Wednesday, 12 August 2009

UUP's drift and presentational carelessness could undermine Conservative deal.

If a party intends to put across a new message, consistently, then it is important that it chooses reliable people, in tune with the message’s ethos, to communicate it. The Ulster Unionist party has a vitally important vision to articulate just now. It is engaged in critical work, seeking to normalise politics in Northern Ireland, and strengthen the Union by offering voters here genuine participation in British politics.

This is the most exciting development for Northern Irish unionism in a generation, and it requires steadfast, firm leadership to see it to its conclusion. That means leadership which is prepared to ensure its party’s more regressive voices do not become predominant.

If you were leader of the UUP, and one of your representatives implied that your Conservative allies were ‘wide boy liberalistos’ you might think it clever management if you declined to use that representative to front a major policy paper. You'd be right.

Coverage of the ‘Putting Things Right’ document, released yesterday, was focussed on a relatively short passage which dealt with policing and justice. The post below observes that initial reports were based on misinterpretation of a relatively straightforward section of the report. Unfortunately the paper has been attributed to hard-line finance spokesman, David McNarry, who has subsequently failed to emphasise that this is a finance document, preoccupied with devolving policing and justice only insofar as its funding is concerned.

The MLA gave a rambling, incoherent interview on Radio Ulster and, consequently, a document which the UUP had intended to present as its deconstruction of Northern Ireland’s financial problems became accepted, so far as the media was concerned, as the party’s veto on devolution of policing and justice; and an attempt to outflank the DUP on its hardline wing. This development occurred completely unchallenged, with the UUP apparently oblivious. It represents another publicity foul up for the Conservative and Unionist coalition.

I appreciate that McNarry claims the report’s authorship, but I’m sure it was based on much wider input. The Strangford MLA is not sensitive to the ethos of inclusive politics and he is not likely to flourish if the Tory connection is strengthened. From a purely presentational perspective, this document would have benefited from being fronted by a more nimble media performer and from the perspective of party development, a more moderate voice would have been more appropriate.

The incident exacerbates the sense that the party’s leadership is rather lackadaisically engaged with the UUP / Conservative project and is inept in the subtle arts of media management. There remain suspicions that outstanding issues have been allowed to drift, and will re-emerge in the autumn, a disaffected MP and several ambivalent MLAs amongst them.

The Ulster Conservatives and Unionists got off to a satisfactory electoral start and the future should be bright for the alliance’s constituent parties. But the UUP in particular must recognise that a Rubicon has been crossed. It must embrace wholeheartedly the dispensation to which it is committed. That means more care, more attention to detail and more willingness to apply discipline when it is needed.

11 comments:

Gaelic Con said...

Hear, Hear, Hear!

I'm glad someone's prepared to call this one.

The messaging from the UUP on the Cons link up is so far, far from consistent.

Reg needs to get a grip on this. Is he serious about changing NI politics or not?

If he is, then get on and do it, deepen the link with the Cons and START SELECTING CANDIDATES FOR WESTMINSTER!!!!

Anonymous said...

Chekov

I think what you are suggesting is somehat concerning in that you are implying that some UUP 'backwoodsmen' are trying to sabotage the 'deal'.

The leadership will have to get a grip on those dinosaurs, who are afraid of losing the seats, if the 'deal' is to prosper. The UUP can ill afford a fifth column within the ranks in our precarious financial health.

We have seen three UUP press releases on P&J - Reg, McNarry and now MCrae which are not following the exactly the same line. There is either no coherence in the UUP PR team or no discipline in the UUP MLA team, it needs fixing and fixing now. This all when the lead on P&J should probably still be at Westminster, as non devolved, with the Conservatives.

It does not bode well for a happy alliance unless strict disipline is exerted over our MLA's in future.

Pileo' said...

What a crock of shit this site is.

Full of fat white men talking about Protestant orange filth.

Fuck off home, England don't want you.

John Henry said...

Sorry to add a note of negativity but IMHO the UUP is and has been kack for years. you only need look at the "quality" of its Upper Bann councillors and MLAs.

Jenny Muir said...

There's been some coverage of the dilemma faced by 'New Labour' types in the UUP over the new link with the Tories, and while not wanting to minimise that problem I do think another is going to be the need to rebalance the UUP in terms of addressing bread and butter issues rather than 'community' divisions and FFS the position of the Orange Order.

The Tories will want to be associated with a serious governing force in NI, not a party of whingers about themmuns. I predict a few defections to the DUP.

Chekov said...

What a crock of shit this site is.

Full of fat white men talking about Protestant orange filth.

Fuck off home, England don't want you.


Normally I'd delete this, but I've decided that, actually, its worth keeping as a reminder of just the type of anonymous abuse which is forcing me to consider moderation at all times.

O'Neill said...

I do think another is going to be the need to rebalance the UUP in terms of addressing bread and butter issues rather than 'community' divisions and FFS the position of the Orange Order.

This move away from communal politics was one of the major aspects sold as the whole point of the link-up with the Conservatives.
The truth is that the UUP can't fight on both fronts, either they can try to out-Prod the DUP/TUV or they can start moving the party towards what is recognised as politics in the rest of the UK. I think there are those still within the UUP who think both approaches are still possible.

fair_deal said...

"The truth is that the UUP can't fight on both fronts,"

But they are consistently trying to do so. IMO this is not so much with the eye on westminster but on Council and Assembly elections - The UUP wants to remain very attractive to TUV transfers.

Anonymous said...

The difficulty is that the longer time goes on the more apparent how insignificant the likes of McNarry are. He seems to think that if he issues a paper he can dictate policy. Reg needs to remove the Whip

Anonymous said...

“The Ulster Unionist Party is committed to offering the leadership Northern Ireland needs as we face difficult economic times. We are committed to doing this not only locally in the Assembly but at a national level influencing the next Conservative Government. This is of huge significance for Northern Ireland. The possibilities for decisive, innovative and productive policy initiatives to benefit Northern Ireland and to put Northern Ireland back on its feet under the leadership from the Ulster Unionist Party have never been greater.

While Northern Ireland has been cushioned from some of the severity of the recession by its dependence on the public sector, there is a need to face some hard underlying realities – particularly in relation to how we manage our budget. The present approach of the lead parties in the Executive, the DUP and Sinn Fein, is a form of denial. It fails to address the serious underlying problems we face and could best be described as short-term expediency and as a hand-to-mouth exercise, juggling paper-thin under-spends in one department to shore up overspends in others.

What will happen when the 2011 efficiency savings required by Westminster are implemented. That is now just over a year away. The present head-in-the-sand approach will then be exposed as unworkable. The efficiency savings proposed by the Labour Government, which has been strongly supported by the DUP, are, in everyday language, cuts to the block grant Westminster gives us.

Successive DUP Finance Ministers’ inability to see this emerging problem and to address it has led to the current fiscal tight rope walking that is in danger of destabilising the Executive. The Ulster Unionist Party is proposing that, in order to avoid this problem in the future before the next CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review) period and any potential revision of the Barnett formula, we would negotiate a contingency fund with the Treasury which would be funded by both the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive. This would result in much more prudent and much less risky financial management. Governments and businesses across the globe are reforming how they manage their finances in light of the credit crunch and resultant recession, and the Northern Ireland Executive should not be any different.

All of this comes directly from the UUP document and it sounds very much like Conservative Party policy to me - self-reliance, efficiency, value for money in government and a proper restructuring of the NI Budget and Government spending. It seems to me that the UUP and David McNarry are very much on message as far as the next Conservative Government are concerned. The UUP paper was about Finance and not about Policing and Justice. That was one sentence in a small paragraph. It just happened that the local media focused on that one aspect. What the paper has to say about how the DUP and Sinn Fein are mismanaging our finances is far more important because if we go on as we are, the financial wheels will come off devolution and where are we then ? Where will we be when Gordion Brown's Labour efficiency savings kick in ? David McNarry is right to warn us all about this Labour policy which will cut our block grant. He is also right to want Policing and Justice devolved with enough money to run it properly. The DUP and Sinn Fein have proved to be lousy negotiators with the Treasury in particular. Where is the £1000 million peace dividend the DUP promised for example ? Was it not the DUP who agreed to the First Minister job going to the largest Party in St Andrews as opposed to the largest designation as in the GFA ?

Anonymous said...

“The Ulster Unionist Party is committed to offering the leadership Northern Ireland needs as we face difficult economic times. We are committed to doing this not only locally in the Assembly but at a national level influencing the next Conservative Government. This is of huge significance for Northern Ireland. The possibilities for decisive, innovative and productive policy initiatives to benefit Northern Ireland and to put Northern Ireland back on its feet under the leadership from the Ulster Unionist Party have never been greater.

There is a need to face some hard underlying realities – particularly in relation to how we manage our budget. The present approach of the lead parties in the Executive, the DUP and Sinn Fein, is a form of denial. It fails to address the serious underlying problems we face and could best be described as short-term expediency and as a hand-to-mouth exercise, juggling paper-thin under-spends in one department to shore up overspends in others.

What will happen when the 2011 efficiency savings required by Westminster are implemented? That is now just over a year away. The present head-in-the-sand approach will then be exposed as unworkable. The efficiency savings proposed by the Labour Government, which has been strongly supported by the DUP, are, in everyday language, cuts to the block grant Westminster gives us.

Successive DUP Finance Ministers’ inability to see this emerging problem and to address it has led to the current fiscal tight rope walking that is in danger of destabilising the Executive. The Ulster Unionist Party is proposing that, in order to avoid this problem in the future before the next CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review) period and any potential revision of the Barnett formula, we would negotiate a contingency fund with the Treasury which would be funded by both the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive. This would result in much more prudent and much less risky financial management. Governments and businesses across the globe are reforming how they manage their finances in light of the credit crunch and resultant recession, and the Northern Ireland Executive should not be any different.

All of this comes directly from the UUP document and it sounds very much like Conservative Party policy to me - self-reliance, efficiency, value for money in government and a proper restructuring of the NI Budget and Government spending. It seems to me that the UUP and David McNarry are very much on message as far as the next Conservative Government are concerned. The UUP paper was about Finance and not about Policing and Justice. That was one sentence in a small paragraph. It just happened that the local media focused on that one aspect. What the paper has to say about how the DUP and Sinn Fein are mismanaging our finances is far more important because if we go on as we are, the financial wheels will come off devolution and where are we then ? Where will we be when Gordion Brown's Labour efficiency savings kick in ? David McNarry is right to warn us all about this Labour policy which will cut our block grant. He is also right to want Policing and Justice devolved with enough money to run it properly. The DUP and Sinn Fein have proved to be lousy negotiators with the Treasury in particular. Where is the £1000 million peace dividend the DUP promised for example ? Was it not the DUP who agreed to the First Minister job going to the largest Party in St Andrews as opposed to the largest designation as in the GFA ?