Last week, Peter Robinson confirmed the worst kept secret in local politics, announcing that the DUP will not stand a second candidate in May’s European elections.
Peter Robinson of course knows full well, that if he were to run two candidates for Europe, the most likely outcome is neither being elected. Any suggestion to the contrary is laughable.
The prospect of a second DUP candidate was a ploy by the party to create an illusion of strength, at a time when it is actually quite vulnerable.
Speaking with voters on the ground, I detect a distinct trust issue emerging with the DUP. There’s the issue of the Maze … which still hasn’t gone away and which will be resurrected after the elections. Then, there’s the issue of who in the DUP knew what (or should have known what) about OTRs.
We can’t forget the Unionist Forum either, even if Mr Robinson might want to. There’s the party’s on/off love affair with that most detested of institutions, the EU.
And of course, there’s the crisis in the Health Service too, which has arisen on Edwin Poots’ watch.
In May, it is almost certain that one of the two Unionist MEP seats will change hands.
But despite what Peter Robinson may claim, looking at the numbers, it would take an almost unimaginable set of circumstances for either Unionist seat to be lost to an Irish republican party.
Instead, the most likely outcome is one Unionist seat transferring to another pro-Union party. And of the two seats, the strategists at DUP headquarters know full well that Diane Dodds’ seat is just as vulnerable as Jim Nicholson’s.
If Peter Robinson believes otherwise, he’s not fooling the electorate, he’s fooling himself.