DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson moved this week to scotch the optimism about a potential return to Stormont engendered by the intervention of his former boss Peter Robinson.
In what was seen as a choreographed move by a man who remains close to Mr Donaldson, the former DUP chief said that it was time for unionists (ie the DUP) to realise that they could not get all they wanted from the current negotiations and they should go back to Stormont and try to engineer more concessions from inside the institutions. He said he was hopeful that a deal for a return could be arrived at within the next few weeks.
Now, in one of the most tone-deaf in a long line of gormless defences of his policy, Mr Donaldson has said he’s not “fixated with timelines”, as he claims others are, and that any decision he makes in the coming weeks and months will not be “calendar-led”.
Not surprisingly, his words incurred the scorn and anger of those who are keen to see devolution restored and of those whose cost-of-living woes are very much calendar-led. And if the discrepancy between the length of the month and the amount of income of ordinary people is becoming increasingly marked, how much more acutely are the needs of the desperately ill dependent on the passing of time?
Mr Donaldson and those senior party figures who are driving this nameless and shapeless policy will not feel the effects of a continuing boycott, they will not suffer from the inability of the devolved institutions to implement the range of powers available to them to mitigate the worst effects of deepening Tory austerity. But they have no hesitation in consigning those who will feel the effects and who will suffer to more weeks and months – and possibly even years – of deliberate inertia imposed on political institutions that have nothing – precisely nothing – to do with the Brexit-related developments that they seek to reverse.
There is an onus on Jeffrey Donaldson and the DUP to get back around the Executive table with the rest of the parties to urgently deliver for workers, families, and local businesses.— Caoimhe Archibald MLA (@CArchibald_SF) November 28, 2023
It’s time now to move forward. https://t.co/WTHEtr6evI
Meanwhile, Mr Donaldson and his DUP Westminster colleagues – who actually sit in the place that drew up the Protocol and that put in place the Irish Sea Border – will watch the non-time-limited progress of the abstention policy sunk in the voluminous cushions of their full salaries and expenses.
There is no coherent argument for a split policy on political boycott. Staying out of Stormont, an institution that is utterly unconnected to unionism’s Protocol and sea border worries, while continuing to strut the stage at Westminster, harbinger of unionism’s constitutional woes, is a flagrant example of double standards. It’s slashed wages for the little men and women MLAs, business as usual for the noisy big beasts on the green and red benches in London. The difficulty for the rest of us is that the DUP has so successfully gaslit its base that this screaming contradiction matters not. So numbed and impotent have unionist voters become that the nihilistic buzz of saying no seems at this point to be an addiction.
We can only hope that will change as things get worse.