BUT WILL IT BE ‘NO WAY’ OR ‘NORWAY’ FOR THE DUP?
I ALWAYS thought a bidet was something the French used for washing ‘up there’ afterwards.
But now, our very own exclusively British B-Day looms. The BIG Brexit vote at Westminster. On December 11. And maybe that French connection, form bridet to B-Day, remains a certain relevance. For it was on December 11, 1792 that King Louis XVI went on trial in Paris accused of high treason and crimes against the state. And look what happened to him. Madame la Guillotine. So could the same fate await Madame May: will they Tory Brexiteers eventually bay for her head, and perhaps get it, too?
And there are other historical resonances with the fateful date of December 11. That was the day in 1620 that the Mayflower pilgrims first set foot in the USA, at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. And look at the legacy they left us: Donald Trump in the White House.
December 11th 1936 was also the date that sparked the Abdication Crisis at Buckingham Palace. That was when Edward VIII announced that he was abdicating the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorcee. One of the Big questions this coming December 11th is, of course, will the DUP abdicate from the so-called consent and supply deal to which they’re wedded with the Tories, and simultaneously divorce themselves from the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
And there is another December 11th date which resonates across the centuries and still leaves its indelible mark on both Britain, but more especially and starkly, back home here, on both sides of the border: whether that border remains soft, or hard. It was on December 11th, 1688 that King James II did a runner from the English throne when he heard that his son-in-law, King Billy, William III Prince of Orange, had landed with his Dutch army in Devon. We all, especially in this country, know how that played out two years later, when Jimmy told Billy to shove his dove and da-and-son-in-law went to war at the Boyne. Still, as James strunted off the boat to France in ’88, having told William to shove his dove when King Billy offered him a peace pact on Salisbury plain, he had already sealed his own fate. That was when, in a right royal act of defiance, he flung the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames.
And isn’t that exactly what the 10 DUP MP’s want to do this December 11th with Theresa May’s Brussels deal? So the date of December 11th certainly carries significance down the centuries. And will be ditto in nine days’ time. Especially with the DUP now throwing their weight behind what what is being called the Norway Plus ‘B-Plan’ option.
Suddenly, with them, ‘Ulster Says No’ is out the windie. Now, for them, it’s ‘Ulster Says No-rway’. Why, if they and the rest of the Brexiteers get their way, Sammy Wilson will do a passable impression of Frank Sinatra by standing up in the Commons and crooning that OI’ Blue Eyes classic: ‘We did it Nour-way.’ For the DUP at that moment, through, it’s ‘Nor-way or No Way’. Which, at least, underpins the ‘Democratic’ tag in their party title. They’re making their opposition to a British PM’s policy known through the democratic process this time. It wasn’t always so.
That became particularly poignant earlier this week when the death of that redoubtable lady Baroness Trumping-ton was announced. TV news broadcasts showed that hilarious quip of her giving the two-figered salute to Tom King in the House of Lords when he alluded to her – ahem – advanced years. That reminded me of the mayhem that occurred almost 33 years ago, on Wednesday November 20th, 1985, when Tom King was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It was just five days after Maggie Thatcher and Garret Fitzgerald had signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Mr King had been invited to launch at Belfast City Hall. The DUP and other protesters lay in ambush.
Among the mob was ultra-loyalist councillor and firebrand Scot ‘Crazy George’ Seawright. George tried to jump on his back. Another protester tried to crown him with a pole of a Union Jack flag. In that infamous incident, the hapless Mr King didn’t only get the fingers. He got the fisticuffs as well. As for George Seawright, he copped a sentence in court of nine months banged up behind bars for his part in the furious affray.
Contrast that with what happens earlier this week, on Tuesday. For all the ire and fire the DUP has directed at her, Theresa May visits Belfast. And there are no diehard demos, from the DUP or anyone else. There are no resurrected George Seawrights. There is no hellraiser like the Rev Ian Paisley standing guldering ‘Never, Never, Never’ outside Belfast City Hall on the Saturday after the King City Hall fiasco on that Wednesday launch time in ’85.
Perhaps we are a society, are at least and at last progressing down the road of real democracy. Sure, this December 11th, we are heading, once again, into unknown. Perhaps it was Harold Pinter in his 1965 play The Homecoming who best penned what is looming in the parliamentary vote in days’ time. He wrote: “Apart from the known and the unknown, what else is there?” Ponder Mr Pinter’s words, if you will, over your next pint. After this December 11th, 2018, the pint may be easier to swallow than what happens in parliament then. In short, whether Brexit means May’s Way, No Way or Norway.
With many thanks to: Jim McDowell and the Sunday World for the original posting.