McCrea: UUP must consider going into opposition…

PA is reporting that Basil McCrea is to raise the possibility of the UUP going into Opposition at this weekend’s UUC Meeting and Party Conference. By coincidence, they also have Minister Ritchie speaking tomorrow afternoon on a number of regulatory issues. No doubt the questions and answers will be worth being a fly on the wall for. Just considering the issue might concentrate the generally defensive mindset within the party, and perhaps lead them to confront some issues about where they stand viz a viz their DUP. That is: to the ‘left’ or the ‘right’? More detail as they come in.An early report carries this quoatation from Mr McCrea:

“Yesterday’s budget debate in the Assembly was a sham. The simple fact is when you ask a question in the House of the two largest government parties you simply don’t get an answer. It also cannot be right, as was the case yesterday, that the majority of questions come from the two largest parties in government. The budget and programme for government have set many targets which are at the highest level of optimism and a significant number of them are falling to our ministers – yet the resources are not there to deliver them. Having responsibility without resources is the road to disaster. These are all issues which our party and Sir Reg need to debate this now.”

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  • BonarLaw

    Am I the only one who remembers when UUCs were fun/ relevent? Now who cares? Really, who?

  • fly on the wall

    McCrea says NO to government with unrepentant Lundys!

    This will be the last UUC if Reg has his rules passed. UUP to turn into One Member One Vote. Biggest change in the party’s history decided in one afternoon by the Officers when the issue had not been proposed once during the weeks and months of meetings and consultation.

    My highest expectation/anticipation from the meeting tonight and possibly the conference is for Reg to do the double V for victory sign after his speech. FOUR MORE YEARS!

  • willowfield

    Mick, can I appeal to you and others to desist from this awful American terminology, viz. “Minister Ritchie”. Martina Purdy has a lot to answer for.

    On the subject of the blog, of course the UUP should go into opposition – but they should only do so in partnership with SDLP. Come the next election, the UUP and SDLP should then offer an alternative to a DUP-Provo coalition – that would surely get a few former DUP voters to reconsider?

  • Frank Sinistra

    Willowfield,

    How does that work? Unless they take all the Ministries they’ll be facing coalition with the DUP and SF next time.

    Is the opposition argument, all for opposition and against mandatory coalition unless they are a larger part of a mandatory coalition?

    Seems an ideologically light argument, a bit like having the huffs.

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    Perhaps they could pledge not to sit in an excutive with Sinn Fein/DUP in their manifestos.

    If they won a majority of seats then surely democracy dictates that the DUP and Sinn Fein should fuck a way off from the ministerial table?

  • Peter Brown

    It also involves a simultaneous attempt to break the world record for the most people in a telephone box provided enough delegates actually turn up – actually maybe they should have it in a mini instead if the record is easier to break!

  • Frank Sinistra

    It’s also worth remembering that the UUP where actually found guilty through a JR of Executive malpractice when they were the largest party so all this handwringing from them seems more and more like taking the huffs and changing direction just because they no longer get to call any shots.

    If they are going to do it they should get on with it, the pretense at it being an idealogical decision over an electoral decision rings very hollow.

  • willowfield

    How does that work?

    They work with SDLP to offer an alternative to DUP/Provo and ask the electorate to vote for them. If they do so in large enough numbers, then UUP/SDLP get FM & DFM.

    They could also agree with SDLP to support a change to the NI Act 1998 so as to allow for a proper opposition.

  • Interested Observer

    Frank S

    Can’t see a problem with it working next time. In the current executive DUP/SF dominate and dictate terms. If UUP/SDLP were to become the biggest parties they would dominate the executive in a similar manner. The only problem would be if the DUP and SF ministers decided to be obstructive, however if they did this I believe it would further effect their support at a future election. In any case neither the UUP or SDLP have anything to lose -if they don’t offer something different they will be reduced to a rump at the next election. I would quess a withdrawal of the UUP and SDLP leaving the DUP in coalition with SF would cause a few nervous moments in DUP HQ.

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    Expect the DUP spinners to mascerade as normal people and tear your idea to sreads IO

  • Comrade Stalin

    Frank:

    “.. seems more and more like taking the huffs and changing direction just because they no longer get to call any shots.”

    That may be true.

    But the question is, at face value, is Basil right or wrong ? Watching nearly everyone in the assembly stand up to congratulate Comrade Robinson and his budget proposals reminded me of the good old days back at Sovnarkom.

    d’hondt is broken. It’s been broken since the Stoops foolishly proposed it, and broken since the UUP slavishly backed them over it thinking it was an easy concession. However, the chuckies will defend it tooth in nail, as it is the single reason why they are in government.

  • Interested Observer

    Interested to hear from ‘Fair Deal’ and the rest

  • Comrade Stalin

    Interested Observer,

    Following the disgraceful situation over the past few weeks where the two large Executive players showed their brazen lust for power and disrespect for procedure and protocol, I suggested that the UUP and SDLP should withdraw from the executive and allow d’Hondt to reallocate the vacant seats to the DUP and SF. If they want all the power, let them have it – then let the electorate decide whether they did a good job or not. Why should the minority executive partners take on the tough jobs and allow themselves to take a disproportionate share of the blame ?

  • Turgon

    The idea of the UUP (and possibly SDLP) going into opposition is interesting and potentially useful but I remain to be convinced that it is likely to happen or that it would change that much.

    Firstly many in the UUP do still seem quite wedded to power. They do seem to still not fully accept that they should be in opposition. The episode of suggesting joining up with the PUP is an example of this and quite a tawdry one in my view. I note one of the most articulate UUP supporters on this site (Peter Brown) left the party over this very issue.

    Even when in power the UUP do not seem to be acting in a very appropriate manner. McGimpsey is suggesting problems regarding the Health budget yet he has avoided the single issue so far which would have freed up money for patient care by refusing to have a single health authority. Hence, if they were in opposition would they complain that much about waste? Actually I guess they would as hypocrisy is a most common trait in politics.

    If the UUP did by chance displace the DUP but the SDLP did not displace SF, I presume in this scenario the UUP would then go into government with SF rather than try for further renegotiation.

    Some in unionism want a complete change to the structure of the system: with an end to mandatory coalition, proper cabinet government involving collective responsibility and significant additional movement by the republican movement. I doubt the UUP having in the past administered the first executive will really be likely to demand that huge a change. As such for many unionists they will not represent a proper opposition merely an alternative group to administer a system they reject.

    If the UUP went into opposition there is no guarantee whatsoever that the SDLP would do likewise, hence invalidating much of what the UUP envisage.

    In addition there is the significant danger that out of power the UUP would have even more trouble attracting talented people than it already does. It would be in danger of looking increasingly irrelevant and I doubt it has the spokespersons with the ability to carry off opposition properly.

    Overall this is an interesting and potentially excellent idea but I suspect that it would require prior renegotiation of the whole agreement; without that it is something the UUP would be fairly unlikely to go for and if they did might well simply hasten their demise.

  • joeCanuck

    People seem to forget that the overall support for the two more extreme parties (IMO) didn’t exceed the support for the other two main parties by a great deal.
    People were desperate for a “final” settlement.
    Now the rulers will have to stand on their record when another election takes place.
    It wouldn’t take a great deal to change those with the most to offer.
    But if you are part of the “government”, there is no way to separate your different policies.
    Go figure.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I agree with bonarlaw- time was was a new UUP thread had me running to my thesaurus to blog new forms of insult and contempt on the useless shower.

    Now you struggle to even feel sorry for them, because , like a punch drunk Evander Holyfield, they just keep going back for more beatings cos they’re addicted to the prestige and need the money, igonoring all the sensible advice to just give up and remember the good times- like when Peter Robinson bet yer ear off. Hmmm- Punt as Mike Tyson…

  • Sorry to come late to the party.

    How does that work? Unless they take all the Ministries they’ll be facing coalition with the DUP and SF next time.

    Are we in general agreement that the present arrangements feel horribly like the “caucus race” (Alice in Wonderland, chapter 3):
    At last the Dodo said, EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes?

    Whatever this is, it’s not a Parliamentary democracy.

    At some stage it has to transform into normal party politics, else the democracy is well and truly democked.

    At which point, the rules are re-written: opposition and administration emerge. It took about twenty years for the emergence of party politics in the infant United States.

    All it needs is for all parties to acknowledge that the days of extra-parliamentary action are over. And, to my astonishment, we’re nearly there.

    Meanwhile, we party pinks, champagne socialists, trendy lefties and coffee-house radicals are quietly hopeful over the emergence of social consciences in the UUP and SDLP. Nor should we totally deny the achievement of the DUP in destroying for ever the Big House Unionism that blighted the protestant community for the last century.

  • BonarLaw

    social conscience? the UUP? Things must have changes since I was shown the door.

  • Comrade Stalin

    All it needs is for all parties to acknowledge that the days of extra-parliamentary action are over. And, to my astonishment, we’re nearly there.

    Malcolm,

    The only people at this stage who will fight to keep d’Hondt are the Shinners, because it is the only way they will manage to hold onto power. In today’s circumstances, under a weighted majority system, Sinn Fein would be the opposition as all of the other parties would get together to keep them out.

    we party pinks, champagne socialists, trendy lefties and coffee-house radicals

    Almost worse than the current SF-DUP pact, for christ’s sake. I hope you guys keep the hell away from the levers of power, you’ll wreck the place.

  • Ignited

    There have been many in the UUP articulating the case for oppositon and have been told to put up and shut up with the status quo- and what do they see now? McCrea coming out on the eve of a ‘crucial’ UUC trying to up his profile. As I’ve said before opposition is the only option that has potential.

    The UUP review thus far has been a sham – its failures derive from party policy (or lack of) not its constitution etc. The decrepid sycophants who have made these review proposals cannot/will not see the wood for the trees. The UUP can blame its failures on the UUC, but the UUC has not been consulted on a policy issue since 2003.

  • lib2016

    ‘Sinn Fein would be the opposition as all the other parties would get together to keep them out..’

    No possible chance of the SDLP being sucked into such a nonsensical scheme. After their experience with Trimble they realised by 2001 that the UUP couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver powersharing and powersharing is the name of the game.

    As for the nationalist electorate? Can you imagine nationalist fury if the SDLP conspired to keep out the largest nationalist party?

    The old Northern Ireland is gone forever and Sinn Fein is the only hope of building a prosperous peaceful devolved government here in a new stable NI. If SF withdraw support or the current leadership is replaced the only possible alternative is Direct Rule from Dublin.

    Independence is not on offer, neither is integration with Britain, and Direct Rule from London has been tried and failed. As Paisley said ‘there is no alternative’.

  • UUP Future (?)

    Mick is spot on in observing that this will crystallise the debate in the UUP between its pro- and anti- Agreement wings.
    That’s why its significant that somebody like Basil McCrea has come out behind the idea of opposition, as he is widely regarded as being on the moderate wing of the party.

    Empey may have personal reasons for wanting to remain in government – but to do so he relies on the support of the moderates, who are worried that going into opposition would mean opposing power-sharing itself – rejecting everything the Party has worked for since 1998.

    You’ve basically got two totally contradictory “lets go into opposition” proposals out there – what could be called “the Burnside Model” and the “Alex Kane Model”.

    The Burnside/McNarry hard-right types want to oppose not the *Government* of the day, but the very basis of power-sharing *Governance* itself – essentially adopting an anti-Agreement Jim Allister approach. Clearly this is a total non-runner for moderate UUP grassroots members – and this fact has let Empey continue on in govt for as long as he has.

    On the other hand you have the “Alex Kane Model” – calling for opposition as a way of strengthening the power-sharing institutions, by holding the government of the day to account. This model would envisage the largest party in each tradition forming the govt, the smaller parties on each side forming the opposition.

    This would mean that if, in Turgon’s hypothetical scenario, the UUP somehow overturn the DUP whilst nationalists stick with SF, the UUP would have to be explicit that it would form a UUP-SF govt in those circumstances.

    Instead of having all four parties locked in government together, it would present the electorate with the alternatives – SF/DUP, or SDLP/DUP, or SF/UUP, or SDLP/UUP.

    As a moderate myself I’m open to this argument, but I’m still far from convinced, my biggest fear is that the moment we’re on the opposition benches the loopers on the hard-right are going to be throwing all the old “terrorists in government” stuff at the DUP and move the party even further to the right than we already are – practically to where Jim Allister stands.

    That said, I could see that if – as Kane & McCrea seem to envisage – the proposal for opposition came alongside clear continued support for the power-sharing institutions, the momentum for opposition in the party would become impossible for Empey to stop, however much he might want to.

  • BonarLaw

    “If SF withdraw support or the current leadership is replaced the only possible alternative is Direct Rule from Dublin.”

    So why don’t they then? 😉

  • lib2016

    BonarLaw,

    If a devolved government can be formed here that would suit both the British and Irish governments and be acceptable to the majority of people here, including Sinn Fein.

    1/ Before the British can leave there has to be some kind of stability here. Everybody, not least Sinn Fein, knows what happened in Southern Ireland in 1921 and in India and elsewhere since. If only because it would please the Americans the Brits need closure here.

    2/ The prospect of reunification with peace and stability is attractive to all the Southern political parties, particularly to Fianna Fail.

    3/ The Unionist population know that they are becoming a minority in the North. Their great fear is of a takeover by the Republic. The British withdrawal will be accompanied by a total public disavowal of any such an intention. Westminister, after all was still claiming jurisdiction over the South right up until the GFA. There will be no admission of any change of status until long after it is a fait accompli.

    4/ The Scottish experience shows that one government can successfully rule two jurisdictions with different legal systems etc. Given the length of time it took to get the GFA agreed never mind enforced how could all the minor changes needed for integration with the South ever be negotiated? The reality is that republicans want an end to Westminster Rule above all. Democracy will take care of deciding what model of government we have.

    In other words – everybody gets some of what they want.

  • Outsider

    If the UUP join the SDLP in opposition the DUP will simply pour scorn on the UUP’s Unionists credentials for joining up with a Nationalist party. The DUP will claim the UUP should have sided with them to maximise the pro Union vote.

  • BonarLaw

    lib2016

    “Westminister, after all was still claiming jurisdiction over the South right up until the GFA.”

    And you still expect to be taken seriously?

  • lib2016

    My point was that there will be no need to abolish legislation at Westminster which would only produce a reaction from what remains of the unionist community. The current legal status will simply be superseded by Irish legislation and reality, just as the 1920 Government of Ireland Act was.

    That act was part of British law right up until the GFA which replaced it, although the Irish Republic was established in 1949.

    I’m sorry if I didn’t join the dots. One tries to keep it short on a blog.

  • Outsider

    My point was that there will be no need to abolish legislation at Westminster which would only produce a reaction from what remains of the unionist community.

    There are still some of us left.

  • lib2016

    “There are still some of us left”

    A majority of voters, in fact. And you are entitled to keep the Union for as long as that fact remains true.

  • Alex Swan

    While McCrea was wrong to go public with his views, and may well have damaged his position, he may well be right that opposition is the way forward, but is now the best time? An assembly election is over 3 years away, better to wait and see how the DUP/SF dominated executive works out, as for the Burnside approach, he seemed to have little surport at conference.

  • Interested Observer

    If the UUP don’t go into opposition (and I don’t believe they will) what have they got that would attract unionist votes at the next election?
    The DUP are dominant in the Executive, have the majority of the big players and have a clear purpose. Contrast this with the UUP -rudderless to say the least.
    It is a massive risk but desperate situations require measures such as this.

  • Turgon

    Although I am still of the opinion that the UUP is in a state of gradual, gentle but essentially irrevocable decline there are a few recent things which do make you wonder a bit.

    The DUP have had a pretty dreadful last few weeks.

    There are the continuing problems regarding the Causeway, the problems Robinson in particular had with Margaret Ritchie and the UDA funding, the Quinn murder and the DUP reaction to it.

    I wonder if the UUP strategy is to change nothing and hope that the DUP will do itself enough damage, combined with “events” to make them gain at the DUP’s expense at the next set of elections.

    I suspect this strategy is flawed as at least some of the current DUP problems will pass.

    The opposition strategy is interesting to politicos and has much to commend it on intellectual grounds. I still think, however, as Interested Observer says there are huge problems in this for the UUP.

    As UUP Future observes going into opposition will be seen to have two very different agendas.

    The UUP lacks spokespersons who will be able to be good at opposition.

    Being in opposition may well reduce the already low attractiveness of the UUP to potential new recruits.

    The less political public may well find the UUP leaving the executive merely proof that they have little to offer, cannot cope with being the smaller unionist party and conclude they took their ball home in a sulk.

    There is still the unresolved situtation of whether the UUP moves to the right to attack the DUP, to the left to defend itself against Alliance in Peter Brown’s Pale or simply to sit in the middle do nothing and hope something turns up.

    I suspect the last is the option they will adopt. Partly this will be because it is the low risk option but also because they cannot get agreement on any other option and I suspect many in the party lack the vision to try anything else.

    Yes “events” will occur from time to time and the DUP are looking a bit uncomfortable at this point but I doubt these will be enough to help the UUP.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    lib2016:

    ’Sinn Fein would be the opposition as all the other parties would get together to keep them out..’

    No possible chance of the SDLP being sucked into such a nonsensical scheme. After their experience with Trimble they realised by 2001 that the UUP couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver powersharing and powersharing is the name of the game.

    Quite right. But “powersharing with Sinn Fein” is not the name of the game, and there’s nothing to say that the Stoops have to support it. You guys are on your own.

    As for the nationalist electorate? Can you imagine nationalist fury if the SDLP conspired to keep out the largest nationalist party?

    If SF prove to be as incompetent as they have been over the past two weeks, and if they proceed to continue violating their own manifesto in the way that they have done over water charges, the electorate will punish the SDLP for refusing to do something about it.

    The SDLP have already won major well-deserved kudos for standing up to the UDA. Sinn Fein attempted to obstruct and interfere with this. I wouldn’t be so sure that the nationalist electorate are wholly on your side. Especially now that you’re falling to bits in the Republic. You guys need to watch yourselves.

    The old Northern Ireland is gone forever and Sinn Fein is the only hope of building a prosperous peaceful devolved government here in a new stable NI.

    How do you reckon ?

    If SF withdraw support or the current leadership is replaced the only possible alternative is Direct Rule from Dublin.

    No, the alternative is government without Sinn Fein, nice and easy. Just as we had a government without the DUP.

    Direct rule from permanent would see the utter extinguishment of Sinn Fein as a viable political force, as their electoral meltdown spreads across the border.

    Independence is not on offer, neither is integration with Britain, and Direct Rule from London has been tried and failed. As Paisley said ‘there is no alternative’.

    I’m not in favour of any of those options.

    A government where the participants have a statutory right to rule, rather than one granted by the electorate, is a dictatorship. That seems to be what you are advocating with your suggestions that there cannot be a government without Sinn Fein in it.

  • Alex Swan

    If the UUP join the SDLP in opposition the DUP will simply pour scorn on the UUP’s Unionists credentials for joining up with a Nationalist party.

    Posted by Outsider on Oct 27, 2007 @ 06:12 PM

    At present when Ian Paisley recieves a question from a S/F MLA he reads a prepared answer having been given the question in advance, now thats co-operation.

    If he can get away with that surely the UUP can sell a ‘loose alliance’?

  • Smithsonian

    Alex Kane on the politics show suggested that opposition was all but inevitable but would require a year to work out the details.

    Perhaps it is time to consider how such an opposition would work and who would be in it.

  • willowfield

    LIB

    “Westminister, after all was still claiming jurisdiction over the South right up until the GFA.”

    “My point was that there will be no need to abolish legislation at Westminster which would only produce a reaction from what remains of the unionist community. The current legal status will simply be superseded by Irish legislation and reality, just as the 1920 Government of Ireland Act was. That act was part of British law right up until the GFA which replaced it, although the Irish Republic was established in 1949. ”

    My goodness, are you claiming that the entire Government of Ireland Act was in force up until 1998? Almost all of it had been repealed and the provisions dealing with the South were repealed in 1922!!

  • Outsider

    At present when Ian Paisley recieves a question from a S/F MLA he reads a prepared answer having been given the question in advance, now thats co-operation.

    If he can get away with that surely the UUP can sell a ‘loose alliance’?

    Alex Swan

    Of course its a sham but during Primeministers questions at Westminster the PM knows the questions and reads the answers that have been prepared and the same would happen in a UUP/SDLP coalition opposition.