When in doubt, get back to basics! That seems to be the thinking of the close vote in the DUP’s electoral colleges as Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots defeated the party’s Westminster leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, by 19 votes to 17 in the DUP’s first ever leadership election in the party’s 50-year history.
Those basics are the so-called ‘founding principles’ which its first leader, the late Rev Ian Paisley, built the movement upon in the 1970s when he clinched the Stormont Bannside seat and North Antrim Westminster seat in the elections of 1970.
This was to give a voice to previously politically muted sections of the pro-Union community - fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, and the loyalist working class.
While this was seen at the time as a political shotgun marriage, it worked for Paisley senior, although it would be 2003 before the DUP would finally overtake the rival Ulster Unionist Party as the leading Unionist party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
And with North Belfast MLA Paula Bradley being elected as DUP deputy leader, defeating long-serving East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, it sees a significant shift, too, in the power base of the party from Westminster to Stormont.
Perhaps this can be interpreted - with the defeat of Donaldson and Campbell - that the DUP no longer enjoys the influence it once had in the corridors of Westminster during the premiership of former Tory boss Theresa May.
Edwin Poots’ dad was a founder member of the DUP and is a born again Christian and is a committed Creationist.
It is also clear the election of Edwin Poots and Paula Bradley sends a signal that the DUP wants to stem any loss of votes to both the more Right-wing Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and the middle of the road Alliance Party.
Paula Bradley would be viewed as being on the more liberal wing of the DUP and would be seen as a key lynchpin in persuading pro-Union voters who plumped for Alliance as a protest vote of either returning to or choosing to vote for the DUP.
During the DUP’s leadership contest, statistics were being floated that for every vote the DUP lost to the TUV, the DUP lost three to Alliance.
What Poots has to consider is how many of these ‘three votes’ were genuine shifts to liberalism and how many were merely protest votes against the DUP over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) (dubbed the cash for ash scandal), Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Skeptics might say it was a case that Donaldson lost the leadership rather than Poots winning the leadership! Given that the outgoing leader, Arlene Foster, came to the DUP from the UUP, was the ‘electoral college’ suspicious of having another ex-UUP politician as its leader?
Clearly, what Poots has to do is find a way of defeating the Protocol, uniting Unionism and mobilising the pro-union community to actually come out to the polling booths on election days.
Given the close voting in the leadership poll - Poots winning by only two votes - he needs to unite the DUP behind a common policy
is to unite the DUP behind a common policy. Indeed, could Poots be in a position to create the type of Unionist unity witnessed during the heydays of the United Ulster Unionist Council, also known as the Unionist Coalition, which represented up to four different pro-Union parties.
On one hand, Poots - given his religious background - could pull in the church vote, while Paula Bradley focuses on the centre ground and loyalist working class?
One of the criticisms of the Arlene Foster leadership was that under her watch, the DUP was perceived to be disconnecting from the Protestant working class.
Ironically, the Poots/Bradley leadership team seems to be creating a so-called ‘broad church’ approach to Unionism - a term more used to describe the policies and strategies of the Ulster Unionists.
The UUP also faces a change of leadership following continued election losses, with former Army officer and Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie the only contender in the race thus far.
It would appear with the election of the Poots/Bradley team, the DUP will take a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, not just to fellow Unionist parties, but with other parties - Poots taking the hardline ‘stick’ approach, with Bradley adopting the more moderate ‘softly softly carrot’ strategy.
But the key question the Poots/Bradley team have to address - how can the DUP scupper the Protocol while avoiding any collapse in the devolved administration at Stormont?
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Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.