Editorial: As DUP influence at Westminster collapses, it needs to get back to Stormont
TWO messages should be heard loud and clear following events at Westminster this week. First, the DUP's attempts to bolster support for its position on the Windsor Framework have been a dismal failure. It needs to 'read the room' and allow MLAs to get back to Stormont.
Second, any lingering embers that Boris Johnson hoped could be fanned to help him blaze a trail back to Downing Street have been extinguished. Under questioning at the House of Commons privileges committee, the charlatan former prime minister delivered a thoroughly unconvincing explanation of various aspects of the 'partygate' scandals.
The two overlap. Like a particularly toxic political Venn diagram, they intersect at Brexit. Mr Johnson and the DUP will forever be inextricably linked by their shared pursuit of a Brexit fantasy that has, among other malign outcomes, led to the people of Northern Ireland being denied power-sharing for more than a year.
Wednesday's vote on the Stormont brake emphasised that the DUP's influence at Parliament, like that of Mr Johnson, has collapsed. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's revised NI Protocol deal was backed by 515 MPs, with a mere 29 against. The DUP was joined by just 22 Conservatives, including Mr Johnson.
It is the latest crushing defeat for the Brexit ultras. If February's humiliation at the Supreme Court was a bruising encounter with legal reality, then this week's vote was the dashing of DUP hubris on the rocks of parliamentary arithmetic. To borrow a phrase from the Vote Leave advertising campaign that the DUP so generously funded, Parliament has taken back control. After years of chaos and turmoil, MPs want to move on.
As Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie observed - prompting the predictable 'lundy' accusations - the DUP boycott has failed. Unionism, he said, needs to decide if it wants to have influence at the Assembly and Executive or if it wants to be "nothing more than passengers with no say over the direction we are headed".
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson may well now reflect that it was a mistake to link the boycott of Stormont with the delivery by the British government of an NI Protocol deal that fully met the DUP's idiosyncratic and entirely unrealistic requirements.
He now has to work out how to unhitch the boycott from the Windsor Framework so that MLAs from every party can return to the Assembly; this must surely still be the DUP's logical destination, not least because it has utterly failed to articulate an alternative.