Friday, 6 March 2009

Stop the infighting and start fighting the election

Mick has beaten me to the punch on Slugger, but I received the same e-mail he broke earlier, explaining why Conservative NI vice chairman, Jeffrey Peel, has resigned from the Conservatives and Unionists’ joint committee. I have no desire to get involved in apportioning blame or a bitter round of recriminations. But it has saddened me, that when members should have galvanised to put across immediately an important political message, there has instead been an undignified and childish spate of wrangling about branding.

This has been played out with peculiar vehemence on several blogs. So that one or two in particular have become, for a time, effectively dedicated to attacking members of respective political parties whose values and aspirations the authors have previously purported to share.

I am not desperately interested in these spats, their whys and wherefores, and I do not want to become involved in them. As far as I’m concerned the issues underlying disagreements have in no regard justified the acrimony and ill feeling which surround them. There has been more than a hint of breast beating, aimed at establishing placement in the pecking order within the new group. And it seems that this process has claimed an early victim.

The truth is that both sides have been needlessly intractable, although from the beginning it was inevitable that some noses would be put out of joint. The NI Conservatives are a small political group locally, and whilst their contribution to the new force is valuable, it is through cooperation with Ulster Unionists that CCHQ hopes to roll out national politics in Northern Ireland. It has been accepted centrally that this must represent a process, which will be advanced over a relatively long time frame. Clearly some people within the Northern Ireland party don’t have patience enough for this long game.

Ulster Unionists, for their part, must recognise that if this force is to work, if it is to be meaningful, then they must accept change. Initially some people might be taken outside their comfort zones and there might be some casualties. But the truth is that the UUP was failing. Abjectly. It has been given an opportunity to advance unionism in a direction which previously only existed as intellectual aspiration. It is not possible simply to use David Cameron and the Conservatives as an electoral fillip to boost an unreformed UUP. If it were possible, it wouldn't in any case be a useful exercise.

At length I have espoused the benefits of this linkup and endorsed its pan-UK, equal citizenship agenda as unionism at its most constructive. It is a vision which is far too important to be jettisoned because of an unseemly bout of bickering.

The Conservative / UU carpet might yet get bloodier. Which is deeply regrettable. If needs must, then this should take place as inconspicuously as possible.

Meanwhile the respective leaderships must get a grip of this situation, get a grip of their troops and start putting together a coherent, unified campaign for the European election.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there any truth in Peel's widely publicised assertion that the UUP are in a financial mess? Perhaps need to clarify / re-build the finances before embarking on any election campaigns?

Timothy Belmont said...

Well said, Chekov. The process of change will always be a difficult process in evry walk of life, including political parties!

Tim

Timothy Belmont said...

Re Lady Hermon: I wonder why she is unenthusiastic about the political merger? What are her politics (apart from Unionist)?

Lady Hermon appears to find this marriage hard to accept.

Chekov said...

She is infatuated with New Labour Timothy. Which isn't a particularly principled position. She should stop being the spectre at the feast. Indeed the leader needs to fortify his cullions and start doing some arm-twisting!

Timothy Belmont said...

You'd think she'd have embraced the new marriage, figuratively speaking. She could end up in the wilderness...

Anonymous said...

Mr Peel's comments re the branding fiasco may be correct but he does not seem to represent the Conservative views on the pact or many other things. It is inevitable he will have to go from holding office in the Conservatives as he cannot represent his own views and be a spokesman for the party at the same time. A little pragmantism and more long term ambition on both sides would have avoided this. It is apparent that some members of the committee on both sides were mistakenly selected who were hard line and as a consequence they arrived at an awful compromise name to save face - one is gone - who else will have to go to even things up? It is one from three (the 4th has only just arrived) so it won't be difficult to work out Campbell, Cosgrove or the noble Lord, two look unlikely but one could be expendable.

O'Neill said...

But it has saddened me, that when members should have galvanised to put across immediately an important political message, there has instead been an undignified and childish spate of wrangling about branding.

Along with Chekov, I think and hope there is room and a definite potential for a secular, more UK, less Ulster-centric Unionism, but for it to succeed it needs to be grassroots not leadership-driven.I’m probably going to pour oil on the fire here, but from what I can see and sense, there are significant elements within the grassroots of both parties which right from the beginning have clearly not bought into that important political message. There has been a great deal of dishonesty on these individuals’ part- if this arrangement was not what they wanted then they should have had the balls to state that fact right at the start. If there isn’t a significant level of cooperation on the ground, then this is not going to work and it’s much better that we know now exactly where we stand.

This has been played out with peculiar vehemence on several blogs. So that one or two in particular have become, for a time, effectively dedicated to attacking members of respective political parties whose values and aspirations the authors have previously purported to share.

“purported” being the key word there. Again, let’s have some honesty- we’ve all known right from the beginning what kind of political vision (which is ultimately all that matters, not emblems and names) is being promised here; if folk don’t want to buy into then, fine, come out and state that. If it’s merely unhappiness at how certain parts of the partnership are working out, then bear in mind what 1Alexsander Kwasniewski, President of Poland 1995-2000 said:

"irresponsible criticism - the eagerness to expose and publicise a problem, unmatched by the willingness to propose feasible solutions - is perhaps the most common form of dishonesty in politics"

The DUP are quite clear and honest about which type of Unionism they are offering and that is one based on communal and cultural values. If the UUP is to have a future, with or without the Conservatives, then they must offer an alternative and viable form of Unionism...if the majority aren’t prepared to do that, then I really can’t see the point in it remaining a separate party.

Anonymous said...

O'Neill is looking for solutions, if both sides hadn't put the wrong people in the committee, the name which seems to have been the only point of contention, would have been obvious to all - Northern Ireland Conservatives and Unionists - that shows two parties working together in NI. The unbelievable insistence on having Ulster in the title shows either a pig headedness or a lack of belief in the pragmatism of the UUP executive.

Since Campbell was happy without it, it leaves Cosgrove or Magennis as the culprit for this mess. Empey needs to act decisively and get this back on track immediately.

Ignited said...

I feel like a bit of venom is aimed at myself throughout this piece/comments.

Right?

Chekov said...

It's very far from venom Ignited and I've deliberately not singled you out for criticism, but I did feel the tone you adopted was particularly unconstructive. You're far from being alone in this regard, and it wasn't all coming from one side either. It simply wasn't very edifying seeing people tearing strips off each other.

Ignited said...

I can understand, but my support for the conservative and UUP negotiations has also held a warning about how they should proceed:

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/07/conservative-and-unionist-party.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/08/david-camerons-choice.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/08/fate-of-ni-conservatives.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/08/union-cducsu-model.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/09/with-help-of-ulster-unionists.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/09/jeffrey-donaldonson-hits-back-at-lord.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/11/putting-unionism-first.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/11/uup-conservative-talks-covering-same.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/11/uup-conservatives-stepping-stone.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/11/what-uup-want-us-to-think.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2008/12/david-cameron-on-devolution.html

http://redemptionsson.blogspot.com/2009/01/keeping-it-real.html

Chekov said...

Ignited - I appreciate that you've had your reservations all along. Whilst I respect the basis of those reservations I've also felt that they fall into the category of UU who wants all the benefits from this deal but the miniumum of change as regards their own party. From the beginning, if this was going to work, it had to involve real change. That includes looking at the profile of candidates, looking at the branding and a gamut of other things. I suppose my worry is that people are having to be dragged along and cajoled because they're not really signed up to the reasons behind this, just the benefits they think it might bring.

O'Neill said...

Ignited,

My comment was written in the spirit of frustration (and it was directed at a lot more folk than you); if it came across as venom, apologies, that wasn't the intention.

Chekov said...

Incidentally Ignited - I was hoping to congratulate you on the anniversary, but the post seems to have disappeared. Maybe I'll see you at the rugby to toast 1 year of Redemption's Son.

Ignited said...

Yes, the birthday is on the 10th, accidentally published instead of saving draft!

Will indeed be at the rugby, looking forward to it.

Chekov said...

Good win. Miserable night though. Wore at least one layer too few.