EXCLUSIVE: Leslie defects to the Tories…

The Northern Irish Tories remain a shadow of their glory days when in 1992 Lawrence Kennedy took 32% of the North Down Westminister vote. Yet Slugger hears that tomorrow they will announce their latest Unionist defector, James Leslie. A former MLA, Leslie was dropped by the North Antrim Unionist Association: a somewhat short-sighted move, perhaps, since he was considered a highly talented junior minister with a solid local voter base. Their prefered candidate, James Curry, went on to lose Leslie’s seat to the DUP.

Widely regarded as one of their more able ministers, he served as David Trimble’s right hand man in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister. It is blow for Reg Empey, who must be concerned at the loss of such talent. And equally concerned at the possibility of further defections.

As for the Tories, well, Leslie’s not a sitting MLA but it’s certainly a significant rise on the last defection. This is a serious coup for the Conservatives.

We understand the Belfast Telegraph is carrying a fuller interview with Leslie tomorrow.

  • “If so taliban-like why have there been so many DUP members invited to speak at conservative conferences as of late? ”

    Because there’s some very misguided people in the Conservative party, who haven’t a clue about the sort of people they’re dealing with. I’ve seen it on both sides, in North Antrim, and with the Tories in London. Some Tories see the DUP as the last standing stalwarts of anti Irish republican terrorism.

  • Upper Falls

    Point of order: the DUP have not been asked to speak at the Tory conference in the past (though I think Paisley has been asked to speak at Labour this year?)

    If Paisley is asked to speak it is because he is the major unionist player who has to make the decisions on power that affect us all.

    The DUP “speaking” at previous Conservative conferences have been meetings set up by them as a fringe meeting – which an organisation is entitled to do. I knoe Iris put out amisleading release about speaking at the Conference but she didn’t. Its the same as per Sinn Fein – Conor Murphy spoke at a fringe in Blackpool. You could organise a fringe if you wanted but it is different from being invited to speak at conference – as Trimble was invited to do by IDS.

  • Bushmills

    Sorry Julian, not good enough. You claim to be a representative of the “party of the Union” – why not designate as a Unionist if you had been elected to Stormont?

  • Bushmills

    slug

    But Julian was hailing his great Unionist credentials. It doesn’t come much more fundamental than the designation question – repugnant as it is – you are either a Unionist or your are not. Julian, if he had been elected, would be an “other”.

  • “Sorry Julian, not good enough. You claim to be a representative of the “party of the Union” – why not designate as a Unionist if you had been elected to Stormont? ”

    Without attempting to answer the question for Julian, I see Stormont designations as principally tribal, whereas supporting the Union is political. I can understand why the Conservative Party doesn’t want to go down the tribal route. Personally, I’m a poltical unionist, not a tribal one.

  • slug

    Bushmills

    Designation REDUCES the term Unionist to a tribal group.

    Unionism in its best sense is incompatible with such tribal factionalism.

    Therefore any true unionist would reject it.

    As would any democrat. A vote is a vote.

    Weighted majority voting is the way to go. Not designation.

  • slug

    Steve

    Snap!

  • Bushmills

    steve

    a purely tribal designation system surely would have been one based upon religion? A political designation is based on political outlook – to designate as “other” implies an ambigious political position on the question in hand – namely political vision for Northern Ireland – “in the Union” = Unionist, “in a UI” = Nationalist, “no position as such” = other.

    Julian would have been an “other”.

  • Lib2016

    Sorry, in between being bashed by Bushmills I didn’t get to follow your comments on religion etc.

    To be quite straight about it I view religion as being between you and your God.

    My political opinion on someone is based on the party they represent and the ideas they have – I don’t give a damn about their religion.

    To give an example, an elected representative from a nationalist party told me “under normal circumstances” he would be in the same party as me. Well, what’s wrong with aspiring to reach normal circumstances? If we don’t aspire we don’t obtain.

    I just take the view that if we are in the UK we should take part in UK politics. If we were part of a UI we shoulfd tsake aprt in the politics of a UI.

    I know that probably goes nowhere near answering your question but I think Bushmills has had another pop at me so I need to have a look!

  • I think it was a fudge to avoid answering the question of religion, but that is what it seaks to do.

  • Busmills

    “a purely tribal designation system surely would have been one based upon religion? A political designation is based on political outlook – to designate as “other” implies an ambigious political position on the question in hand – namely political vision for Northern Ireland – “in the Union” = Unionist, “in a UI” = Nationalist, “no position as such” = other. ”

    Sorry, I must have missed the separation of politics and religion in Northern Ireland…..

  • Bushmills

    I have to go now. I appreciate Julian engaging on these issues, though he did side-step some of the questions put. I wish the NI Tories well, indeed I would like to see them succeed, but I remain to be convinced if its a runner or not. Personally I think its not.

    Oh and one final jibe if I may – the great Conservative and Unionist Party, the “true party of the Union” and all that, treated the Pro-Union population of Northern Ireland, with nothing but contempt when they secretly negotiated with a foreign power, behind their back and agreement that gave that power a direct say over their future.

    That’s Unionism Tory-style, baby!

  • Seems to me we are beginning to miss the central point here.
    How are politics in NI to develop? Are we to remain rooted in sectarianism for ever?
    Are ‘Prod’ Unionists – a dwindling numbers of voters – simply to band together and pray that they can impose themselves on Westminster once in a blue moon when there is a hung Parliament?
    Or are we to try to develop real politics?
    Those who cannot see that we stood on a non –designation ticket because designation reinforces sectarianism obviously are in the former camp. In a way they would prefer to remain in sectarian politics – even if it meant losing the Union!
    The Conservative Party is the centre right party of the UK – open to all regardless of religion or national identity even.
    We prefer to try to build that Party and to influence that Party.
    Might I remind people that there were 15 Unionist MPs when the Anglo Irish Agreement was introduced.
    The more healthy attitude in the Party towards Northern Ireland now is a result of many years of internal lobbying.
    Next Tuesday I will be at my Party’s Conference at the Northern Ireland Reception attended by dozens of MPs including the Party Chairman, Liam Fox – as well as people who became supporters years ago – Boris Johnson, Paul Goodman, Michael Gove.
    They will see Northern Irish people and NI Tories are normal people.
    Next Tuesday parochial unionists will still be beating the drum of tribal Protestantism on the road to nowhere

  • Bob, I hope you have a good time in Bournemouth this year. I have met the NI Conservatives on a number of occasions there. Get ready for the long nights in the Highcliff!

  • Julian

    I find the designation system offensive and sectarian and agree with Slug that a weighted majority for certain votes is much more democratic. I also can understand why you wouldn’t want to endorse that system by designating (despite disenfranchising any MLAs you may have picked up) but why then did you vote for designation when the Northern Ireland Bil was going through the Commons?

  • slug

    The designation system was designed to avoid abuses of the Catholic community.

    As such it suggests there are two groups of politicians, those that represent Catholics and those that represent Protestants.

    It and gives the impression that a designated “unionist” politician is there for the ethnic interests of the unionist people.

    A true Unionist should be about looking after the interests of all the people, diverse in their ethnic and cultural types.

    Also there is a better way to work the assembly votes to protect minorities, namely weighted majority, as the Conservative Manifesto pointed out. This avoids designation and therefore avoids the idea that a given politician is there for people from one community and not all her constituents.

  • Bushmills

    Yeah, a union part of which the English did not understand and did not empathise with, in fact did not care about.

    Surely that’s a failing of the unionist people as a whole?

  • Crataegus

    Julian

    Basically the concept of the UUP has ceased to have any true validity and it simply can’t introduce the type of change that would be necessary to move forward. It is a pointless waste of time in its current form and has detached itself from any potential governance in the UK. It really is a strange position for people who claim to be Unionists to take.

    Lib21016

    From a republican viewpoint this looks like yet another attempt to put an acceptable face on unionism

    I am not a great supporter of mixing religion with politics so for me Unionism switching to Conservatism would amount to a massive move forward by Unionists. It is regrettable that there is no apparent thawing of the Labour Parties position to contesting elections here. If that happened we could be in an entirely different game.

    After all SF organises North and South so it would seem natural enough to me for Unionists to seek UK based affiliations.

  • slug

    Crat

    Do you think Labours position is sustainable? I don’t. Basically their local members will continue to take them to court until they’re treated like everyone else in the UK. Anti-discrimination legislation is great – innit!

  • Upper Falls

    “I’m having enough trouble with Bushmills without starting another row!!”

    Sorry that you have to learn the hard way conservatives are out-numbered by true Unionists.

  • Upper Falls

    julie,

    please alude further to the stories about esmond birnie we are all eager to here when he is “coming out” as a tory.

  • Darth

    were we ever “New Unionists”?

    I remember The New Union from my Manchester days but I suspect that’s not quite what you were suggesting!

  • Crataegus

    Slug

    I hope you are right

  • Bushmills

    I’m back. So Julian, the Unionist people “as a whole” should take responsibility for the fascistic actions of the Tory Party, who negotiated behind their back a deal with Dublin without their consent?

    Some party. Some Unionist.

  • Elvis Parker

    Bushmills:
    “I’m back. So Julian, the Unionist people “as a whole” should take responsibility for the fascistic actions of the Tory Party, who negotiated behind their back a deal with Dublin without their consent?

    Some party. Some Unionist”

    Essentially Bushmills you are actually anti British?

    What is your solution – you have got one so you bark at others and the moon!

  • páid

    Bob Wilson..

    “Seems to me we are beginning to miss the central point here.
    How are politics in NI to develop? Are we to remain rooted in sectarianism for ever?”

    Bob, the answer to your questions is in your question. (They can’t. Until the constitutional question is resolved.). NI is a sectarian state. Designed and built.

    So perhaps you yourself are missing the central point. Just as you missed Steve Heighway’s centre.

  • Crataegus

    Pid

    They can’t. Until the constitutional question is resolved.). NI is a sectarian state

    Generally this means they can’t until you all agree to a united Ireland, but is that not also potentially a dead end so Bob Wilson’s question has still salience. How do we make progress, what can we agree on without onerous preconditions?

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Darth

    were we ever “New Unionists”?

    I remember The New Union from my Manchester days but I suspect that’s not quite what you were suggesting!”

    pakman, not enough to be a Notting Hill style David Cameron dress alike, you now pander to the lowest excesses of the useless Tories- as distinct from the perfectly acceptable excesses of the old Conservatives. Shame on you. You know that I am the founder of the Continuity Unionist Party incorporating the Institutie of Anarcho-presbyterianism.And your membership is hereby revoked. :0)

  • Bushmills

    darth

    Excellent!

  • Mick Fealty

    For those wondering about Alex Kane’s position, he makes it abundantly clear in his column in tomorrow’s Newsletter!

  • Mick

    talk about a teaser! Any clues?

  • Pete Baker

    Well, assuming that the comment at time was from Alex, and not an impersonation, he’s previously said on Slugger that he’d not be getting involved with any other party if he was to leave the UUP.

  • Bushmills

    I would be amazed if Kane left the UUP. Like most of the rest of them, he’s whinged, hand-wrung and gurned but done sweet F-A about Empey’s shoddy leadership.

  • Elvis Parker

    pid
    ‘Until the constitutional question is resolved’
    It is we are staying in the Union indefintely!
    You are free to whinge on about a UI as much as you like.
    The rest of us are allowed to move on without you

  • paid

    Calm down there Elvis.

    Never said anything about a UI for the simple reason I don’t believe it’s gonna happen any time soon, if ever.

    Not afraid a bit, are you, by any chance?

    indefinitely is a big word, by the way.

    Crat,
    agree. My early post back at 15 shows that I think the Tories have a bigger future in NI.
    And as we stop killing each other, identities will be allowed to re-position.

  • lib2016

    Something tells me that this is not even the beginnings of a serious debate. Do none of you see the contortions Cameron has had to go through to cleanse his party from the stain of Thatcherism?

    And you guys think that Catholics are going to forget a century of playing the Orange Card because it would be sectarian to mention it let alone apologise for it when even Trimble managed his ghostwritten sentence about a cold house? Anne Widdicombe is going to have to make one helluva speech.

  • Elvis Parker

    lib2016
    All around you are young people – Catholic and Protestant growing up without your sad preoccupations

  • Bushmills

    Lib

    The “stain of Thatcherism”? – oh aye turning the United Kingdom from an economic basket case into a thriving world-rate power.

    Shame on you Maggie.

    Good G-d you’d expect better from a Students Union Debating Society.

  • lib2016

    All around me are young nationalists who have become very interested in thirty-two county politics. My point is that this initative is not going to attract them so it must mean that the unionists are once again emphasising their Irishness by splitting….it does sometimes seem to be their one political trick.

  • “their one political trick” as opposed to non stop aggitation for Anschluss?

  • Hmmmm so the NI Tories are on a revival, shame about the Party overall… losing 6,295 members in only 9 Months. Well at least James Leslie has solved that, now they’ve only lost 6,294.

  • Crataegus

    paid

    And as we stop killing each other, identities will be allowed to re-position.

    I hope you are right on that.

  • FYU

    I don’t think an Ulster Unionist should be posting about a dwindling party membership!

  • páid

    Crat,

    so do I.

    reasons to be cheerful?

    The basic stock of NI, or Ulster is very similar on a global scale. Religious differences are declining daily, as are old disputes about land ownership. It’s a natural law of the universe that things tend to get mixed up and in 100 years time I doubt if 1000 people will have a 100% planter or gael pedigree.
    What forces people into polarised positions is violence, and threats of it. 20 years ago Iran attacked Iraq, and Sunni and Shia Iraqi fought shoulder to shoulder to repel them. Now look at them. It’s the same with us.

    But time isn’t neutral. Tonight in bars and clubs in Belfast and Lurgan and Dungannon, taig fancied prod and vice versa. People with awful personal memories of sectarian violence will die this next week in NI and none will be born.

    So I’m hopeful. United Ireland? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s see. But no-one dies OK.