Wednesday, 8 December 2010

NI Conservatives' chairman resigns as local party hung out to dry by CCHQ.

Despite Elliott's weak negotiating position, it appears that NI Conservatives will not stand in the Assembly elections after all.  The local party's chairman, Irwin Armstrong, has tendered his resignation with immediate effect.  His statement outlines the course of events which led to this action.

Conservative Chairman in Northern Ireland tenders resignation over UUP deal
Irwin Armstrong Chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland today announced his will submit his resignation to the Northern Ireland Executive, he said
‘It is no longer tenable for me to remain as Chairman after I was informed by our party Co Chairman and N.I. Secretary of State some weeks ago that the Prime Minister had decided we would be running candidates in Northern Ireland in both Assembly and local council elections and I accepted their word, informed my Executive and key activists, and prepared press releases on that basis, I was then asked to wait until the leader of the UUP had been informed before we issued any releases.
I was then informed last night, after a meeting was held with the UUP leader and without further discussion with the Conservatives in NI, that the former relationship with the UUP was to continue and we would not be running candidates in the Assembly election. This despite the clear knowledge of both men since I became Chairman, that I would be unable to accept that decision, as I do not accept that the relationship is in the best interests of the Conservative Party, the people of Northern Ireland and our members here. The decision will effectively disband the Conservatives in NI as the sole reason for a political party is to contest elections and the recruitment of activists will be impossible if all they are offered is council elections and pacts with another party
I had hoped we could build our party as a non sectarian party in Northern Ireland that could honestly represent all. In my opinion the Conservative party has now abandoned any serious attempt to change politics in Northern Ireland and has accepted the narrow one community politics of the UUP to attempt to gain one or two MP’s at the next Westminster election.’
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, there's no doubt that the NI Tories have been led down the garden path by the national party.


DR said...

Is this the same Irwin Armstrong who managed to cut the UUP/UCUNF vote by a further third in North Antrim at the last election?

Lee said...

"...the NI Tories have been led down the garden path..."

Trusting the Tories is never a wise path

thedissenter said...

Sadly predictable. The saddest part being that the NI Conservatives would believe that 'national' interest would trump local membership everytime. Afraid it reflects a pattern of broad distain that seems to be general evident of the Cameron CCHQ vis-a-vis local Party organisation. But then in One Nation Toryism, the big house always knows best.

Chekov said...

Diss - I'm leaving aside the wisdom of this for the time being. When a UUP - Conservative connection was for mooted, I was enthused by the concept, but felt that it wouldn't work without the UUP's identity being protected. As the alliance wore on I went along with the notion that national politics required strong branding from the national party. So it would be hypocritical to criticise the continuation of a link that I wanted and which I championed.

At the moment I'm just personally disappointed for Irwin. He's been treated very shabbily and has obviously been badly deceived. It's never nice to see sincere, well-intentioned people having their trust abused.

slug said...


I agree about the poor treatment of Irwin who was a good candidate and person and not treated well here.

But on the broader point of the arrangement, I argued in May, in the comments of your blog and elsewhere, that the UUP/Tory link might be best continued with local identity of the UUP being stronger than it was under UCUNF. So I see this proposal as consistent with what I argued.

I argued in May that the way NI media used the term "Tory" suggests that it has an image problem in NI. Maybe it just seems culturally too English and not Northern Irish enough, in branding terms.

For the Union to work as a democracy, it is desirable that people be able to vote for or against government manifestos at the appropriate level - local, regional, national and European. That for me is the bottom line.

This arrangement does allow that and it may be a more realistic arrangement than UCUNF. I would like the prospect of local MPs becoming ministers - hopefully that would be possible too. But that is a longer term issue.

This does seem to me to be a desirable development because it shows the UUP are not throwing away national politics, not throwing away the Conservative link, but instead they are evolving it in a way that learns lessons from UCUNF.

Tom Elliott, though I was not a aupporter, has produced something that I think does have merit, here.

DR said...

There always seems to have been a problem from the start with the NI Conservatives role in the pact, on their part they seem to think they were equal partners with the UUP, but in reality the agreement was with London, certainly I strongly believe the local Conservatives did far more harm than what they added, from Jeff Peel on.

thedissenter said...

Chekov, while I think Irwin probably does feel rather mislead (and probably with good reason), there is an element here of new entrants to politics having a rather greater expectation of the 'process' than might those longer in the tooth.