If in light of the latest bit of illustrious daftness from Stockholm, you were compiling a list of more or less vacuous awardings of the Nobel Peace Prize then you might well consider the strange case of David Trimble. Trimble's great distinction in life (up to now) has been to lead one of the great historical wastes of space - the Official/Ulster Unionist Party - to a mountain-top where none of its members, including Trimble himself, really wished to be: namely, the long overdue Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
History had earmarked Trimble to be unionism’s chief negotiator that day, even though he was the most inwardly conflicted figure ever to have emerged within the eternally moribund UUP. (Tom Paulin has written well of the party's "demoralised passivity, its sentimental traditionalism, its dearth of ideas, its hangdog lack of creative energy.") Having cut his teeth as a hardliner in the 1970s with an utterly obnoxious shower laughably calling themselves 'Vanguard', Trimble on that Good Friday agreed terms for a reconciliation with the Old Enemy - and such was the insular nature of the man that few within his party had sensed the historic compromise afoot, not least those less willing than their leader to make a leap of faith based on republican bona fides. Yet more damning for the Agreement’s chances of succeeding, Trimble immediately seemed somehow sickened at the prospect of going out to sell the deal he had settled for: during the subsequent referendum campaign he was unwilling to share a platform even with the 'progressive unionist' David Ervine (who died in 2007, and was worth ten of Trimble), much less Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.
Some people I know, clearly desperate, like to say of Trimble that at least he had the genuine smarts, and moreover - if looking for some personal trait - that he's a big Elvis Presley fan, which can't be all bad. Nonetheless Trimble led the UUP to a shattering defeat at the General Election of 2005 and so left the party a withered rump, but he was happy to go his own way and the Tories saved him with a life peerage. That must have gratified his strange and innate sense of apartness and superiority. He has since helped to reconcile the UUP and the Tories to the marriage they enjoyed prior to the Sunningdale fallout of 1974, a sort of cluelessly well-heeled 'Keep Ulster British.' Now the very smart Tory thinker and Times blogger Danny Finkelstein today reports that he recently put to Baron Trimble of Lisnagarvey the question of whether, "now his party was allied with the Conservatives, he would consider serving in a Cameron government. [Trimble's] reply? "I will do whatever David tells me to.""
How lovely. Or - to look at it another way - urgh.