It seems Arlene was completely taken by surprise by most of her elected representatives turning against her. Such is the brutality of politics one might say. Shouldn’t Arlene Foster, as leader of the DUP, have her finger on the proverbial pulse of the DUP and its membership? Something many within Nationalism, ironically, have been vocalising recently is the fact the DUP aren’t listening to the people who voted them into office. The DUP thrive on disruption, on consistently suggesting to Loyalism that their culture is perpetually under attack. Arlene clearly moved away from this tactic for a little too long.
Sources suggest Arlene was “in bits” after realising there was an uprising within her own party against her. There were tears as Mrs. Foster informed colleagues that she would be stepping down, shortly before the news was made public on Wednesday. This obviously suggests that no one has actually be talking to Mrs. Foster about any problems within her own party, possibly building on and using the discontent behind her back to garner support for a major backstabbing. Let’s not forget, 80% of her MLAs and Westminster MPs actually showed their support for the call to resign. I remember pointing out in one of my previous pieces that there were indications of stress within the DUP surrounding Arlene Foster. I also said it would be a case of “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t”. When one looks at the personalities lining up for Arlene’s job, we see a plethora of hardline Unionists, religiously directed personalities, some with questionable views on the past, present and future…and some who believe the dinosaurs didn’t actually exist, even though science has proven they did.
Not only will Arlene Foster resign as First Minister of the North, she will also stand down as MLA but more surprisingly…she will also cut ties with the DUP in general. It looks like Arlene really has been blind-sided by this political insurrection against her and clearly didn’t see any of this coming down the tracks . Sources close to her have said she thinks the DUP is no longer the party she joined and it is moving in a different direction. Intriguing eh? There has been speculation she will go to the House of Lords but if she does, it will not be as a member of the DUP.
So, where does Arlene Foster fit in the context of politics in the North now? If she defected from the UUP, disagreeing with the direction David Trimble was taking the party, and now resigning from the DUP because she doesn’t like the direction it is taking, that being a more militant Loyalist paramilitary orientated approach, ironically while she was at the helm, then what does she actually want? A more centrist Unionist party perhaps? I wonder will she be involved in politics in the North at all, with the TUV being the only Unionist party left and Jim Allister clearly isn’t centrist though it may give the TUV a huge boost if Arlene were to join the TUV and cater to those more, small ‘u’ Unionists possibly pulling some of them to the TUV.
In the end, Arlene Foster was unable to rein in the likes of Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley Jr. in Westminster. The mere mention of the name ‘Ian Paisley’ invoked for Loyalists and Unionists the heady days of ‘all-out’ Unionism when there wasn’t a taig about the place, and Arlene Foster, simply put, could never contend with that sadly. The old ‘Unionists are stuck in the past’ quip, is as true today as it ever was. Had Arlene been in control of the DUP, we may have seen a different party, willing to work with Sinn Fein on social issues to an extent but instead we had a party, out of control, led by MPs in Westminster who had free-rein to do as they pleased. Contradictory statements from the likes of Gordon Lyons and Sammy Wilson on the border posts, Covid and Brexit were damaging, clearly showing that no one was consulting Arlene Foster as she seemed as taken aback by what was being said as anyone else.
Arlene Foster was a leader for a time, until such times as her party decided to stop following her without actually telling her. Letters calling for her resignation were ready but unsent months before the ‘killer blow’ letter was delivered. Her leadership was on thin ice at that stage so one can only see the undermining of her authority after that as piling on the pressure. What we should be worried about now is the new leader of the DUP. It will be Jeffrey Donaldson, Edwin Poots or Chris Stalford. Gavin Robinson has stated he will not run for leadership and Sammy Wilson, well, he will be retained as the untrained, uncouth aggressive yet ultimately embarrassing attack dog of the DUP. Brought out of his kennel when they need something voiced in ‘old speak’. The DUP needs a strong leader who can lead while having their finger on the pulse, who can round up a party in turmoil…and sadly, there isn’t a single female in that leadership contest, something that is very telling in my eyes.