Cameron’s appearance worrying Reg?

When Slugger talked to UUP leader Sir Reg Empey on BlogTalkRadio last week, links available here, he had some thoughts on the Labour and Conservative parties joining directly in election battles here and the evolution towards normal politics. But with Conserative leader David Cameron reported to be campaigning today on behalf of former Ulster Unionist junior minister James Leslie in North Down, some more familiar, if depressing, concerns are being voiced by the UUP about the Tories.. are they unionists?.. Adds Thanks to Bob Wilson, the Conservatives NI party’s official responseFrom the Irish Times breaking news

“David Cameron is a slick political operator, but can he answer some fundamentally important questions to the voters of Northern Ireland?” Sir Reg asked.

“There was a time when the Conservative Party on the UK mainland styled itself the ‘Conservative and Unionist party’, but Northern Ireland Conservatives appear to have a problem with the term unionist.

“Their 2003 Assembly manifesto claimed ‘we are a party of the Union’, yet it pledged the following: ‘Any Conservative elected to the Assembly will refuse to play the sectarian headcount and will remain non-designated’.

“In the first instance, we are at a loss to see how anyone could claim to be a party of the Union and yet object to being designated as a unionist,” Sir Reg said.

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  • SCW

    If one follows this non-sectarian headcount line, it makes the Conservative Party as relevant as the Alliance Party – and that’s not saying much!

  • smcgiff

    Strange goings on indeed – My first thought was that the Conservatives don’t want to upset Catholics back in Blighty, but then, IIRC, they are some of the most unionist in the UK.

  • Yokel

    In short, it is worrying him.

  • Yokel

    mcgff

    You are spot on, the Cathloic equals Irish unity idea is not quite accurate in the UK. If people are Tory supporters they tend to be unionist whatever their religion.

    Not all I’m sure, but many. They can see beyond the pure religious headcount. Lesson there about separating the religious apsect from politics as much as possible.

  • middle-class taig

    Reg needs to raise his sights. Leslie will hardly trouble the scorers.

  • Yokel

    MCT

    I’m guessing he fears the 1st preference losses. Chances are if the Tories get more votes this time, many will preference down the card to the UUP (though thats a best guess).

    The problem cpould be that a loss of first preferences may cripple the odd UUP candidate very early.

    Leslie is also more capable than what the Tories have had running before. Will he in a seat? very Unlikely though not totally ridiculous in a Willie Frazer kind of way. Will he do damage? Possibly.

    Reg is muddying the waters to minmise the possible.

  • mnob

    duh ! It’s an assembly election not a border poll. The constitutaional status of NI has been decided. It doesnt matter whether the tories are unionist or not.

  • Can Empey not grasp that for a many there is a difference between “supporter of the Union” and “badgering oneself as part of/supporters of just one community and all the negative connotations that brings with it”?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Only in Northern Ireland do people have to designate themsleves as being Unionist, Nationalist or Other. What that means in real terms is Protestant, Catholic or I refuse to be labelled.

    The Conservatives are a unionist party ( note small ‘u’) in that they believe in the United Kingdom they are not a Protestant or Catholic party and are absolutely right not to allow them selves to be labelled into one of the NI tribes.

    The Conservatives have finally broken away from the UUP and are standing on their own feet in NI,I hope they do well although they may not win a seat this time they are building a foundation for future elections.

    Reg will have to get used to the fact that in time the UUP will disappear as people switch to Conservative and Labour in future elections.

  • Crataegus

    FD

    Reg will have to get used to the fact that in time the UUP will disappear as people switch to Conservative and Labour in future elections.

    I agree there is absolutely no point in the UUP. The Conservatives and Labour would be a better vehicle as they do not have all the baggage of the OO etc. and for the backwoodsmen there is Sammy and the DUP.

  • Yokel

    Or that new centre unionist party brainchild of Peter & Jeffrey………..

  • Hmm.

    I thought Reg knew about politics. As David Cameron said today in North Down, ” We are the strongest supporters of the Union throughout the UK”. We’re Unionists. We’ll say so, if you ask us, Reg.

    Conservatives are working to end sectarian politics, which is why David Cameron wants conservatives to take their place in the Assembly. Conservatives want to talk about things like education, the environment, the moronic rates proposals and the bread-and-butter issues that people encounter every day, and end the existentialist nightmare we’re forced to play out in every election.

    Does the Conservative party cease to exist if it doesn’t play the headcount game? The people of England, Scotland and Wales don’t think so.

  • SCW

    I dont even know why we’re giving the Conservatives the light of day on this thread, they’re useless and a waste of space.

    Cameron is style over substance and Conservatives in Northern Ireland have neither style or substance

  • confused

    I dont even know why we’re giving the Conservatives the light of day on this thread, they’re useless and a waste of space.

    Yes but increasingly likely to be the next Govt

  • Overhere

    Not if you lot get your act together over there confused, Devolved Government remember.

    As for over here I fear you might be right, then Dandy Dave’s true colours will come out. I can but hope that Labour sort themselves out and get back on track.

  • Elvis Parker

    I’m I missing something here? Reg is attacking the man who apparently nine per centage points ahead of Any Labour leader – the man who is likely to be the next Prime Minister.
    When can I sign up to the Cunningham House ‘How to lose friends the Empey way’ course.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    SCW

    And what party might you support in NI that has style and substance?

  • The Conservative Party haven’t been “unionist” in the Northern Ireland context since 9 Nov 1990.
    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/peace/pp8893.htm

    The Conservative and Unionist bit really only means Scotland (as long as the oil and Trident are there at any rate).

  • BonarLaw

    Elvis Parker

    actually he is likely to be the next but one Prime Minister…

  • lib2016

    With Catholicism becoming the mainstream Christian church not just worldwide and here in Ireland as it always has been but also on the adjoining offshore island Cameron has to avoid any appearance of playing the Orange card if he is to have credibility.

    There are simply too many loose cannons in both the unionist parties not least their past leaders, for any prudent Conservative to risk being identified with the UUP, still less the DUP.

  • Shore Road Resident

    That’s really grasping for triumphalist straws. Catholic church attendance versus Anglican church attendance in England, factoring in Eastern European migrant workers, is not going to a factor in British politics. Only sectarian obsessives on this side of the water are watching this numbers with anything other than detached curiosity.

  • Elvis Parker

    Bonar Law
    I’m hoping that Brown will be forgotten quickly 🙂
    Can happn to the best of us – look at you

  • slug

    Dave Cameron has said today the Conservatives would designate unionist in the Assembly, while working to do away with the designation system longer term.

  • Bob Wilson

    Check out:
    http://www.conservativesni.org/
    for the offical position

  • lib2016

    Shore Road Resident,

    I’m an equal opportunity agnostic who would like to do away with all organised religion. The fact is that unionists have not moved to separate themselves from religious fundamentalism where republicans have.

    In the circumstances of 1969 and afterwards there is undoubtedly an whiff of the ‘Defenders’ about the republican movement but they have tried to leave that behind.

    Not least because the man who inspired the Civil Righters from whom the modern republican movement sprang was a Protestant clergyman Martin Luther King.

  • People here are rather missing the point about the visit. This is the first time that a party leader from a national party has come to Northern Ireland to endorse his/her party’s candidates in an election. (I exclude an uachtarán na Shinn Féin, for obvious reasons)

    The Conservatives are the only UK national party fighting in these elections.

    The Conservatives are the only party fighting these elections with a chance of forming a government of any sort any time soon.

    David Cameron made Northern Ireland the first place he visited outside England when he won his leadership, and now he’s back saying ‘vote for my party, my candidates, put trust in my party’.

    The official Unionists were really very silly with this release, since it’s clear how we’ll designate. Reg made an error, fixated against the next but one Prime Minister of the UK, and he is in a world of pain as a result.

    if you want a party of substance, then a party with 198 MP’s might just be the one you’re looking for. if you’re after a representative with no national vision, stick with the yesterday men of the UUP.

  • inuit_goddess

    It certainly was not clear that you would designate unionist – your prior position until today was that you would designate as ‘neither’ – a sitting-on-the-fence attitude.

    Now Reg’s move forced Cameron to clarify – aha! you’re now ‘unionists’ after all. Local party democracy in action – not.

    I think the ‘yesterdays men’ tag is yesterdays message – you just need to look over the UUP’s 38 page detailed manifesto to realise that they are a party determined to restore devolved government, and with a clear idea of where they wish to lead Northern Ireland.

    I look forward to a similarly detailed document from the NI conservatives – something beyond your shallow class warfare on rates and grammar schools.

  • slug

    “This is the first time that a party leader from a national party has come to Northern Ireland to endorse his/her party’s candidates in an election.”

    I think this is wrong as I seem to recall that John Major visited in on of the two General Elections he fought, probably 1997.

  • lib2016

    ‘This is the first time that a party leader….’

    Er – Dev actually went a bit further and stood for election in the North but of course he wuz only one of themmuns!

  • darth rumsfeld

    “This is the first time that a party leader from a national party has come to Northern Ireland to endorse his/her party’s candidates in an election.”

    Nonsense- the Lim Dems have inflicted their leaders on North Down in particular since David Steel’s time; the SDP stood in Upper Bann once and David Owen came over; the Tories have had Macmillan over to a dinner in the Ulster Hall in the 1960s as part of a UUP election fundraiser, as well as Hague for the Conservatives, and possibly IDS-m though noone would have noticed.

    And just because Mr Smarm oozes unctuous platitudes beside his regional sock puppet James Leslie doesn’t mean he gives a toot about the Conservatives here, any more than he cares about them in the Gorbals or Mosside.As a national party he has to cherish each constituency association equally to a minimum standard, but really its Chelsea and Kensington that matters to him

  • BonarLaw

    Elvis Parker

    touche!

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Darth Rumsfield – obviously a Unionist, probably ex UUP currently DUP, who doesn’t like competition, since he took the time to post it seems he takes it seriously.

    Get used to it the Tories are here to stay.

  • darth rumsfeld

    not currently DUP, FD- and if the Tories are here to stay, they seem strangely dependant on ex-UUP members, and confined to the greater Belfast area.

    Where are their associations in Foyle, West Tyrone, Fermanagh, Upper Bann, North Antrim, West Belfast,Newry and Armagh, East Londonderry? Even Alliance has some presence in most of these areas. And even the Gorbals has a Conservative assocation-Sid and Doris McBonkers.

    No- Ulster Tories are either middle class people who have seen through the deadend self-serving politics of Alliance, or integrationists who used to dabble with the UUP in the Molyneaux era.Of course they’re here to stay, just not to make any difference.

  • inuit_goddess,

    How very amusing. Reg could have spoken about his marvellous manifesto instead of having a go at Le Cameron.

    Cameron didn’t decide anything; you may have heard of the infamous conservative party constituency associations? They decide. And frankly

    On designation, I made a release for Conservative future a while ago clearing this up, as any decent researcher would know. Our objection is to the entrenchment of sectarianism inherent in the designation system. We’re conservatives. We find it difficult to be Unionist in our approach to healthcare, to be Unionist in our approach to the environment, to be Unionist in our objection to the destruction of our school system. Wearing a bloody label doesn’t help the process of democracy. Time to take the stabilisers off our pretend democracy.

    There’s bugger all middle class about wanting our kids to be able to go to good schools; we need to develop a secondary system with more confidence in itself, develop curricula which maximise the children’s potential and develop vocational and professional training which end the common stigma of non-academic pupils, as well as reform the selection system.

    Lib2016,

    #

    ’This is the first time that a party leader….’

    Er – Dev actually went a bit further and stood for election in the North but of course he wuz only one of themmuns!

    Nope. Was he a party leader visiting Northern Ireland to show support for another candidate in an election, thereby meeting the terms within I defined my argument?

    Darth Rumsfeld,

    You need to learn to read.

    “Nonsense- the Lim Dems have inflicted their leaders on North Down in particular since David Steel’s time; the SDP stood in Upper Bann once and David Owen came over; the Tories have had Macmillan over to a dinner in the Ulster Hall in the 1960s as part of a UUP election fundraiser, as well as Hague for the Conservatives, and possibly IDS-m though noone would have noticed.”

    This again deviates from the comment I was making. the Lib-dems haven’t stood in Northern Ireland, and the Alliance is not the same party. The SDP was not a national party in the sense that it had representatives in every other part of the UK. The only point that stands up in your argument is the Macmillan one, and only then because of the counting arrangement in Parliament before Harry West went bonkers in 1974. They were by no means the same party, as a quick look at a history of the National Union of Conservative Associations will prove.

    IDS visited, but not during an election. Hague visited outside election time, and visited during the Referendum campaign of 1998. I was the guy askign the awkward question.

    John Major infamously visited to support Jim Kilfedder, before Northern Ireland became a full ‘Area’ of the Conservative party.

    Next time this nonsense is put up on the board, give me a few minutes to sit in my Political Rebutting Chair with a nice cup of Conservative Party Cocoa.

  • Descendant of an inter-war Ulster Tory MP

    Look, kid, it’s really best not to shout your mouth off like this. I can assure you that when my forebear sat in the Commons from an NI constituency, he did so as a Tory, took the Tory whip, was a dutiful member of the Carlton, and his constituency association was a member of the National Union just the same as any mainland Tory one. You’ve really got to rein in the pimply enthusiasm just a bit: before 1972, ‘Ulster Unionist’ was merely the name the UK-wide Tory party took in the province. It did not denote a separate party. 2:2s all round if that’s the level of your historical knowledge.

  • Bob Wilson

    Actually Darth we have members in 16 of the 18 constituencies. Many of them are young folk keen to be active (and yes from both sides of our One community)but we decided to run in half of the eighteen seats this time.
    We will, however, be eager to fight all the seats at the next General election and become the first party to contest the election throughout the entire UK of GB and NI

  • Descendancy again

    Hmmmmn, maybe there should be some sort of admission price before people can enter the internet: http://youtube.com/watch?v=OzM3XcKnbnc

  • Descendancy again

    Bob, you’re a trier, and I admire you for that (I also think that James will be elected). But on pedantic point of fact, you’re wrong: ‘we’ (the Tory party Cameron currently leads) used to contest every seat in all four corners of the kingdom, prior to 1972. Let’s put an end to the anachronistic rewriting of the past which falsely claims that, before 1972 there was a ‘Conservative Party’ in Great Britain, and, an ‘Ulster Unionist Party’ in Northern Ireland, and that these were two different things. Up until 1972, and from partition on, there was one Tory party (in the 1920s, of course, it was more popularly known throughout the entire country [ie all of the post-partition UK] simply as ‘the Unionist Party’), which used a variety of labels in a variety of places. But one party.

  • All those arguing over the history of Conservative/Ulster Unionist relations might want to take a look at a recent journal article that looks indepth at the actual nature of it all:

    Smith, Jeremy “‘Ever Reliable Friends’?: The Conservative Party and Ulster Unionism in the Twentieth Century” in English Historical Review Volume 121, Issue 490, February 2006: pp. 70-103

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Darth

    Maybe just maybe some of them are conservative in ideals and want nothing to do with the sectarian bun fight that passes for politics here.

    Maybe some of them believe in national politics where there is some power to do things.

    Maybe they are ex UUP or SDLP and maybe they have always been conservative.

    I would guess there will be 18 Conservative constituency assocations in the not very far distant future as the membership starts to grow .

  • darth rumsfeld

    Hugo
    David Owen might disagree with you about the SDP. It may not have had Westminster representation in the other parts of the Kingdom, but then this isn’t a Westminster election. And I’m almost sure wee Willie Hague was here for twenty minutes on day one of his “Save the pound” disaster- though I admit to having yawned and probably missed it.But even if you choose to restrict your argument to the narrowest possible scope- say, “first leader to campaign on a Monday wearing a red tie”, so what?

    The present Conservative party worries as much about its NI branches as it does about its Orkney and Shetland association- you’re only going to register on the radar if there’s a scandal and a candidate is- I dunno- discovered in some weird auto-erotic fantasy with an orange and some stockings.If the UUP somehow got back 10 seats and held the balance of power, Dave would apply to join the Westminster Apprentice Boys Club- of course simultaneously enrolling his weans in irish dancing classes to demonstrate inclusivity. Until the NI Cons win a seat at Westminster they won’t ever matter- and that means never.

    Of course there are genuine Tories here FD, but also rather a lot of flotsam and jetsam from the various incarnations of the UUP post-1985.

  • darth rumsfeld

    .. oh, and when I used to be an Ulster Unionist I had the misfortune to be secretary of a Unionist association that had in its minute book an entry when it sent birthday greetings to “our great leader” Winston Churchill on his 80th birthday, and got a nice reply from “their leader”.

    They also sent delegates to the predecessors of the Young Conservatives’ training weekend, where a young whippersnapper called Bill Craig reported back that he was mightily impressed by the contribution of an up and coming wonk called Brigadier Enoch Powell

  • My goodness descendant, I was excluding prehistory. , when of course there was a more solid relationship.

    Were NI constituency associations members of the National Union and attend conference? I ask genuinely.

    Just think it’s strange that the UUC was formed, and the UUWC inter alia…

    Incidentally, you have to rein the needless aggression in a bit, granda.

  • darth rumsfeld

    well Hugh, as recently as the Brighton bombing the UUP sent over a delegation to conference, and I remember Jawn Taylor speaking just after Mrs T in the morning session after the bombing. Taylor still attended the national Union as UUP rep until the Anglo-Irish Agreement brought about the final severing of the link. Your candidate for S belfast, Roger Lomas, will remember the Young Unionists, including Jeffrey Donaldson attending, and voting at FCS conferences as full members by virtue of UYUC membership

  • bob wilson

    Thanks for your (incorrect) politcal and historical musings guys but I guess we all agree that as UUP leader is now attacking the Conservative Party and its leader all links are well and truly dead!
    Let us not forget that the Party is represented in the Commons by The Lady in Red Hermon.
    Descendant your ancestor – who mistakenly thought he was in UUP – would turn in his grave

  • bob wilson

    ‘Were NI constituency associations members of the National Union and attend conference? I ask genuinely. ‘

    No they had a few ex offico places on the national committee. UU members were not entitled to attend

  • joeCanuck

    willie had a good turn of phrase:

    Much Ado about Nothing.

  • OKAY, maybe I didn’t ask all that genuinely.

    Darth, what you meant to say, after reading your lengthy post, was ‘Yes, you’re right Hugo.’

    The UUP sending a delegation is not the same as being members of the same party. FCS was not the same as the party; it was attached, it was disbanded by Tebbit.

    Incidentally, do read Tim Roll-Pickering’s article. He’s a good guy. Brain the size of a planet.