Belfast Telegraph

Tom Kelly: DUP will rue inviting Boris to entertain at annual conference

Boris Johnson(Victoria Jones/PA)
Boris Johnson(Victoria Jones/PA)
Boris Johnston

By Tom Kelly

The DUP annual conference is being held this weekend and the good and God-fearing people attending are no doubt going to give a raucous welcome to a man described by the much-respected former editor of the Daily Telegraph, Max Hastings, as a "gold medal egomaniac", a man "guilty of maniac sexual adventuring", who is no more than "a brilliant maitre'd".

Hastings said he wouldn't trust him with his wife, or his wallet. Going further, Hastings remarked that a man incapable of controlling his libido "isn't fit to be trusted with controlling the country".

The individual he was referring to was none other than old Etonian Bullingdon Boris, the bumbling Brexiteer.

The attendance of Johnson at the DUP conference will ensure that it becomes a media circus.

Johnson, who once referred to members of the Commonwealth as "flag-waving piccaninnies" will no doubt thrill and entertain his audience with tales about Brussels bogeymen and green goblins in the Irish government.

He is less likely to tell DUP stalwarts that he was once the toast of Pink News and supports equal marriage. If you research Johnson, either as Mayor of London, or as MP, he has said very little about Northern Ireland - apart from red Routemasters.

It's probably because, as a cosmopolitan, urban sophisticate, he never really cared about it - until Brexit, that is. And his interest doesn't extend to all of the people in Northern Ireland, just the minority DUP position.

He will ignore the voices of the SDLP, Alliance, Green Party, Sinn Fein and Lady Hermon. He will scorn and sneer at the viewpoints of Manufacturing NI, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Business, NICVA, the Ulster Farmers' Union, CBI and leading business people.

He will fail to realise that, in an economy that is 65% dominated by low-paid public-sector jobs and in which 80% of businesses are small, that we have no elites to attack in Northern Ireland.

Sammy Wilson, who normally provides the entertainment slot at DUP events, will now have to play support act to Johnson.

That's probably a good thing, as the latter is more familiar with a thesaurus and, therefore, will have a broader and more titillating range of put-downs than Sammy.

The invitation to Boris Johnson to attend the DUP conference is a directed, but misguided insult towards the Prime Minister.

Johnson is loathed by many Tory MPs. Whatever the fate of Mrs May, the DUP is storing up a day of reckoning. Only politicians have longer memories than elephants.

The DUP position on Brexit becomes more baffling by the day. The antagonism and contempt shown by DUP MPs to the local business and farming representatives has been countered with disdain. The venom directed towards the EU is in stark contrast to these words of Arlene Foster when she was a minister: "The people of Northern Ireland want and deserve a peaceful and secure society. European funding delivered through the peace programmes has played an important part in reinforcing peace and stability in Northern Ireland and the border region."

Today, DUP spokespeople would have you believe that the EU played no such role in peace-building in Northern Ireland.

The DUP have backtracked to an era many thought they had left behind. They are back on the old stomping ground of stoking up imaginary fears.

The future of political unionism depends on persuasion, not the peddling of fear. Fear is an emotion and eventually those fears disappear. The Union didn't fall apart following the Anglo-Irish, or Good Friday, Agreements. It won't fall apart with the Withdrawal Agreement, either.

Johnson would be familiar with the Aesop fable about the farmer and the viper and the moral not to nourish with kindness a viper in your bosom. The DUP has become the viper in the bosom of Mrs May and Johnson will prove to be their viper, too.

Tom Kelly is a political commentator

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