I’ve just watched Sunday Politics with Mark Carruthers, and inside a half-hour it got to the heart of things here.
A former DUP Head of Policy, Tim Cairns, was interviewed, and for a smart man he seemed to suffer from tunnel vision. Mark Carruthers wanted to know if there was a split among the ten DUP MPs, and if there might be a softening of the DUP’s position on the backstop.
No chance, Tim told him. No chance of a split: he could categorically say the DUP were of one mind on the backstop. And why should that be a surprise? The DUP, Tim said, valued the union with Britain above everything. The Tory European Research Group with Jacob Rees-Moggs and Company could do a somersault and decide to go with May’s withdrawal bill including the backstop, but the DUP weren’t for turning. Remaining or leaving the EU played a secondary role for the DUP: their permanent focus was on union with Britain, and the backstop would damage that.
What Tim forgot to add, but which Chris Donnelly didn’t, was that this fixation on the backstop would cost the DUP dear. Not in the European or local elections: unionist voters would rally behind the DUP, even though many of them – farmers, business – would be pissed off with the way the DUP was ignoring their interests. The price the DUP would pay – is already paying – would be the total alienation of nationalism.
Nationalists and republicans look at the DUP’s uber-union-with-Britain and see this for the craziness it is. The rising demographic tide has already washed away a unionist majority here; the DUP’s disregard for the economic welfare even of their own supporters will mean more and more people will look at what the DUP has to offer – union with Britain but a Britain in a state of economic chaos; and they’ll look at south of the border which will have retained its EU status. And they’ll be able to tell which is more desirable.
So by being, as Tim Cairns points out, the party of union with Britain, regardless of economic welfare, the DUP is in fact doing exactly those things that will encourage nationalists, republicans and yes, some unionists to call for a border poll and use it as a lifeline into the comparative safety of EU membership.
It’s like waving a gun around as you protect your precious car, then turning and firing several rounds through the windscreen and engine. Not a smart way to look after your precious jalopy.