IN the wild excitement of the DUP’s decision to go back into Stormont (well, the thought of a Sinn Féin First Minister does take time to digest its way through the unionist gut), it’d be easy to overlook one vital question: what manner of man is Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the man who took two years to persuade his party they must swallow the Protocol and the Windsor Framework?

Watching and listening to  him in the House of Commons last week triggered  memories of Charlie Chaplin: the mild-mannered little man, devoid of malice, plagued by bullies, eventually losing the bap and giving his tormentors what-for. Get the picture?

As Jeffrey spoke, an ominous presence warmed the green bench directly behind him: Ian Paisley Jr., tall, arms folded, stern, staring. A little bit like the prowling Donald Trump some years back, as he unnerved  Hillary Clinton during their debate – remember? Distracting for viewers as they tried to concentrate on the speaker, but then that was the intended effect.

What did Jeffrey say? Well, he said he’d been an MP for nearly 27 years. Good on you, Jeffrey – struggling by on £86,500 per year. Not that Jeffrey saw it  in terms of moolah  – for him it was the honour of  having “served my country”.  He had also served his "country", he reminded us, when he pulled  on the uniform of the Ulster Defence Regiment. 

Not that the DUP leader is by nature a proud person. Maybe a little pompous, but not normally proud. In the House of Commons last week, he made some exceptions. He was proud to be an MP, he was proud to have served in the UDR, and he was proud, I think, that he’d stood up to nasty people: “I was threatened – THREATENED!  - by those who never put on a uniform, by those who never served their country!”  The IRA had attacked him in the past, Jeffrey said, but that didn’t stop him, and “those who stir up and those who threaten” would not deflect him from his task now. 

As he talked and grew agitated, Jeffrey sort of  bounced up and down on the spot. He also punctuated his speech with chopping hand-gestures, a bit like a martial arts expert. Ian Óg, impassive as ever, looked on, probably glad he was behind the hand-chopping Jeffrey and not in front of him.  

So  what prompted  Jeffrey’s rip-roaring speech? Why, the need to flash some muscle before gathering himself to return to Stormont of course. He wants to impress on everyone, especially unionist voters, that he is a decent, hard-working guy, but also a man of spirit, who will not be intimidated by the 'RA or by enemies within unionism (hello, Jim).  He figures that his electorate has seen enough of Jeffrey meek-and-mild –  it’s now time for him to give them a glimpse of Jeffery the Warrior. 

Admittedly, the events of Monday night, with tweets from the top secret meeting of the DUP Executive, did sound a bit shambolic. And the claim now that there will be “no checks” on goods from GB to NEI is hilarious. If that claim were true, goods due to end up in Terminfeckin or Tralee  or Toulouse could travel without any check to their destination. Just stick it in the green/UK lane.

Poor Jeffrey; poor DUP.  They bust a gut getting the UK out of the EU, and now they find themselves saddled with a deal Theresa May offered years ago and which they indignantly refused.

Are we witnessing Brexit for slow learners? Are we hearing the death-knell of the DUP?