Northern Irish unionists are united against the protocol

The DUP’s departed leader Edwin Poots spoke in his valedictory interview of a ‘significant victory’ heading unionism’s way regarding its bête noire, the Northern Ireland protocol. The outright, irrevocable removal of the ‘sea border’ imposed by the protocol has become the fundamental objective of all shades of political unionism and loyalism.  Anti-protocol street art garlanded two deeply different citadels of unionism in the past week — the working-class heartland of Belfast’s Shankill Road and the affluent County Down village of Killyleagh. There is a sense of shared purpose.  The message implicit in the government’s command paper is ‘give us time’ Given the briefing that went before it, the good burghers of

The hollowing out of the Belfast Agreement

There is a lot to unpack in Sir Keir Starmer’s suggestion that he would campaign for the Union in the event of a future border poll in Northern Ireland. It’s a welcome repudiation of decades of Labour policy, which has been to support Irish nationalism. Would-be members in the Province were directed to join the separatist ‘sister party’ the SDLP instead. But just as interesting is the reaction of the many commentators who sallied out to suggest that the Labour leader had somehow breached the Belfast Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration or any other of the peace’s sacred texts. According to the Irish nationalist interpretation, somewhere in

Cummings reveals the Unionist heart of darkness

Like Walter Kurtz, Dominic Cummings had immense plans but was tripped on the threshold of greatness by the weaknesses of his superiors. Now he holds court from his fortress temple of Substack where, in the fashion of Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard, subscribers receive his glum musings on Covid strategy, systems management and judicial review. Cummings is sometimes regarded as a brilliant sociopath and while I sway back and forth on whether the emphasis belongs on the adjective or the noun, his insights into how government really works are immensely valuable to understanding policy-making, implementation and the impotence of power. I have come to the view that, if you want to

Edwin Poots’s departure is a sign of the chaos engulfing the DUP

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

Can the DUP survive?

A 36-person strong electorate will meet in Belfast this Friday to elect Arlene Foster’s replacement as leader of the Democratic Unionist party.  The choice facing the assembled ranks of the party’s MPs and members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) is, amusingly, between two men who share the same office in Lisburn: the Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots, the Stormont agriculture minister. Such is the DUP way, the two candidates are under orders not to speak to the media or undertake any form of public-facing promotional activity for the duration of the contest. However, a document sent by Poots to his colleagues setting out his vision for the

An English parliament is a terrible idea

It’s Saint George’s Day, which means it’s that time of year when Unionists must once again don their armour, saddle their horses, and ride out to slay that most terrible of dragons: an English parliament. This proposal rears its head every so often as a possible solution to the increasingly undeniable strain that two decades of devolution has put on the constitution of the United Kingdom. It is in fact one of the surest means of guaranteeing the dissolution of the Union. Unfortunately, the reasons for this are pretty much exactly the same reasons that the creation of the other devolved legislatures was a bad idea. That means that there

Unionists are preparing for the wrong fight

It makes bleak sense, when you think about it. The history of Unionism is littered with self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities. So of course the Prime Minister would lose his grip on the Union Unit just as the Scottish government seems to be facing an acute crisis. Alex Salmond has once again withdrawn from giving evidence to MSPs after the Crown Office stepped in and got the Scottish parliament to redact his evidence (again). As it was already in the public domain, we can all see that the censored portions relate not to the naming of vulnerable women, but to criticism of Nicola Sturgeon. Yet it still feels hard to

Boris Johnson’s Scotland trip is a gift to the SNP

Boris Johnson is in Scotland today and once again this counts as news. This is intolerable to everyone. Intolerable to Unionists because a prime ministerial appearance in Scotland should be as routine as a prime ministerial appearance in the Cotswolds. It should not count as a newsworthy moment. And it is intolerable to Scottish nationalists because, well, because everything is intolerable to Scottish nationalists. The Prime Minister’s visit can hardly be deemed ‘essential travel’ in the current circumstances even if it is also essential that Scotland never becomes a no-go area for Johnson or, indeed, other cabinet ministers. Making it seem such, chipping away at Johnson’s legitimacy, is one small

Alex Massie

Boris is failing a crucial One Nation test in Scotland

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a proposal to devolve certain aspects of our post-Brexit immigration policy to Scotland. Well, you might say, she would say that, wouldn’t she? But Sturgeon’s argument has some merit, for Scotland has a demographic problem that is not shared by the rest of the United Kingdom. A few thousand Scotland-only visas issued each year has the potential, assuming they proved sufficiently attractive, to address that. This is not just an SNP ploy, either. There is a widespread acceptance in Scotland that the country needs to be able to do more to attract more immigrants. On current trends, immigration is likely to be essential for the population