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Jim Allister: I would have voted for Trump despite his flaws and Robinson's demise was poetic justice

Day two of a fascinating interview with outspoken TUV leader Jim Allister

By Suzanne Breen

Published 26/11/2016

TUV leader Jim Allister relaxing at home
TUV leader Jim Allister relaxing at home
A young Jim Allister with DUP colleagues Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson in 1983

TUV leader Jim Allister has revealed that he would have voted for Donald Trump to be US President - "despite his deficiencies".

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Allister also said that he shed no tears over the political demise of Peter Robinson, which he viewed as being, in some ways, "poetic justice".

And the TUV leader also rounded on many fellow MLAs whom he said were career politicians who couldn't earn anywhere like the same salary beyond Stormont's doors.

While some in the DUP - including East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson - have been highly critical of Mr Trump, Mr Allister said that although he was fully aware of the President-elect's weaknesses, he would have voted for him nonetheless.

He added that he was delighted to see "the meddling Clintons" defeated.

Mr Allister said that we had entered an era of invigorating politics, and he believed that if the Assembly elections had been held now, rather than in May, the results would be very different, especially for the DUP. "It's an exciting time in politics. In Brexit and in Trump, we have the victory of the little people. It would have been nice if our Assembly elections were held after these two events," he said.

"It might have encouraged people to think: 'Let's drain the swamp at Stormont'. And, most importantly, to believe that it could actually be done."

On the performance so far of the Opposition parties in the Assembly, Mr Allister said he was pleased that the UUP and SDLP had opted out of the Executive, but added: "I fear that Opposition isn't in some of their DNA."

Turning to the DUP and Sinn Fein, Mr Allister said he believed that they were so keen on holding office that they wouldn't opt for Opposition, even if they emerged as the smaller unionist and nationalist parties after the 2021 Assembly election.

"That is the flaw in the system," he said.

"It doesn't matter if the UUP and the SDLP succeed in Opposition and emerge as the largest parties after the next election.

"The set-up at Stormont means that the DUP and Sinn Fein still have a right to be in Government.

"I've no doubt that the power-loving Sinn Fein and DUP wouldn't choose Opposition. They would cling to whatever office was there for them."

The TUV leader criticised the rise in the number of career politicians here.

"I'm a great believer that you can contribute more to politics, and have far more independence, if you have had a life outside it," he argued.

"You can count on two hands the number of MLAs who could earn the same as their Stormont salary beyond the realms of the building.

"They are wholly dependent on their parties for their livelihood and that makes them pliable. The party has a capacity to make or break an individual."

Mr Allister claimed that many MLAs weren't true to themselves. "They're always looking over their shoulder, thinking 'this could be the end' if they make the wrong move," he said.

"There are MLAs on the DUP's fundamentalist wing who disagree with gay pardons, but who will vote for them next week. And there are DUP MLAs who are pro-gay marriage but refuse to say so."

Mr Allister resigned from the DUP in 2007 in protest at its decision to enter Government with Sinn Fein. He returned to politics in 2004 - after an absence of 17 years - with the support of Peter Robinson.

The TUV leader acknowledged that when Mr Robinson had welcomed him back into the party, he had failed to see that Mr Allister might be someone who would prove difficult when it came to compromising on principles. "I think that, by bringing me back, Peter highlighted that he was good at short-term tactics rather than long-term strategy," he said.

Asked if he felt sorry for Mr Robinson, who stepped down as DUP leader last year, Mr Allister said: "I feel sorry for him in the sense that it was Peter's lifelong ambition to be number one and it all went a bit sour. But there is a bit of poetic justice to it all. Peter circled Paisley's wagon, and in the end the party circled his."

Mr Allister also revealed that he wasn't a member of the Orange Order.

"I was as a young fellow, but I turned into a Twelfth of July Orangeman, and that's not what I'm about," he explained.

"If I'm in something then I want to be in it properly, so I left. Now, if I went back to the Orange Order, they'd say: 'Oh, he's just doing it for the politics'."

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