The Ulster Unionist Party used its Annual General Meeting on Saturday to launch Jim Nicholson MEP’s campaign to be re-elected to the European Parliament. Of course the poll’s importance is heightened, for the Conservatives as well as the UUP, because it is the first occasion on which the two parties’ political marriage will be tested against the electorate. The candidate and his party leader, Sir Reg Empey, addressed delegates from the platform, whilst David Cameron provided his contribution via video link.
Unionist Lite, Bobballs and the Young Unionist blog each have coverage of the various speeches. Cameron‘s concise exposition of principles which animate the new force is perhaps most deserving of further scrutiny.
Distilling the alliance to its essentials, the Conservative leader picks three compelling reasons why his party and Ulster Unionists are working together.
- A common commitment to the Union and belief in the strength which it imparts to its constituent parts.
- A shared imperative to offer direct democratic involvement in the United Kingdom's government to voters in Northern Ireland.
- Mutual respect which exists between the two parties.
The compatibility of the two parties’ agendas is particularly evident in the crucible of European politics. Few Conservatives or Ulster Unionists would prefer something other than the European Union characterised by cooperation, rather than an urge to integration, that Cameron favours.
It is a vision of Europe which appeals to a broad spectrum of voters in Northern Ireland, as it does in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Ulster Conservatives and Unionists arrangement is built for Westminster and for Europe. It offers the Northern Irish electorate a meaningful role in choosing the United Kingdom’s government and in framing its position within the European Union.