Thursday, 11 June 2009

reshuffle or panic

Just as some of the DUP Minister's in the Executive are beginning to understand the scale of the task ahead in terms of governing they are to be shuffled off as Peter panics over the EU election result. While the result was bad, there is no doubt that this knee jerk reaction has the potential to make matters worse for the DUP and indeed for Northern Ireland. Any coalition government depends on the ability of the people around the table to communicate, albeit just on issues of policy. Continuously changing the dynamic means effectively starting from scratch again. Does Northern Ireland have the space or time for a new class taking Government 101?
So where did things go wrong for the DUP?
  • They allowed themselves to be frightened by Jim Allister, and it showed. The lack of interest in the post by anyone higher than a Councillor showed that they feared engagement with him, had someone of note risen to the challenge and actually took him on they would have at least shown some backbone. After all how can you take on Sinn Fein if you are frightened of a fellow unionist?
  • Diane Dodds was a bad candidate, despite all the words of support from the party leadership Diane is not known for her personal skills, debating skills or policy knowledge. In council she can put her hand up to vote when required, which in reality is all that most DUP Councillors are required to do.
  • Family politics gives some comfort that the people around you are trustworthy and supportive, but there comes a time when it just looks like greed, that time has come for the DUP.
  • The DUP campaign was poor and lacklustre, even the printed material screamed at people rather than talked to them. Rumours of catastophic mistakes abound. It became clear that the Director of Elections was out of his depth.
  • The strenuous efforts to keep Diane off the hustings stage with Jim Allister were pointless if there was no commitment to carry the policy through for 100% of the time. It would have been easier to hit all the hustings early in the campaign and draw the stings before the expectations grew towards the final week.
  • Voting for someone to be number one to keep someone else out is not going to be a good enough reason in the future. People have cottoned on to the cynical changes negotiated at St Andrews to establish the DUP election chant for the future, they don't like it.
  • Like it or not the DUP lied to a sizeable section of their support in 2007, they told some a vote for the DUP was a vote to enter Government, they told others a vote for the DUP was a vote to stay out of Government. Those chickens were always coming home to roost.

So what next !

Changing a few Ministers won't make much of a difference bar a few new faces, Nelson at DCAL will mean lots of Ulster -Scots funding and lots of money for Linfield but the arts in Northern Ireland are in for a financial drought. Peter Weir for DETI, hmmm I have seen the tears in DETI civil servants eyes, the less said the better. Plug Poots for Environment makes Sammy look like Stephen Agnews best friend.

The biggest change the DUP could deliver is to make devolution work. We used to complain that direct rule ministers flew in to Belfast, took decisions and flew out again. More and more the general public point out that while we may have not always liked the decisions at least we had some form of Government. Being in Government means being capable of governing and that Peter is the problem, to date the DUP have shown themselves incapable of governing. Putting that right is about changing attitudes not personalities.


  1. Politically speaking, surely the DUP do have more to fear from fellow Unionists than from Sinn Fein?

    The demographics of the Province, and the virtual agreement of the four main parties on how to run the Province means that matters settle into the question of who controls the nationalist vote and who controls the unionist vote.

    Since the Union is not at stake, and outside of pretended mutterings that threaten to extend the Culture Wars to Northern Ireland, the only thing the DUP has to worry about is its Right flank - and that's where TUV come in. I addressed a similar issue quite recently on my own blog if you have a minute spare.

  2. I certainly agree that the DUP reshuffle was pointless and potentially very dangerous for Robinson.

    Removing wee Jeffrey and Dodds from the executive allows them to distance themselves (a bit) from the current government and from Sinn Fein. This can and probably will come back to bite Robo in the ass in about 15 months time when Dodds goes for the leadership.

    Secondly sticking Wilson, Poots and McCausland in to replace them was utterly foolish. Sammy Wilson is seen as a fool by most of the population. Not a man to be trusted with DFP in the middle of a recession.

    Poots hardens the parties right flank as Dave pointed out but he's also proven himself to be totally inept when going head to head with the TUV. Also does anyone expect the problems that plagued sammy to not affect poots as badly.

    Finally McCausland is the worst possible choice for DCAL and when you look at the DUP's 36 MLA's that is a hell of a boast. The issue of culture is very sensitive and I think that McCauslands outspoken opposition towards the Gaelic language only serves to bring the issue back on the poltical agenda. Furthermore the executive has shown itself incapable of dealing with deadlock Nelson McCausland is a deadlock machine and was once quoted as saying

    "We will only go into government when Sinn Fein have conceded on all our points"

    Encouraging isnt it.


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