Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Can strategy prevail over tactics?

The Conservative manifesto, entitled ‘Invitation to Join the Government of Britain’ (PDF), was launched yesterday, to the mandatory blaze of publicity. In Northern Ireland, the DUP immediately attacked the document, alleging that it has only marginally more content, related directly to the province, than its equivalent in 2005. The criticism was immediately swatted away by Conservatives and Unionists, who point out that a separate, regional manifesto will be issued next week.

This type of regional sniping has become the staple diet of nationalist parties across the United Kingdom. The DUP’s attacks, accusing ‘English’ Tories of neglecting Northern Ireland, are indistinguishable from tactics adopted by the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Scottish and Welsh nationalists are keen to portray themselves as the true guarantors of their region’s interests, opposing the devious schemes of interloping ’London’ parties. The pattern in Northern Ireland is precisely the same.

The truth is that the national Conservative manifesto, and doubtless its regional offshoots too, include plenty of content directly related to the upkeep of Union. At ’Pint of Unionist Lite’ O’Neill has a useful synopsis of the main points. To take a purely local perspective, the Tory commitment to “bring Northern Ireland into the mainstream of British politics” can be set against Labour’s apathy. Everything’s honky dory here according to its manifesto.

There are specific pledges in the national document. A Tory administration would produce a government paper, examining the possibility of a regionally distinct Corporation Tax rate, and end double jobbing. Next week’s Northern Ireland manifesto will drill down into the detail in order to explain what a Conservative government will mean to people in this part of the United Kingdom. It has been written in conjunction with the Ulster Unionist party, a degree of participation which Sylvia Hermon can only imagine, as she attempts to join the Labour benches.

With all the squabbling, ’unity talks’ and candidate pacts, its been easy to forget the pure unionist ideals which animated the Conservative and Ulster Unionist arrangement. It is a commonplace to suggest that unionism is preoccupied with tactics to the exclusion of strategy. The New Force represented a clear and exciting strategy, but it has become mired in tactical minutiae, local rivalry and an incurable compulsion to respond to every brickbat thrown by rivals.

As the election draws closer, and Conservatives and Unionists organise their core beliefs into digestible format, hopefully it is the strategy which will prevail.

The Conservative Party is passionate about the Union and we will never do anything to put it at risk. and, because of the new political force we have created with the Ulster Unionists,.

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