I’ve deliberately left Robogate and the whole general expenses palaver alone up to now for two reasons. Firstly, within the rules Robinson hasn’t apparently done anything wrong and expecting politicians to exercise control and discretion in this area is akin to expecting unsupervised five year olds to exercise control and discretion when faced with an open tin of sweeties. Secondly, the reason Robinson plc are clearing over 500K is because of the much larger scandal of multiple mandates which seemed to have been completely ignored in the mainland analysis and the resulting debate in Northern Ireland. This blog deals primarily with the maintenance and promotion of the Union, the fact that Peter allegedly has everyone in the family, bar his second-cousin removed Alf in Tobermore, on the payroll seemed kind of peripheral to the bigger issue.
Having thought about it a bit further though, two side-effects from the whole affair do have a relevance to the overall subject of Unionism...in our own small corner of the United Kingdom anyway.
It’s an understatement to say that Robinson has not come out of this affair well. As I said, on the face of it, he has stayed within the rules and if you stay within the rules (which are known to the public), then technically you can’t be “smeared” on the subject can you? Furthermore, the expenses and salaries claimed by our politicos are not concealed- they are open, more or less, for public consumption. Why then Robinson’s completely OTT over-reaction (particularly with Martina Purdy and the Beeb) to the "revelation" in the NOTW and Daily Mail? Quite simply his inherent fear telling him he was losing control of the "message". Never mind the implications for the principles of the open society necessary for any democracy worthy of the name to fully function; the level of control freakery and paranoia displayed does not bode well for any future free, open and creative thinking within the DUP (and by extension Unionism, whilst DUP remains its leading party)- if his promised "Unionist Academy" ever comes to fruition, will it be restricted to topics and opinions first sanctioned by The Dear Leader? I mentioned in an earlier post about how the leadership’s fear of the plebs exercising their independent cognitive functions has greatly hampered the "Republican project"; exactly the same principle applies to Unionism.
Secondly, the DUP’s instinctive reaction to the "revelations” was worth noting, especially bearing in mind all the talk of the "Unionist Unity" which still tends to drift through at periodic intervals. You would have thought that a Unionist party when faced with such a situation as the DUP did a couple of Sundays ago, would have publicised what those whom ( you would have thought) were their natural political rivals were getting up to in the same area. And it was there presented on a big fat plate- Sinn Fein are, in their own, not so subtle way, screwing the British state and tax-payer. And they, not surprisingly bearing in mind their raison d’etre, seem rather proud of it. But nope. First knee-jerk reaction, attack those who in theory are batting on the same side. The basic reaction was laughable and quite frankly an eye-opener in terms of the incompetence served up by the supposed Rottweillers sorting out the Dupes' PR and propaganda*. If you've broken no rules, then WTF has Jim Nicholson got to do with the bigger picture? Has he broken any rules? If not, then? And if a Conservative "sleaze department" is not a figment of Peter Robinson's imagination, then I really doubt they'll restrict themselves to his expenses, which are 100% open to anyone that cares anyway and, (as a side note) if I were the DUPes, I'd pray, seriously pray, that Guido Fawkes never develops an interest in how you spend all that dosh the taxpayers drops on your lap. But, again, that's all peripheral to the bigger issue here.
I've opposed "Unionist" pacts previously on the grounds of ideology- why have Labour and the Conservatives not jumped into bed together in Scotland and Wales to prevent the separatists winning seats and, in both cases, power? On one issue only, the Union, they are singing the same hymn-sheet, on everything else they are not even practising the same religion. Similarly if the UUP/Conservative alliance is to succeed, the electorate must be able to see the clear distance between the Union they're promoting and the version of Unionism being delivered up by the DUP. But, in addition to that, Robogate and more particularly the DUPes' reaction, has proven the complete lack of trust on the ground between the two main strands of Unionism now developing in Northern Ireland and those particularly within the more traditional wing of the UUP should bear that fact in mind when thinking about the question of both South Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone in 2010.
*Ironically they've completely misjudged from where their main threat comes from. All their resources have been focused towards the version of Unionism which is in no danger whatsoever of nabbing 30,000 plus votes from them.