Transcript of interview with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson in the wake of last Thursday’s Assembly election.
– Good morning, Sir Jeffrey.
– With respaykt, that’s a matter of opinion.
– Okay. How do you think the election went?
– I thought it was the best election I have ever had as leader of the DUP.
– It’s the only election you’ve ever had as the leader of the DUP.
– With respaykt, that may be so but it doesn’t change the truth of what I said.
– Fair enough. How do you think your vote held up?
– Well, I thought it was a very strong showing given that most commentators expected us to fall behind the Workers’ Party.
– Who said that?
– Bloke on Twitter, some woman on Facebook. Loads of people.
– You dropped 40,000 first preference votes.
– Yes, but they were all our voters who went to the Rangers match.
– You sure about that?
– Of course. I watched the match on my phone and Ibrox was coming down with DUP banners.
– How many first preference votes do you think Jim Allister’s TUV gained since 2017?
– I don’t know, but I’ve a terrible feeling you’re going to tell me.
– About 40,000.
– Your point being…
– Well, you dropped 40,000... the TUV picked up 40,000… You see where this is going?
– Not really, no.
– Do you think standing beside Jim Allister on the back of a lorry covered in flags at those Protocol protests was a good idea in retrospect?
– I most certainly do. I think it galvanised the vote and persuaded thousands of people who care about our Precious Union to come out and show their support.
– For the TUV.
– Yes. No, wait.
– Can you share with us the advice that your Donaghadee barrister shared with you as you chatted together on a Protocol march?
– My Donaghadee barrister?
– My Cousin Binny. Rumpole of the Failey.
– Ah, yes, the wee man. Well, he told me to keep the faith and to ignore the bad polls. He told me that when he was on remand in the clink with Willie Frazier and things seemed at their darkest, he always sang to himself the words of an inspirational song.
– Let me guess. Something Inside So Strong? I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again?
– Every Loser Wins. Nick Berry. Classic. Can’t get it out of my head.
– He tell you anything else?
– He told me that when he was Ruth Patterson’s election agent in South Belfast in 2016 and things were looking grim the only thing to do was to keep knocking on doors, keep licking those envelopes, keep putting in the hard yards.
– And is that what spurred her on to success?
– No, she got 400 votes and immediately quit politics, but it was still good advice.
– So you’ve said you won’t be nominating ministers to the Executive.
– I most certainly won’t.
– Why’s that?
– We need decisive action on the union-dismantling Protocol.
– Decisive action.
– That’s right.
– You don’t want it binned?
– I’m not saying that.
– You do want it binned?
– I’m not saying that.
– What are you saying?
– I’m saying I want decisive action by the UK Government.
– What does decisive action mean?
– It means I want the government to act in a way which is decisive.
– For example?
– Oh, there are so many things…
– Tell me one.
– I’d rather not.
– Have you told the government what you think they should do?
– Why not?
– Because I have no idea otherwise we wouldn’t be in this mess.
– So no Executive and that £300 million that’s there to be spent right away won’t get spent.
– But it will still be there when we come back.
– Which will be when?
– God knows.
– What about pensioners sitting in shopping malls?
– Taking a wee rest?
– Trying to keep warm.
– God love them.
– There’ll be no money available to help them with their energy bills.
– Sure it’s nearly summer and it’s warming up nicely.
– What about waiting lists?
– It’s not my fault so many people want a Rangers season ticket.
– No, hospital waiting lists.
– You need to ask Robin Swann about that.
– He can’t access any of that money until you let him.
– Always somebody else’s fault with that fella.
– What about people eating cold food because they can’t afford to use gas and electricity?
– Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a Magnum?
– Tell me, Jeffrey, are you going to resign your Westminster seat?
– Ah, now, that would be telling.
– You don’t think the people who voted for you deserve to be told that who’s going to actually represent them in Stormont?
– Long as it’s DUP, they’re not bothered.
– So if you stay on as an MP what would be your choice in the co-opt?
– I like their sticky slow-cooked British barbecue ribs. Grrreat.
– Not Co-op, co-opt. Who would you pick to take your place in Stormont?
– I didn’t say I wouldn’t sit in Stormont.
– And you didn’t say you would.
– You see? Now you’re starting to understand.
Radio guests with some rather strange qualifications
SQUINTER’S a big fan of Radio Ulster’s Talkback. Presenter William Crawley’s a really good interviewer and the show is a lot more informative and thoughtful than the Nolan Show 90 minutes earlier.
Of course, if we’re being honest, a chimps’ tea-party is a lot more informative and thoughtful than the Nolan Show, but the point remains – it’s a better class of broadcasting.
Which is why Squinter raised a slightly-greying eyebrow when on Monday morning during a panel discussion of the implications of the Assembly election, former Chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party David Campbell was introduced as a guest. Except he wasn’t introduced as a UUP alumnus, he was introduced as the Chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council, which is what he is.
For the benefit of those of you who have spent the past few years living in a log cabin in Canada with grizzlies for neighbours, the LCC is a group under whose umbrella various civic-minded groups shelter, including the upstanding gentlemen of the UDA and the old-school charmers of the UVF. The good news is that the UDA and the UVF are both on ceasefire. The bad news is that the word ceasefire these days exempts murder, drug-dealing and loan-sharking.
Squinter’s not gonna lie. He wasn’t entirely sure whether the LCC and its various constituent parts belonged in a debate about the immediate future of the political institutions and what’s to be done to help people cope with the cost of living crisis. And by the end of David’s contribution he was entirely sure that it didn’t.
What the thinking is in booking the LCC to join career politicians and professional commentators in reading the political runes post-election is hard to figure out.
If David had been introduced as a long-time senior operator in the UUP with wide experience of the machinations of deal-making and negotiations, then fine – that would have done. Even though the vast majority of listeners will still have been aware of what table he’s currently got his feet under.
But he wasn’t. He was introduced as the Chairman of the LCC and he was there to speak on their behalf. But what value was there for listeners in his being there? What could he add to the debate, and if he could add anything, in what way was it expected to be taken by nationalists listening in, given the rather, ah, colourful backgrounds of the groups whose thinking he was presumably reflecting? Does anyone at Radio Ulster really think that people listening to the radio in Andersonstown or the Bogside hear the letters LCC and think, ‘Can’t wait to hear what these chaps have to say about how my granny’s going to get help with her electricity bill’? Heads-up for Ormeau Avenue: They don’t. They think, ‘What in the name of great Odin’s beard is this lot doing on here telling me about my vote?’
Reminds Squinter in a way of the same programme’s fondness for interviewing the Orange Order about international trade agreements, the single market, the Irish Sea border and Brexit mitigations. Now the Orange Order isn’t linked to the UDA and the UVF, but when you ask yer average nationalist to describe the organisation they’re not going to call it a fraternal association dedicated to the promulgation of the reformed faith. They’re going to call it a crowd in bowler hats and white gloves who don’t have any Catholics about the place. And just as the contribution of the LCC on matters political for likely over half the listening audience comes heavily freighted with the knowledge that its linked to loyalist paramilitaries, so the contribution of Orange Grand Pooh-Bah Mervyn Gibson is considered in the light of Mervyn being invited on to talk about politics solely because he “strenuously oppose[s] the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome’.
Tomorrow: ‘My thoughts on d’Hondt and the block grant,’ by Julian Simmons.