Nigel Dodds – the overwhelming favourite to succeed Peter Robinson as DUP leader – has expressed firm opposition to the idea that the party can be led from Westminster, it has emerged.
Mr Dodds, who is now solely based in Westminster after giving up his Stormont seat, made the comment in an interview over two years ago, where he spoke to five academics – Jon Tonge, Maire Braniff, Thomas Hennessey, James McAuley and Sophie Whiting – involved in writing a book about the DUP.
The research behind their book was done with the cooperation of the party and involved numerous interviews, some of which were on the record and some of which were anonymised.
Mr Dodds’s interview from the book – The Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland: From Protest to Power – was on the record.
However, the comment was not included in the book at the time and only came to light last week when Prof Tonge referred to it in passing on BBC programme The View.
Amid widespread speculation in recent days that he is to succeed Mr Robinson as leader, Mr Dodds has given no indication that he still holds the view expressed in the interview.
The North Belfast MP, who was in the Commons chamber for much of yesterday afternoon, could not be reached for comment.
In the interview, Mr Dodds was asked by Dr Whiting whether he saw himself as a future leader of the DUP.
Mr Dodds responded: “I can’t see anybody being in the slightest bit interested in your forthcoming publication in my answer to that. In politics, who knows what happens?
“I am in Westminster now, I am not even in the Assembly. In my view you have to be, in the Northern Ireland of today – I agree with Mark Durkan, you cannot be a leader of your party without being in the Assembly.”
In the interview, Mr Dodds also outlined his view on leadership more generally. Referring to Ian Paisley around the time of going into government with Sinn Fein in 2007, he said: “Well I think Ian was very keen to get a settlement in Northern Ireland, he was very keen to move things forward.
“I think in terms of political leadership...you need someone driving ahead that has a clear view of things. I mentioned Blair there. Maybe it is the lawyer in me but you have to have the vision stuff, you have to have the broad brush, the main objective and somebody driving that but you also have to have people who are saying ‘let’s make sure all the Ts are crossed and all the Is dotted and what is in the small print?’
“Peter [Robinson] is very much in that mould, I am in that mould. I think it requires that duality of approach, it is complementary.
“You need the vision stuff, you need the broad brush approach. You need to push but you need also people to look at the detail of the matter because the Shinners are famously good at exposing loopholes in the letter of the law. We were determined as far as possible to nail things down.”