Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Nesbitt concedes unity in a seat that no unionist can realistically win?

Wed 30 January 2013, 9:42am

So, according to the News Letter, Mike Nesbitt didn’t ask his constituency party in Mid Ulster whether they wanted a Unionist unity candidate, or not.

He may not have done much of the longer term math either, or calculated that the principle he’s ceding here is that his party no longer has any designs on have representation at Westminster.

As Sam McBride notes, unity candidate or not, this is a nationalist seat in waiting:

If the three unionist parties’ votes were added together from the last election, it would still only have been 31.9 per cent of the vote.

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Comments (100)

  1. Voice of Reason (profile) says:

    An agreed Unionist candidate for Mid-Ulster would be foolish; it’s exactly what the DUP want, as it saves them the need to knock doors in some fairly traditional loyalist areas in the current climate, and also keeps a lid on the UUP. No wonder the First Minister was so vocal in support of one in his News Letter webchat last week…

    For the UUP, although part of me can understand the attraction of backing an agreed candidate (financial reasons, need to concentrate on wider party issues, etc) However, the most vulnerable UUP Assembly seat in the constituency is that of the UUP (10.3%, or 0.7 quotas, in 2011. SF, DUP and SDLP all have a full quota(s), plus change.) Even in terms of keeping the party’s profile up, there needs to be a candidate…

    The most ridiculous thing is that any agreed Unionist wouldn’t even be the sole Unionist in the field! Frazer has made it perfectly clear to anyone who’ll listen that he’s running, and he would have a certain base in the constituency – his message on victims and ‘sell-out’ is not without resonance.

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  2. Midulsterx (profile) says:

    Looks like Mike is running solo. I hear that the locals are badly divided on this one. Sad day when party leader thinks that showing leadership means acknowledging that his own party arent up to the task of standing their own candidate. worse still when he suggested (hopefully sarcasticly) that the former leader of his political opponents shold stand instead.
    Maybe its time four UUP to look again at the party leadership before even more MLAs and party members jump overboard the sinking ship.

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  3. Barry the Blender (profile) says:

    It’s in the UUP’s interest to stand a candidate so it can enthuse and amuse it’s 4500 odd voters. The DUP are hardly likely to unite the unionists of Mid Ulster at any rate

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  4. boondock (profile) says:

    A pretty daft move when there is no chance of a unionist win. Turnout is going to be low anyway but a unity candidate will only result in a further reduction of unionist votes so cant for the life of me see the logic. One other thing it can have a knock on effect at other elections just ask Billy Hutchinson

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  5. hfmccloy (profile) says:

    According to other reports Willie Frazer is standing aside to let Jamie Bryson stand.

    Either all this will and wont there be a unity candidate is just to keep the issue of it in the media or a disaster waiting to happen, a month hmmm and haaaing that will get front page and weekly coverage and then an announcement that will be front page and daily coverage. But are they really that smart?

    This election just gets better and better while real life issues get put further and further down the list.

    Just Alliance to show their surprise card and we have a race.

    http://www.midulstermail.co.uk/news/local/leading-flag-protester-a-surprise-candidate-in-mid-ulster-by-election-1-4735885

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  6. Obelisk (profile) says:

    Nobody expects a Unionist candidate to win in Mid-Ulster. All they had to do was put up a candidate, do some campaigning, get the results and use it as a glorified opinion poll to see how things stood.

    Instead, Mike manages to (undoubtedly) sow ill will in the local constituency association by coming to a decision without telling them.

    He has signalled that it doesn’t matter to him who wins in any given seat as long as it’s a Unionist.I’m sure the DUP and Nigel Dodds in particular will be delighted to hear this, given North Belfast’s precarious position. I fully expect Nesbitt to come under pressure to not contest North Belfast at the next election if it becomes apparent it is going to be really, really close.

    Also, it’s important for him that “the voters of Mid-Ulster will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate with Ulster Unionist values (his words).” Again, music to the ears of the DUP as Mike has proven in recent weeks he is more than willing to redefine Ulster Unionist values as the values of the Democratic Unionist Party. (Belfast Agreement what? Not worth fighting over or dying in a ditch over, move along now).

    So vote DUP, the de facto Unionist Unity candidate with de facto Unionist Unity principles.

    Seriously, with the shallow pool of political talent we have in the north and a political scene that still contains Catriona Runae how did the Ulster Unionists manage to elect the biggest incompetent there is as their leader?

    How could he turn a virtual non-story, Unionist doesn’t win in Republican Heartland, into yet another shot in the foot.

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  7. Mick. Nesbitt is moving onto a new plane of irrelevance with this unity candidate nonsense which is, in any case doomed to failure given the margins in the constituency, but that doesn’t appear to sway him. Bryson is fully aware that the seat is lost to unionists, so he’s really in it for the TV exposure in the run up to the ballot. More grandstanding afoot. But Robinson is the more damaged of the DUP/UUP pair than Nesbitt by the flags debacle, as he at least was seen as relevant before it, which Nesbitt never was.

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  8. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    I’m guessing Nesbitt is hoping the DUP will gift him Strangford at the next Westminster election for being such a good wee boy. He really wants to be up with the big boys and girls in London.

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  9. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    And, if Mike wants Strangford that’ll mean no UUP candidate in East Belfast.

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  10. Sp12 (profile) says:

    “And, if Mike wants Strangford that’ll mean no UUP candidate in East Belfast.”

    A rebranding of the party to The Mike Nesbitt’s Ambition Vehicle is surely on the cards soon.

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  11. carl marks (profile) says:

    hard to see why, no hope of winning so decides to hand it to the DUP, so much for a new unionism seems that Mike is content to hang onto the DUP coattails perhaps in the hope of them playing fair(bet he didnt do history in uni!)
    he will have the shortest career in politics, the DUPS will eat him alive.
    Unionist unity has always been a mistake, it results in right wingers being elected and by in large the grassroots are fed the modern version of bread and circus, but very light on the bread and heavy on the circus(marchs, bonfires, flegs).
    As a nationlist i would just like to say THANKS MIKE and THANKS UNIONISM for yet another gift that keeps on giving.

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  12. Is this just one more example of Nesbitt’s tenuous grasp of what politics means or is it something more serious? Namely that the UUP’s fortunes have fallen so low that they simply no longer can afford to run candidates everywhere (soon to be anywhere?)

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  13. sherdy (profile) says:

    In business parlance Nesbitt’s behaviour comes very close to asset stripping. The only difference seems to be that, instead of selling all the party’s assets, he is unconditionally giving them away. He must be the greatest asset Robbo has.

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  14. It is shameful treatment of UUP supporters in the area. Who will he be recommending they vote for assuming he isn’t going to ask them to stay home.

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  15. mjh (profile) says:

    Nesbitt is behaving perfectly rationally and attempting to do the best thing for his party.

    Put simply he had three choices as leader:
    1. Strike out strongly to attract centre votes mainly from Alliance.
    2. Attempt to stop the haemorrhage of votes to the DUP (and maybe even gain a few back)
    3. Muddle along in between these two and watch the party continue to erode on both wings.

    Going for the centre might have been the visionary route, giving the party a political USP – liberal but firmly pro-Union. If successful it could have marked the party out from the DUP and given the party a long-term future. But it carried great risks.. And no matter how successful the strategy might be in the long term, in the first few years it would certainly have cost the party a lot of votes, and seats. There is no evidence that the party had the stomach for that gamble. And it is more than likely that a centrist strategy would have been dumped, along with Nesbitt, at the first sign of those losses. Possibly as soon as after the Euro elections.

    Instead he has decided to adopt the second course. His first task has been to convince his voters that there is no reason for them to switch to the DUP. He also appears to have set himself a second task, to reach an electoral pact with the DUP. At the least this would take the form agreeing not to run against each other in certain Westminster seats and limiting the DUP to one candidate for Europe. At the most it would extend to an agreement on the numbers of candidates to be run by each party in Assembly and Council constituencies.

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  16. Paulk (profile) says:

    As others have noted here, this seems pretty stupid. Robbo is running rings around him and he only seems to be in politics in order to boost his ego, for goodness sake he can’t even do a good soundbite and he comes from a media background.
    He engaging in politics of entrenchment here as well, why have a unity candidate at all?? except to set one community against the other.
    What exactly does he see as the point of the UUP? a feeder club for the DUP to pick off the brightest talents? how has he even lasted this long in the leadership postion without anybody publicly asking him if he has a single clue what he’s doing?

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  17. Neil (profile) says:

    Nesbitt is behaving perfectly rationally and attempting to do the best thing for his party.

    If you’re right, and he succeeds it could well be a first. How must the faithful be viewing the wisdom of becoming linked to that East Belfast Westminster leaflet?

    ‘Here ya go Pete, enjoy buddy’.

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  18. PaulK [5.50] And to think that he said to judge him on his first 100 days? Unfortunately a hundred minutes was just about enough. [the adoption plea on tv ].

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  19. mjh (profile) says:

    Paulk, how is his strategy stupid?

    His lack of political experience, and know-how, is often on show. And he has made mistakes. Getting rid of McNarry does not fit in with the strategy, which makes me suspect that he did not decide on it until later.

    You may not agree with him politically (which I don’t). You may not like the consequences of his actions.

    But this strategy could leave him still with 15 or 16 seats in the next Assembly. And given the losses of the UUP in the last 30 years I think he would be very happy with that.

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  20. I believe that every political party has an unwritten duty to contest all seats. So I think the decision is disappointing but has a logic to it.
    There is the “outreach” approach…and there is consolidating the pro union vote.
    Nesbitt (and Robinson) can have one…not both. With this choice there can be no further credibility given to any talk of outreach.
    But there is a medium term logic…Westminster 2015.
    At this too early stage, I’d say that in FST, a unionist could win. Notwithstanding Demographics…Ms Gildernew having a lower profile and a minimal SDLP COULD win the seat for a unionist.
    East Belfast unionist candidate DUP would likely win.
    Stranfgord has been mentioned.
    But I think it could put South Belfast in a three way race.
    So not unionist unity…but certainly co-operation which would lead to a voting pact on transfers for next Assembly. And crucially Europe.

    Not all bad news for Alliance ….it puts soft unionist votes in play, even in Mid Ulster, where 2,500 votes could at least raise their profile west of the Bann.

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  21. mjh (profile) says:

    Neil

    For the strategy to work he has to get close, very close, to the DUP.

    As for how the faithful will view those leaflets? The strategy is all about holding on to the “DUP wing” of his party. Those voters will probably take much the same view of the leaflets as the mass of DUP voters.

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  22. Barry the Blender (profile) says:

    I think people are jumping the gun a little here surely. We still don’t know if there will be an Ulster Unionist candidate or not.

    Meanwhile, Bluesjazz, you might be joking above, but I can just about see something like what you’ve suggested happening.

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  23. Gopher (profile) says:

    There is no way in the world the DUP would make Jim Shannon step aside in Strangford. If Shannon stood as an independent he would likely walk it.

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  24. As Gopher says it would be hard on Jim Shannon and I actually think South Belfast, though riskier as it is a three horse race…might be more logical.
    On the other hand Shannon is 60 in 2015. And I am sure never thought of being a MP before the circumstances of early 2010. Peter Robinson would certainly have been an influential voice in that constituency.
    And “Lord Shannon of Ballywalter”???

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  25. Barry the Blender (profile) says:

    I hadn’t necessarily thought Strangford, but I can see the DUP giving up one of their seats to the UUP if they can have a free run at North Belfast, Upper Bann, East Belfast, maybe South Belfast and North Down.

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  26. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    And, if Mike wants Strangford that’ll mean no UUP candidate in East Belfast.

    Mike isn’t going to get Strangford, or anything else. Now that Mike is conceding that the DUP are perfectly acceptable for representing the interests of unionists, why would the DUP concede anything back to him ? Why would the DUP allow unionists in Strangford to suffer crap, incoherent and divided representation from a second-rate UUP politician ?

    John McAllister was dead right. Mike is sleepwalking into unionist unity. He has walked straight into Robinson’s trap and I don’t think he even knows it yet. When push comes to shove, the DUP are going to tell Mike to go and get stuffed and there’ll be nothing he can do about it.

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  27. Neil (profile) says:

    He’s a disaster. Kudos to Bangor dub for the nickname. TV Mike should have less confidence in his own political nous.

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  28. Yes…but surely the odd thing is that Mike Nesbitt is a journalist and surely capable of analysis….why doesn’t he see what everybody else seems to see.

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  29. When I was a kid, TV news readers were exactly that. They didn’t have to be particularly intelligent. Just connected, reasonably presentable, able to read and fairly articulate. That changed enormously, of course, and for the better. Now they have to be top notch journalists. Is Nesbitt a throwback to the earlier age?

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  30. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Barry,

    If I was the DUP I would simply argue to Nesbitt that the UUP have no choice but to stand back from the marginal unionist constituencies (mainly N and E Belfast) or they would get the blame for unionists losing the seat. There is no need for the DUP to make any concessions. At the same time, since as a DUPer I’d be such a sneaky bastard, I’d get my mates in the News Letter to do loads of articles about how the UUP are giving up and conceding to the DUP.

    Upper Bann is 100% safe for the DUP. No unionist can win South Belfast so a pact is pointless. North Down belongs to Sylvia as long as she wishes to stay there. It is the one seat the DUP might possibly consider conceding to the UUP, although I’d say Peter Weir would win the seat easily even if the UUP did stand.

    FJH, one thing I do respect the SDLP for is standing up to SF’s political intimidation concerning electoral pacts. Alliance’s record in this area hasn’t always been great, it has to be said, although I hope that such things are now a thing of the past especially now that the UUP are clearly not offering a moderate alternative.

    Regarding Mid Ulster, I agree that this is daft. There is one possible angle though which is to do with psychologically maximising the Unionist vote rather than splitting it. But this is a poor reason for the UUP to stand aside.

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  31. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    FJH, I reckon Peter has had a few one-to-ones with Mike and told him that Mike is his best mate and he’ll show him all the ropes – and Mike believes him.

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  32. CS Peter will show Mike the ropes alright, and get mike to make the nooses himself. This union can only end badly for Nesbitt.

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  33. A cautionary tale:

    “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
    ‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
    The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
    And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”

    “Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
    For who goes up your winding stair
    -can ne’er come down again.”

    “I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
    Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.
    “There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
    And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”

    “Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
    They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

    Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,
    To prove the warm affection I ‘ve always felt for you?
    I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
    I’m sure you’re very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”

    “Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,
    I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

    “Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,
    How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
    I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
    If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”

    “I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you ‘re pleased to say,
    And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

    The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
    For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
    So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
    And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.

    Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
    “Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
    Your robes are green and purple — there’s a crest upon your head;
    Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”

    Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
    Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
    With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
    Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue —
    Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing!
    At last,
    Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
    He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
    Within his little parlour — but she ne’er came out again!

    And now dear little children, who may this story read,
    To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
    Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
    And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
    ~By Mary Howitt, 1829

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  34. Bangordub (profile) says:

    Simple question if I may, and I took some serious flak here last night as some (alliance people) thought I was defending FJH, God forbid. Is anyone actually out there fighting TV Mikes corner? Has everyone given up on him? Just asking

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  35. Barry the Blender (profile) says:

    On my sums Upper Bann is a three way split, indeed on assembly figures SF were ahead, slightly.

    South Belfast could be a three way thing between a single Unionist, Alliance and Big Al, we’ll have to see what the shinners do.

    North Down, not as safe for Sylvia as it is on paper imo, DUP are the obvious challengers, I’m not sure whether the UUP withdrawing would help or hinder them though,

    With regards pulling aside for the good of unionism etc…why would the UUP bother? They aren’t going to win any seats themselves, but they might be able to bugger things up for the DUP, and that would be motivation enough for its membership.

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  36. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Barry,

    Yeah. It’s kind of too late for the DUP now. Had the UUP came out with Basil McCrea’s line on flags and so on, they might have lost a bunch of people to the DUP but they’d have staked out a marker for themselves and they’d have been able to use the by-election as a referendum on the matter. But they’re too stupid for that.

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  37. Bangordub (profile) says:

    I’m also somewhat surprised that nobody here is blogging on the startling changes at ward level in Belfast revealed in todays census release.

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  38. Bangor Dub,
    I think if four bloggers met in a coffee shop on a weekly basis…MIke Nesbitt is a subject which would defy consistent analysis.

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  39. Bangordub (profile) says:

    FJH, ah but its all a conspiracy don’t ya see? lol

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  40. Sometimes :)

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  41. Framer (profile) says:

    Of course none of the harpies on here could look at it the other way round, the more common activity there is between the UUP and The DUP, the more the latter party is drawn toward the centre ground.
    I suppose that would then force Alliance, being straddlists, more towards nationalism.
    Or is that what is already happening?

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  42. Obelisk (profile) says:

    “Of course none of the harpies on here could look at it the other way round, the more common activity there is between the UUP and The DUP, the more the latter party is drawn toward the centre ground.”

    Oh no we completely see that. We’re just focusing on how the DUP is going to roll over and crush the UUP totally as it moves and that Mike Nesbitt made it easier for that to happen.

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  43. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    What Obelisk said.

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  44. aquifer (profile) says:

    “A pretty daft move when there is no chance of a unionist win.”

    Exactly

    A party that can only say ‘me too’ deserves extinction.

    Unfortunately the Alliance’s axe is made of foam rubber.

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  45. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    Barry the Blender

    I’ve no idea what Nesbitt is thinking, but becoming a Westminster MP would be a Muttley medal for him. I don’t think he gives a toss for the UUP or any of its dwindling electorate.
    He must have thought the Strangford constituency was prime territory for him at the height of the Iris controversy-hence walking away from £75k victims commisioner -to join the UUP.
    His sidekick role to Peter at present may be his last roll of the dice. Some chance

    As an aside though, Gregory Campbell was openly contemptuous of Peter Robinson on tv tonight.

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  46. Obelisk (profile) says:

    “As an aside though, Gregory Campbell was openly contemptuous of Peter Robinson on tv tonight.”

    Good to see internal Unionist bickering won’t perish along with the UUP. This site would be poorer without such fodder.

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  47. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    He must have thought the Strangford constituency was prime territory for him at the height of the Iris controversy-hence walking away from £75k victims commisioner -to join the UUP.

    More likely the UUP didn’t have anyone else aged under 70 to stand in the place. Even then he limped home fifth out of six in the Assembly election.

    There is no way in hell the DUP are simply going to just give Jim Shannon’s seat over to that muppet.

    As an aside though, Gregory Campbell was openly contemptuous of Peter Robinson on tv tonight.

    I haven’t watched Nolan yet, I’ll have to catch it on IPlayer. Campbell is one of the DUP’s attack dogs and if he’s turning against Robinson it makes things very interesting. It still sounds to me as if there is serious internal strife within the DUP, not least given that they’ve got some fine election management types who no doubt will be worried about counting the cost of pissing off nationalist voters in places like North Belfast.

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  48. IJP (profile) says:

    I don’t think Mike Nesbitt is sleepwalking into Unionist Unity. I think he’s walking into it consciously.

    His party is a busted flush. The calculation is that it may have more influence as part of a DUP-led Unity movement than as an independent entity.

    I’m sure Mr Robinson helped him with that calculation, of course!

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  49. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    Gregory basically supported the protests and Nolan caught him on the hop. But he was casually dismissive and his body language was indicitive of not caring what the leadership thought.
    Gregory’s a double jobber so his Westminster seat must be in doubt, leaving him with only the vicar of dibley assembly as recompense.
    Now that Fred Cobain has left the sinking ship, at least Nigel will get another spell at the bright lights of London.

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  50. Obelisk (profile) says:

    IJP

    I have no reason to dispute that analysis. One could even argue that it is the only rational explanation for what Mike Nesbitt has been doing.

    However, would it not constitute a betrayal of the people who voted for him to lead them?

    Oh he’s certainly led them, but to the edge of oblivion is not the destination I suspect they intended.

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  51. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    IJP, a very interesting theory. It would be quite explosive if it were ever found out to be true.

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  52. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    BJ,

    Gregory’s a double jobber so his Westminster seat must be in doubt, leaving him with only the vicar of dibley assembly as recompense.

    Gregory’s Westminster seat isn’t in doubt unless the DUP leadership choose to remove it from him, which seems unlikely even now.

    Now that Fred Cobain has left the sinking ship, at least Nigel will get another spell at the bright lights of London.

    That won’t save Dodds. Those Cobain voters won’t all transfer to the DUP, and even if they did it still wouldn’t be enough to prevent nationalist voters tactically voting for Kelly. Dodds is in real trouble.

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  53. Gopher (profile) says:

    Think it is the smart move for the UUP just to join with DUP plus we get a Liberal Unionist party if they do so everyone wins. Well apart from the Alliance party. 54 seats is an impressive number and would make the anti NHS coalition look a bit silly.

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  54. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    In 2001 I reckon that most punters would have put their money on the SDLP disappearing before the UUP. But since 2005 that has not been the case. The SDLP has two things in its favor that the UUP lacks. First, it took a principled stand against violence during The Troubles that differentiated it in a fundamental way from the Shinners. There was no comparable difference between the UUP and the DUP throughout most of The Troubles even if Faulkner and Trimble showed courage at key points. (But Faulkner was of course thrown over by his party.) One Alliance Party councilor told me that in 1985-86 DUP and UUP councilors were indistinguishable from one another by their political stances. Second, the SDLP has the backing of the Catholic Church to the same extent or greater than the DUP has the backing of the Free Presbyterian Church and of course the Church has much greater resources than do the Free Presbyterians. And because the UUP was the former ruling party for so long, the media will always cover its activities thus keeping any mistakes by the leader in the public view. Thus I agree with MJH that Nesbitt is probably pursuing a logical and rational course, just not very well.

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  55. Bluesjazz,

    ‘’I’ve no idea what Nesbitt is thinking, but becoming a Westminster MP would be a Muttley medal for him’

    That did make me laugh, funniest thing on this site for a while

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  56. Comrade Stalin.[12.17] Speaking of Greg, on Nolan TV show last night, he was so desperate to play down the violence in the riots, he conveniently forgot about the attempted murder of a police officer. Bitter and hateful throughout. Why does Robinson keep sending him to tv/radio debates? He’s a liability.

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  57. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Unity candidate in Mid Ulster is further alienation for the liberal end of the UUP.

    How much more can this liberal end take before it seeks divorce?

    I suspect and hope the decision for divorce has already been accepted by both parties, and they are merely hardballing to present an image to family members as to who told who to leave.

    The majority of the UUP and DUP belong together anyway in terms of values, voters, vision. Let them remarry, they’ll be comfortable life partners. And in so doing let the younger liberal free to cut loose and find its way.

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  58. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Bangordub ,

    ‘I’m also somewhat surprised that nobody here is blogging on the startling changes at ward level in Belfast revealed in todays census release.’

    Indeed .This will have ramifications for the next election. Looks like the Alliance Party made the right call after all in the recent ‘flag vote ‘ at Belfast City Council . At least there’s one political party that can count ;)?

    The best that can be said for Mike Nesbitt is that he can read the realpolitik in Mid Ulster . Whatever is left of the liberal end of the UUP need to move in the AP direction if they are to have any political significance in coming elections .

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  59. carl marks (profile) says:

    Gopher
    Think it is the smart move for the UUP just to join with DUP plus we get a Liberal Unionist party if they do so everyone wins.

    How the hell does a UUP, DUP linkup result in a liberal unionist party, most of the MLAs of both these parties are to the right of Hitler.
    Please please explain your reasoning.

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  60. boondock (profile) says:

    ”How the hell does a UUP, DUP linkup result in a liberal unionist party, most of the MLAs of both these parties are to the right of Hitler.
    Please please explain your reasoning.”

    The only possibility is if the Alliance become the new liberal unionist party (some argue they are anyway) something which would be bolstered by a flux of even more disenchanted liberal uup members into the Alliance ranks. Although Comrade stalin and others keep telling us that such a scenario wouldnt alter the Alliances neutrality – I hope they are right

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  61. Gopher (profile) says:

    @Carl Marks

    Its quite simple really Basil and McCallister are opposed to unionist unity and will leave and hopefully form their own inclusive unionist party which puts the benefits of the NHS, union and liberal society before Protestantism. Orangism and Catholicism. Therefore if the DUP and UUP join up we get (hopefully) a liberal unionist party.

    You got to think outside the box sometimes Carl to get to where you want to go.

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  62. Bangordub (profile) says:

    Has anyone noticed that Alliance are quietly repositioning themselves to fill that vacant “Liberal Unionist” space?

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  63. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    boondock:

    Although Comrade stalin and others keep telling us that such a scenario wouldnt alter the Alliances neutrality

    That’s right, I don’t think it would. The people who say that Alliance would not be neutral following an influx of unionists are the same people who already think Alliance are small-u unionists anyway. The people who perceive Alliance as being in the centre knows that the party is quite firmly rooted in that centre ground. I also believe some of those values would rub off on people who joined. I know they did on me, as had I not been “rescued” when I was a teenager I’d have ended up by default in the SDLP.

    Where things get would get “interesting” would be if an MLA wanted to designate as unionist. If Alliance block it and insist that everyone designates as other, it looks like the party are trying to shut down diverse opinions on constitutional issues. If the party allows people to designate as they please, and someone then designated unionist, the party would start looking like it had taken on the flavour of a small-u party.

    Personally, just for kicks, if I won election as an MLA I’d reserve the option to designate either as nationalist or unionist depending on what way the numbers fell in order to maximise the potential benefit for my constituents. If there was a firm bloc of non-aligned fake “nationalists” and fake “unionists” they’d be able to wield the power to negotiate on tight votes in the assembly, which Alliance can never do as “other”. Given that both SF and the DUP are intent on abusing the petition of concern, why shouldn’t Alliance creatively abuse the designation system ?

    If someone wanted to really take the piss, I think there’s another loophole where party elected representatives could “resign”; and when the replacement is appointed the newly-minted MLA can sign under a different designation. But that really would be pushing it too far.

    Bangordub:

    Has anyone noticed that Alliance are quietly repositioning themselves to fill that vacant “Liberal Unionist” space?

    I detect no repositioning, but I’d be interested in hearing why you think this.

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  64. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    WRT Gregory Campbell,

    I just watched Nolan on IPlayer and I thought Campbell was alright. He issued a clear call for lawbreakers to face the full force of due process – we’ve not heard that from unionist leaders so far to my knowledge. He also said that the protests outside Alliance offices should stop. He rather carefully dodged the question over loyalty to the party leader. He “welcomed” the decision of the UPF who are supposedly planning to de-escalate their protests.

    I was expecting a lot worse to be fair.

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  65. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    BTW I have said before we definitely need people like Basil and John McA – and indeed David McClarty – in politics here. A Basil party could be pretty much assured of my #2 vote (the SDLP have completely lost me now – not only are they opposing the RCA, today Conal McDevitt was in the paper opposing the publication of pictures of rioters on the basis that they could face punishment attacks; and Alex Attwood has just successfully destroyed 500 John Lewis jobs – they are a party of job destroyers and people who undermine the work of the police).

    But another reality is that the Basil party and Alliance would cannibalize each other’s vote. I am not saying that Alliance deserves those votes as of right – of course it does not – but the common factor that everyone should be united around is the need to build a united community and make NI work, and there is no need for several competing parties to promote that aim.

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  66. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    footballcliches

    Bluesjazz,

    ‘’I’ve no idea what Nesbitt is thinking, but becoming a Westminster MP would be a Muttley medal for him’

    That did make me laugh, funniest thing on this site for a while”

    Laugh away, but I think it’s Nesbitt’s ego in transit.
    He actually thinks Robinson (Dick Dastardley) will give him a Westminster Muttley Medal.
    Cue Muttley : “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah”
    Tail wagging spin in to the air.
    Then: Peter/Dick , at the last minute decides to remove the medal. Because his ‘sniggering hound ‘hasn’t delivered.
    Cue Muttley: well you know the show.
    Hard to see Basil, John McCallister etc stay around for the endgame.
    Pity, since Alliance only offering in my constiuency is the utterly , utterly useless Kieran McCarthy.

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  67. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Comrade,
    I see a lib union party(amongst other things) as a means of persuading more people into the centre ground of NI politics. An increase in middle ground parties with some divergent views is constructive, imo, not least as it may open up a theatre of debate away from polarised parties.Have ou heard any more rumours in your circles about what Basil may do next??

    Carl Marks,
    I think Gopher is saying that every action provokes a reaction (hopefully).A DUP/UUP link hopefully acts as catalyst to lib union folk organisimg.

    Bangordub,
    What makes you say this in particular? I have noticed some more seeming pro-union use of language by Naomi Long here in East Belfast, but I think she is being expedient. I have noticed Naomi being somewhat chameleon on constitutional-type language depending on her audience since before she got elected. At times this annoys me, though if it helps her retake East B as a protest against boneheaded big house unionism then i’ll more than live with it.

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  68. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    Bangordub: Has anyone noticed that Alliance are quietly repositioning themselves to fill that vacant “Liberal Unionist” space?

    By tearing down our national flag in cahoots with two parties who support the glorification of IRA serial killers and who also call for the immediate release from prison of a self-confessed catholic fundamentalist terrorist?

    Yes, I can see the Alliance vote skyrocketing in East Belfast next time around…. :rolleyes:

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  69. boondock (profile) says:

    UPC

    After 3 months you still dont get it do you, without the Alliance party there would be no flag at all. Pauline Armitage doesnt get it either her letter in the newsletter the other day was talking about Alliance abstaining – guess what Pauline that means no flag all year. At least Jamie is trying to get young protestants registred to vote a pity he couldnt get them off the streets. The one pwoblem for Jamie is come next election its going to be difficult to change things at BCC with a combined unionist vote around 35%

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  70. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    UPC,

    The flag was “torn down” in unionist-controlled Lisburn and Craigavon on the same basis that it was in Belfast and nobody blinked an eyelid. Is there any chance of en explanation for the disparity ?

    As for sticking up with fundamentalist terrorists, Willie McCrea got up on a podium with Billy Wright once and if I recall correctly defended doing so on the basis that Wright was being intimidated from speaking out by the mainstream UVF and that he had to stand up for his as a public representative. Didn’t do Willie any harm.

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  71. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin,

    Actually a LUP competing against Alliance could serve to benefit it. Since the press in NI uses the same “horse race paradigm” or sporting paradigm to report politics that is used in most English-speaking countries, so that they won’t be accused of being biased, politics in the media in NI typically is reported as DUP vs. UUP and SDLP vs Shinners with not very much coverage for Alliance. When I was last in the province in the summer of 2001 I tried to convince a Women’s Coalition activist to get her party to provoke a row with Alliance in the media so that both parties would benefit from the attention. But she told me that confrontation just turns off women so that the party would never go for it. And that was the last time that Alliance had a dedicated opponent in the Other category. Even though the LUP would designate as unionist the media would likely cover it as a competitor to both Alliance and the UUP. If both parties could under the table convince their voters to give their secondary preferences to each other it would work out just fine.

    By the way does anybody know: Are Willie McCrea and Basil McCrea relatives? If so, what is their relationship?

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  72. Jack2 (profile) says:

    tmitch57 – dont think Willie and Basil are related.

    Ian McCrea MLA is Willie’s son. Nepotism at its finest.

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  73. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    @Jack2,

    Its just another example of the “British” in NI carrying on another fine Irish tradition–political families where seats are saved and passed down within the party to sons, daughters, nephews and nieces. It exists in all the major parties in the Republic.

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  74. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    tmitch57

    It is intresting that you think Alliance should fit in the “other” category when you judge them by what they act very much like Unionists? For example they did not go for a neutral position on the Flag on city hall.

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  75. IJP (profile) says:

    Comrade

    Of course, Alliance isn’t neutral on the constitutional question, but rather on the communal question.

    The Alliance Party’s stated position is against a Border Poll and “in favour of power-sharing devolution within the UK until someone comes up with another option capable of securing cross-community consent”. So actually it is more specific than any other party.

    “Unionist” is of course a communal designation, not a constitutional one. Personally, I believe the likes of John McCallister are capable of attracting Nationalist votes as well as Unionist (even though his own constitutional stance is clear), so I fail to see any benefit in his standing for a party which shared the Alliance stance on everything yet inhibits its electoral chances by including the communal designation “Unionist”.

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  76. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    IJP

    “Alliance isn’t neutral on the constitutional question, but rather on the communal question.”

    What communal question?

    This sounds like nothing more than saying we get most of our votes from Unionists so we will go along with what they want but that does not make us a Unionist party.

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  77. IJP (profile) says:

    McSlaggart

    That was a very extended trip to Mars you’ve obviously just returned from!

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  78. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    @McSlaggart,

    I don’t put Alliance in the “other” category; they put themselves in that category by self-designating in that category in the Assembly. My experience interviewing Alliance office holders in 1998 and 2001 is that is also how they personally consider themselves.

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  79. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    tmitch57

    “I don’t put Alliance in the “other” category; they put themselves in that category”

    I was asking why you think they “fit in the “other” category?

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  80. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    IJP

    I will try one more time what communal question?

    I think your “communal question” is just doublespeak for the “constitutional question”?

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  81. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart,

    When someone calls themselves a unionist or a nationalist, they are usually (not always but usually) referring to the tribe they were borne into. Not an opinion on the constitution which they arrived at after spending a long time weighing up the alternatives.

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  82. IJP (profile) says:

    Yup.

    Unionists exist not to promote the Union (as a general rule they do anything but), but to promote Unionists (as a communal group). Likewise, Nationalists will never come forward with a viable plan for a united Ireland, but will always happily promote the rights and interests of Nationalists. It is essentially a battle for spending on and exposure of “Unionist culture/symbols” and “Irish culture/symbols” (their terms – for “Unionist” read occasionally “British”).

    The constitutional issue would be a reasoned argument as to why anyone would support a particular settlement. But in fact Unionists and Nationalists make no serious attempt to make the case beyond their own communal group.

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  83. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    “When someone calls themselves a unionist or a nationalist”

    In the real world I have seldom heard anyone call themselves “nationalist” except on TV. Most people that you could call “nationalist” tend not to think of themselves in such a manner. For example most people who grow up in Tyrone identify with the county strongly and would give that as their first call on their identity.

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  84. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    You’re splitting hairs now.

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  85. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    IJP

    I find your clams a bit sad. For example in the Unionist cry of freedom to march the only disputes are in areas which Unionism is strong. If “Nationalists wanted to look after their own cultural symbols why do they support the OO/Bands marching?

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  86. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    CS

    So you do agree with me. The only way to use those broad stroke terms “unionist or a nationalist” is by what people do and not what they say.

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  87. Michael (profile) says:

    Blues Jazz

    “Pity, since Alliance only offering in my constiuency is the utterly , utterly useless Kieran McCarthy.”

    I think this comment is the most critical I have read on this thread. Alliance will achieve its mainstreaming less by its policies which are avowedly centrist, than by the quality and charisma of their candidates. Put the right person up in the right place and that is half your battle.

    I hope they have a politician training academy in place for bright new talent!

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  88. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    So you do agree with me.

    No I don’t, I think you’re being silly and pedantic.

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  89. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    You may think I am being “silly and pedantic” by judging the Alliance party by their actions.

    For example if Allance is going to say

    ” until someone comes up with another option capable of securing cross-community consent”

    They should at least give what there option is.

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  90. 6crealist (profile) says:

    IJP

    If Alliance’s position on the constitutional question is so sound, why did you leave the party?

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  91. IJP (profile) says:

    6crealist

    Because, believe it or not, not everything is about the constitutional question… which is also the reason I joined it – twice! :)

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  92. IJP (profile) says:

    McS

    I stated precisely what our option (opinion) is: namely, that we were the first party to suggest power-sharing devolution within the UK with cross-border bodies would be the most likely means of achieving cross-community consent – and so it has proved.

    In a divided society, we are not suddenly going to stumble across a solution which absolutely everyone loves. Hence our focus on consent, rather than desirability; and on solutions which are tolerable, rather than preferred. The Union Flag on City Hall symbolises that quite neatly – designated days isn’t anyone’s preferred solution, but it is one Unionists have voted for elsewhere and Nationalists were prepared, as a second preference, to vote for in Belfast.

    It’s not sexy, but in practice broad “consent” is what it’s all about.

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  93. 6crealist (profile) says:

    OK, thanks IJP.

    You used to be indecisive, but now you’re not so sure.

    Alliance 2 – 2 Tories.

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  94. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart,

    You may think I am being “silly and pedantic” by judging the Alliance party by their actions.

    You sound a bit pompous to me actually. The silly and pedantic part was this notion of yours that people don’t self-identify as nationalists except on TV.

    For example if Allance is going to say

    ” until someone comes up with another option capable of securing cross-community consent” They should at least give what there option is.

    Why ? Surely it is common for everyone in their daily life to come across “let’s stick with this plan until someone comes up with a better one” type scenarios without knowing at that point what the better option might look like.

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  95. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    IJP

    “In a divided society, we are not suddenly going to stumble across a solution which absolutely everyone loves. ”

    Who is on about stumble across a solution? . The GFA is already agreed by the people of NI and it contains the criteria for a “United Ireland” . That is the current agreed position and if Alliance does not like it they should propose an alternative!

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  96. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    @McSlaggert,

    So where do you think Alliance’s actions place them? In the unionist camp because they supported what until recently had been the UUP’s position on flag displays at public buildings? Or in the nationalist camp because they voted with the SDLP and SF?

    Could it possibly be that Alliance thinks for itself and adopts positions that they believe are realistic means of actually improving the society they live in rather than just revving up the members of one tribe or another with verbal red meat?

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  97. Pia_Lugum (profile) says:

    And getting back to Mid Ulster – What now?

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  98. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin:

    What I said was:

    “Most people that you could call “nationalist” tend not to think of themselves in such a manner. ”

    The fact is that it arises so seldom in the real world. I am left to wonder when you think people “self-identify as nationalists” on a daily basis.

    “Surely it is common for everyone in their daily life to come across “let’s stick with this plan until someone comes up with a better one””

    So true and the current plan is the GFA. Now Alliance what to change it to

    “” until someone comes up with another option capable of securing cross-community consent”

    That is why they need to explain the detail!

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  99. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    tmitch57

    “Or in the nationalist camp because they voted with the SDLP and SF?”

    What proposal did the sdlp and sf make that Alliance’s voted with on?

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  100. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    @McSlaggert,

    As you are probably aware, the SDLP and SF voted for an Alliance compromise proposal–a proposal that was in conformity with previous declared UUP flag policy.

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