The DUP leader said last night that “splintered unionism” in the recent election had led to the loss of three Stormont seats.
Wisely, though, Sir Jeffrey recognised that “a more cohesive unionism cannot be achieved by one party alone”.
The lessons to be drawn from May’s contest are far from straightforward. Nationalism has not had the breakthrough it has long hoped for, and remains close to unionism in vote share, but still behind. Alliance did not in fact surge compared to past elections, and received a full 5% lower vote share than in the 2019 European contest.
But while it is fair to note that no-one can claim victory from last month victory, the challenges for unionism are undeniable. If the Ulster Unionists were not still in the race it is unclear where their 100,000 votes would go. If a third went to Alliance that would fuel border poll demands.
Meanwhile, Jim Allister got 65,000 votes and would probably have won many more if not for concerns about Sinn Fein coming top. He was an outlet for frustration at endless concessions to nationalism (often made by unionists of goodwill who are put under intolerable pressure).
Having three parties long-term is not feasible. But unionism can for now try to agree parameters on concessions that will never be made, such barriers to Great Britain.