Press stories of "Turmoil, absolute turmoil in the party. Unbelievably scenes" in the DUP's private meeting on Monday to discuss progress in the 'talks' are music to the ears of nationalists. With 'up to 14 DUP MLAs' (UTV) opposing the policing and justice deal put forward by Peter Robinson, and with a secret ballot ending in a 60/40 split in favour of the proposals, it is clear that the DUP cannot present a united front.
Robinson will not agree to the proposals as they stand. To do so would be to cut his party in half, and to gift the TUV a number of MLAs – and perhaps even MPs. In order to keep his party together Robinson will have to find a way to reject the transfer of policing and justice, again!
After days of negotiation, and with Brown and Cowen both changing their schedules and jetting in, it is clear that most people considered the deal virtually done.
But the backwoodsmen of the DUP will not have it, and without them the DUP is but a rump. And so near to an election …
So, back from the brink of agreement everyone must go. And there will be no doubt – none at all – who is at fault. The DUP have used up their supply of goodwill, and have tried to be too clever, causing mischief for the UUP and the Tories, and trying to push Sinn Féin into a precipitate withdrawal from the institutions. But none of it has worked, and as the smoke clears it is obvious that the real problem is, was, and will continue to be, the DUP.
In all likelihood nothing in the short term. Bad humour everywhere, and a defiant DUP. Behind the scenes moves will be made to discomfit the DUP – the UUP will play up the DUP's inability to play nicely, in the hope of peeling off the 60% who would have gone for the deal. The TUV will play up the fact that Robinson tried to sell a deal that clearly lacked the support of 40% of his party, in the hope of peeling them away. And nobody at all will come to the DUP's assistance. Now they're on their own, and the vultures are circling.
It is fascinating for observers to watch the DUP tearing itself apart, and being pecked at by the TUV, in exactly the same way that the UUP was itself pecked at by the same DUP a political generation earlier. With luck the DUP will auto-destruct as completely as the UUP did. Then it will be the TUV's turn. And the spiral of unionist self-destruction will continue.