Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Boring myself and others - UUP / Tory deal again

To be honest, I’ve bored myself writing about the Ulster Unionist – Conservative talks. My perspective is that I want the deal done and I want the deal done now. Then we can begin to build the type of inclusive, pan-UK unionism which Cameron and Empey promised and which can transform Northern Ireland’s politics for the better.

Since I last touched upon this topic (and it wasn’t very long ago) several further, lengthy pieces have graced newspapers, either defending or criticising the UUP leader for his handling of the mooted alignment, either proposing or rejecting the notion that such an arrangement would be a ‘good thing’ for Sir Reg’s party.

I do not intend (on this blog) to sift these articles for arguments which accord or do not accord with my view, although those arguments are there and they are worth reading. What I would like to do is draw attention to the strength of the original ideals on which a UUP / Tory compact was to be forged and ask whether these have not been lost sight of, particularly on the Ulster Unionist side.

Read the statement which Empey and Cameron endorsed again. It is about taking Northern Ireland beyond communal politics, involving Northern Irish politicians in national issues, rejecting Ulster ‘nationalism’, forging a broad pan-Union, pro-Union coalition which encompasses the whole United Kingdom. It offers a blueprint for secular, constructive, modern unionism which can transcend traditional divisions and help edge the entire framework of Northern Ireland’s politics away from the constitutional issue. In short, it is the most exciting opportunity presented to civic minded unionists in a generation.

Why are we no longer hearing rhetoric which matches the ambition of the plan which the two leaders put forward? Why is the rationale for this deal no longer being forcefully advanced?

When I read Alex Kane discussing talks between Ulster Unionists and the TUV in the same breath as the Tory discussions, I’m deeply disappointed. When I hear that Sylvia Hermon considers her infatuation with Gordon Brown sufficient reason to reject a deal with the Conservatives, I’m similarly disillusioned.

The TUV are remnants of a past to which unionism cannot return. The fact that they claim to be pro-Union is not sufficient reason for the UUP to advise transfers to that party (or the DUP). Ulster Unionist voters can decide for themselves who would best use their transfers and that might be Alliance or SDLP.

New Labour has inflicted terrible damage to the Union and the progress which is on offer for Northern Ireland’s politics is too great to obstruct because of support for Gordon Brown. Whether we accept Tory claims to be progressive or not, a deal would liberalise politics here. That is the bigger picture.

Although I appreciate that lofty argument does not always translate to practical politics, there is nothing practical about remaining transfixed by the headlights, unsure which way to bolt. There is a lifeline on offer here, and Reg Empey had better take it before it is withdrawn.


Glyn said...

There is certainly a lot of potential to be realised. As a result of that, I think we will see substantive change in the coming years whatever the outcome of the current discussions. I suppose it all comes down to whether people want to be part of the new politics or not.

Anonymous said...

It will take time but it will happen and we will be finally free from the DUP and SF sectarianism, when their brand of politics is consigned to the dustbin of history.