It does matter if no-one likes you

By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)

No-one likes us - we don’t care.’ The Millwall football club’s chant which came to wider public attention when Millwall reached the 2004 FA final could equally apply to the DUP.

The list of important people whom leading members of the DUP have insulted, ignored, snubbed or otherwise offended is endless.

It never occurs to them that some day they might need such people to do a favour for them. They don’t care. They’d rather eat grass.

Run your mind over the last fortnight when Gordon Brown has met Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness half a dozen times both in Belfast and London at all hours of the night and day in a futile attempt to drag Robinson up the aisle so that Martin McGuinness is not left alone standing at the altar.

Brown would have loved nothing more than to be able to announce to his party’s conference, the last before the general election, that there had been agreement on policing and justice. No deal.

Failing that, he busted a gut to conclude a deal before Hillary Clinton’s sweep through Europe and the Middle East. Nope.

The United States State Department wanted a list of successful agreements for the secretary of state’s first major trip abroad alone.

It began inauspiciously in Zurich when Turkey and Armenia couldn’t agree on the wording of speeches they were to make after signing a treaty.

However, they did sign the treaty. Not here though. Hillary Clinton would have loved to have presided over the deal and announced new jobs from American investment. Nope.

Does the DUP think such stupidity and stubbornness on their part is penalty-free? Do they imagine officials in the State Department forget such behaviour?

Do they think no-one noticed the boorish behaviour of Gregory Campbell and Willie McCrea when they didn’t applaud Hillary Clinton and walked out in case they had to stand up?

Campbell’s crass impertinent excuse “we all have important business to do particularly the economic regeneration of NI” is doubly insulting.

Firstly, anyone who read his speech in the House of Commons in July 2008 on what is laughingly called the NI economy will know that he hadn’t a single new idea about the economy, that he predicted oil prices would remain at their record high level for 12 to 15 months and demanded unspecified action to improve the economy.

His floundering was embarrassing sub-GCSE stuff.

Secondly, his provocative remark wilfully ignored the increased investment by the US company Navinet coinciding with Clinton’s visit and was a deliberate challenge to the US government linking investment to progress in devolving policing and justice.

What’s more instructive is that the behaviour of DUP MPs is a direct challenge to their party leader whose weakness is displayed to all by the indiscipline and rudeness of his own party members.

Hillary Clinton appealed both in Dublin and Belfast for people to show leadership, a diplomatic way of telling Robinson to shape up because devolving policing and justice is “absolutely essential”. That’s a pretty clear message that will penetrate the carapace of bigotry encasing even the densest DUP MLA.

Unfortunately Robinson has so far shown no leadership qualities. Thirty years spent as a nodding dog behind the oul curmudgeon Paisley was no apprenticeship for initiative.

Too long as a bridesmaid has left him unsure how to walk up the aisle as a bride.

All Robinson seems to have learnt is how to obfuscate, say no in more devious terms than Paisley and develop ever-more transparent tactics for foot-dragging. Does anyone believe he got a penny more for policing by delaying?

The #600 million figure was flagged ages ago. Getting assurances from David Cameron? If he accepted the deal he would have the money already. No need for assurances.

No. At the root of all this is Robinson’s inability to manage his own party, his fear of a split, a defection to his nemesis, the dreaded Jim Allister.

Sadly, at a time when unionism needs someone who could confidently lay out the future direction of unionism sharing control of the north, we’re stuck with a pedestrian bean counter who can’t even convince his dimmer members that it does matter in politics if no-one likes you.

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