Wednesday, 8 October 2008

You'd better get this party started

News that the UUP conference has been delayed by a month has been greeted with glee by DUP inclined commenters on Slugger. They believe that the postponement is due to talks with the Conservative party gradually unravelling. If movement to align the two parties were to stall at this stage, it would be cause for DUP celebration. From the moment Cameron and Empey released their joint statement, Peter Robinson’s party has been disorientated and apprehensive, perhaps even panicked by the possibility of a Conservative / UUP alliance.

I have previously indicated that I could understand why there might be the odd wobble within UUP ranks. And I do not underestimate the difficulties incumbent in what members are being asked to consider. It represents nothing short of subsuming their party into a movement dominated by a much larger organisation, with a set of values and principles which may not accord with every Ulster Unionist member’s sensibilities.

By no means does this offer an insurmountable barrier. All political movements or parties are in some respect alliances, which seek to reach an accommodation, designed broadly to reflect their members’ views and appeal to the electorate. The 20% or so of Ulster Unionists who might struggle to internalise wholeheartedly Tory policies, would do well to examine the current government’s programme and ask whether they could any more easily sign up to it. New Labour is nothing akin to socialism and toadying to New Labour is not subscribing to principle. Others, who cling on to an idea of Ulster particularism, should scrutinise their motives for being unionists in the first place.

Neither should Ulster Unionists be unnerved by the DUP’s pathetic thrashings on this issue. They are the party that fractured unionism, they perpetually alienate fellow unionists throughout the UK and what they are offering is an insular, sectarian arrangement rather than true unionist cooperation. A Conservative / UUP candidate can conduct an honourable electoral contest with Alasdair McDonnell in South Belfast without contracting a dishonourable communal contract with the DUP. In Fermanagh South Tyrone, it is arguable whether unionism can win a seat with or without an electoral pact. It would be intolerable to form one just to oust a perfectly decent representative in McDonnell.

It really is time for Sir Reg Empey to step forward and provide leadership. I applauded his bravery when he first made the announcement with Cameron and I still believe it is the most exciting opportunity which has presented itself to Ulster Unionists for many years. If the Tory / UUP initiative were to fail, the smaller party is not replete with alternative routes to success. It is time for Reg to bang some heads together, to recognise that not quite everyone is ever going to be happy and to start demanding that the talks be brought to fruition.

If he fails, the verdict on his leadership is unlikely to be kind.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If the Tory / UUP initiative were to fail, the smaller party is not replete with alternative routes to success. It is time for Reg to bang some heads together, to recognise that not quite everyone is ever going to be happy and to start demanding that the talks be brought to fruition."

If one cuts away all your anti-DUP bluster what you are left with is the above quote - an admission that the thing is dying on its arse and that Reg Empey needs to do something quick to stop it.

I have to say I find it very humurous to watch - first Reggy tried to hitch his wagon to the mouthpiece of the UVF and now he's trying the Tories, which looks set to fail also.

Who's next for Sir Reg, the Lib Dems? Greens? Sinn Fein? I'm being silly now - the Liberals and the Loonies would want nothing to do with the UUP!

Anonymous said...

Do not despair, the reason for the delay is to allow David Cameron to attend the conference to cement the deal by speaking directly to rank and file unionists and confirming his belief in the UK.

A raft of a joint EU and then Westminster candidates are a possible outcomee

The DUP will be less than happy with the outcome in any event.

Chekov said...

Second anon. I certainly hope that is what is happening.

Glyn said...

Chekov,

I was the Conservative Candidate in East Belast last year, but am not involved with the ongoing talks.

I completely agree with your analysis. We need to move towards decisions before the end of this year, so that sufficient preparations can be made for the four elections that are now due in next two and a half years.

Whatever the outcome is, the new arrangement must present voters wiht something that is both novel and definitively part of the British Conservative Party.

In relation to south Belfast, I believe that it can and would be won by a candidate from such an organisation, even if a DUP candidate stands too.

Sammy Morse said...

I hope the Tories are looking forward to defending the sectarianism of muppets like Edwin Stephenson of Limavady Council after they absorb the UUP? What about David Cameron being asked if, like Tom Elliott, he begrudges northern county GAA success because it only encourages the Fenians to get uppity?

Three years of careful brand-building by the newly metrosexual, family friendly, post-modern Tory Party is not going to be thrown away for the sake of a few fourth place finishes among the 'dreary steeples' (as they see them) of Fermanagh and Tyrone. The more the Tories find out about the modern UUP, the less likely they are to go ahead with the merger.

And seeking salvation from an outside deus ex machina is never a good way of expressing confidence in your own future.

Chekov said...

Ah. Here we have another party who are cacking it lest the deal is done. Alliance get votes because a section of middle class voters feel dirty voting along communal lines. They aren’t liberal in any serious way and Cameron’s Conservatives in any case are touchy and feely enough to overcome any qualms. Sounds like trouble should UUP candidates receive Dave’s imprimatur! And so, where the DUP see a lack of unionist credentials, the APNI are saying there are too many.

The idea that Limavady will alert the Tories to anything is ridiculous. Omitting to award a man with an honour of the borough, which he may or may not deserve, is neither here nor there. It’s a local issue for local people. Tom Elliot couldn’t care less about all-Ireland finals? Believes the GAA is not a purely sporting organisation? Once again, nothing to see here.

“And seeking salvation from an outside deus ex machina is never a good way of expressing confidence in your own future.”

That isn’t what it’s about. First of all, the Conservatives may currently be ‘outside’ the UUP, but a United Kingdom political party is not an alien entity and nor should it be treated as such. A mutually beneficial arrangement is being pursued which will express the two parties commitment to the Union and other shared objectives.

Sammy Morse said...

If you think Limavady or Tom Elliott's comments fit in the mainstream of even fairly dry Home Counties conservatism, you have a lot to learn about the largest constituent country of the UK. Unionists often do. Can you really imagine a Tory MP for Bournemouth or Southend dissing their local football team even if they had no interest in sport and the team in question was as crap as Bournemouth or Southend? Can you see the Tory MP for, say, Bedford dissing his local rugby team's giant-killing cup run?

At the moment Limavady and Fermanagh aren't issues for Cameron because he isn't leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. If amalgamation ever happens, don't think the liberal media in Britain aren't going to run with these stories and use them as a weapon to beat Cameron with. Also, don't think those of us over here who would prefer a centre-left government at Westminster aren't going to pass them on to where they can be most useful.

Given Cameron's ruthlessness, effective and necessary ruthlessness, with Tories crossing the line into ethnic hatemongering (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/jun/13/uk.localgovernment or indeed http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2002/may/14/politics.raceintheuk ), why would he take the risk of being embarrassed by the Edwin Stevensons of this world in a region that can net him, at absolute best, 4 or 5 seats in the Commons, and in the short term more likely one seat? The more Cameron and CCO learn about the UUP beyond David Trimble, the less appealing the prospect will seem to them.

I remember Alliance looking desperately for an external saviour when we were doing really badly; it didn't do us any good, it isn't doing the SDLP any good at the moment and it won't do you any good. But hey, why should I worry about the Unionist Party tilting at windmills?

Oh, and we're not worried about the Tories electorally. There has always been a myth that Alliance voters are largely middle-class therefore Alliance voters are all crypto-Tories, whereas we've tended to do much better among the arty Guardian readers who like their walking holidays in the Andes and wouldn't spit on the Tories if their teeth were on fire. You might crimp off some potential room for expansion for us, but that's about it.

Glyn said...

Sammy,

I agree with Chekov. Both of the issues that you cite are so parochial, they wouldn't even get a mention in a national newspaper.

The Limavady story is a non-story anyway as it was a local decision based on local circumstances.

On the sport one, do remember that Jack McConnell, Labour's First Minister in Scotland in 2006, declared that he wouldn't be supporting England in the World Cup of that year. That was a far, far, far more controversial sporting snub and yet did Blair fire him? Did it even embarrass Labour in England? Clearly, both questions are answered in the negative. Beckham even stated that he understood McConnell's thinking.

So, how much less notice will middle England take of a Northern Ireland Conservative expressing a lack of interest in GAA? It won't even be the merest blip on the political radar.

I know Alliance may be panicing about this potential development, but I do urge you to think up better arguments than these two strawmen.

Glyn said...

Further, I do hope our new organisation will comprise a good number of people who will be interested in gaelic games.

Michael Shilliday said...

Sammy, would the local football team in the home counties be part of an organisation that has harboured weapons for and names grounds after dead Al Quadia terrorists? If so you have a point.

Chekov said...

“Can you really imagine a Tory MP for Bournemouth or Southend dissing their local football team even if they had no interest in sport and the team in question was as crap as Bournemouth or Southend? Can you see the Tory MP for, say, Bedford dissing his local rugby team's giant-killing cup run?”

Can you imagine Bournemouth or Southend football clubs linking themselves to an explicitly political position or, as MS and Glyn have already alluded, calling their grounds after perpetrators of terrorism? You are not comparing like with like.

“At the moment Limavady and Fermanagh aren't issues for Cameron because he isn't leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. If amalgamation ever happens, don't think the liberal media in Britain aren't going to run with these stories and use them as a weapon to beat Cameron with. Also, don't think those of us over here who would prefer a centre-left government at Westminster aren't going to pass them on to where they can be most useful.”

Limavady and Fermanagh ‘aren’t issues’ full stop. You may want them to be, but they are not. Had councillors in Limavady voted for a motion which said that Armstrong deserved to be driven out of the town, that would be an issue, taking the view that freedom of the borough was not appropriate is purely a subjective judgment call. GAA retains unfortunate political connotations and as such Elliot’s ambivalence is not only acceptable, it’s eminently reasonable.

“Given Cameron's ruthlessness, effective and necessary ruthlessness, with Tories crossing the line into ethnic hatemongering (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/jun/13/uk.localgovernment or indeed http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2002/may/14/politics.raceintheuk ), why would he take the risk of being embarrassed by the Edwin Stevensons of this world in a region that can net him, at absolute best, 4 or 5 seats in the Commons, and in the short term more likely one seat? The more Cameron and CCO learn about the UUP beyond David Trimble, the less appealing the prospect will seem to them.”

The Conservative Party have not stumbled blind into this initiative, nor has it just sprung up out of nowhere. They are happy that the UUP are people that they can work with. They have been happy in this respect for a considerable period of time. Raking dirt where there is none will not change this.

“I remember Alliance looking desperately for an external saviour when we were doing really badly; it didn't do us any good, it isn't doing the SDLP any good at the moment and it won't do you any good. But hey, why should I worry about the Unionist Party tilting at windmills?”

Alliance are beyond help and the SDLP’s attempts ignore constitutional realities.

“Oh, and we're not worried about the Tories electorally. There has always been a myth that Alliance voters are largely middle-class therefore Alliance voters are all crypto-Tories, whereas we've tended to do much better among the arty Guardian readers who like their walking holidays in the Andes and wouldn't spit on the Tories if their teeth were on fire. You might crimp off some potential room for expansion for us, but that's about it.”

Alliance activists to not comprise all Alliance voters.

Anonymous said...

'There has always been a myth that Alliance voters are largely middle-class therefore Alliance voters are all crypto-Tories'
Polling shows 70% of Alliance supporters want a Cameron Govt. Moroeover your voters are, according tot he polling pro Union and pro Academic selection.
Oh and a large number Very likely to vote Conservative.
Bob Wilson

Sammy Morse said...

Comparing Tom Elliott's comments with Jack McConnell's is fautuous. The valid comparison is if Jack McConnell has said that he wasn't supporting Scotland in the World Cup. Jack McConnell isn't from, you know, England where Tom Elliott is from Fermanagh.

Still, enlightening to see the degree of anti-GAA perjudice in the new, inclusive, UUP.

As for our supporters all supposedly defecting to the Tories, three points:

a. I do wish other parties supporters would stop patronising me about who our supporters are and what our likely support base is. Agree or disagree with my political views but do credit me with having a bit of knowledge about voting behaviour and elections in Northern Ireland. I'm well aware our voters are not the same as our activists but nor are they generally right leaning.

b. Integrationist Unionists have been wittering on for 25 years about how 'real British politics' would destroy the Alliance Party, etc. The Tories were going to destroy us in the late 1980s, remember. It never happened and it isn't going to this time.

c. Please cite your polling before referencing it, Bob.

Michael Shilliday said...

“Still, enlightening to see the degree of anti-GAA perjudice in the new, inclusive, UUP.”

Glad to see that you think that being critical of an organisation for associating itself or allowing itself to be associated with a sectarian murder campaign is prejudice. That is enlightening.

Chekov said...

Care to explain why comments made about the GAA are not accurate SM?