As Arlene Foster is loaded on the cart to be trundled off to the guillotine, the title of a lesser song by John Lennon comes to mind: ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’ Why has the DUP made the decapitation of its only female leader such a public, brutal affair?
One explanation and as good as any is because they wanted to show how public and brutal they could be. This fall of Arlene is intended to send a message to the DUP electorate: we are the champions of NEI, the protocol must go, Boris Johnson won’t spin us around his little finger, and we’ll never rest as the watchmen of NEI’s integrity as a fully paid-up part of the UK.
For some people, that explanation will be enough. But there is another explanation, this one too linked to a song/chant: ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doing’.
What I mean here is that the DUP is in a state of utter and complete panic. It finds itself totally and conclusively out-foxed by Boris Johnson. Its Assembly numbers have tumbled from 38 to 28. On the hard right, ex-DUP man Jim Allister is snapping at their heels, calling them back to the simplicities of pure unionism. On the well-bred left, the party is leaching votes to the Alliance Party, casting as it goes the UUP as the party of total irrelevance. The 2021 census results will almost certainly provide heart-attack reading. With all those walls closing in on you, of course you’re going to grasp at anything you can to change things.
There’s just one snag: any change for the DUP is going to be for the worse. If it tries to staunch the life-blood flow to Allister’s TUV, it’s going to have to be even more hardline than it was under Arlene. If it tries to staunch the life-blood flow to Naomi Long’s Alliance Party, it’s going to lose its backwoodsmen and women to the no ifs and buts of Jim Allister’s world.
As the census will show, the only hope for unionism is to make NEI a place where nationalists will be more content to live. But if the DUP does that, a major reason for the party’s existence vanishes. What’s the point in a party that exists to keep taigs in their place if it fails to keep taigs in their place and reveals itself as politically impotent at Westminster?
As Arlene is carted away, Creationist Edwin Poots lumbers into the spotlight. Does the DUP really think that Poots will be their salvation? It will only hasten the progress of their terminal illness.
Another song, maybe: “Wish us luck/ as you wave/us goodbye/ Cheerio/Here we go/On our way. “
Sic transit gloria Arlene – Thus passes the glory that was Arlene. And stand aside, would you: here come the Creationists.