Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Nicholson may have 20 years of European experience, but he's still offering a 'Vote for Change'.

All of Northern Ireland’s main candidates for the European election in June have now handed in their nomination papers and placed their deposits with the Electoral Commission. Each of their sultry mugs now adorns various lamp-posts throughout the country and the first party literature began to arrive in households curiously early. Thirty days remain until the polls open, so the voting public will be subject to appeals for their support for some weeks to come.

The Conservatives and Unionists candidate, Jim Nicholson, has adopted the slogan ‘Vote for Change’ as his motif for the campaign ahead. One sceptical friend, at the weekend expressed the view that the logo was not without irony, given that Nicholson has been an MEP since 1989. I can see his point. But whilst Jim may not offer its freshest face, the electoral force, which his candidature represents, does promise an exciting departure for unionist politics in Northern Ireland, as well as a change of course for the United Kingdom and a new vision for Europe.

As I have previously observed, the idea that access to national politics provides a more authentic political citizenship than that which can be offered by purely regional groups, is not especially novel. In Northern Ireland, and internationally, the notion that ‘equal citizenship’ involves rolling out entitlement to vote for national parties has been articulated before. UCUNF, however, is the first credible electoral entity, at least for a long time, to offer local voters a full participatory role in national U.K. politics. Conservatives and Unionists are offering change in the politics of Northern Ireland.

June’s election will return three MEPs to the European Parliament. European issues will, however, fulfil a very tangential role in the campaigns of both the DUP and Sinn Féin. The Democratic Unionists have already, effectively, attacked the UCUNF candidate for involving himself too fully in European politics. In contrast, the Conservatives and Unionists stand for a very clear view of what the European Union should represent. Jim Nicholson, upon re-election, will enter a new group within the Parliament. It will stand for vibrant, energetic involvement in a cooperative Europe, defined by a single market, and a set of common values, rather than defending a bureaucratic behemoth, driven by an anti-democratic urge towards federalism. Conservatives and Unionists are promoting change in Europe.

Self-evidently, June’s election will allow voters across the UK to record their dissatisfaction with the Labour government. Northern Ireland is no longer an exception. It is important to send a clear signal to Gordon Brown that his leadership has failed and that there is an appetite for a new approach at Westminster. Over many weeks and months I have been persuaded that David Cameron’s Conservatives, instigating policies defined by communitarian, ‘One Nation’ conservatism, will deliver the fresh perspective which is needed. The Conservatives and Unionists will give voters a chance to change the government of the United Kingdom.

So, although voting for Jim Nicholson might not literally effect a change in personnel, he is certainly standing on the basis of a mandate for change. A change for Northern Ireland. A change for unionism. A change for Europe. And a change for the United Kingdom. That, in my book, fully entitles him to use the ‘Vote for Change’ label, without any accusations of misrepresentation.


Sammy Morse said...

Your tired old CEC arguments about 'national' politics also sound like something that was in the air in 1989.

Timothy Belmont said...

I haven't voted for the UUP since the signing of the Belfast Agreement.
Next month I'll be voting for the Conservative - and Unionist - candidate which will mark quite a fundamental move on my part.

Brown is finished. It's in the Conservative (not the county's) interest that he remains in power till the General Election.


Anonymous said...

Ulster Nationalists are pretend Unionists they don't really believe in the Union, only the money it provides.

Real believers in the UK want to a full part of it and take a full part in national politics not only in a local body which can only distribute what they are given by by Westminister. Only the CU's can offer that.

So a vote for change is a vote for the future.


Gary said...

Tim ditto for me mate. I haven't voted for the UUP since the BA. I will be this time and I am quite pleased to say that. :-)

Anonymous said...

Gary and Tim - you wont of course be voting UUP as there is no UUP candidate - but Conservative and Unionist.
I voted John Gilliland last time but will be backing Nicholson as he is running as a Conservative

O'Neill said...

The potential of the Conservatives and Unionists was enough to persuade me to join one (ah but which one;)) of the parties. It's only potential at the minute, but it's a potential worth fighting for...UK politics for UK citizens is our demand!!!

fair_deal said...

"a new vision for Europe."

What role does the new Euro parliament grouping have in this vision?
“The group will include the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has banned gay rights marches for being “sexually obscene”. Its co-founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said that homosexuality will cause the “downfall of civilisation”. Another PiS MP has warned that Barack Obama’s victory would mean “the end of the civilisation of the white man”.”

“One, the Czech Civic Democrats, has just lost power at home; and its founder, Vaclav Klaus, is noisily sceptical about climate change, a cause dear to Mr Cameron. Detective work uncovers more presentationally tricky cases. The international secretary of the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party, Janis Tomelis, recently met William Hague, the Tory shadow foreign secretary, to discuss an alliance. As it happens, the party’s leader in Strasbourg, Roberts Zile, is a mild-mannered economist. But his party includes hardline nationalists who attend ceremonies to commemorate a Latvian unit of Waffen SS troops. Latvian nationalists insist that these were patriots fighting the Soviets, not Nazi war criminals.”

Gary said...

Anon your right, but in the context of my post, pure semantics mate. No matter, Nicholson will be getting my vote.

Cllr Andy Wilson said...

'tired old CEC arguments'

nothing tired about the CEC arguments.I was at school but I remember that the campaign was about full democratic rights and equal citizenship. Unionism in its purest (in all senses) form.

The context has changed- post devolution, but the arguments are still valid.

V heartened by the comments of Tim and Gary here.

Sad to see Lee still too bitter to see the big picture.

jeffpeel.net said...

I was one of the earliest members of the CEC along with many of the people currently involved in the Conservative Party. I sat on the CEC Executive alongside fellow Conservatives (like Barbara Finney and Laurence Kennedy) as well as Socialists like Boyd Black.

I was also the first Chairman of the (Model) Lagan Valley Conservative Association before it was officially recognised by Conservative Central Office.

We established the Conservative Party here specifically because it was NOT the UUP or DUP. It represented something different and non-sectarian. It was about transplanting the politics of the tribe with the politics of the United Kingdom.

For twenty years the Conservative Party has been organised here. But it has never actively sought a mandate to govern Northern Ireland in all those years.

The end game was never about a merger with an orange-steeped, sectarian Party. It was always about the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrat Parties actively organising here and seeking to govern this place properly. It was also about participative democracy.

It was not about about a UUP re-spray.

Mr Nicholson's campaign posters are note-worthy as the only ones that don't bear a Party logo. The UUP agreed to the the Now For Change 'badge' but couldn't actually countenance using the Conservative Party branding and logo.

People say to me that the UUP's conversion is a gradual process. Frankly I don't care. We have missed a great chance to transform Northern Ireland's politics and democracy. The project, as far as I was concerned, was about establishing mainstream Conservatism here, with the national Party's commitment to seeking a mandate.

But, frankly, the CEC's work is far from complete. It has hardly even begun.

Jeff Peel