Tell me what the DUP want, what they really, really want…

I once believed the DUP would go back into Stormont in the autumn and the British government would provide them with some cover to do so, but this is looking increasingly unlikely, particularly in a week when the N. Ireland minister Steve Baker (Tuesday 12th Sept) said ‘where we are with the DUP is in the final stages of them letting us know what they need’. He then claimed the DUP is being pressurised by a small number of hardliners to stay out of the Stormont Assembly. The following day (Wed 13th Sept) a ‘senior DUP source’ told Radio Ulster that Jeffrey Donaldson does not have the authority to take on the likes of Dodds & Wilson.

Unionism has put all its eggs in one basket, we have 8 DUP MPs and no UUP MPs and the mood music is not good for Unionism. Is anyone clear what the DUP really, really want? I suspect we can guess based on their behaviour rather than their words over the past number of months. Clearly, some of the DUP MLAs want the assembly back but the Westminster wing of the DUP are in charge and from their MPs comes the clear message that when it comes to problems with school funding, the NHS or other social issues, a return to Stormont will not make any difference.

A return to Stormont holds no attraction for the DUP because the Windsor Framework will remain. Any return will be an unmissable climbdown, they will go back to crisis school budgets, NHS emergencies, cuts in all departments and the introduction of water charges. Why should Jeffrey go back to all these headaches, especially if the DUP is split?

You Don’t Have to Do Your Job – Just Win the Next Election

The people have actually mandated and said to DUP MLAs, you don’t need to do your job. The most recent Lucidtalk Poll has the DUP support still rising at 26% +1%, with 64% of the unionist electorate (Lucidtalk) supporting them in staying out of the executive, perhaps until November 2024 when the next Westminster election must occur. (Few people expect Rishi Sunak to go to the polls until the last possible moment – not even Rishi’s mother believes he will win.)

The DUP are masters of deflection and Jeffrey will be their magician during the Nov 24 Westminster election, deflecting voter attention from the DUP record.

The DUP were Tory government partners, dominant at Westminster and Stormont but instead of focussing on our welfare they allowed themselves to become bewitched by Boris and the Brexiteers. Now we are told that the union is subjugated, that we no longer have full citizenship but (and this is the distraction) it is nothing to do with the DUP. Those nasty nationalists, who all along were open about wanting Irish unity, are to blame and not the DUP.

The DUP will deflect our attention towards victimhood. They will tell us that we unionists have gained nothing from the Good Friday Agreement, that Sinn Fein have won everything. Never mind the fact that the DUP were in the dominant party, propping up the Tories and controlling Stormont. Having persuaded us to adopt victimhood, we will be encouraged to be angry – angry people stop thinking and vote identity above self-interest and good government.

After Nov 24 the DUP will extract the flimsiest of fig leaves from the government to allow them to return to Stormont, but will argue that, because November 2024 is now half way through the Stormont term, we should have a new Stormont election to give Jeffrey a mandate to return, satisfying those who detest the idea of a Sinn Féin First Minister.

Smash Sinn Féin

The DUP can now fight this Stormont election using their traditional Smash-Sinn-Féin strategy, ‘Vote DUP, because we are the only party who can prevent a Sinn Féin First Minister.’

It matters little that Sinn Fein are still very likely to be the largest party and take the First Minister post. The DUP will have fought the election on the basis that they are returning to the executive and will be doing so with more MLAs.

Sinn Fein will also be happy, as the electoral battle for First Minister will galvanise their vote and ensure that they can further erode the SDLP, just as the DUP have eroded the UUP. Even if by some fluke SF lose the FM post, this will allow Sinn Fein to portray themselves as victims in the run up to the next Dail election in 2025.

So, what does the DUP really, really want?

I suggest it has little to do with the Windsor Framework. They want you to wrap yourself in the cloak of victimhood and grievance – never mind that it won’t protect you from the economic storm facing working families – they want your votes. They have had over a decade in power and want to continue as before. Will we trust them again?


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