As predicted by many, Jim Allister is not going to slink off and retire from politics just because he lost his European Parliament seat. On the contrary, he intends to turn his attention to politics much closer to home. Already the DUP's nemesis, Allister risks becoming their worst nightmare.
Today he is quoted in the News Letter as hoping to "topple power-sharing by using a boycott plan that would likely see a nationalist majority in a Sinn Fein-led Executive. This would be intolerable to most unionists, and might scupper the prospect of republican-led rule of the Province"
Thanks to the effects of proportional representation, the TUV could get enough seats to ensure that a boycott by them of the Assembly could mean unionists are in the minority in the Executive. If this meant that Martin McGuinness would become First Minister and unionists would be minority in the Executive, Allister hopes that the Executive would "implode" because it would be 'unrepresentative of unionism'.
Such is Allister's hatred of nationalists that he would rather contemplate the destruction of Northern Ireland's political institutions than countenance an entirely imaginary 'dominance' by them. There is, in practical and administrative terms, no difference between Martin McGuiness as deputy First Minister and Martin McGuinness as First Minister. The two posts are equal in weight and power.
Allister's plan rests on several assumptions:
Firstly he assumes that the other unionists share his visceral hatred of nationalism. While some of them are certainly no fans of nationalism, the fact that they are currently operating the power-sharing institutions shows that they are not as extreme as he is. His plan would require the UUP also to walk away from the Executive just because there is a nationalist First Minister. Does he really think that they are as bigoted as he is?
Secondly, he assumes that the 'implosion' of the Executive would be, on balance, a good thing for unionism. But what would replace it? In all likelihood it would be replaced by Direct Rule with enhanced Dublin input – in practice, joint sovereignty. This is what happened the last time, and there is no reason to believe that it would not happen again. How, in Allister's tortured mind, could he see rule by part-time outsiders doing a stint in the NIO as a stepping stone in their careers to be preferable to locally answerable politicians taking responsibility for local affairs? And how, if the Dublin input is large and visible, could he square that with his wish to stop nationalists from exercising power?
The DUP entered the power-sharing arrangements because they were shown the alternative – the secret Plan B. Before this, they were almost as implacably opposed to power-sharing as Allister is now, but one threat of Plan B brought them to the table, and the chuckling began. Plan B has not gone away, of course, and despite its obvious lack of attraction for the DUP, Allister is threatening to reawaken it. Does he really know what he is doing?
Plan B is clearly much more 'green' than power-sharing, so is Allister playing with fire? If he has his way, and the Executive 'implodes' with unknown consequences, one of which may well be Plan B, Allister may turn out to have been a greater friend of nationalism than of unionism.