Can you swim? Yeah, me too. On the other hand I’d be useless as a support to someone who was showing signs they might be drowning. All that thrashing about and grabbing the first limb they can locate - you’d find me swimming hard in the opposite direction.
Which is why I’d stay well back from Peter Robinson these days. Maybe it’s the out-working of an odd kind of hubris. When you’ve come through what Peter’s been through - the whole Iris affair, where there’s been money and sex with a muuuuuch younger man involved, and you’ve had to go on TV and act heart-broken, with a ‘The Best Dad In The World’ sign accidentally behind you - when you’ve come through all that apparently with no damage to speak of, you may begin to think you’re unsinkable.
But never say never. Peter Robinson’s recent speech about the flag protest, if it’s not the shouts of a drowning man, it closely resembles same. Alan in Belfast has a very clear summary of it on sluggerotoole (http://sluggerotoole.com/2013/01/04/it-is-a-straight-forward-politically-motivated-attempt-to-undermine-the-dup-as-the-voice-of-unionism/) and the net message is, the whole flegs thing is not an attack on the Alliance Party, not an attack on the Shinners, but an attack on the DUP! Crikey. What’s more, this attack is linked to getting back Direct Rule. Which will mean that there’ll be gay marriages and abortion on demand here. Wheeeooooo!
Now tell me that’s not the frantic splashings of a man who feels, in the immortal words of Jim Allister on a prior occasion, you’re going down, down, down. It also shows Peter as having a lot less savvy than many commentators give him credit for. Hoist with one’s own petard, indeed. Peter triggered the protests in the first place with his famous 40,000 flyers telling people to get out there and blame the Alliance Party for the shameful lowering of the flag. Seemed a fool-proof scheme. But then it all began to get ugly and hilarious at the same time. Instead of nullifying the Alliance threat in East Belfast and getting Peter back his seat next time round, this has brought a wave of sympathy to Alliance, increasing not decreasing Naomi Long’s chances in the next Westminster contest. And while Peter didn’t mention it (too polite, I suppose), the fact is that Nigel Dodds has Gerry Kelly breathing down his neck in north Belfast; so there’s a real possibility that the DUP could lose both its leader AND its deputy leader next time out. Eeeek.
Maybe that’s what’s pushed Peter into that thrashing-about and yelling that it’s a conspiracy to smash the DUP (no, I don’t think there’ s a patent on Mr Paisley’s ‘Smash Sinn Féin’, Victoria), perpetrated by people who attack their fellow-unionists all the time, and how these fools are looking for Direct Rule and sure wouldn’t direct rule open Ulster’s doors to Mr Sodomy and Mr Abortion-on-demand and worst of all, fewer benefits. What’s more I, Peter, have had no hand, act or part in the appalling actions of these people. So look, please, would you vote for me. I mean us, our party. This is like serious, I’m surrounded by enemies, within and without. I mean gulp, gasp, gurgle, yell, someone, anyone - HEEEELLLLP!