Friday, 26 November 2010

NI Tories can learn Scottish lessons.

It's beginning to look like there will, after all, be Conservative candidates contesting next year’s Assembly elections in Northern Ireland.

Whether this first Stormont sortie can provide a solid base, on which to build for subsequent outings, depends not only upon support and resources proving forthcoming from CCHQ, but also upon the party mustering local candidates and a local identity with which to imbue national Tory politics.

If the Conservatives in Northern Ireland are embarking upon a sustained push to raise their profile and attract voters, they would do well to learn from the lessons with which their counterparts in Scotland are currently grappling.  There the party is struggling to match its national revival and to come to terms with life ‘post devolution’.

O’Neill highlights the Sanderson Report which is attempting to come to grips with the Scottish Tories’ difficulties.

Throughout Britain the national parties are struggling to reconcile broader UK themes with devolved politics in the nations and the regions.  It's a hugely complicated task, but it's vital that they try.

7 comments:

Seymour Major said...

"NI Tories can learn Scottish Lessons"

It would help if the Main Conservative Party learned the Scottish lessons too.

Very little has been said, so far, about the branding problem. My gut feeling is that the report's conclusions on this are wrong. Time will tell whether the Conservative brand can recover. I fear not.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a branding problem, the Conservative/Tory brand is one of the strongest brands in the world. The problem in Northern Ireland is how it was marketed and how other local parties were allowed to define what the party stood for.

The perception portrayed is that it is a party full of Southern English North Down supper club toffs. The reality is far from that it is made up of ordinary local people who care about NI and want to see it turned around.

The real problem is therefore not the name of the party, it is how to convey a message to voters that the best opportunity for all in NI is to vote for them.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a branding problem, the Conservative/Tory brand is one of the strongest brands in the world. The problem in Northern Ireland is how it was marketed and how other local parties were allowed to define what the party stood for.

The perception portrayed is that it is a party full of Southern English North Down supper club toffs. The reality is far from that it is made up of ordinary local people who care about NI and want to see it turned around.

The real problem is therefore not the name of the party, it is how to convey a message to voters that the best opportunity for all in NI is to vote for them.

Anonymous said...

In politics, you sometimes have to see a mood out like the years of Blairism. For a decade or fifteen years, the British people were in tune with his expansionist, optimistic, open view of the world. With money no object, he and New Labour prospered.

It has been the same in Scotland for longer (and in Northern Ireland). The SNP went with the grain of anti-Englishness and against the apparent narrowness of Thatcher. They took all the Tory seats (particularly in majority Protestant areas). The DUP did the same in Northern Ireland .

Now that the money hasn't just run out but has to be repaid, the Conservative outlook can, indeed has to, re-emerge, but in Scotland slowly, as devolution favours anti-English sentiment.

With Salmond in power, the master of exploiting envy, the wait will be longer as he twists the devolution knife into the Tories. His days and ideas are however numbered as his role models, Ireland and Iceland, have gone into administration or liquidation, like the Scottish banks.

Hopefully, the referendum in Wales to give their Assembly more powers will be defeated by the people (no thanks to this government), marking the first receding tide for devolution.

The Liberals too will be cut back in both countries' elections next year leaving the way open for the Conservatives to gradually up their percentage vote.

Reform of the Scottish party may well help but it is greater forces that will ultimately do the needful. Pessimism is their enemy.

AS to NI, with devolution settling in deeper and the integration tide long turned, the local Tories will fail to gain votes in 2011. Their efforts would be best directed to embedding themselves in the party and its policy-making, at every level.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with the first anonymous commenter. UCUNF was a bastardisation of the Conservative brand.

Seymour Major said...

My first comment on this thread directed towards Scottish Conservative branding problem, not the one in Northern Ireland directly. I apologise for not making that clear.

In Northern Ireland, Conservative branding seems to be affected by

(a) Amongst unionists, A perception that they will marginalise or betray Northern Ireland for the greater interests of Britan. The Anglo Irish agreement is regarded as one of the causes of this.

(b) amongst Nationalists, the perception of the Conservatives are an anti-Irish party. This perception seems to have been caused by numerous events dating back to the 19th Century as well as the strong Conservative association with Unionism.

The Conservatives, when in Government are always likely to be more financially prudent and more likely than labour to take unpopular decisions. However, acting in the National interest can often lose votes. The reduction in Northern Ireland's block grant following the announcement of spending cuts is set to worsen the Conservative reputation in Northern Ireland.

One way to address the conflict between national and regional interst without compromising equal citizenship is to create an independent centre-right party which is allied to the Conservatives in Parliament based on the CDU/CSU model.

So far, I have neither seen nor read any material which suggests that Conservatives have properly examined those options.

Anonymous said...

But is the CSU not an integral part of Merkel's government?