Wish I had to the time to blog this before now, but if only to confirm what others are saying… here goes:
I heard that the size of the revolt in the DUP Assembly Group numbered at least 11 MLAs. That roundly ties in with the 14 MLAs / 40% split which the BBC reported.
But if we say that a third of the DUP Assembly Group is opposed to the deal, can we suppose that the remaining two-thirds are firmly in the Robinson camp? I’m not so sure we can.
Outside those who strongly oppose the devolution of P&J, there are those who are not completely convinced that this particular deal is right (how did bilingualism become part of a policing agreement?). But there are those who are now uncertain about committing their political futures to a Robinson-led deal.
If Robinson does not survive far past a P&J deal, the legacy of his negotiations could be several wrecked political careers. In addition, his surety of touch and trustworthiness have been compromised by recent events / Spotlight etc. So how many of the remaining two-thirds are actually ‘in’ the Robinson camp?
Failing to carry the assembly group – a taint on his authority – could be the channel for other feelings to emerge… many in the grassroots are unhappy with the sharp treatment of the Doc and (to a lesser extent) Baby Doc. And yet Robinson lingers on. Perhaps the crucial bedrock of support within the party is evaporating for Robinson – time is not on his side and he is expending it trying to bring this assembly group along with him. The longer this goes on the greater these doubts and questions over his leadership become.
For his part, I hear that Robinson is becoming ever more reliant on a small coterie of advisors. Bunker mentality from a Unionist leader with Prime Ministers heaping pressure on to do the deal? We’ve been here before. That 40% + figure does make the DUP Assembly Group an attractive mirror image of the Ulster Unionist Council…
Outside of Stormont, Jim Allister’s rhetoric many not attract many new DUP recruits but I hear that it is demoralising DUP people (pricking the conscience) and adding to the sense of doubt about strategic direction in all of this. Apparently a number of MPs are worried that they could face being hit at the polls for going along with the devolution project.
Robinson really could have gone in that mini-uprising. For a short period around 5pm on Monday, it looked like a possibility. But perhaps the question of ‘who else will lead’ sustains the Robinson leadership more than anything else right now. Who could take over? And of those who could, who would want to?