Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Looking beyond unionism as a 'community'.

Peter Robinson has appealed for more cooperation between unionist parties, yet in the same interview he attacks Sir Reg Empey as a ‘puppet’ of David Cameron. The irony is not lost on the Ulster Unionist leader. It might suit Robinson to play down differences between Northern Ireland’s two main pro-Union parties after the DUP’s dismal European election result, and to appeal for ‘unity’, but far from ‘pushing in the same direction’ as the UUP, the very language in which the First Minister articulates his understanding of unionism is anathema to the stated purposes of the Conservative and Unionist project.

It would be wrong to claim that the Ulster Unionist party itself has rid itself entirely of the baleful habit of describing unionism as a ‘community’. I criticised Jim Nicholson during his successful European election campaign for referring to the ‘unionist people’. But whilst the UUP must rid itself of a linguistic tic which betrays an old way of thinking about pro-Union politics, from which the party leadership is determined to move away, the DUP and its leader consciously ground their unionism in the notion of a monolithic community, defined along cultural and religious lines.

According to Robinson, the existence of three unionist parties, ‘is not in the best interests of the "unionist community"’, ‘let's have better relationships within the “unionist community”’ he opines. The emphasis from Conservatives and Unionists should be very different. Giving pro-Union voters a choice of candidates for whom to vote is necessary and widens the overall base of support for the maintenance of the United Kingdom. Let’s persuade people of the merits of Union, whichever community they perceive themselves to belong to. Let’s have better relationships within the community in Northern Ireland. Let’s have better relationships within the United Kingdom and let’s build political alliances on a UK wide basis.

The DUP shares a perception with its Irish nationalist rivals that unionism comprises a small, culturally homogenous community of people who live in Northern Ireland and nominally adhere to the Protestant faith. Conservatives and Unionists are clear that unionism describes a broad swathe of opinion, spanning the nation, which believes in the maintenance of the United Kingdom. Unionism is about Britain rather than Northern Ireland and it is predicated on political belief, rather than membership of a perceived community.

9 comments:

fair_deal said...

Community can have a range of meanings not solely the one you present.

Unity and co-operation are two different things and parties can retain their disagreements while co-operating on practical matters - voter education, voter registration and voter turnout are simple things that all should be able to agree upon to some degree and work on.

This would be a practical way to achieving a widening of " the overall base of support for the maintenance of the United Kingdom" than relying on re-runs of ideological treatises.

It is also not anthema to the Conservative and Unionist project. It is anathema to how you want that particualr project to develop which are not necessarily the thing.

It isn't just Jim Nic engages in that talk.

"Giving pro-Union voters a choice of candidates for whom to vote is necessary and widens the overall base of support for the maintenance of the United Kingdom"

The Euro result doesn't provide substantive evidence for that.

Chekov said...

Community can have a range of meanings not solely the one you present.

I’m very familiar with the shorthand that ‘community’ represents for the DUP. We’ve just had an entire election campaign listening to Diane Dodds do remember.

Unity and co-operation are two different things and parties can retain their disagreements while co-operating on practical matters - voter education, voter registration and voter turnout are simple things that all should be able to agree upon to some degree and work on.

Unity and cooperation are indeed two different things. Single candidates lean more towards the former than the latter and Robinson is once again pressing single candidates in this interview.

This would be a practical way to achieving a widening of " the overall base of support for the maintenance of the United Kingdom" than relying on re-runs of ideological treatises.

It depends what form the cooperation takes. If it is based around a perceived ‘PUL’ community then you’d be ignoring a whole section of Northern Irish voters who might be willing to participate in UK wide politics.

It is also not anthema to the Conservative and Unionist project. It is anathema to how you want that particualr project to develop which are not necessarily the thing.

It is anathema to the thinking which has been advanced to support the project. Maybe some UUP members still haven’t grasped all the consequences of that thinking, but if it is consistently applied, then this unionism = a perceived community idea ought to whither and die.

The Euro result doesn't provide substantive evidence for that.

The Euro result certainly didn’t produce substantive contravening evidence. The fact is that in the last election I felt that the things which distinguish my view of unionism were being better represented by the Conservative and Unionist pact. I’m sure I’m not alone. So whether the base is bigger in terms of numbers, it nevertheless better encompasses a breadth of opinion.

fair_deal said...

"Unity and cooperation are indeed two different things. Single candidates lean more towards the former than the latter and Robinson is once again pressing single candidates in this interview."

Co-operation does not need to begin or end with single candidates.

"It depends what form the cooperation takes. If it is based around a perceived ‘PUL’ community then you’d be ignoring a whole section of Northern Irish voters who might be willing to participate in UK wide politics."

I have listed the areas were I think work could be conducted to everyone's mutual benefit and it could also be done in such a way as not to alienate the others that you seem to fear.

"Who might be" is and interesting choice of phraseology. It is hardly an embracive Unionism if it limits its concerns to a 'might be' section while ignoring others were significant decline has occured ie working class areas.

The Union lives and dies by its electoral mandate. In a NI context every extra vote for it is a boon and of equal value regardless of whether it is a middle-class catholic, working class prod or minority ethnic community person.

Chekov said...

Co-operation does not need to begin or end with single candidates.

I didn’t indicate that it did. I wasn’t attacking the idea of cooperation.

"Who might be" is and interesting choice of phraseology. It is hardly an embracive Unionism if it limits its concerns to a 'might be' section while ignoring others were significant decline has occured ie working class areas.

The two areas are by no means mutually exclusive. A party can put its case to everyone who favours maintaining the Union. Its basing its appeal on sectional interests based on perceived communities which I object to.

The Union lives and dies by its electoral mandate. In a NI context every extra vote for it is a boon and of equal value regardless of whether it is a middle-class catholic, working class prod or minority ethnic community person.

I don’t disagree with that at all. But the manner in which the appeal for votes is made matters.

Anonymous said...

I can see no way in which the 3 unionist parties can work together - they do not stand for the same things.

The TUV want a government without SF or direct rule.

The DUP have a split personality they want to work with SF and at the same time in elections pretend to smash SF and in addition are NI nationalists.

The CU's support the Assembly, UK national politics and offer influence in those national politics.

The first two are sectarian in outlook and have no appeal for the Catholic community the CU's are trying to reach out to all sections of thee community.

How can you have co-operation bewtween such widespread outlooks on the basis of the border or short term expediency?

The DUP no longer have the community to reach out to they had before, it has slipped from their grasp just as it did with the UUP and in a few more elections they will probably be reduced to a rump between the TUV and CU's.

Eman

fair_deal said...

As we seemed to have got our debate to a common premise, perhaps we could move the practical, how could 2 or all of the Unionist parties do voter registration, education and turnout work together without alienation of other non-traditional voting communities/sections of society/groups/individuals?

Carson's Cat said...

"’m very familiar with the shorthand that ‘community’ represents for the DUP."

And there sums up your petty little attitude. You've decided what 'the DUP' are saying everytime someone happens to mention the word community and that's the end of it.

Whether or not they were actually using it in the context you allege is entirely incidental. So long as your prejudices have been sustained then you're happy.

Your own little brand of hatred might't be as widespread as others, but its equally as firey....

loki said...

And once again we see DUP stooges arguing that their way is the only true one and anyone who disagrees is apostate. Is it any wonder voter apathy is increasing? I wonder if the Ulster nationalists who form the DUP have worked out that the majority of NI citizens want to remain in the UK. And I do mean an absolute majority.
BTW FD- when you talk about voter education do you mean the Dianne Dodds school- vote DUP or the world will end?
Voter turnout is dependent on politicians treating the electorate with a respect that I'm afraid is sadly lacking when everything is boiled down to "themuns and usuns" Start treating voters with courtesy and respect and the results might surprise us all

fair_deal said...

loki

"And once again we see DUP stooges arguing that their way is the only true one and anyone who disagrees is apostate."
So swiftly followed by this
"I wonder if the Ulster nationalists who form the DUP have worked out that the majority of NI citizens want to remain in the UK."

Irony really is lost on some prople

"BTW FD- when you talk about voter education do you mean the Dianne Dodds school- vote DUP or the world will end?"

If you'd bothered to read to my exchange between Chekov and I you'd know the answer but instead you just use the single transferable rant.