wider discussion on the wisdom of a hard backstop.
Of which Colin Murphy (no, not that one) noted in the SBP yesterday:
Instead of pragmatic compromise, we have a policy animated by schadenfreude. It may come with a satisfying sense of historical closure, but it makes for bad politics, and a bleak outlook.
That’s us, surely. But in order to address the elevation of opportunism we ought to look to our still collapsed northern democracy for the causes of crass political opportunism (which are collective) rather than excoriating the sole beneficiaries of it.
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