Only 20 days after winning the party leadership by one vote, Edwin Poots has resigned as DUP leader. The immediate trigger for his departure is him nominating a First Minister today in spite of the opposition of a majority of both DUP MLAs and MPs. (They were unhappy about the late night Irish Language Act compromise). But him being forced out can only really be understood in the context of bad blood created by his brutal ouster of Arlene Foster and his decision to sack all her ministers bar one, himself, in a reshuffle last week.
Poots’s departure is a sign of the chaos engulfing the DUP. It is being squeezed on two sides. The Traditional Unionist Voice attack it from a more hardline perspective, criticising it for allowing the Northern Ireland protocol to happen and for the executive’s role in implementing it. While the Ulster Unionists, under their new leader Doug Beattie, are appealing to those voters turned off by the DUP’s strident tone and Poots’s doctrinaire social conservatism.
The question now is who succeeds Poots. The obvious choice is the man he beat by one vote, the party’s Westminster leader Jeffrey Donaldson. He would certainly command the support of those who backed Arlene Foster and is an able politician. But it remains to be seen if those who joined Poots to bring down Foster will accept Donaldson as leader.