Unionist pact could end Sinn Fein veto

Alex Kane says that all unionists should focus on giving Sinn Fein a bloody electoral nose in the next Westminster election. He reckons it’s possible that with a DUP/UUP pact that Unionists could take 17 of Northern Ireland’s seats.

By Alex Kane

I have never really approved of the St. Patrick’s Day junkets to Washington and the White House; because I have never fully understood the need to fatten the egos of a group of Ulster politicians, who, between them, represent less than two per cent of the UK electorate. Most of them are pompous enough already, without giving them the chance to place a few more photographs on their mantelpieces. The fact that President Bush decided to ban all of the parties, because he didn’t have the courage to exclude Sinn Fein alone, sums up the orchestrated humbug which lies at the heart of this annual hoopla.

The absence of the unionists, the very low-key presence of the SDLP, and the media frenzy surrounding the McCartney family, has highlighted the PR dilemma now facing Sinn Fein. As Gerry Adams makes his way around the country, shunned by the big political players and playing to depleted audiences, he must be wondering if the past ten years have been worth it. Partition is consolidated. There is no likelihood of a United Ireland. The IRA is defeated. Unionism has modernised and gained new ground. Adams, himself, has moved from being the man who brought terrorists to the negotiating table, to being the man who is now regarded as the public face of a criminal empire—-less Ourselves Alone and much more Al Capone.

But if Sinn Fein confirms, or even increases its mandate at the next election, it will interpret it as a vindication of both Adams and P. O’Neill. It is essential, therefore, that the election results represent a victory for the democratic parties; and that means that those parties are going to have to agree a game plan.

The primary purpose of any pact must be to win back seats presently held by Sinn Fein; and to lessen its chances of making gains in those seats it has been targeting since 2001. In other words, I am advocating a UUP/DUP pact, alongside a Joint Unionist/SDLP pact, operating for Westminster and local council elections. The democratic parties should be looking at what happens after May 5, rather than simply concentrating on their own successes.

At present Sinn Fein hold West Belfast, Mid Ulster, West Tyrone and Fermanagh/South Tyrone and have hopes of winning Foyle, Newry/Armagh and South Down. If unionists don’t field candidates in Foyle, Newry/Armagh, Mid Ulster and South Down (none of which they can realistically win, anyway) the SDLP can win all four. In return, the SDLP and DUP should stand down in West Tyrone (leaving it a likely win for the UUP).

Fermanagh/South Tyrone is a little more problematic, although I would suggest that the SDLP and DUP stand down in favour of the UUP. And, as far as North Belfast and South Belfast are concerned, I think it would be sensible for the UUP to give Nigel Dodds a free run, in return for Michael McGimpsey getting the same in South Belfast.

If these three parties can agree (and yes, the Alliance and other smaller parties must consider their own role) it is possible that Sinn Fein can be reduced to just one seat, leaving the DUP with 7/8, the UUP with 5/6 and the SDLP with four. More important, though, such a result represents a victory and a clear mandate for the democratic parties. It opens the way to a voluntary Assembly coalition embracing DUP/SDLP/UUP/Alliance and certainly makes it a good deal easier for the British and Irish governments to create the machinery to facilitate that coalition.

I appreciate that all three parties will have difficulties with these proposals, but, if carried through at the general and local government elections, I believe that the potential political gains will far outweigh any immediate electoral disadvantages in terms of individual party tallies. The real obstacle to a lasting settlement is Sinn Fein and these proposals represent a means of shifting that obstacle.

Sinn Fein will be apoplectic, but there is very little it can do. The door can be left open for it to take up Executive positions once the IRA’s status and arsenals have been finally and unambiguously dealt with. In politics, it is democracy itself, which is the real middle ground. Messrs Adams and P. O’Neill have had a veto for far too long and it really is time that both governments and the democratic majority called their bluff.

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday 19th March 2005

  • Davros

    That could end up a pyrrhic victory.

  • CavanMan

    Some of this is hilarious.

    The IRA is defeated.

    unfortunately the McCartney family know how undefeated the IRA are.

    ”I am advocating a UUP/DUP pact, alongside a Joint Unionist/SDLP pact, operating for Westminster and local council elections.”

    Alex must be living in lala land if he thinks this would happen,if the SDLP even attempted this,they would be strucken off as traitors.

    ”it is possible that Sinn Fein can be reduced to just one seat, leaving the DUP with 7/8, the UUP with 5/6 and the SDLP with four”

    So he wants Nationalists to give up seats to two parties who have a history of bigotry towards the catholic and nationalist community in Northern Ireland,How about the UUP give up all their seats to the SDLP,so both sides of the divide could be represented,his current suggestion is bullshit.He wants total Unionist Control,and a return to the old days of majority rule.

  • Henry94

    First of all Sinn fein will win Mid-Ulster no matter what.

    Second if the SDLP pull out of West Tyrone their votes will go to Sinn Fein and not the UUP.

    Third nationalist disgust at the plan would deliver Foyle to Sinn Fein. ditto Fermanagh South-Tyrone.

    Forth Unionist voters will not vote for the SDLP in enough numbers to stop Sinn Fein in Newry and Armagh.

    The SDLP have a chane of winning three seats without that strategy. South Down is a banker and they have to be favourites in Foyle.

    The real pact should be between the nationalist parties with the SDLP getting a free run in South Belfast and Sinn Fein in North Belfast.

    If the parties can’t agree it the voters should do it anyway. Two Unionist seats are there for the taking.

  • slug9987

    Henry84’s points are very good. I don’t see the SDLP wanting a deal that reduces the overall nationalist seat count.

    My own -more modest- suggestion is that the two unionist parties toss a coin for Fermanagh South Tyrone and compete for the rest. That would probably limit SF to staying level at 4. South Belfast is not going to fall to SF.

    Strategic-minded unionist voters in Foyle, N&A will consider voting SDLP regardless.

  • Jimmy Sands

    It seems they can either go for a centrist pact or a sectarian head count, but not both.

  • Rebecca Black

    slug9987

    tossing a coin is a bad idea, Fermanagh/South Tyrone should be contested by a UUP, even if it means the UUP having to stand down in South Belfast. There is such bitterness between unionists over there, Tom Elliott stands a much better chance of winning it than Arlene does.

    Henry94

    so what of the rumour that Sinn Fein are going to run candidates simultaneously in Northern Ireland and the Republic? eg. Conor Murphy running in Newry and Armagh as well as North Louth, Pat Doherty running in West Tyrone and also Donegal. Yes or no?

  • J Kelly

    Alex Kanes article must be living in outer space if he believes that this could happen.

    Sinn Fein will win West Belfast, Mid Ulster, West Tyrone and Newry and Armagh no matter what comes about. Sinn Fein are firm favourites in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and will hold it even with a unionist pact. Foyle the SDLP are slight favourites but the launch of the United Ireland document will do damage to Durkan among moderate unionist and as I have been saying on this site for weeks Durkan is being called the invisible man in Derry. I will still predict Mitchel McLaughlin to be the next MP for Foyle. South Down I believe that Sinn Fein will win this seat as part of the over all push towards Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein to have seven seats and be without doubt the voice of northern nationalism.

  • slug9987

    Jimmy – in principle a a centrist pact is good but it has to keep the nationalist/unionist split the same as 2001 otherwise the SDLP would not agree.

    In fact the nat/unionist MP split of 2001 is roughly proportional to the vote so it is fair.

  • Henry94

    Rebecca

    so what of the rumour that Sinn Fein are going to run candidates simultaneously in Northern Ireland and the Republic? eg. Conor Murphy running in Newry and Armagh as well as North Louth, Pat Doherty running in West Tyrone and also Donegal. Yes or no?

    I don’t see why. Sinn Fein already have a TD in Louth, Arthur Morgan, and Pearse Docherty will probably win a seat in Donegal.

    The rumour I heard was that Gerry Adams was going to run in Dublin South-East (Michael McDowells constituency). But I don’t believe it myself.

  • beano

    Is Alex having a laugh? The SDLP even contemplating a pact with the UU at this stage would be electoral suicide!

  • Rebecca Black

    Of course the SDLP aren’t even contemplating it, this united ireland document looks like a reaction against it, a bid to emphasise their nationalism before the election.

    Henry94

    ha, Gerry can run if he likes in McDowells constituency but I reckon McDowell would hold him off. I am sure the people of south east dublin can differentiate between a real politician (McDowell) and someone who has gained alot of money and power through bully boy tactics and inflicting misery on Northern Ireland for the last 30 years.

  • Henry94

    Rebecca Black

    Thanks for the warning.

  • Jimmy Sands

    A little creativity would spice things up. Imagine a pact that agreed no unionist candidate at all in F&ST.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I believe Alex was a speech writer for David Trimble, given that, the terminal weakness thast is enveloping the UUP is unsurprising.

    Rebecca Black,

    The story of senior Northern SF figures standing in Dail constituencies arises from time to time and is dismissed time after time. The reason given by SFi s that they are are in for the long haul and such stunts are merely short term.
    The voters of SE Dublin have a tempestuous relationship with Mc Dowell and his future success is certainly not guaranteed.

    Also correspondents (normally hostile to SF)who were at the SF Ard Fheis were impressed by Daithi Doolan so Michael might have a fight on his hands.

  • aquifer

    I know I should not help the Onionists, but Sinn Fein should not really have a private army. Its a distinction worth making. Also the Orange split from the UUP so lets keep up the forward momentum.

    Have an opinion poll in the constituencies, perhaps preceeded by some public debates and opinion pieces from the candidates in the News Letter. Publish the poll results ahead of the election. If the parties fail to cut a deal and seats again fall to SF, it will be relatively clear who is to blame.

    Would sell some morning papers too, no?

  • Jimmy Sands

    Is there really a big PD/SF swing vote in Ballsbridge?

  • Sherlock

    Pat,

    Re your 09.15.

    I made occasional contributions to DT’s speeches, but I was never a speechwriter for him. On a personal level we cannot stand each other.

    The article is simply an attempt to argue that there are other options. Given the bollocks produced by the SDLP today, though, I am willing to concede that there isn’t a “two roasted balls of snow” chance of my suggestions getting off the drawing board.

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • Will

    Mick,
    Your description is a little misleading – I did wonder how Alex could manage to believe that unionists could win 17 consituencies! I mightnt agree with him much, but he’s not a stupid individual and doesnt always slavishly toe the Trimble line…. take note YUs!

    Its interesting of course that this article appeared the day after the UUP’s ridiculous proposals which indicates some involvement? The only thing which is different is the absurd proposal by the UUP on Friday giving all sitting MPs a free run regardless of how safe their seat is. I would hope that Alex doesnt support that kinnd of rubbish given that he has regularly bemoaned the low unionist turnout east of the Bann and reducing the choice for people in those areas wont enthuse them to turn out in great numbers IMO.

    Anyhow, back to the issue at hand. Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast have been reasonably well rehearsed – all agree that a unionist pact alone in those constituencies can ensure a unionist win – of course remembering that S Belfast still has a reasonably good unionist majority and it is lowish turnout and an even split amongst the parties which really opens up the possibility of it being lost to unionism.

    The problem then goes on to whether a unionist/SDLP pact would work. Interesting that this has been blogged today – on the day the SDLP put forward their paper on Irish unity…. There have been occasions when unionists have voted SDLP tactically, most memorably for Joe Hendron, but this would be the first occasion when unionists have formally advocating voting for nationalist candidates.

    How exactly does having an SDLP member of parliament help when it comes to the many debates at Westminster on issues where there are huge ideological splits between parties, but which are most notable between those on the different ends of the sectarian divide. Take education for example – how are unionists who support academic selection (as both unionist parties do) served by having an SDLP MP who both speaks and votes against this.

    Will the SDLP MP get up and speak out on 50-50 recruitment (although a sore subject for UUP people as Ken Maginnis is the architect) but there are many many issues where unionists would not be represented by the MP they helped send.

    Obviously having a SF MP is much worse as they are never even there to do anything on the issues where we can all agree combined with the fact that precious few unionists would feel comforable nipping down to the local SF/IRA office to see Pat, Martin or any of the rest. However, they aren’t in Westminster voting (for or against) on issues where their views would be contrary to the views of unionists and so at least in a tight vote at Westminster they cant sway the balance which could happen with a few extra SDLP MPs.

    I happen also to think that a substantial enough number of unionists, both DUP and UUP voters would not come out to vote if they didnt have a unionist candidate to vote for that it would mean SF would still win seats. That of course also having the consequence that they would not vote in the council elections so robbing people of yet more unionist representation.

    Alex seems to be drawing on the logic that this kind of unionist/SDLP pact is either necessary for or helps a voluntary coalition. However I would disagree with that. It might be a sweetner to encourage the SDLP, but I am tempted to suggest to the SDLP that if they cant see that a voluntary coalition is their only chance of survival in the long, medium, and yes the short term too, then quite frankly they deserve the mauling the nationalist electorate may well give them!

  • J Kelly

    Alex even before today did you really believe that any sort of pact could remove Martin McGuinness. Did you not contemplate a nationalist reaction to the SDLP dealing with Trimble and Paisley.

  • J Kelly

    Jimmy there might not be a PD/SF swing but there is a growing SF vote.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Do they have an advice centre on Aylesbury Rd yet?

  • Sherlock

    J Kelly,

    Re your 09.44:

    In a column a few weeks ago I posed the question, “Do moderate nationalists in the SDLP hate unionists more than they hate an armed and active republican movement”?

    Given what the SDLP has done in positioning itself to the right of SF, I now have the answer to my own question.

    Hard to avoid the conclusion, therefore, that the Agreement is dead. Moderate, pluralist unionism—of which I am proud to be a part—has had its nose rubbed in the mud by both Adams and Durkan.

    Alex

  • factfinder

    It is hard to tell the difference between SDLP and unionists anyway. They are virtually the same as the Alliance party. I don’t class them as nationalists. Most of them are pro union but won’t admit it in public.

  • factfinder

    The SDLP also state they are the sister party of the British Labour Party

  • Jimmy Sands

    Alex,

    I don’t understand your complaint. Having accepted the principle of consent, what more do you want from them? Are they not entitled to argue this case?

  • Henry94

    Sherlock

    It is neither moodern nor pluralist to assume that because somebody disagrees with you that they hate you.

    Or does modern and pluralist in unionist terms have an implied “compared to Paisley” attached to it.

  • amarillo

    The only way a pact will work is if each party has a free run in seats from certainties to impossibilities. Taking them as a whole with the UUP taking the rich pickings is not acceptable. Instead I believe that seats should be paired off as below and each party should select one of each pair:

    South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone

    Newry and Armagh and South Down

    West Tyrone and Mid Ulster

    West Belfast and Foyle

    North Belfast is the only seat with any sort of nationalist threat for which the sitting unionist MP is seeking reelection – therefore Nigel Dodds should get a free run – the UUP has no chance of winning anyway

  • johnhidd

    Alex,

    Not your finest hour, I’m afraid.
    A rather transparent attempt to hang on to vulnerable seats.

    You are a liberal pluralist on one hand, but presumably accept the ludicrous “hard-line” propaganda now spewing from Cunningham House. Desperate and without credibility.

    Rebecca,

    “Fermanagh/South Tyrone should be contested by a UUP, even if it means the UUP having to stand down in South Belfast.”

    (Posted by: Rebecca Black at March 21, 2005 07:35 PM)

    That sounds sensible. What do you think are the chances of Michael McGimpsey doing the decent thing? Seriously, I mean…

  • Rebecca Black

    “Also correspondents (normally hostile to SF)who were at the SF Ard Fheis were impressed by Daithi Doolan so Michael might have a fight on his hands.”

    really? well Daithi must have improved a great deal from when I last heard him talk in TCD. At that speech, he ranted and raved, avoided the issues entirely and by the time he had finished speaking the audience were left somewhat confused.

    If Daithi is the best you have to throw at McDowell, I don’t think he’ll be losing much sleep.

  • Rebecca Black

    johnhidd

    I have no idea, I am a mere young unionist, I am just expressing my opinions, not the opinions of the UUP as a party.

    It is easy to say but not so easy to do, it’ll be very hard for McGimpsey to stand aside unless the DUP produce a more impressive candidate than they usually run in South Belfast (Mark Robinson who in the 2003 assembly elections only just beat Sinn Feins Alex Maskey). But I hope something does get sorted out, I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t,

  • amarillo

    Even with a pact Michael McGimpsey’s negative and dirty style will mean he will have no hope of reaching the level of support which Martin Smyth could command.

  • Rebecca Black

    amarillo

    yet McGimpseys so called negative and dirty style didn’t prevent him from topping the poll in 2003….

  • amarillo

    “it’ll be very hard for McGimpsey to stand aside unless the DUP produce a more impressive candidate than they usually run in South Belfast (Mark Robinson who in the 2003 assembly elections only just beat Sinn Feins Alex Maskey).”

    How naive Rebecca and other young unionists are!

    You cannot make big assumptions like that from pr elections in which parties run multiple candidates. Vote management will affect candidates votes – the DUP vote was almost three thousand more than Sinn Fein

  • amarillo

    Again naive Rebecca

    McGimpsey’s 5,389 in 2003 was nowhere near the 17,007 Smyth got. McGimpsey was running against a field of pygmies in 2003 and with his high profile he should have topped the poll – infact it was amazing that he was only 1,500 votes ahead of Mark Robinson who you yourself have derided

  • Rebecca Black

    Its an indicator of how the vote is, i am well aware of the differences between PR and first past the post.

    And by the way, in the 2003 elections Mark Robinson was only 58 votes ahead of Maskey, might want to check ur results there!

    The overall percentages were

    UUP – 27%
    SDLP – 23%
    DUP – 21%
    SF – 13%

    (figures from ark.co.uk/elections)

  • fair_deal

    I usually enjoy reading Alex’s articles for some intellectual stimulation. However, this one is just a mess.

    1. I can see the strategic arguments for an electoral pact with the SDLP in a number of seats. However, the time to push for it was when a number of senior SDLP members broke ranks around Christmas not with six weeks to go to an election. The offer should have been in private and conditional on the acceptance of a voluntary coalition. Also it would only have been a serious offer from Unionism if the DUP had offered it.
    2. In Robinson’s statement on Friday it has become clear the DUP believe there is more political capital in attacking the UUP for thinking about this option than the possibility of it working – pushing the line it will result in a nationalist majority on paper
    3. A strong motivation seems to be to try and find a convulted means of compensating the UUP for the seats they will most likely lose to the DUP.

    The one thing Unionism of all shades has failed to do is sell voluntary coalition to the nationalist community especially on bread and butter issues. Unionism should be tacking all of this on to any issue that moves. Water charges, it can be dealt with if the SDLP agree to a voluntary coalition. Cutbacks in childcare, it can be dealt with if the SDLP agree to a voluntary coalition. Edcuation cuts, it can be dealt with if the SDLP agree to a voluntary coalition.

  • amarillo

    Rebecca READ WHAT YOU ARE REPLYING TO.

    I said THE DUP’S VOTE was almost three thousand more than Sinn Fein – not Mark Robinson’s, he had a running mate which you conveniently forget.

    God, the old Young Unionists may not have been popular but at least they knew their stuff and understood logic – come back Humphrey, Weir and Ramsey, all is forgiven

  • Rebecca Black

    funny you should say that – I was in the old young unionists too, I remember Peter Weir being chairman!! I however and came aboard the new young unionists instead of slinking across to the DUP to sniff myself out a career!!

    Michael McGimpsey also had a running mate, in fact he had two, so your point is still useless. What is your response to the fact that the SDLP are also more popular than the DUP in south belfast?

  • amarillo

    The point is not useless – we were talking about the DUP vs Sinn Fein not vs the UUP.

    In the last election, the European election, the DUP were more popular than all other parties in South Belfast. Both DUP and UUP tallies indicated that.

    By the way Peter Weir had a career before he left to join DUP. You have no need to move as there isn’t a chance of anyone giving you a sniff at a career. Rather than implying that people moved for jobs you should recognise that others acknowledged their talents when the UUP refused to because they would not idolise Trimble. All of those who left the UUP were able, articulate and some of the brightest political minds of their generation

  • amarillo

    By the way Rebecca you are also wrong in your assumptions – I have never been in the Young Unionists but I came across them from time to time – the old superior ones that is – not the new yellow pack version

  • Rebecca Black

    “that others acknowledged their talents when the UUP refused to because they would not idolise Trimble”

    but I thought you said that Weir already had a career before he went to the DUP?? My rather duller mind is confused amarillo

  • Rebecca Black

    I don’t think I ever said you were in the young unionists, I owned up to being in the old ones but I didn’t accuse you of being in them.

  • amarillo

    I was talking about those who moved who were not elected representatives

  • Rebecca Black

    ah well, you need to explain these things, my mind has clearly been dullened by membership of the “yellow pack” YUs.

  • amarillo

    You did – you said: “funny you should say that – I was in the old young unionists too”

    I interpret that as saying we were both in the YUs

  • Rebecca Black

    I meant too, as in along with those you described as “able, articulate and bright political minds”

  • johnhidd

    Rebecca,

    Just for the record, one of McGimpsey’s “running mates” in 2003 will not be endorsing him in the Westminster election and has always been opposed to the Trimble policy of sitting in government with terrorist thugs.

    There is a wonderful photo of McGimpsey, Empey and Martin McGuiness having a jolly time at some function. No doubt the DUP will make full use of it.

  • amarillo

    Apologies Rebecca, clarification appreciated.

  • Will

    Rebecca,
    I’m interested why you propose the DUP running in South Belfast (where the UUP have a fairly well established candidate) but are reasonably firm that they shouldnt be let anywhere near Fermanagh & South Tyrone where Arlene Foster is at least as high profile a candidate as Tom Elliott.

    Combined with that, as you say, the DUP dont have a candidate in place for S, Belfast AFAIK and election results show S Belfast as probably being a safer unionist seat.

    So, on the basis that you obviously dont seem to have a problem with a 1:1 spilt in these two constituencies, why are you so adamant that S Belfast is the place for the DUP? I really am interested just to know.

  • Will

    Rebecca,
    just to clarify my interest…. I have always assumed that a lot of UUP hostility to the DUP in Fermanagh and Arlene Foster in particular could well have been driven by James Cooper. So assuming that you dont either have a particular soft spot for James Cooper or a particular vendetta against Michael McGimpsey is it simply that there is a real psychological attachment to Fermanagh amongst Ulster Unionists? – would the DUP being MP for Basil Brooke’s old area just be too much to stomach?

  • Rebecca Black

    I suppose thats down to a keen interest that I have in Fermanagh/south tyrone.

    I also believe that arlene foster cannot win that seat but a DUP candidate in south belfast could win the seat. I am going on what will most likely work for unionism.

    As for the DUP candidate in south belfast..well i don’t know who they are going to put up, i would imagine they would find someone who is reasonably strong and able to win it though.

  • Rebecca Black

    as I said above Will, its based on who I think would be the best candidate, and I firmly believe that Tom Elliott is the best candidate for FST. I have no ill win against Michael McGimpsey, I think he has done great work in south belfast as one of their MLAs, but i appreciate that the DUP will not accept UUP running in both S. Belfast and FST so I feel out of the two, it would be better for unionism in general if the UUP ran in FST and the DUP ran in SB.

  • johnhidd

    Will,

    No doubt Rebecca is aware that 4 out of 6 elected UUP officers are from Fermanagh / S.Tyrone and half the remaining membership is from there.

    Can’t see them standing down in F/S.T.

  • Will

    John,
    Interesting point – I dont know if that is a factor or not.

    Rebecca,
    Personally I dont particularly mind which party runs in which area – I want to see unionists win both seats – and I feel the best, and only fair way to do that is to have one party run in each of them. Perhaps the DUP are better running in South Belfast – from an entirely selfish point of view as I said before, it would seem to actually be a safer seat so if the UUP were happy with that then as they say, ‘everone’s a winner’. (possibly a shame that you weren’t on the UUPs team last Friday – might have seen a bit more sense than we did!)

    As I said in the first post – I do think that James Cooper is probably personally very hostile to let the DUP have a free run in Fermanagh. No doubt personal experience of 2001 (we all know the well-rehearsed arguments in that case, no need to go there again really) may have colored his view. Would a different UUP team have been just as strident about Fermanagh South Tyrone?

  • vespasian

    Since the SDLP are totally obsessed with SF/IRA a sort of love hate relatiopnship spawned by John Hume, I suspect Mr Kane was being less than serious in his article, it is a sort of science fiction piece based in Nirvana where the good guys of all hues unite to fight evil.

    The difficulty in Northern Ireland is that what constitutes evil is defined in so many different ways by all sides and has many shades of grey depending on what vote is being sought at the time!

  • aquifer

    Other parties don’t have guns

    Would you like it in colour?

    Other parties dont have guns

  • Sherlock

    Morning All,

    I wrote this piece last Friday morning. It wasn’t a “set-in-stone” piece, merely an attempt to put forward a case for the parties who advocate a voluntary coalition to actually work together in the short term.

    I am aware that it has a number of flaws and I am equally aware that it requires people to break the voting habits of a life time.

    But let me emphasise one point (and it was well expressed by JohnHidd): This was not a scheme for protecting the UUP’s existing seats. I was being generous when I said the UUP could end up with 5/6 seats, because I actually believe it will lose South Antrim and Upper Bann. In other words, I think the UUP will be lucky to get three seats.

    My main concern was to limited the electoral chances for Sinn Fein.

    I was not aware of the UUP’s pact propsals (and I’m sure no-one else in the party was aware of them, either). Those proposals really did represent an act of desperation—with no interest in planning for the scenario post-May 5th, and everything to do with holding seats just for the sake of holding them. I’m not surprised that the DUP weren’t interested.

    Thank you to all of you who have pointed out the problems with the proposals contained in my column. Sadly—and it really does sadden me—I suspect you are all right.

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • aquifer

    The potential in this idea was that it could appeal to editors of unionists morning newspapers who are in now competition. Can you see a problem in it?:

    “Have an opinion poll in the constituencies, perhaps preceeded by some public debates and opinion pieces from the candidates in the News Letter. Publish the poll results ahead of the election. If the parties fail to cut a deal and seats again fall to SF, it will be relatively clear who is to blame.

    Would sell some morning papers too, no?”

  • Henry94

    If Unionists are serious about a voluntry coalition they will flock to the UUP in May. That would be a very strong signal to nationalists that unionism was willing to abandon extremism and sectarianism.

    But the VC concept would be buried under a Paislyite landslide.

  • ulsterman

    I think one needs to be careful here. There is no point in Unionists trying to save the SDLP. Their document on Irish unity is total nonsense.

    The SF vote will be down in May because of recent events. SF will win four seats but Fermanagh will return to the Unionist fold with are without a pact.

    S.Belfast will stay Unionist as there are simply not enough SDLP votes there to let the SDLP win. The SDLP will win S.Down and Foyle very easily.

    The UUP is the party in biggest difficulty. It will easily gain Fermanagh but that will be its sole triumph. The rest of the seats will see a disgusting battle between Unionism.

    At a time when unity is called for is it not time a new UUUC was formed to fight Westminster elections?.

    God Save The Queen.

  • Will

    Alex,
    After reading your column more closely again I thought you weren’t anywhere near the UUP proposals anyway….

    But thanks for the brutally honest post – again YU’s take note!

  • davidbrew

    BTW
    I hear North Antrim UUP has finally been given a candidate to be this election’s sacrificial lamb. Plugging his lugholes during the chorus of “Prrraise God from whom all blessings flow” this time will be Rodney McCune, from the Westminster Unionist Association, and son of ex-peeler Roy (remember he was going to be the next big thing in East Antrim until …er…. he didn’t get elected in 2003) At a tension filled selection meeting at the weekend Rodders romped home through a field of-well nobody else actually- to be the latest name added to the cannon fodder brigade.

    Given their lack of cash in North Antrim- and legendary canniness, I wonder how they’ll pay for the campaign. Does anyone else hear the sound of a collection box being rattled in the Warrenpoint area, or is it my imagination?

    Seriously this is good in the sense that Unionists should have a choice- even a mismatch like this- to maximise voter turnout. I believe Billy has been given the pearl handled graip and bottle of sheep dip and told to put his name in for Mid Ulster too. So the UUP are going to blood a whole raft of new names in the most vital election it has faced for thirty years ( or perhaps ever)- Basil McCrea in LV, McGimski Jr in Strangford, and perhaps Earl Storey in Foyle, alongside done old men like Beggs . It doesn’t inspire confidence, given the likely bareknuckle battle royal for the soul of Unionism , that people like James Cooper are sending out such novices to fight their batles for them. Just why are so few Assembly members being put into the frontline? What message does the choice of candidates send out to the electorate? If the UUP are going to win 10 seats (stifles sniggers) as Tim Lemon believes, why are those MLAs so coy about putting themsl;eves forward for a higher stage?

  • Rebecca Black

    “Would a different UUP team have been just as strident about Fermanagh South Tyrone?”

    Yes, I believe it would, its the Arlene factor.

  • lo_rre

    “Fermanagh/South Tyrone should be contested by a UUP, even if it means the UUP having to stand down in South Belfast.”

    (Posted by: Rebecca Black at March 21, 2005 07:35 PM)

    John ) *That sounds sensible. What do you think are the chances of Michael McGimpsey doing the decent thing? Seriously, I mean…*

    John & Rebecca, neither of you are listening to the proper chattering class chit chat. Why should Michael do anything, Ruth Patterson is to be chosen by the DUP for SB. Like Arlene Foster in FST these two females will be sacrifical lambs set up for slaughter, because there is not one male DUP with any balls to stand up to the two UUP westminister candidates in SB & FST. Michael McGimpsy has already challenged Peter Robinson to come over and stand against him.

    Peter declined the offer.

  • amarillo

    lo_rre

    You are very wide of the mark – there is no chance Ruth Patterson will be the candidate. Arlene Foster is the candidate in FST because she is the best candidate not that no man is available – a very chauvinistic view.

    None of you seem to have worked out the logic yet – if there was a pact to allow Tom Elliott a free run the DUP candidate for South Belfast would obviously be Arlene Foster, a woman with a family background from Sandy Row. Again if it is her against elliott she will win.

    I agree with David. The UUP’s pact along with the candidates they are putting up is a sign that they have already conceded defeat.

  • Rebecca Black

    “Again if it is her against elliott she will win.”

    would she? Elliott quite convincingly outpolled her last time they both went to the polls.

  • Sherlock

    lo_rre,

    It will not be Ruth Patterson. I have been told (and from a usually reliable source) that Baby Doc could be in the frame.

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • amarillo

    Rebecca

    I have already made this point to you – this time around Tom will have 2,000 votes of one other UUP candidate from 2003 to draw on, Arlene will have around 8,000 from two other DUP candidates to draw upon.

    As much as the UUP talk of this disgust with Arlene Foster’s defection, as someone from that constituency I can say that it really does not exist on the ground with ordinary unionists.

  • Rebecca Black

    well, thats not the vibe I got from people in Enniskillen when I visited last summer.

  • JC47

    Has anyone got any factual analysis of the likely outcome of the local elections in South Belfast?
    Alex Maskey and Stefan Long have been very quiet over thre past weeks. Will the recent events have any effect on the Sinn Fein votes in places like Finaghy and Ardmore?

  • slug9987

    I don’t know much about Elliot. Is he a good TV performer? Thats important.

  • Will

    Amarillo,
    An interesting theory – if Arlene Foster cant run in Fermanagh then run her in South Belfast…. at least its much more plausable than some conspiracy that the DUP want to run a woman fall-guy (if that isnt a contradiction!).

    I believe the DUP selected Arlene Foster because she’s a capable individual who has a good profile in the area, and indeed across NI, not for any other reason.

    If there is a chauvanistic streak running through any party then I would suggest we look to the UUP – hence Ken Magninnis’ “all girls together” comments when Kate Hoey came across to launch Arlene Foster’s campaigns. There was more than a touch of sexism about those comments given that Kate Hoey was more than good enough for Ulster Unionists to have invited to speak at a meeting in Fermanagh!

    Rebecca,
    I would suggest also that Arlene Foster has been gathering pace over the last while – any lingering doubts people had over her moving to the DUP have long since vanished and the DUP in Fermanagh has been absolutely revitalised with the influx of new members.

    Slug9987
    Tom Elliott hasn’t been put forward by the UUP for much (if any) television or radio appearances apart from the odd local story or as their agricultural spokesman (of which a friend of mine with some expertese tells me he isn’t always spot on with the facts). Maybe the relative lack of provincewide coverage of Elliott compared to Foster tells its own story.

  • lo_rre

    “None of you seem to have worked out the logic yet – if there was a pact to allow Tom Elliott a free run the DUP candidate for South Belfast would obviously be Arlene Foster, a woman with a family background from Sandy Row. Again if it is her against elliott she will win.”

    Sorry, its you Amarllo who have not worked out the logic. If the DUP were as confident as you sem to be that Arlene would beat Tom Elliot why would they want a deal in the first place? The DUP might as well just go ahead anyway and put up Ruth Patterson or baby Doc as Alex seems to think to contest MM in SB.

    Alex may have a point, but I dont think daddy Doc wants baby Doc to get knocked for a six by MM in SB. It would be bad PR for the Paisley family. Big Ian is keeping his son to step into his safe seat in NA.when he decides to retire. Probably after he hopes to get elected Norn Iron’s top dog in the Assembly when the DUP do a sneaky squeaky deal with SF after the 5th May election.

  • slug9987

    I have worked it out.

    How about widening it to the 4 most marginals:

    DUP unopposed FST
    UUP unopposed SB
    UUP unopposed UB
    DUP unopposed NB

    UUP give up FST but in return knows it wouldn’t get wiped out as a party. Also justifiable in terms of focussing on marginal unionist/nationalist seats but allowing competition in non-marginal seats.

    I don’t believe that many unionists would choose not to vote Foster in FST. I also think that the FST UUP would realise the above deal would save their party.

    Aside on “FST”. Does anyone else always think “flatter, squarer tube” for TV/monitors?

  • amarillo

    lo_rre

    “Sorry, its you Amarllo who have not worked out the logic. If the DUP were as confident as you sem to be that Arlene would beat Tom Elliot why would they want a deal in the first place?”

    Because there is a difference between beating Tom Elliott and beating Sinn Fein to win the seat. I would have thought that was pretty obvious.

  • lo_rre

    “Because there is a difference between beating Tom Elliott and beating Sinn Fein to win the seat. I would have thought that was pretty obvious.”

    You hit the nail on the head there.sunshine. The DUP would be rather lose a seat to SF than for the UUP to gain it.

  • IJP

    Slug

    There’s no way the DUP would give up Upper Bann.

    I still think if Unionists were serious they’d go 1-for-1 in SB and FST.

    But I don’t think they’re serious.

  • Will

    IJP
    “I still think if Unionists were serious they’d go 1-for-1 in SB and FST”

    Lets all remember here, that the DUP actually proposed a 1 for 1 divide between these two constituencies which was rejected outright by the UUP. I think we can tell who isnt serious in this one.

    Not only were the DUP proposing a 1:1 split but they offered the UUP first pick, so putting them in the stronger position as to which one they wanted to run in. The DUP would then take the other.

    Of course, the UUP rejected talks outright until they knew the PR consequences of rejecting the Orange Order’s offer. Maybe a little more bad PR will shame them into accepting what is after all a sensible offer.

    lo_rre
    The UUP were more than happy to let the seat fall to SF/IRA in 2001 when they selected a candidate who had been publicly highlighted as acceptable to the wider unionist community. The best candidate then is still the best candidate now and she should be allowed to run IMO.