Donaldson simply not politically smart enough to be successful

Posted By: November 03, 2021

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, November 3, 2021.


It’s glaringly obvious now that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been hoist on his own petard.

October has passed and with it, his ill-thought-out deadline, but the executive and assembly are still there, and guess what? They will still be there until the elections he’s going to come a cropper in next May.

This is a guy who doesn’t know the difference between tactics and strategy. Worse, he often falls into the unionist trap of mistaking a tactic for a principle.

Now Donaldson is busily moving the goalposts and of course, getting away with his wriggling and maneuvering in interviews because interviewers take him seriously. He claims now that he only wanted movement on the dreaded protocol before the end of October, but that’s not what he was saying when he was panic-stricken in September after the poll on August 28 showed he had led the DUP to an unheard-of third place in unionism.

He also claims disingenuously that his threats to collapse the Stormont institutions led to the EU presenting proposals for streamlining the protocol’s operation when in reality he is being used as a lever in the Johnson government’s forever war with the EU. At least in this respect, Donaldson is consistent. The Brexit referendum in 2016 seemed to him to offer the prospect of a hard British border in Ireland and he has never wavered in trying to achieve that. Repeatedly in interviews, he championed magical and fantastical technologies to identify cross-border goods being traded, yet was never able to specify any device or how it would work. Interviewers didn’t laugh; they just let him talk nonsense.

All the while, as today, he and the DUP suckers who put faith in his gobbledegook, were being used by hardline Brexiteers to frustrate any attempt to agree on a soft Brexit. Now, still, this Brexit government is weaponizing unionists like Donaldson, playing on their irrational fears and stoking their prejudices regardless of prosperity and well-being here. Donaldson is deluded enough to believe he’s a player whereas he’s a spear-carrier in the wings.

It’s extraordinary that unionists can’t see that the confrontation the British have engineered about the protocol is part of their much bigger attempt to renegotiate the disastrous Trade and Cooperation Agreement[[that] Frost pushed through in December 2020. So far, the attempt hasn’t worked, which is why the British have deliberately provoked the dispute with France about fishing licenses. You will have noticed that the British are trying to use the dispute as a lever to involve the EU, not just France, in talks about fishing rights. Next move is to try to link the protocol with dispute resolution on fishing.

Let’s go back to the hapless, directionless Donaldson and his struggles to fend off the crazies in his own party and the TUV on the one hand, and more reasonable unionists in the UUP and Alliance on the other. For his struggles to be successful, quite simply, he has to make a choice, but Donaldson has shown he just isn’t politically smart enough to do that.

Unlawfully boycotting the North-South Ministerial Council won’t win over any reasonable Unionists to his side, but on the other hand, that ploy will merely earn the contempt of the extremists on unionism’s kamikaze wing who will identify his lack of backbone.

They know, we all know, he won’t pull down the Executive. What would be the point? He talks preposterously about “going to the country”. Does he imagine he’s prime minister of this sub-polity? An election isn’t in his gift and our proconsul won’t call one before next May. In any case, an election is the last thing Donaldson wants for, never mind his Christmas turkey, (in short supply thanks to his support for Brexit), his goose will be cooked.

Perhaps we should wish him well with his unbelievable threats. If they happened, we’d be rid of him.