Close your eyes. Tight shut? Now whisper to yourself “I am Arlene Foster.” Can you feel what’s going on in your head? Maybe fear is in there, great crimson waves of it, surging and churning against the inside of your skull. It’s pretty terrifying, so you swallow hard and try to think things out logically. Or as near to logic as you can get.
Pro You’re the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. That’s good.
Con Nigel Dodds is the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. If anything should ‘happen’ to you, you know Nigel is poised take your place. That’s bad.
Pro. Theresa May has said no British prime minister would ever go along with a border in the Irish Sea. That’s good.
Con. Theresa May is no longer prime minister. That’s bad.
Pro. Boris Johnson is prime minister and he has said the backstop will have to go. That’s good.
Con. If Boris said it was raining, you’d pull on your shorts and leave without a brolly. That’s bad.
Pro. Boris and you both insist that no-deal must remain on the table..That’s good.
Con. Great numbers of your traditional supporters – , farming organisations, business organisations – say they want that deal of May’s which you’ve now rejected.Worse still, a clear majority in The Province have said they don’t want to leave the EU at all. That is bad.
What to do, to calm the fear crashing and splattering inside your brain? You can’t say you were only kidding, of course you want to stay in the EU, the only reason you said you wanted out was because it made you sound super loyal to imperial Britain. You never for one minute thought the suet-head electorate would deliver a Leave verdict. And now there are clear signs that an election is on the way. What in God’s name will you do?
OK, relax, Arlene baby. This is your small inner voice of sanity speaking. No decent unionist is going to desert you and vote for a party led by a man whose surname is Swann and who has taken to wearing a beard, presumably because he thinks this makes him look more .attractive to voters. Nor, obviously, are any of your decent followers going to vote for a nationalist party of any kind. So that’s two nightmares squashed.
But what, you scream silently, if they voted Alliance? The middle ground is getting very popular in England; the same thing may very well happen here. Or they could vote for the Greens. The Greens’ message has got very popular lately, with all this guff about saving the planet from smoke and fumes and plastic and fracking and all the other things. You feel as passionately as they do about the environment- it’s just you’re not going around shouting about it or encouraging kids to skip school. Get yourself a slogan – maybe ‘You frack if you want – I’m not for fracking’ and you’ll have shot the Greens’ fox.
But – and this is so bad it’s barely thinkable : what if your supporters decided just to stay at home on polling day? The prod in the garden centre and all that? Now your head has started thudding again and your sinuses are dribbling.
Arlene – remember me? Your small inner voice of sanity. Listen to me: enough with the negative thinking. Focus on the half-full glass. Remember that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he’s interested in building a bridge to Scotland.
This bridge could be Ulster’s answer to the Angel of the North. It means damn all but it gets the public’s imagination. Talk it up enough and the punters will forget there’s no university development in Londonderry and that the road to Londonderry has more twists than a corkscrew. The bridge could be your lasting legacy.
The thing is, Arlene – and this is my last word so pay attention. You can do one of two things. You can choose to wallow in thoughts of the evil forces ranged against you, all the bad stuff that has happened to you in the past, all the horrorshow things that could happen to you in the future.
But banish such thoughts. Have faith, Arlene. Have hope. Mark my words: Boris could very well pull something out of the hat at the last minute. Get out the writing pad, send him a personal letter saying how much you’ve always admired his personality and sense of fun. Men love being flattered, and in no time he will be putty in your hands. His magic escape will be your magic escape.
What’s that? Somebody close to Sammy Wilson thinks Boris could be the prime minister with the shortest time in office ever? Don’t listen to them. Next you know they’ll be saying Boris doesn’t value our Precious Union. What over-privileged piffle. Boris would rather die in a shugh than sever the tiniest thread of our Precious Union.
There – feel better now? Maybe learn to whistle that ‘Always look on the bright side of life.’ It worked for those guys that were crucified at the end of Life of Brian.