Unionism: from factionalism to consolidation…

Chris Farrington looks at from the recent changes in Unionist party politics. He suggests underneath the shift from the UUP to DUP there may another deeper shift from “ethno-national to median voter party competition?” He notes that the “Unionist party system is by and large more fragmented that the nationalist party system”, at least since about 1972. There is also a lot more dynamism in the changes. This he argues is not directly to do with the introduction of STV, but internal factionalisation. He also notes that trend has been replaced by one of consolidation in recent years.He argues there may be several reasons for that: primarily that the Belfast Agreement actually takes away a lot of the policy choices facing unionism, and thereby giving less reason to fragment.

In taking some selectiveed readings from the NILT survey, he notes that despite some hardening of unionist opinion in 1999-2000, between then and 2003 there is no further hardening of Unionist opinion.

In effect, Unionist parties no longer compete over ethnic identity. He argues that the Agreement introduced a policy dimension to politics in Northern Ireland. Far from the interpretation in the media that the public has made the decision to plump for the extremes, the extremes have plumped for moderation.

The DUP’s election slogan in 2003: Time for a fair deal hints that even back then they were interested in a ‘fair deal’ and not ‘no deal’.

And there were what may have been decisive ‘push’ and pull factors. Failure to gain decommissioning, and the enforcement of policing changes, argued for a ‘push away’ from the UUP. But also since the Belfast Agreement voters are also now ‘pulled towards’ parties that can offer rational policy choices.

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  • fair_deal

    “The DUP’s election slogan in 2003: Time for a fair deal hints that even back then they were interested in a deal and not no deal.”

    Why did it take this long for that penny to drop?

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris also said, ‘this was a more difficult view to express in 2003 than it is in 2007’.

  • lib2016

    The SDLP knew that Trimble and the UUP couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) deliver on the GFA by 2001. By 2003 the Shinners were openly saying that they and the DUP were up for a deal.

  • Mick Fealty

    Also, it’s mentioned in his book!!

  • He argues that the Agreement introduced a policy dimension to politics in Northern Ireland.

    A tragedy that this was possible or necessary.

  • …some selective readings from the NILT survey…

    Good post Mick, but I’m sure Chris would prefer to think of his readings as selected not selective!

  • Porlock

    Mick;

    Is the Farrington stuff from a book or article?

    Porlock

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry, it’s from a paper he gave this afternoon in Wolverhampton.

  • unionist

    Robinson first used the term a fair deal in 1999 and its been worked into every aspect of DUP policy since. Senior DUP sources at the time were decrying the fact they had walked and indicated then that they wanted to be at the table.

  • Sean

    I think he jumped too soon as uniionism seems to be headed for a schism and perhaps end up with 3 or even 4 parties truing to find traction with their own trucculent bases