It’s about policy, Sir Reg

Former UUP MP and member Willie Ross has criticised the latest review into UUP structures arguing it is new and distinct policies that are needed. He believes the focus on internal structures and rules will do little to attract back old or get new voters.

All the rule changes in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference. The ordinary voter doesn’t understand that, doesn’t care about that. All that they are interested in is what is this party going to do for me, for my community, for my constitutional position?

While the internal changes grabbed the headlines, Sir Reg’s address included more than that and outlined the future direction of the party:

Yet changing our rules and structures is only one part of the hard-thinking that must now take place within Ulster Unionism. We also need to generate and promote an ongoing vision from this Party…We must work with other parties of the centre to offer an alternative to the Sinn Fein/DUP axis;

  • Ross-

    “All the rule changes in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference. The ordinary voter doesn’t understand that, doesn’t care about that. All that they are interested in is what is this party going to do for me, for my community, for my constitutional position?”

    The point is, of course, that a party cannot effectively start addressing issues such as policies and organisation on the ground until it gets its own house in order. A well-run and organisationally tight party which knows who is doing what and where it is going is bound to be better than a random hotchpotch of people working towards different ends.

  • mchinadog

    Willie is right reviews of reviews will not put the UU party right. No number of rule changes in the UU will make it ever again an electable party. The electorate have seen them as a spent force in politics. Instead of joining against other Unionists with the SDLP who are trying to out green Sinn Fein or the Alliance who don’t really know what they are , why do they not join with other Unionists to secure all the gains made by the DUP to secure the Unionist majority at Stormont for the foreseeable future.

  • hotdogx

    When FF organises in the north and sdlp becomes FF the UU will be the only party not going anywhere. I dont think we have very long to wait

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    All the rule changes in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference. The ordinary voter doesn’t understand that, doesn’t care about that. All that they are interested in is what is this party going to do for me, for my community, for my constitutional position?

    But the number 1 target of the reforms is the party, not the electorate. If the party can finally move with the times, structurally wise, it becomes a much clearer and effective organisation. This is when the electorate will benefit from the reforms, for the party will become much more functional.

    David Campbell put it well yesterday;

    The UUC was set up 102 years ago to act as a movement; we are now a political party.

  • DC

    I really don’t think there is much left in the UUP both in terms of resources and vision in the context of a rigid constitutional position.

  • who loves the sdlp?

    “When FF organises in the north and sdlp becomes FF the UU will be the only party not going anywhere. I dont think we have very long to wait”

    Why is SDLP into FF automatic? Does the Irish Labour Party have no interest in Gerry Fitt’s old party. Do the teachers and social conservatives of the modern SDLP not have a bit more in common with Enda’s Fine Gael. Are FG too embarrassed by the border they endorsed to come north?

  • Elvis parker

    FYU:
    “David Campbell put it well yesterday;

    The UUC was set up 102 years ago to act as a movement; we are now a political party”

    Yes you became a politcal party but that doesnt explain how you continue to have any relevance as one!

  • Roger

    FYU

    Its a long time since we have spoken on Slugger, I hope all is well with you. I note that you are still trying to defend the UUP, why don’t you run in the next local elections?

  • Smithsonian

    Elvis Parker
    Because over 100,000 people vote UUP at the last election and many of those that voted DUP did so only because they worried about who would be first minister. It doesn’t appear to make much difference now.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Yes you became a politcal party but that doesnt explain how you continue to have any relevance as one!

    Erm as Smithsonian pointed out the party still achieved over 100,000 votes. I think now were getting to the stage that anyone whose going to leave us will already have. The 2001, 2003 & 2005 elections saw much of the base disappearing, now however I think we are left with the party loyalists, who it will take a bit more than the ‘scary’ words of the Papa Doc to be duped. Now if you actually look at the March results you get the picture that very few UU voters moved to the DUP, yea the Unionist party went down 20 thousand, the Dupes went down nearly 35 thousand, granted UKUP gathered up around 10 of them but the rest were wasted… point being the UUP->DUP shift didn’t happen in March.

    Now the relevance is the fact the party is the 3rd largest grouping in Stormont, will have 2 ministers, has over 110 councillors across NI and crucially it is an alternative to the many Unionists who wouldn’t feel comfortable within the DUP.

    The Unionist party now has got to make sure McGimpsey makes a damn good job of the Health portfolio! The party needs reformed, which it finally got permission to do so on Saturday, it’s got to review it candidates and continually access it’s messages. And finally the Unionist party has to find a way of getting them garden centres prods back into the polling booths! The Unionist/Nationalist difference in the last election was just over 40,000 which is just laughable when you consider how many it could have been.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Its a long time since we have spoken on Slugger, I hope all is well with you. I note that you are still trying to defend the UUP, why don’t you run in the next local elections?

    Roger, it has indeed! April/May 2005, good times. Yups still take a floating interest in the oul Unionist Party now, haven’t been duped just yet 😉 For some reason now I doubt I’ll be doing anything too drastic next time! So how is all with yourself?

  • darth rumsfeld

    The problem is , what is the policy difference? Who is -for shorthand purposes- “Left” and who is “right”, and in what compass?

    Reg “loyalists” (..er not PUP ones that is) include McNasty-always keen to parade his Orange and devolutionist credentials, and thus presumed to be hardline,Danny Kennedy and Tom Elliot- the rural pin ups, his mate the Gimp,- and apparently the wrinklies like Joan Carson (clearly building for the future with her reeelction there lads.

    Reg opponents are apparently Sylvia/Tank Commander groupies, and some of the young Unionists.But there seems to be no defining issue of split as there used to be Integrationist v devolutionist, pro-GFA versus anti GFA, or defining group of split- as there was a degree of generational antipathy towards Molyneaux from younger members.

    The problem was encapsulated by Michael Copeland bizarre spacefiller of an interview on GMU this morning- in essence he chirped that they had unanimously decided to change everything- though they hadn’t actually decided how to change, and what to change to. But they were going to change it soon!

    Of course you can reorganise the troops so that they are better drilled, fitter, and maybe better shots. But if you have no tactics or strategies, and only the vaguest platitudes as objectives then the troops wlll still be marching around in circles.

    Francis Fukuyama famously wrote “The End of History” contending the world’s political debate had run its course .We have reached the end of Unionism in the sense that everyone in elected office- bar one lonely MEP- supports a settlement that would have been anathema to Terence O’Neill’s generation and would have had Carson call out the UVF ( no Reg, not that one). Yet no alternative has emerged- Bob and Co’s understandable antipathy was never enough to answer the plaintive excuses of the DUP ” But what’s the alternative”. There is no intelligent debate on the future of the Union- astonishing given that it is the main issue in a part of the country 15 miles away from us.Sadly we can only fall back on the work Trimble did east-west, which has never been broadened or deepened by any Unionist since

    The new struggle is now for headlines for ministers and attention grabbing stunts- like Gregory Campbell’s free senior travel passes or de Brun’s maternity hospital allocation.Which, of course is pure parish pump politics, and means a constant tugging between ministers to increase or diminish the irish dimension. Micro-Unionism is to be the order of the day. If Plug or Arlene has insufficient funding for Irish street signs, it will be hailed a great victory. Yet the macro-templates are all fixed on joint authority.

    The UUP could have redicovered part of its soul if it had gone into opposition. But that would have been at the price of the carrers of Reg and his generation. No contest then

  • darthfan

    “Reg opponents are apparently Sylvia/Tank Commander groupies, and some of the young Unionists”

    Really? Which Young Unionists?

  • We must work with other parties of the centre to offer an alternative to the Sinn Fein/DUP axis

    Actions speak louder than words, Reggie m’boy.

    I think now were getting to the stage that anyone whose going to leave us will already have

    And your evidence for this is?

    point being the UUP->DUP shift didn’t happen in March

    No, you got the lowest share of the vote in your storied 102 year history because… er, because, um… because a bad boy from the next street ran up to the electorate and made them do it. Yes, that’s it. Nothing to with the most significant shift in Unionist voting behaviour in a century. Nothing at all.

    will have 2 ministers

    Which may be your biggest mistake.

    Darth, as so often hits many nails on the head in his analysis, but has no solutions and exiles himself in the political wilderness. Such a waste of talent!

    Why is SDLP into FF automatic?

    Why is the assumption that FF will be an effective vehicle for non-SF nationalism automatic? A catch all party trying to operate in an area where they have no roots, no connection with the electorate, no base and few people who know or care what they’re about? I can see why this appeals to Shinners. They’d walk all over their sorry backsides.

    If FF got more than 5,000 votes in Belfast, for a start, I’d be amazed. Still, if people want FF to eat up the SDLP, bring it on, I say.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Reg opponents are apparently Sylvia/Tank Commander groupies, and some of the young Unionists

    Yea, really which ones?!?

    And your evidence for this is?

    Erm, the last election. Come on I thought you were the person who pretended to know something about results…

    No, you got the lowest share of the vote in your storied 102 year history because… er, because, um… because a bad boy from the next street ran up to the electorate and made them do it. Yes, that’s it. Nothing to with the most significant shift in Unionist voting behaviour in a century. Nothing at all.

    You see you’re at it again, I said in March. What’s the phrase– if you have to nothing to new say, say nothing?

    Which may be your biggest mistake.

    So you’re saying had the APNI a chance they would have declined a ministry?

  • Snaz

    D.R.
    In terms of relevance, I do not understand how you could possibly think that “going into opposition” could have more political relevance than handling 55% of the Public Purse.

    Interestingly the departmental breakdowns are as follows (someone has no danglers!!)

    UUP 2 Ministries – 55%
    Sinn Fein 3 Ministries 30%
    DUP 4 Ministries 9%
    SDLP 1 Minister 6%

    In terms of structure v the people all that has been said is correct but I do not think you are grasping the type of root and branch reform I believe we are going to change.

    Yes of course having 200+ branches, 40 Divisions, 18 Constituency Associations, Young Unionist Council, Womens Unionist Council, Unionist Councillors Association, UUC (760), Executive (130) and 15 Party Officers does not lend itself to a people facing lean/mean electoral machine and putting that right will not matter a jot to anyone outside of the party, but ……

    Making sure ever MLA operates a proper Advice Centre, staffed professionally, with agreed minimum service level agreements, (preferably staffed by young/potential Councillors)

    Making sure that the selection RULES demand a level of representation from women and Younger Candidates (not a polite request which can/has been largly ignored)

    Giving the party leader the ability to look at the talent at the partys disposal and place he/she into winnable seats (as all other partys can/do do)

    Making the massive resources the party has (skint? I wish I was a few million behind the combined assetts of the UUP) work for THE CONSTITUENCIES to improve our service to the community in general (not lying in Bank accounts of local trustees) or even worse financing the parties HQ.

    So Bloggers, if we get this right the UUP will be seen to be representitive of the whole community, younger, better gender balanced and placed to start getting Unionists lost votes back as well as hopefully persuading some who went to the DUP to “come home”.

    Of course all of these final outcomes will take time and anyone who expects a quick fix is living in cloud cuckoo land.

    What we must do is create the changes (A few of my ideas are as above) ASAP to give the earliest possible chance for NEW UUP to emerge publically,

  • Elvis Parker

    Mmmm Snaz notice no mention of Westminster so firmly fixed on a separatist agenda.
    Are you just one of those anti British unionists who couldnt actual place themselves on a right/left spectrum

    FYU
    ‘I think now were getting to the stage that anyone whose going to leave us will already have.’
    Apart from the large number who will die in the next few years!

  • Erm, the last election.

    …in which you got the lowest vote share in your history.

    God almighty!

  • Sums, sums, sums

    So, Snaz, by your reckoning Patricia Hewitt’s more important than Gordon Brown? After all *her* department’s budget dwarfs *his*. What’s that? Oh yeah – if you’re measuring this by money the man who’s got finance has, well, let’s put it this way, a bigger pair then Reg.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Darth, that sounds awfully like an admission that you were wrong……

  • oops

    sums, sums, sums,

    Good point well made! There’s also the nasty inconvenience for Snaz that Finance aside (may not have big Departmental budget but its hardly a ‘minor’ Department), the other three Departments taken by the DUP (by a quirk of whatever fate) are the three held by the UUP in the previous executive.

    What was that about danglers again?

  • darth rumsfeld

    mr Shilliday
    I was wrong- I posted that Arsenal(now by Royal appointment) would win the Premiership. But not, I fear about Unionism.

    Party officer snaz will try to deliver all the points in his post, but 100% success will still make his party as relevant as..er 18 Ciaran Deenys. No vision, no policies- just work joint authority with an eye to the pork barrel- DUP lite in fact Amalgamate with the Tories if you want a new dimension. Elvis has you plum LBW

    BTW I remember someone called..er Reg… telling me the amount of the SF budget share (over 60%)didn’t matter when I raised it with him. All of a sudden it’s a great victory.

  • Inspector Clouseau

    Darth,

    Agree with Sammy, your one bloody great waste of talent!

  • Roger

    Hi FYU

    It was indeed April/May 2005. I have become completely disillusioned with Unionism it seems that the DUP were not interested in maintaining the Union and preventing Sinn Fein/IRA from getting into government. Having said that I’m pretty much opposed to all that the UUP stands for as well. I admire you for sticking by the UUP though I think someone like you would be a good addition to the UUP.

    I hope all is well down at the border. Cya later.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FYU: “But the number 1 target of the reforms is the party, not the electorate. If the party can finally move with the times, structurally wise, it becomes a much clearer and effective organisation. This is when the electorate will benefit from the reforms, for the party will become much more functional. ”

    The problem, however, is that whilst the party leadership is busy naval-gazing and rearranging the deck-chairs, the party is sinking and breaking up. In short, will there be any “indians” left once the chiefs finish their pow-wow?

  • John East Belfast

    I think the Party is taking the opportunity to push through reforms which it can only do in a crisis like this.
    That can be no bad thing so long as we get it right.

    Our two thirds majority of the UUC often led to a “turkeys voting for Christmas” scenario.
    As a result the last time we changed the Rules it took something like 10 years to bring them to Council and the agonising questions and delays that were used by anti Agreement unionists within the Party at the time meant we ended up with a 27 page fudge. Basically we were all so bored to death with the process that we would have signed anything.

    However under the current circumstances the Party will be able to push through almost anything – therefore now is the time to do it.

    This gives the appearance of an emphasis on structure which if it wasnt for the above would be concerning.

    There is no doubt Mission, Vision and Policy plus articulate voices to deliver them is what we really need.

    I was struck on Saturday by the ‘talent’ that remains there.

    I know our detractors like to kick us – and why not – but the Ulster Unionist family continues to contain the brains and money that a new UUP needs to mobilise and channel.

    In addition there continues to be a huge group of supporters within the NI unionist business community ( I know many personally)who cannot abide Paisleyism and remain sympathetic to the UUP cause.

    We need to define what it means to be a 21st century Northern Irish unionist and then work out the policies that will continue to make NI prosper – as both objectives remain synonomous. That will always be a problem for Irish Nationalism

    BTW Snaz and Michael – keep up the good fight – you both got my vote.

  • IJP

    So you’re saying had the APNI a chance they would have declined a ministry?

    I was one of many advising the party to decline a ministry, and I got the impression that’s exactly what it would have done.

    The electorate’s choice is not Unionism or Nationalism (that’s long decided), it’s segregation or integration. You’re with the segregationists in Government. We’re with the Integrationists in Opposition.

    There’s a danger of real politics breaking out!

  • Smithsonian

    IJP
    Politics may well break out, but the Alliance won’t be a factor in it. Now that the DUP and SF have reached their concordat the rational for the Alliance party seems to be diminishing.

    Already insignificant in electoral terms, the Alliance will become increasingly irrelevant as the DUP/SF partnership develops. A lack of candidates with any political profile, coupled with the loss of the one big idea will hasten the demise.

  • So, ‘real politics’ consists of the DUP and SF carving up the pie in private and the voters just turn out and affirm it all in regular plebiscites of loyalty?

    And everybody’s just going to buy into this?

    Can’t see it myself.

  • kensei

    “Why is the assumption that FF will be an effective vehicle for non-SF nationalism automatic?”

    Brand recognition, 32 county dimension, experience at developing proper policy and experience in government, professionalism – wouldn’t make idiot errors like running 3 candidates when they could only win one seat. Etc.

    “A catch all party trying to operate in an area where they have no roots, no connection with the electorate, no base and few people who know or care what they’re about? I can see why this appeals to Shinners. They’d walk all over their sorry backsides.”

    Which would be true if they set up independently
    but not necessarily if they merged with the SDLP.
    If they avoided major splits they would avoid most of the problems you mention. I think another All-Ireland party would be a positive thing and maybe produce new ideas to move Nationalism forward. I think that would be why most Nationalists like the idea.

  • Smithsonian

    Sammy Morse
    There are none so blind as those that do not wish to see.

    The Assembly as currently constituted (following St. Andrews) does not reward, support or encourage those who wish to designate as something other than Unionist or Nationalist, nor is there any encouragement for those considering opposition.

    If politics is about power and influence, this is to be found in ministerial positions and the chairmen of committees. These are firmly controlled by the big two.

    It is a profoundly sectarian (in the strictest sense of the word) forum, but this is what the people voted for.

    There is no political incentive to persuade the big parties to change the rules. Why would they and why would people change their vote to Alliance when other parties are more in tune with their cultural identity?

  • Brand recognition, 32 county dimension, experience at developing proper policy and experience in government, professionalism – wouldn’t make idiot errors like running 3 candidates when they could only win one seat.

    They have no brand recognition in the North. They are certainly a polished political outfit but also one that repeatedly over-nominates because of internal difficulties. 32-county dimension? Er, no, I think you mean 26-county dimension, which is something totally different.

    And as for them inheriting the SDLP’s organisation – a: what’s so good about that anyway?; and, b: a lot of SDLP people would have nothing to do with them. A lot would just drop out of politics altogether. It’s not like the SDLP’s activist base is that strong anyway.

    I just don’t see it Kensei and there’s only one way I’m going to be proven wrong! 😉

    Why would they and why would people change their vote to Alliance when other parties are more in tune with their cultural identity?

    So everyone feels happy with the DUP and SF representing them? Why did 44% of voters vote for other parties then?

  • Inspector Clouseau

    “In addition there continues to be a huge group of supporters within the NI unionist business community ( I know many personally)who cannot abide Paisleyism and remain sympathetic to the UUP cause.” JEB

    This is changing and will continue to do so for couple of reasons (1) There is an expectation that DUP ministers will do a good job in important departments impacting on buisness(2) The DUP have been presenting coherent buisness policies for years and the UUP have not. Considering the much talked about party reforms it is unlikely the UUP will be forming adn presenting any real policies for years, even if the reform process leads to a “born again UUP” which is also highly unlikely.

    By the way I also know business people who DO support the DUP, some of them whose fathers were UUP members for years. A DUP MLA also informs me he has had calls from buisness people encouraging him to support the DUP policy of going into goverment.

    There are some within the UUP that still cannot believe that “decent people” are voting DUP because they want to.

  • Smithsonian

    Inspector Clouseau
    Business is about making decisions and taking them early. Something that historically, the DUP have been reluctant to do.

    The DUPs emphasis on “getting it right” as opposed to “going for it” may be fine in the surreal world of the public sector but it won’t cut it in the private sector.

    There are major challenges facing Northern Ireland. The DUP have an opportunity (but only that) to show the business community what they can do. The jury is out.

    Sammy Morse
    If I remember correctly Alliance brands everybody else as sectarian. That is the DUP, UUP, SDLP and SF, so the Alliance grouping based on an anti sectarian premise accounts for about 5% of the electorate that actually vote. Everybody else is just tribal.

  • darth rumsfeld

    ….following on from the inspector the people John EB clings to for recovery are the people who don’t vote, don’t join political parties, whinge about those who do both- precisely the sort of people who Trimble courted assiduously and was snubbed. If they won’t get up off their well-padded arses for a Nobel laureate respected on the mainland and beyond, what hope has Reg got?

    These people deserve to be in a 32 county socialist republic with Gerry Kelly as head of the Stasi-they wouldn’t cross the road unless there was money in it for them. And still the UUP puts all its eggs in this basket!!!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    JEB: “I think the Party is taking the opportunity to push through reforms which it can only do in a crisis like this. That can be no bad thing so long as we get it right.”

    Obviously it can be a bad thing, either if he takes too long or chooses equally unattractive policies. There is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip…

    JEB: ” There is no doubt Mission, Vision and Policy plus articulate voices to deliver them is what we really need. ”

    Won’t really make a difference, what with that bloodless mannikin as a party spokesman. While you’re at it, see if Santa will bring the UUP a pony.

    JEB: “I know our detractors like to kick us – and why not – but the Ulster Unionist family continues to contain the brains and money that a new UUP needs to mobilise and channel. ”

    Lacking numbers, tho… and seemingly utterly neutered.

    JEB: “In addition there continues to be a huge group of supporters within the NI unionist business community ( I know many personally)who cannot abide Paisleyism and remain sympathetic to the UUP cause. ”

    Ah, but do they vote? There lies the rub. Can ye drag them out of the garden center? Better yet, move the polling stations to the garden centers… you’d have better luck.

  • Inspector Clouseau

    Is it the buisness people that are presumed to be unionist that are staying at home from the polling stations?

    Does anyone have reliable statistics on the profiles of these non-voters?

    I’m inclined to think it’s the public sector types that couldn’t care less about keeping the Unionist end up.

    Veering back to Willie Rosse’s comments, he doesn’t say much about the policies that he thinks could resurrect the UUP.

  • Snaz

    As always the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    Firstly, the UUP does not have a policy problem (see the vast majority of the DUPs “new” policies) it has a problem with some of the unrepresentitive people delivering them and the presentation of them to the people. All parties will now have to radically alter their future manifesto pledges as in real politics the lack of costed, detailed policies will simply not wash. This will hopefully require a lot of new blood into the political arena that felt that the Constitional arena was not stimulating or important enough.

    The Alliance party leader ran the most “tribal” campaign I have ever heard off. Very effective and I think smart but you cannot say, “nice middle class semi pro British inoffensive Mr Ford or Horrible Catholic/fenian/Republican/Provo Mr McLaughlin – YOU, UNIONIST PROTESTANT VOTERS OF SOUTH ANTRIM DECIDE and then say “Tribal Politics Does not work” It does, it has and it did to get Mr Ford elected. (And it is set to be repeated where ever people think there is a chance of a Sinn Fein break through in a mainly Unionist constituency.

    In terms of the DUP in business. I have said on several blogs there are many reasonably middle of the road Unionists in the DUP who would be equally at home in the UUP. They are completly acceptable to any rational person because they are rational ok people themselves. I work with many in my Council that I am proud to do so. They are dead on, have a drink, love football, care for Northern Ireland and respect others opinions.

    HOWEVER……. There is still that wing of the OLD DUP that does not want a Catholic about the place, promotes fear of diversity as opposed to celebrating it, and tries to tell all the rest of us how to live our lives. They are not acceptable to a lot of Unionists and an even greater number of Pro Union business people because their views are distictintly Un British. They are the direct output of a small extremist Church.

    In terms of the UUP/DUP in the first Assembly not taking Health or Education I think it was dereliction of duty by both parties not to do so.(and told Lord Trimble so when considering his first pick for the second Assembly) The UUP didnt because they had first pick and thought that there was no way the DUP would let the shinners run the country.(because if you have Health and Education in terms of what is devolved you are nearly running the country). The DUP didnt because they wanted the political embarassement to Trimble of LETTING the shinners run the country. A really good case of what still worries me about significants elements of the DUP leadership, Destroying the UUP appears more important than doing the best for Unionism, our wee country and its people.

    DR makes an excellent point about not setting out your stall JUST to attract the stay at homers. The problem for Unionism as a whole is that we (Both Unionist parties) must connect with a significant section of this part of the potential voter base because if we dont Unionism will continue to suffer the losses that it sustained last month.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Facts to ponder

    In many areas of the East all people are post-partitionist. Garden centre Prods never see the workings of a Sinn Fein council; along with them,upwardly mobile Catholics want holiday homes in Donegal and don’t want water charges; almost everyone shares the British middle class cynicism or contempt for our useless geriatric politicians (still a substantial proportion of the class).

    They are regionally British in almost every way- if disposed to vote at all,they want an excuse to vote Tory or Lib Dem, or Nu-labour circa 1997. But they’re at ease with going down to Dublin for a weekend’s shopping in Brown Thomas. Paisley, Adams etc embarass them as they are painted as backward by association.

    Sinn fein are better placed to poach the RC middle class that the UUP occasionally hankers after, since they appeal to people who grew up working class in West Belfast and now play golf and live in Carryduff – importantly they still feel their working class roots and empathise with the community they have left behind- any slight, real or imagined switches on the MOPE gene in them too.
    How will the UUP – or any new party ( and the UUP is seeking to rebrand as a new party after all)attract them with its track record?
    The UUP-if it succeeds-will be more like the PDs or SDP at their respective foundations than cameron’s pretend tories. Their new voters will have no stickability, unlike the glum Free Ps who beavered away for thirty years of irrelevance in the hope of an eternal reward.

    Noone seems to have ever done research as to the age range of party voters on the Unionist side. We know young nationalists vote SF partly because they don’t remember Gerry Kelly the Maze escaper, or he has the whiff of illicit glamour that smoking a joint has. UUP voters are stolid, middle class, rural, unimaginative types- and are dying off faster than any other group. Revolutionaries they’re not.

    That’s the flaw in Ross’s otherwise accurate point- he’s the authentic voice of that group, but he belongs to a diminishing group. But it’s still stronger in areas where there’s a strong SF vote because they see what SF can do.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DR: “In many areas of the East all people are post-partitionist. Garden centre Prods never see the workings of a Sinn Fein council; along with them,upwardly mobile Catholics want holiday homes in Donegal and don’t want water charges; almost everyone shares the British middle class cynicism or contempt for our useless geriatric politicians (still a substantial proportion of the class). They are regionally British in almost every way- if disposed to vote at all,they want an excuse to vote Tory or Lib Dem, or Nu-labour circa 1997. But they’re at ease with going down to Dublin for a weekend’s shopping in Brown Thomas. Paisley, Adams etc embarass them as they are painted as backward by association. ”

    In short, there is potentially fertile common ground on those “nuts and bolts” issues that impact everyone, as opposed to the issue of the “nuts and dolts” in charge of the local political organizations…

    DR: “Sinn fein are better placed to poach the RC middle class that the UUP occasionally hankers after, since they appeal to people who grew up working class in West Belfast and now play golf and live in Carryduff – importantly they still feel their working class roots and empathise with the community they have left behind- any slight, real or imagined switches on the MOPE gene in them too.”

    There may be more (or less) hope than you think, Darth. There is a fair to middlin’ chance that its not the MOPE gene kicking in as much as it is guilt over success — they are turning into the very sort of folks they scoffed at in their youth and migrate between denial and depression over that little fact.

    DR: “Noone seems to have ever done research as to the age range of party voters on the Unionist side. We know young nationalists vote SF partly because they don’t remember Gerry Kelly the Maze escaper, or he has the whiff of illicit glamour that smoking a joint has. UUP voters are stolid, middle class, rural, unimaginative types- and are dying off faster than any other group. Revolutionaries they’re not.

    That’s the flaw in Ross’s otherwise accurate point- he’s the authentic voice of that group, but he belongs to a diminishing group. But it’s still stronger in areas where there’s a strong SF vote because they see what SF can do. ”

    In other words, the one’s who vote are the ones with something to lose — by inference, I take it that there are UUP profile voters who do not vote / are collectively weak because they are isolated from SF and, as a result, they are content with whomever wins — if there isn’t anything at stake, there is no impetus to go to the polls.

    Mayhap that is why, in a sense, the Rev. Dr. No has lightened up — in a very real manner, he *needs* SF.

  • darth rumsfeld

    interesting dread-
    I think you’re right, that people vote because they fear they have something to lose.Unionism is predicated on preserving the status quo, even when the status quo changes quite significantly. Hence the focus on protecting symbols distracting them from the bigger picture- and the ease with which SF can poke them into a rage by trying to establish a new iconography of its own is always useful to fool their supporters that they’re still tough.

    SF’s achievement in managing to activate the “underclass” is quite astonishing however.
    They have nothing to lose, but perhaps have been fed false expectations of the gains- there are only so many cottages in Donegal to share out after all.

    The UUP’s problem is chronic misidentification of its base- snaz and co really really want it to be the business types who tell him they despise Paisley. But actually the UUP base is a farmer from the west who’s in the Orange and late middle age-i.e. Willie Ross.

    And when Willie Ross and his like leaves the party he once told a meeting he had been a member of for one hundred and ten years (membership passed down through four generations like an heirloom)you’re in trouble. Where are the working class Tories who made them a majority in Scotland only fifty years ago? Or in Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool? Gone, never to return, and nothing to activate the political cells in the brains of the post-Protestant, post-Unionist people from which, inexplicably , the odd snaz escapes.