Denis Healy used to say that when you are in a hole you should stop digging.
He would probably have advised unionists to accept limited reforms to the Northern Ireland Protocol, accept a Sinn Fein first minister, seek the middle ground, concentrate on the cost of living, health and housing, and bounce back in due course.
I might have said the same, until I realised that root and branch reform of the protocol is vital, and the EU will not easily agree to that.
This is primarily, I think, because of their understandable deep antipathy towards Boris Johnson.
They do not trust or like him, why should they hand him a famous victory?
If he acted unilaterally they would probably, eventually, retaliate by suspending key elements of the GB/EU trade deal.
So, unionists will have to stand firm.
Many moderate people, including many young people, will not agree, but Stormont cannot return until the sea border has largely gone.
For once the DUP is right, the ball is in Johnson’s court.
But they should beware of his likely promises, he cannot deliver a meaningful renegotiation of the protocol and dare not act unilaterally. He might invoke Article 16, but only very briefly and for show.
I’m not sure that the DUP realises this, so they need to be closely watched in their dealings with the prime minister, as a child has to be supervised near an open fire.
The best outcome would still be a new prime minister, a fresh start all round. Failing that we might see a long period without an executive. This will further boost Alliance, but unionism has no choice.
In the meantime unionists should generously accept that Sinn Fein has won the election, and note that the inability of the EU and Johnson to agree is denying Michelle O’Neill the keys to the first minister’s office.
John Gemmell, Wem, Shropshire
• Other commentary:
• Peter Robinson May 11: Ignore those who are urging DUP to just go back into Stormont
• Editorial May 11: Liz Truss hints at action on NI Protocol but unionists are right to be wary
• Ruth Dudley Edwards May 10: The nationalist vote is nowhere near enough for border poll
• Editorial May 10: If Irish language gets pledge today so must an overhaul of protocol
• Ben Lowry May 9: The TUV vote surge should have been one of the main stories of the election
• Owen Polley May 9: Unionists have an issue with sectarian SF, not with nationalism
• Henry McDonald May 9: A few facts are in order amid breathless reportage about SF
• Emma Little Pengelly May 9: There has been no increase in the nationalist vote in 25 years
• Editorial May 9: It is clear that unionists need to have option of voting for a liberal party
• Ben Lowry May 7: Unionism now faces a considerable challenge in how to go forward
• Henry McDonald May 7: Sinn Fein’s day in the sun but no new dawn for Irish unity
• Editorial May 7: Unionism more than ever needs London’s help on the protocol
• Ben Lowry May 7: Unionist overall vote stays ahead of nationalist total, albeit narrowly
• Brian John Spencer: Unionism was given no wriggle room by nationalism