Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The New Force for slow learners - it will fight every seat!

It still hasn’t dawned on some members of the Ulster Unionist party, has it? The Rubicon has been crossed, bridges have been burned. Whichever cliché you wish to employ, its underlying truth is the same - the only viable future which the UUP can contemplate is with its new Conservative partners.

A nonnegotiable principle of the Conservative / UUP pact is that it must be rolled out across every constituency in Northern Ireland.

The purpose of UCUNF is not to add to an alphabet soup of interchangeable unionist sects. It is designed to offer genuine participation in UK politics to ALL the people in Northern Ireland. It cannot operate only where there is a resounding ‘prod’ majority.

Yet, in a letter to their leader, Sir Reg Empey, South Belfast members have urged the party leadership to negotiate with the DUP, in order that a single unionist candidate might be fielded in that constituency, according to the BBC.

Such a deal would render the New Force redundant, by definition. It is manifestly incompatible with the project.

Ironically these are members whose parliamentary seat is eminently winnable, if a strong Conservative and Unionist were selected.

But rather than getting on with picking a young, enthusiastic contender, in order to join Conservative selection Peter McCann in front of the joint committee, the South Belfast association would rather cede the seat to Jimmy Spratt or a similar DUPe Neanderthal, if the report is to be believed!

It is pathetic, and when one compiles a mental list of possible malcontents within that constituency, one wonders which of them have chosen to provoke their colleagues into this action.

In the final analysis, it matters little. Whoever is responsible for this letter, Sir Reg Empey should repudiate its contents in strong and unequivocal terms.

The Westminster selection process is already settled. And he has a pressing engagement, articulating the new unionism at Conservative conference.

20 comments:

Chekov said...

Fair Deal – apologies. I appear to have accidentally deleted your comment and I can’t manage to get it back (will teach me not to try to moderate on a phone again). You ask for evidence that South Belfast is winnable. I don’t have statistics to hand, but the seat was tight last time, the DUP’s popularity is on the wane and the SDLP is in something of a mess.

I don’t have evidence that Liverpool will win the FA Cup, but I believe they might. South Belfast is an interesting area with a mixture of traditional working class and middle class areas and a fairly diverse population. It is a good testing ground for UCUNF and a positive campaign should have a chance.

fair_deal said...

Chekov

No worries on the deletion the joys of technology.

It was that the comment read more as a statement of fact rather than of opinion, hence my question.

If the Euro tallies are anything to go by the DUP has waned to the TUV but maintain a reduced lead over the UCUNF vote which waned some to Alliance.

SB is more diverse but minority ethnic groups have two issues - very poor registration rates and equally poor tunrout of those who are (even Anna Lo's candidacy did nothing on that front). So it is at present a vote that needs to be worked on to be developed rather than one already there to be tapped into in 2010.

rutherford said...

Lo appears particularly scathing:

"Clearly the rhetoric of a new non-sectarian dawn with support for a shared future has been exposed as completely shallow.
"We are not surprised at the stance of the UUP. The Conservatives need to reflect on what they have shackled themselves to."

Has it really Anna? While I agree the local committee men responsible for this letter are exhibiting exactly the kind of tribal behaviour this departure in NI politics is trying to remove I'm confused as to whether the Alliance representative wants mainstream politics here or not?

The Tory tie up is a vote of confidence (albeit party political) from across the Irish Sea. It is not the tie up itself that needs any scrutiny, merely those apparatchiks who seek to hold back progressive thinking.

Even the neutrals can be guilty of little-Ulsterisms...

Mark Ovens said...

It still hasn’t dawned on some members of the Ulster Unionist party, has it?

Whether it has dawned on them or not, it will be those same South Belfast Ulster Unionists that will be doing most of the groundwork in the lead up to polling day, therefore it will be to the peril of the Ulster Cs & Us to ignore their very genuine concerns.

O'Neill said...

"ignore their very genuine concerns."

What concerns would those be Mark? Did they exist at the time of the Empey/Cameron agreement, one of the *public* central principles of which was every seat would be fought for?

Has the consequences of that principle just suddenly dawned on them or is there another more recent factor at work?

rutherford said...

with stick-in-the-mud views like that the groundwork won't be very effective in South Belfast.

Regarding registration rates/vote activity, isn't that a pretty chronic problem in South Belfast's mainly working class loyalist wards?

Richard said...

Concerns about what Mark?

You're either for change in Northern Ireland politics or you're against it.

Richard said...

Also Chekov, thought you'd be interested that Mikhail Saaakashvili is featuring on BBC News HARDtalk tonight at 1130pm.

Be interesting to hear your thoughts on what he says...

Anonymous said...

Look towards MMcG and his sidekick for the background to this, he wants to run again and sees his opportunity disappearing

Mark said...

O’Neil,

You ask why SB didn’t raise the issue at the very beginning; maybe it was because it wasn’t even considered in those initial stages. Sir Reg has done a decent job at keeping the Party united, I think you will find though that the running in every seat issue never didn’t really raise its head in the public arena until the deal had been finalised. Remember when Cameron said it in his Conference speech? Remember the muted applause?

The thing I don’t get is why the Tories were all talk about working alongside Labour and the Lib Dems around the Euro Election in an attempt to obstruct the rising tide of support for the BNP but then over here when anyone even mutters a word about cooperation with any of the other Unionists then they are bigots, backwoodsmen and obsolete. Simple question, what’s the real difference between the BNP and Sinn Fein? But sure SF are lovely guys and just because we don’t want to see any more elected than necessary then we are all sectarian bigots, right?

And Rutherford, it’s all fair and well people looking on and criticising those pesky big U Unionists, but aren’t they simply being representative of what most Unionists want? Unionist cooperation… and every time Owen Paterson or David Cameron recklessly state that UCU will run in every seat then the overall health of the UCU pact is getting a kick in the stomach. Yes I broadly agree with the principle of running in every seat, but the way in which Paterson & Cameron have made that point just smacks of egotism. If you think Unionists don’t want unity and cooperation then I’d love to know where you have canvassed recently? Yeah alls fair and well some people being an armchair Unionist furiously slamming the keyboard when someone says anything they remotely disagree but maybe if you look out the front door you will see that the real genuine voting public don’t buy into this morally high ground stuff . They are Unionist and they want Unionism to return as many seats as possible to Westminster, while diminishing the SF presence. Take a look at the UCU June transfers, where was the bulk going? Yup, Dodd’s and Allister…

And before whatever people get on whatever bandwagon its not about ‘not wantin a taig about the place’, its simply not wanting a party that condone a terrorist campaign and still refuse to wholeheartedly condemn the dissidents.

But yeah if you really want to see what Northern Ireland politics is like, let the Tories run a candidate in SB, let them ignore and malign the local Unionists Assoc, let them run a half arsed campaign with only a few over exited activists knocking whatever doors they can manage and then let them stand there at the count centre when they realise that they have made one hell of a misjudgment of the electorate.

The UCU pact has real potential, it could truly change NI politics, but there is no point sitting there with great ideology but only enough elected reps to fill a phonebox. What it constantly being ignored here is that the UUP is still the main draw for votes and active participation within the project, take the Unionist party out and you’re left with the NI Tories… and their 3000+ votes. So no the Tories should not have a right to soley dictate whatever the moral high ground is. Maybe you could ask the people who know SB the best… the people who live in it.

So criticise, demean and discredit SB assoc all you like, but remember without them and the Unionist electorate you might as well piss at the moon for all the votes UCU will get.

O'Neill said...

" Sir Reg has done a decent job at keeping the Party united, I think you will find though that the running in every seat issue never didn’t really raise its head in the public arena until the deal had been finalised. Remember when Cameron said it in his Conference speech? Remember the muted applause?"

As you confirm, the S. Belfast and other constituency associations have been well aware of this fact for well over a year- why now the panic?

"The thing I don’t get is why the Tories were all talk about working alongside Labour and the Lib Dems around the Euro Election in an attempt to obstruct the rising tide of support for the BNP but then over here when anyone even mutters a word about cooperation with any of the other Unionists then they are bigots, backwoodsmen and obsolete."

Point me towards those seats where joint anti-BNP candidates were selected by the three parties.

"So criticise, demean and discredit SB assoc all you like, but remember without them and the Unionist electorate you might as well piss at the moon for all the votes UCU will get."

Am I not permitted to let my conscience guide my opinion on this? A UUP that is prepared to hop into bed with the DUP at the slightest whiff of *Unionist* (ie Prod) Unity being evoked, loses its point of separate existance and might as well go the whole hog and merge with the DUP.

Finally, I'm interested to know what exactly you think the potential of the UCU is and how will it be realised?

Chekov said...

I think you will find though that the running in every seat issue never didn’t really raise its head in the public arena until the deal had been finalised. Remember when Cameron said it in his Conference speech? Remember the muted applause?

Interesting contention. The every seat issue has been about since last September, when Lord Trimble stressed that it would be the basis of the pact, at the Tory conference. The deal was endorsed by each party executive in late November.

The thing I don’t get is why the Tories were all talk about working alongside Labour and the Lib Dems around the Euro Election in an attempt to obstruct the rising tide of support for the BNP but then over here when anyone even mutters a word about cooperation with any of the other Unionists then they are bigots, backwoodsmen and obsolete.

Two pretty basic points here. 1) No single candidates were fielded in order to counter the BNP. There was simply a shared message that the BNP is an unacceptable, racist and highly unpleasant party. 2) Whatever similarities might be drawn between SF / BNP, it is ridiculous to allege them of the SDLP, who currently hold SB.

Simple question, what’s the real difference between the BNP and Sinn Fein? But sure SF are lovely guys and just because we don’t want to see any more elected than necessary then we are all sectarian bigots, right?

SF is a particularly unpleasant party. No doubt. But standing down candidates restricts voter choice and actually it is an attempt to force voters to choose another fairly unpleasant party in the DUP (and I accept that it is not comparable to SF).

And Rutherford, it’s all fair and well people looking on and criticising those pesky big U Unionists, but aren’t they simply being representative of what most Unionists want?

That’s unionism as a tribe, rather than a political aim. It was never the basis on which this pact was set up.

Unionist cooperation… and every time Owen Paterson or David Cameron recklessly state that UCU will run in every seat then the overall health of the UCU pact is getting a kick in the stomach. Yes I broadly agree with the principle of running in every seat, but the way in which Paterson & Cameron have made that point just smacks of egotism.

So do you want an agreed candidate or don’t you, because you can’t have it every way?

If you think Unionists don’t want unity and cooperation then I’d love to know where you have canvassed recently?

I’ve heard plenty of this ‘unity and cooperation’ malarkey and I’ve also heard plenty of other things too. Like tribal politics not working and the desire to have normal politics. Listening only to people’s basest instincts might have got the DUP where they are, but the UUP should be about something more constructive.

They are Unionist and they want Unionism to return as many seats as possible to Westminster, while diminishing the SF presence. Take a look at the UCU June transfers, where was the bulk going? Yup, Dodd’s and Allister…

Unionists are interested in the United Kingdom and participating in the United Kingdom.

And before whatever people get on whatever bandwagon its not about ‘not wantin a taig about the place’, its simply not wanting a party that condone a terrorist campaign and still refuse to wholeheartedly condemn the dissidents.

So for SB unionists this is all about Fermanagh South Tyrone? A very odd contention.

But yeah if you really want to see what Northern Ireland politics is like, let the Tories run a candidate in SB, let them ignore and malign the local Unionists Assoc, let them run a half arsed campaign with only a few over exited activists knocking whatever doors they can manage and then let them stand there at the count centre when they realise that they have made one hell of a misjudgment of the electorate.

Yes. Northern Ireland politics stinks. Which is why some people are trying to change it.

Chekov said...

So criticise, demean and discredit SB assoc all you like, but remember without them and the Unionist electorate you might as well piss at the moon for all the votes UCU will get.

O’Neill has already given you a pretty good reply. I actually do live in S Belfast, although I'm not a member in that constituency. An agreed candidate means standing someone down either there or FST. The presumption being that you're at least prepared to consider being the constituency which stands down and returns a DUP member?

Chekov said...

Also Chekov, thought you'd be interested that Mikhail Saaakashvili is featuring on BBC News HARDtalk tonight at 1130pm.

Richard. I'll have to see if I can get this on IPlayer tonight. Unfortunately I missed it last night.

Richard said...

Chekov,

The Saakshvili interview is worth watching.

The interviewer calls him several times for insisting black is white but overall I though Saakshvili gives a competent and sympathetic performance.

John Hammond said...

Mark said...."Simple question, what’s the real difference between the BNP and Sinn Fein?"

Here's another simple question.

What's the difference between the BNP and the DUP?

The DUP, helpfully revealed through Mcrea Junior this week, still think the Pope is the Antichrist, Catholic Priests the servants of the antichrist, and practising Catholics the followers of the antichrist. Followed by not a word of admonishment from the DUP party leadership.

Not too dissimilar to BNP contentions of worldwide Jewish conspiracies

The DUP, as revealed through the Assembly motions of Alec Easton, and pronouncements of Gregory Campbell, labour under a weird persecution mania that Protestants are engaged in a vicious cultural war with a sinister and hostile non-native population intent on the destroying the host culture.

Not dissimilar to BNP pronouncements on "threats to Britishness".

The DUP, as revealed through Iris Robinson, think homosexuality is an abhorrent sin and that practising homosexuals need to be cured.

The BNP are equally not known for their liberalism towards people of alternate lifestyles.

The DUP, as revealed through the prattlings of Mervyn Storey, defy all scientific orthodoxy and believe the earth is less than 5,000 years old.

Equally, the BNP defy scientific rationalism believing there is such a thing as categorical human "races".

And this is all commentary about current thinking within the DUP.

Sinn Fein were certainly previously wedded to a murderous organisation which conducted campaigns of ethnic cleansing. I presume this is the basis of your comparison between them and the BNP. A comparison with virtue.

However it must be accepted that they are not anymore and indeed gave up all pretenses of an armed struggle over 15 years ago. Fact.

Furthermore, Sinn Fein, for all their very many faults, have never argued any group of people in society were of lower human worth purely by virtue of their religion or sexuality. The DUP have, and still do (see above).

Seems to me, that as it currently stands, the DUP have much more in common with the BNP than Sinn Fein do Mark.

Indeed, the main area of difference I can think of between the DUP and the BNP is that even the BNP are able to admit climate change is a reality.

Even the BNP think Sammy Wilson is a loon!

rutherford said...

"it’s all fair and well people looking on and criticising those pesky big U Unionists, but aren’t they simply being representative of what most Unionists want?"

Mark, most Unionists have never had a choice to vote for anything different.

Andy Wilson said...

There has been a lot of talk about the ‘South Belfast’ issue in the blogosphere this week. But I still can’t find out what exactly this letter from the constituency association said. In the News letter Reg Empey says he hasn’t seen the letter. The Devenport piece about a ‘leaked letter’ is very vague and there are no direct quotes.

I was at the UU party executive on Saturday and can tell you that while there were concerned voices raised at the slow progress being made on the selection process and associated with that, individuals independently announcing their potential candidature in the media- it was not just South Belfast and it was not just the Conservatives that were being mentioned. No one raised the idea of a pact with the DuPes in SB.

So I would not be getting too excited about these reports. Wait and see.
Remember, there is an enormous group of vested interests who do not want this project to work- and it ranges from the DUP, SF, Alliance to a large element of the mainstream NI media who have invested in the political consensus at Stormont, and are also inherently anti conservative (and anti unionist).

Mark said...

As you confirm, the S. Belfast and other constituency associations have been well aware of this fact for well over a year- why now the panic?

I don’t consider a letter (which isn’t even written yet?) to be equivalent to a ‘panic’.

Point me towards those seats where joint anti-BNP candidates were selected by the three parties.

The ‘strategy meetings’ meetings between Harman and Pickels?

So do you want an agreed candidate or don’t you, because you can’t have it every way? + The presumption being that you're at least prepared to consider being the constituency which stands down and returns a DUP member?

In terms of political utilisation yes, in terms of the overall politics of NI and the UCU project no, I don’t think the DUP/UUP should run a joint candidate. I do however realise the sensitivities of this issue on the ground, that is why I totally object to people (Tory or anyone else) looking down their noses and criticising them for saying what most people in the areas are thinking, coming from I do from FST but currently living in SB consequently I am well aware that most ordinary people on the ground won’t appreciate being dictated to on this issue. These conversations and (and reassurances and persuasions in this case) should be going on in private.

Mark, most Unionists have never had a choice to vote for anything different.

Rutherford, I think you will find that simply isn’t true. Lets take the issue of the day: South Belfast, here the Constituency with the most affluent streets in Northern Ireland and a community not near as segregated as those just a few miles East or West of the city but yet the NI Tories only managed to scrape together a miserably 108 votes. They were beaten by the Workers Party and even the Socialist Party(!).

This was the case all across the constituencies that they could find anyone to stand in 2007. In Lagan Valley the NI Conservatives got 0.9% of the vote, Upper Bann 0.6%, Stangford 1.4%, South Antrim 0.3%, East Antrim 1.3%... these are all key target UCU seats, and they are all very, very winnable next May. However it’s pretty clear it won’t be Tory votes and soundbites alone that win them.

So yes Northern Ireland has had plenty of opportunities to vote for the Conservatives and at most of them the Tories have been humiliated. However next year this will be different as the people Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to vote for the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists; a compilation of the two parties which separately have fairly reasonable messages but when put together give people here the opportunity to vote for something truly unique and brilliant. However it needs to be done right and not solely dictated to by a few people who claim they understand Northern Ireland politics when they quite clearly do not.

O'Neill said...

I don’t consider a letter (which isn’t even written yet?) to be equivalent to a ‘panic’.

It exists, check out both on Bobsballs and Open Unionism. OK, don't describe it as a panic,my main point however was that the electoral arithmetic in SB was known right this time last yeasr, why pick this particular point to "bring it to the attention" of the leadership?

""Point me towards those seats where joint anti-BNP candidates were selected by the three parties.

"The ‘strategy meetings’ meetings between Harman and Pickels?""

And those *strategy meetings* involved the selection of joint candidates?

You still haven't outlined what you think the Conservatives and Unionists may deliver and how that target may be obtained- if they have such a weak presence on the gorund and at the ballot box what is in it then for the UUP, simply the extra cash?