Thursday, 21 May 2009

Cameron in Ballymena

Earlier I complained that a lack of Wifi prevented me covering Cameron Direct, live from the Braid Centre in Ballymena. Alas there was no mobile phone reception in the building either, so even the tweeting option was not possible. Perhaps the Conservatives and Unionists leader should have conducted the event in my parents’ house, where they do extend to a broadband connection, which I am taking advantage of. Although given that the town hall was full to capacity, a marquee might’ve been required.

Neill Armstrong, one of Ballymena Borough Council’s Ulster Unionist team, and a strong supporter of the Conservative link, introduced Mr Cameron to an audience of nearly two hundred. It appeared, to begin with, that a group of hardcore types was going to dominate proceedings by crying treachery for the entire meeting. But various pre-prepared histories of the troubles could not occlude the genuine concerns of local people, who quizzed Mr Cameron on education, the prospect of an enterprise zone in Northern Ireland, eating disorders, cerebral palsy and the Presbyterian Mutual building society.

The Conservative leader spoke eloquently again about his desire to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of the United Kingdom’s politics. Generally his message was received well by the Ballymena public. When he suggested that, with the constitutional issue settled, politics should focus on business, hospitals, education and so forth, there was a sustained burst of applause. Cameron batted the inevitable ‘UDA brigadier’ question away with a straight bat, he was ‘assured’ that no such incident had occurred.

Turning to victims, prompted by the ubiquitous Willie Frazer, Cameron rejected the notion of equality of victimhood. There should be a distinction, he intimated, between those whose loved ones had died whilst engaged in illegal activity and relatives of innocent people, killed and maimed in terrorist attacks. The Conservative leader also came tantalising close to criticising his predecessors for signing the Anglo Irish Agreement.

To take an hour of questions, unscripted, is an enviable feat of political dexterity. What is entirely clear from Mr Cameron’s second Cameron Direct in the province is that, not only does he intend to become Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom, he intends to act like he‘s the Prime Minister of the entire United Kingdom. He is prepared to face people throughout the country, regardless of the local niceties, and face their questions, unprepared. It is an admirable approach.

19 comments:

Alan in Belfast said...

So what did he have to say about PMS?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chekov, sounds like there was a lot of local interest. Was the hardcore element complaining about the Anglo Irish Agreement?

Anonymous said...

A magnificent performance and a shrewd piece of politics to have a local UUP member introduce him.

If only all the voters in NI could have witnessed it live the TUV and DUP would no longer be relevant; a real politician who is not afraid to face an audience that has not been pre-screened and to take all the questions thrown at him.

Let us see any other political leader in NI have an open meeting with the voters.

CHANGE HAS COME AND IT IS ONLY STARTING.

Chekov said...

Was the hardcore element complaining about the Anglo Irish Agreement?They had a litany of complaint dating back to the 70s.

Anonymous said...

Thanks..

PS Was there a camera there recording it? I'd like to watch it.

Chekov said...

There were loads of cameras. I assume one was the Cameron Direct team. I'd imagine the lack of a live broadcast was due to the lack of internet facilities.

Gary said...

Excellent. Is this really it? A mainland future Prime Minister treating the people of NI like the rest of the United Kingdoms citizens......equal status with a full part in the political life of our nation?? I hope so.

Gary said...

Also I would truly love David Cameron to try to reach out to "nationalists" with a small n. I would love to see some of nationalism come away from the dark side and partake in and promote a more pluralist United Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

Hope to have Cameron Direct footage on voteforchangeni.com asap.

Dinamo said...

Ballymena folk relate to many of the values stated by David Cameron. But it is in the doing not the talking that matters. Goedon Brown has appeared indesicive so maybe it is time to back the UUP/Con alliance.

Worth a try?

Anonymous said...

Had the DUP been there they would have realised that what was on offer was the real future of politics in NI not their Ulster nationalist version where they wants the fruits of being in the UK but not to share in their responsibilities during difficult times.

Cameron was emphatic that a new Conservative Government will be taking steps to re-energise the private sector in Northern Ireland even at the expense of GB.

The difference is that as PM he would have the power to make real change.

Chekov said...

So what did he have to say about PMS?Alan - sorry I took a while to get back to you. I was in a bit of a rush last night.

He certainly fell short of making any commitment on PMS (he's close enough to power to be wary of easy promises). He said he had a great deal of sympathy and that the situation needed to be looked at.

Chekov said...

Goedon Brown has appeared indesicive so maybe it is time to back the UUP/Con alliance. Worth a try?If even the local Komsomol is backing Cameron, he's unto a winner. ;-)

Seymour Major said...

I was most interested to read about this. Great to see DC received so well.

There was nothing on the net and the mean network coverage will do nothing to stop those awful Ballymena jokes.

In answer to one of the other commenters, William Hague will be here at the Waterfront on Monday to launch the manifesto. William is as fast on his feet as any politician and it will be good to hear the Conservative foreign affairs spokesman talk in detail about the nuts and bolts of European politics.

FermanaghUnionist said...

Firstly, let me say that I am a long time reader of the blog but first time poster.

I just wanted to say how encouraging it was to read this report. Like others have pointed out, it would be amazing to have Cameron across NI and maybe overtime it will happen.

There is a definite positive move to sell to the wider Unionist community. Onwards and upwards!

Chekov said...

Good to have you commenting FU and I agree with you entirely.

Loki said...

In an earlier comment an anonympus commentator said "if the DUP were there"... they were, it's just they were protesting outside the meeting!!
I was very impressed by him and would love to see him doing this event more often. The more people see him on the ground prepared to engage, the easier it will become to get rid of the remote, out of touch DUP double jobbers

Anonymous said...

Well I have just watched the Ballymena Cameron Direct from the voteforchangeni website and I though it a very good performance. He seemed to get a warm reception judging by the way people were laughing at his jokes and applauding. Also good that the questions were not just about the usual old NI issues but also about a range of human issues-he is an impressive speaker and clearly has a lot of ability.

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