So farewell Jim Wells.
Last week, speaking as the DUP candidate for South Down, he made some comments at a hustings event. His view that children with parents in a gay relationship are more likely to be abused or neglected than children with straight parents was condemned.
Wells apologised but cited recent stress (his wife is ill) as a mitigating factor.
SDLP called for his resignation and tabled an Assembly motion condemning him. DUP would have used Assembly procedures to negate any vote. Nevertheless SDLP will see this as a triumph…a scalp even. And a nice little boost before the election that SDLP is getting thru on at least some issues.
Peter Robinson and DUP will be spinning it differently.
The DUP “spin” will be that Jim Wells is a caring Christian family man, who stood up for the values of the Bible, mis-spoke due to his stress levels, apologised and was still forced to resign by a combination of non-Christians, republicans, socialists, nationalists and the partisan media. I expect in tonight’s TV News, Robinson will be talking about “dignity” and “integrity”.
SDLP will need to be cautious. Rather more than any of their political rivals, they went after their man. And they got their man.
It is of course ten days to the Westminster Election. And unusually there is an “English” dimension. As I wrote in a blog a few days ago, DUP are toxic. In all the talk of coalition-building, the focus has been on Labour and the Scottish Nationalists. The SNP has been scrutinised to an unreasonable level.
The DUP, potential coalition partners with the Conservatives have not been scrutinised.
Until Wells opened his mouth last week. The DUP has come under the spotlight and they dont like it at all.
Did he jump? Or was he pushed?
Well…he said it. He apologised. He used his wife as a mitigating factor. Cynics will say that he should have decided to sit this election out. But really he is the only DUP person in South Down and it maximises the DUP vote to have him on the ballot paper. He was doing the Party a favour by allowing his name to go forward. And the DUP has an urgent need to get out of the headlines in England. So I am inclined to think that he is acting as a faithful Party man.
But DUP are wounded. The publicity is bad. I dont think there will ever be a time when DUP is not a fundamentalist Christian Party. But I do think there will be a time when Norn Iron is not over-awed by Religion. Religion…Faith DOES have a place in Society but it has no place in Politics.
DUP have two wings. The Fundamentalist wing is weakened by Wells’ resignation. Edwin Poots and Nelson McCausland have already lost their jobs as Ministers. One of the near namesakes Paul Girvan or Paul Givan is a fundy. Maybe he will be promoted but if Peter Robinson is trying to balance his Party, he is rapidly running out of credible zealots.
There is a (relatively) Pragmatic or Secular wing. It is bad timing for Jonathan Bell. He is contesting South Belfst on 7th May and cannot realistically accept a Ministry. Peter Weir is a safe pair of hands. But Simon Hamilton might be transferred from Finance. Rev David McIlveen is a possibility.
I am composing this on a train from Derry and it the Internet connexion is not great. Not seen much news today. So you folks reading this might be more aware whats going on.