After the election… The TUV…

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I think it was David Brewster in the research for Slugger’s paper on the future of unionism in Northern Ireland who told us that what Unionists needed more than anything else was a win.

It’s been a very long time coming, but if there is one clear victor in this election it was Unionism’s reversal of a long term drop in unionist turnout and possibly initiating the rolling back of a highly pervasive sense of defeatism.

Jim Allister may have dropped back in terms of proportion of Euro vote, but 75,000 is still a pretty big number. More importantly he brought 13 new councillors home, many of them much younger than the old DUP rearguard he was previously reliant on.

Whilst the surge brought benefits to all unionist parties, it is perhaps significant that it benefitted the socially conservative TUV rather than the socially liberal, but paramilitary linked, PUP.

In practice Allister’s political base value has been much more about enforcement of the law than religious conviction; even if at one point last week he found himself defended the right of Catholic Bishops to make clear their views on the matter of abortion.

In legal circles he was viewed as highly reliable enjoyed high levels of trust amongst colleagues. In politics he has developed a reputation across both communities as someone who won’t have his eye wiped.

He is Stormont’s most effective, possibly its only transparently effective legislator. You don’t have to like Ann’s Law to acknowledge it as one of the few pieces of original legislation to make it through the fug of the culture war stand off in OFMdFM.

And this is important for more than just the issue itself, or indeed for the fate and fortune of the TUV alone. To one degree or another the OFMdFM parties are drifting into a sort of ostentatious secrecy which is taking it to a place far removed from the world ordinary people live in…

Allister’s biggest win has been to re-establish that essential connection with people, albeit on a small scale and with limited political ambition. And the benefit of doing so has reverberated to the advantage of broader unionist family.

And he has managed it whilst breaking two primary, if unspoken, rules of the Peace Process™ era: one, that everything bad that happened can be laid at the door of protestant fundamentalist bigotry; and two ‘let’s not be beastly to the Provos’.

It’s political engine room stuff, and dirty work if you don’t mind doing it (which I suspect Jim doesn’t)… Far better to break a little precious Stormont Delft than get dragged back on the streets…

Besides, its larger impact may be in the sudden and apparent ease its brought to the UUP leader who is standing much further to the front of the SS Unionist… Of which more later

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  • Joe_Hoggs

    I think this was a good election for the TUV and they were unlucky not to take another few council seats. DUP scaremongering hampered them to an extent, had the election been freer who knows what would have happened but I suspect Nicholson would not have been elected.

    The big question now is can he get MPs and MLAs and are there other talented members within the party besides Allister?

  • Kensei

    “And he has managed it whilst breaking two primary, if unspoken, rules of the Peace Process™ era: one, that everything bad that happened can be laid at the door of protestant fundamentalist bigotry; and two ‘let’s not be beastly to the Provos’.”

    !

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Kensei,

    Yes I agree to an extent but his support is due to more than just this.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “You don’t have to like Ann’s Law”

    I think it was the courage and true grit of Ann Travers that caused the SDLP to wobble; I doubt very much if the SpAd legislation would have been passed in the absence of her contribution.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Nevin,

    With the exception of Allister no other politician was brave enough to push it through.

  • Morpheus

    Yeah, we have seen the calibre of the young ones JA has brought through. Classy. Does anyone think for a single second that any of them will be brave enough to challenge Jim on party policy or, like me, does everyone else think that they will simply regurgitate what Jim tells them too and will be cannon-fodder for seasoned politicians when it comes to chamber debates?

    “one, that everything bad that happened can be laid at the door of protestant fundamentalist bigotry; and two ‘let’s not be beastly to the Provos’. “

    I’m sorry but are we supposed to take that seriously? Who believes that? is that a…what’s the word that’s used so often on here…oh yeah…a MOPE?

    But the TUV did well, there is no denying that. Fair play Jim

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Joe, an open door doesn’t need pushed. Your comment is a reflection on the poorish quality of many of our elected representatives.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Nevin – explain.

    Morpheus – I assume your comment is directed towards Bunting – what about some of the other elected representatives in her ward?

  • SK

    “what about some of the other elected representatives in her ward?”

    I like that you actually used the phrase “what about” in your whataboutery

  • Mick Fealty

    Morph,

    You’re talking to yourself again…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    SK,

    What’s sauce for the goose and all that – so WHAT ABOUT them, or are you wearing your green blinkered glasses?

  • Neil

    “Ann’s Minor Employment Legislation Tweak” – so specialised it applied to 1 in 1,600,000 people. Go Jim.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Neil,

    It was still a wong corrected.

  • Kensei

    Mick

    When challenged, just filibuster. You are a master at it.

    I believe the question was:

    “I’m sorry but are we supposed to take that seriously?”

  • Morpheus

    Mick,

    Really? Was there a ball there?

    Joe,

    No Joe, not just Bunting. Do you think anyone will dare to question Jim and have any input on party policy or will they blindly implement Jim’s policies?

    Its all a race to the far, far distant right for political unionism now, it’ll be ‘No Surrender’ on the lapels before we know it. The rest of us will sit back and watch the implosion in sheer bewilderment

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Joe, the explanation is in my opening comment: Ann displayed the courage, put in the tackle, the SDLP wobbled and Jim used his legal skills to guide the ball into the open goal.

    Let’s take a look at this TUV press release: “TUV is the friend of innocent victims; others, alas, in government are the friends of the victim-makers.” .. “Why, then, is he still in government with Sinn Fein ?’”

    The answer is to be found further up the same press release:

    “no matter how audacious the IRA’s demands were, the craven British government rolled over”

    In other words, if the other parties walked out of the Executive, Stormont would collapse, the British government would roll over to further republican paramilitary demands and the Irish government would end up with an even greater role in the shared administration of Northern Ireland than it has at present. How many TUV supporters would relish such a scenario?

  • Mc Slaggart

    “In practice Allister’s political base value has been much more about enforcement of the law than religious conviction”

    Funny I thought it was about protesting on the issue of Flags and …..

  • Joe_Hoggs

    BBC named him MLA of the year for the following and there is no way Ann’s bill was so easy to push through:

    Mr Allister was singled out for his articulate speeches, his ability to dissect an issue, his wit and success in getting a controversial piece of legislation on special advisors passed against the odds.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken. Is there question there? If you want an answer to the rhetoric it’s up to you? If you think it’s nonsense say so? If you think it’s wrong or whatever, it’s cool with me. But rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered.

    I will happily expand though..

    This dismissal of unionists for bigotry when we have a whole class of people who have taken the soldierly view that their opponents were little more than ‘bags of meat’ strikes me as being odd in the extreme…

    His intervention with Martina over her use of fairness doctrine by asking her did she think carrying a bomb into a building was fair to her victims, was slightly told curling, but since it was contextual with the conversation, also quite effective.

    There is no way of changing the way things are without challenging the current narrative framework which is largely set up to protect Sinn Fein from the consequences of past actions it has supported and condoned.

    Even the toughest Shinner must concede it was good politics.

  • Politico68

    Morph,

    You are quite right, i don’t know what the comment regarding ‘fundamentalist bigotry’ and ‘lets not be beastly about the provos’ is actually about. I suppose JA’s hatred of the gays, the fundamentalist Muslim hating preacher and the lovely chat the psni had with GA must have been on his mind at the time of writing, or maybe it was a curve ball to see if we would bite. It worked.

    So, back in the real world. TUV turned their backs on MA’s acceptance speech at the weekend. This tells us a lot about the quality of individual now present in their party ranks, never mind the crazy miss jolene. Juvenile and pathetic, behaviour. Allistair is articulate and intelligent but its such a shame to see that talent wasted on a bigot, but such is the way with many in Political Unionism.

    The TUV effectively is the new DUP, with all the hate and denial that goes with it. For the party to be effective it has to accept the reality of the changing times and this, is simply cannot do. The TUV benefited greatly from the fleg chaos drawing many new Unionist voters into the polling station and of course JA’s pandering to the ugly squeals of loyalism earned him a few votes also.

    It remains to be seen If this marks a turn around in Unionist voting habits.If it is, it will be short lived. Unionism is in irreversible decline and every time a Smilodon like JA speaks, we can see why.

  • Mick Fealty

    I deliberately inserted the term limited ambitions. Because I think Mr Alistair fully understands the limitations of those ambitions, whilst at the same time exploiting them to the maximum.

    There is no way that an anti-agreement party is going to overthrow the north south consensus of 1998. But 75,000 voters registering their own happiness with how it is serving them should be fair notice to everyone else that what they are doing (or rather not doing) holds dangers for everyone.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “BBC named him MLA of the year for the following and there is no way Ann’s bill was so easy to push through:”

    Joe, this quote from a BBC source is highly relevant:

    The SDLP said it would not block the bill after Ms Travers met the party leadership and asked them to reconsider their support for a petition of concern, which would have forced a cross-community vote on the issue.

    As some might phrase it, Ann did the heavy lifting; she caused the SDLP to change its position.

  • Kensei

    Mick

    It wasn’t a rhetorical question, it was a request for explanation. You haven’t simply asserted there that Jim Allister played well, you’ve asserted that “pin everything on the Prods” is a fundamental pin of the peace process. Which is frankly shocking coming from a supposed serious commentator. There is a bit more mileage in protecting SF – but what incentive have the UUP ever had to it? The UUP? Gerry Adams arrested in the eve of the election, for heaven sake. The system protects the British government as much as it protects SF, and it’s incredibly jaundiced to see otherwise.

    Enda Kenny also landed some hits on SF over Jean McConville. They are vulnerable to it, because they did some nasty things in the Troubles. Not the only ones of course. Where does this take us, exactly? It’s totally baked in, in electoral terms. It might push out his base. Ann’s Law was an effective bit of politics, but is excluding former combatants from roles really a long term good for peace? I’d tend to disagree. Mostly it’s using victims as a weapon and I’m pretty sure it won’t help them. The best thing we could do is have an amnesty, get everything out and move on. But the victims card can be effectively played to block it, regardless if the practical consequences are actually beneficial to victims or not.

    “Bags of meat” is somewhat of an oversimplification – the Provos whatever else, had an ideology and an outlook beyond that otherwise we could never have got here. Rhetoric that the other side is somehow subhuman is not a Nationalist only preserve. But in any case, only the most extreme totally exonerate their own side. I doubt even Adams or MMG would. So I’m surprised by you coming fof with that, until I remember you are a Tory.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m just trying to track the TUV’s impact, and it seems to me that it arises from the breaking of polite conventions about what can and cannot be said. And surprisingly perhaps the result is he is able to handle controversy more deftly and with greater perspective than the leader of the DUP.

    Contrast for instance his deft handling of the allegations against one of his young councillors (‘we all did foolish things at 18′, and ‘its Facebook for goodness sake’) with Peter Robinson’s mildly hysterical response to the Pastor McConnell’s decidedly illiberal speech about Muslims.

    The DUP will have to decide which it wants more, leadership of Northern Ireland or the remnants of the Free Ps… I think his licence to govern for life is on notice… courtesy of Allister, but only with further progress by the much more secular and instinctively urbane UUP…

    Ever had a politician come up to you and say quietly “I had you in my sights once…” No neither have, I thank goodness. But I know it happens. It’s one of the inevitable corollaries of our peace process. Jim’s just not keeping quiet about it, and the voters seem to like it…

    Wrecking the post agreement consensus not to make the past an issue is not necessarily the same as wrecking the agreement… Especially not if there is some kind of a functional response in the rest of the system.

  • Jagdip

    Whatever about the success of the local election minions – and in the end, with just 3% of the seats and 2.5% swing from 2011, big whoop – the TUV was always about Jim Allister.

    I was shocked to see his share of the MEP vote decline by 10%. With a greater Partitionist turn-out, and Jimbo’s sublime effectiveness, I really thought he would edge UUP out for the 3rd seat.

    When you think of opposition to the “Maze terrorist shrine”, Ann’s Law, RUC widows’ pensions, holding Min Poots to account for cut backs and the shambles of certain medical facilities, and the dysfunction of OFMdFM, you associate Jimbo primarily with the most articulate and voluble criticism.

    Yet, his share of the MEP vote has declined (is 10% worthy of the characterisation “plummet”?) For all that personal effectiveness and colour, the bottom line is that he is being deserted by an increasing % of his general constituency.

  • bigglen

    Re martina the bomber being fair to her victims,when jim was in his red beret swanning around supporting the importation of weapons to the third force was he being fair to the innocent Catholics killed by those weapons

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Jagdip,

    He was expected to get around 30k of votes in the election, instead he polled almost 10k more than his previous performance and this was against the backdrop of being called a ‘splitter’.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Bigglen – Was JA in the DUP then?

  • Jagdip

    @Joe, crikey, I thought SF were cute with the expectation management when they said the day after elections in the South, that they hoped to double their seats (the end result is a trebling of seats).

    So, Jimbo expected just 30k votes from 635k cast, or <5%, down from 13.7% in 2009? He was expecting a 66% collapse in his vote?

    I see he is aligning himself with UKIP today, and maybe that's what TUV will morph into, and maybe Jimbo's talents will be buoyed up. But, last week's elections were not an unqualified success for TUV.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think Jag you are somewhat reverse engineering much higher expectations of the TUV vote than I’ve had from anyone I spoke to beforehand.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick Fealty

    “This dismissal of unionists for bigotry”

    I do not get that impression.

    A great deal of tolerance is being shown to Unionism as most people think they are not acting rationally. Allister is working in a world which he finds to be the “future Imperfect”.

    He stood in Omagh with complaints about flags and how the world should not be as it is.

    ” Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”
    Yeats

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Here’s a nice little bit of TUV-UKIP spin:

    “The combined 100,000 votes for our respective parties send out a very clear message that a substantial proportion of the unionist population is disaffected from the other two minority parties in unionism, the DUP and UUP.

    Here are the comparative local election and EU election figures:

    DUP: 144928 – 131163

    UUP: 101385 – 83438

    TUV: 28310 – 75806

    UKIP: 9311 – 24584

    I suspect these figures are more of a reflection on the lack-lustre and low-profile dispositions of the DUP and UUP EU candidates than on the political virility of the TUV and UKIP ones. I wonder why Jim and David refrained from mentioning that relatively mediocre performance in the local elections. I suppose 100000 sounds rather better than 37000, a figure which is rather less than the performance of the Alliance Party candidates in each of the two elections ;)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Peter Robinson’s mildly hysterical response to the Pastor McConnell’s decidedly illiberal speech about Muslims.

    The DUP will have to decide which it wants more, leadership of Northern Ireland or the remnants of the Free Ps”

    According to this quote, Peter Robinson was and, perhaps still is a member of Pastor McConnell’s church, not the Free Ps:

    .. hence the building of the opulent new sanctuary known as The Metropolitan Tabernacle. This decision has proved to be a major success for a church which today boasts a mainly working class congregation made up of people from every religious and cultural background, yet boasts amongst its parishioners a number of local dignitaries and politicians, including the First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson.

    The highlighted part is in cache but is missing from the current history – page 1

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Nevin for goodness sake, the TUV didn’t stand in many of the wards.

  • Morpheus

    Nevin, I can assure you that the Peter Robinson reference was there on the main website a few days ago because I made reference to it on here when the news broke. I wonder why they took it off?

  • Kensei

    Mick

    ’m just trying to track the TUV’s impact, and it seems to me that it arises from the breaking of polite conventions about what can and cannot be said.

    What amazes me is that you are very quick to criticise SF for oppositional posturing, but quick to give Allister a free pass. The DUP was quite happy to push the boundaries on “polite speech” – until governing with SF became a potential reality and then they moderated their speech (a bit – let’s not pretend various members of the DUP aren’t capable of going off on one on SF) to avoid doing themselves damage. It is also easier to dismiss some rather crude sectarian rantings when you aren’t in government.

    As with “Burn the bondholders”, pure opposition and breaking the rules can be tremendously effective. It takes a great deal more courage to hold the line as you get closer to power and the consequences of it, and a great deal more skill not to get picked apart when presented as a potential governor. So sure, Jim’s eked the most out of a busted Orange card but if he actually managed a strategic rather than tactical victory it’s a bit scary. The UUP tacking right is hardly the victory for an “urbane” six counties.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Peter Robinson has just said in relation to Martin McG that

    “I won’t take lectures from a self-confessed leader of a bloody terrorist organisation on equality, tolerance and mutual respect for all

  • http://www.oldfaith.wordpress.com truthfinder

    “I won’t take lectures from a self-confessed leader of a bloody terrorist organisation on equality, tolerance and mutual respect for all”

    Jim Allister could not have said it better! The hypocrisy of Shinners is incredible. Years of barbaric human rights violations you would have thought would have shamed them into a vow of silence about tolerance for other religions!

    Jim Allister has added colour in a time of colourless politicians. Nigel Farage has done the same in GB. Since Ian Paisley has departed the political stage NI has been a much duller place. I welcome Jim. We could do with a few more politicians on both sides with his swagger, rigour, and intellect.

  • Mc Slaggart

    truthfinder

    The only thing Jim can do is destroy what is left of “Northern Ireland”.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I think people would hold Allister in much higher esteem than Paisley.

  • foyle observer

    Truthfinder is a bizarre man. Just click on his name. Typical religious nutter.

    Card me. I don’t care. A spade is a spade.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    That\s a good question. Let me come back to it and I’ll to explain my thinking on that…

    FO,

    Just don’t…

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    One, these profiles are just head dumps from stuff I’ve picked up from following the elections. The main difference is that Allister takes the institutions seriously, and he demonstrates something very important that I think is lost on most observers but not the public, ie that these institutions can be made to connect to the real interests of ordinary people.

    He hasn’t done that by unleashing a huge tide of aspirational guff, but by using them to do something. That is actually a public good. It is a limited good, but a good nonetheless. Allister’s interventions are actually attempts to get them to work.

  • Von Manstein

    Several things about Jim stood out for me in this Euro election. First, there’s not a wile pile of difference between his 75k and the UUP’s 83k or SDLP 81k as the two ‘main opposition’ parties. Impressive vote haul. He improved on transfers to the tune of 10k+ which shows an element of non-toxicity which might be improved upon. Given MLAs get circa £72k p/a to buy votes in their constituencies, MPs and MEPs more, by way of allowances, the conclusion must be reached that protest or the power of Jim’s ideas account for his vote. Or a combination. Jim can’t afford the party and publicity machines his competitors rely on and their armies of hired flunkies. As to whether his vote was a protest or endorsement is irrelevant – votes is votes. In a way, every vote can be read as both protest and endorsement. But what is in TUV’s gift is to understand and try to improve upon these results.

    Secondly, in this puritanical age where sententious liberals moralise about ethnic and religious diversity, emancipation by the state, and introduce new fashionable identities to the cultural politics, Jim’s forthright position is unapologetic in defending Christian orthodoxy and traditional settlements when facing down the march of ‘progress’. I even sense an opportunity to position himself as an unexpected champion of observant and beleaguered Roman Catholics, seemingly abandoned by their ethnic leaders (although the SDLP are trying to remedy their position) in relation to ‘female reproductive rights’ and ‘marriage equality’ issues, and pummelled by a levelling culture. Jim’s work with Ann Travers must surely have resonated with average RCs. Combined with the unending demands of liberal progress, more Assembly motions on sexuality and termination of life etc., Jim might seek to convert this act of representation into tangible electoral support. To examine what might facilitate this leap would not be a waste of his time. There are many sections in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK who might feel left behind in the post-political, post-national vibrant tapestry of cosmopolitan and progressive Nirvana. The sizable liberal Catholic vote evidenced in Anna Lo’s transfers to Attwood leaves Catholic traditionalists fewer options to have their religious morality reflected in political life.

    Lastly, I hope TUV develop the UKIP mentality in accepting the long haul strategy of eking out tactical wins. Gaining 13 councillors is acceptable progress. Selecting who is to contest the Westminster and Assembly elections is crucial. They miss the likes of Keith Harbinson. Giving the likes of Rick Cairns who performed well on the Sunday Politics more of an opportunity could develop talent for the future. But in doing this, Jim faces his paradox. Visceral moral contempt for Sinn Fein is fine to an extent, but the party must be careful of Jolene Bunting incidents and confront the bigotry tag as UKIP have nullified the ‘racist’ handle. Jim might have maxed out the hard core enemies of the peace process rejectionist unionist support – he needs to look elsewhere. And his stand on traditional values is already well established. Jim arguably performs at his best as a ‘one man band’, but the realities of representative politics require him to build a team that can deliver in an increasingly successful party.

    Institutional reform is a well-founded argument and he has support in liberal circles for reforming consociational democracy, but I think his strongest suit lies in attempting to maintain his current voters’ confidence while developing his credentials with the rising tide rejecting a European Union orientated rights based permissive and relativist society, putting forward a Northern Irish narrative that accords with the emerging UK debate on identity and the primacy of politics. Traditional Conservatism could be his bridge to expand his electorate, and plug Northern Irish voters into wider UK and European trends. If nothing else, he can maximise support from the positions he has already articulated. At best the changing mood will result in support, at worst his transfers might benefit.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Whatever happened Keith Harbinson.