After Arlene’s leadership implosion what comes next for the DUP and Northern Ireland?

Newton Emerson charts the position the DUP finds itself. He, like me, thinks the most interesting call is for the sacking of officials who have been the backbone of Robinson’s operation for much of the last twenty years and more:

The response from some is to hack the party down to its Paisleyite roots. Four letters are in circulation calling for Foster to go. The letter from DUP councillors demands a return to “Christian values” and “Ulster conservatism” and also calls for the heads of deputy leader and chief Brexiteer Nigel Dodds, plus chief executive Timothy Johnson and director of communications John Robinson.

Sacking the latter two would be a rejection not just of Foster’s tenure but that of her predecessor, Peter Robinson, who hired both men to run his all-powerful headquarters machine.

He argues that the very lack of a successor is what kept Mrs Foster in office for so long, and that now…

Less fatalistic sources are briefing about a joint ticket: possibly MP Jeffrey Donaldson as leader, with Poots as deputy leader and first minister.

This would cover the DUP’s multiple splits without Donaldson having to relocate to Stormont, causing a Westminster byelection in which Alliance could make significant gains.

But would two power centres heal internal divides or exacerbate them?

The DUP is a tiny, tightly-managed organisation, with only a few hundred active members. Only its eight MPs and 28 Assembly members get to vote in leadership ballots. To have such wide-ranging differences break out publicly from within these claustrophobic confines reveals utter panic and meltdown.

And with an eye on the bigger picture, he also notes this…

…the most serious question raised by Foster’s departure is not who will replace her but whether Northern Ireland’s political structures can cope with a fundamental realignment of the party system.

Alliance could take second place, making Stormont’s powersharing arrangements redundant. Sinn Féin could take first place and erroneously claim a mandate for a Border poll.

I tend to think that if the DUP has managed to engineer a long leadership transition period, it is not figuring to go for such an early election. But that’s a question for the end of June, not now.

Whatever happens, the Protocol (and its problems real and imagined will not be going away any time soon…