I doubt if Peter Robinson is the angriest politician in these islands. There have been stories of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair having shouting matches with each other, swearing and blustering in naked rage.
The first rule of politics, however, is that you don’t show emotion without having cleared it with your media adviser first.
Tony Blair was quoted on this by Alistair Campbell: you don’t lose your temper, unless you’ve planned to.
Beside Mr Robinson yesterday stood Martin McGuinness, who is accused routinely of far worse things than have ever been levelled against our first family. Indeed, the Sunday Times has just accused the IRA leadership of 1981 of allowing six hunger strikers to die in order to help Sinn Fein’s electoral prospects.
Top that Peter.
Yet, McGuinness stood aside looking every inch the considered and avuncular helpmate who knew he could get Peter out of that jam in a second, if Peter would only shut up.
Peter Robinson is obviously under enormous pressure; his big mistake is to let it show.
He has Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice snapping at his heels in the forthcoming European election.
He and his wife are the first Northern Ireland politicians to have been seriously targeted by the tabloids. In the past, they had no interest in what people got up to over here.
Peter Robinson may think that the whole thing is a contrivance of the Ulster Unionist party, but even they could not interest London in affairs here unless London had agendas of its own.
But they did enjoy Peter’s flash of temper. They saw plainly that he was only damaging himself.
The Robinson temper has always been with us. During the worst of the troubles when he was directing it at the IRA and those he accused of selling out to them, his gift for high dudgeon seemed righteous and invigorating..
We have more recently seen the naked blast of his rage directed at Margaret Ritchie and Martina Purdy. And both times in circumstances in which, merely stating his case flatly, and without emotion, would have carried the argument more convincingly.
There is one simple reason why no male politician in Britain wants to be seen on television shouting at a woman; it is because there is a perception of a woman’s vote out there. A careless politician can lose an awful lot of women voters in one stroke.
Of course, usually our sectarian political structures protect party votes in sectional blocks, and the secondary considerations like personality and policy count for little.
That is why we have had so many dull people in high office.
But I wouldn’t bank on things staying that way.
This morning, people may be saying to Peter Robinson that he needs a rest. Easter is coming. He should go away and clear his head.
But that isn’t the answer. His problem is that he resorts to anger, exultantly, with relish, never seems to feel more himself than when he is flaunting his umbrage at people he regards as smaller than himself.
The advice he needs is this: even when you are right and know it, the whole world will assume you are wrong when you scowl. Anger is a losing throw, said the Buddha. And when you come out fighting like a cornered rat, people will assume that it’s because you are cornered, that you have resorted to rage because you don’t have the argument. And for a man who puts his case as well as Peter Robinson can, that is a particularly ridiculous strategy.