DUP are the new pro-Agreement UUP…

BORE that I am, I’ve just been re-listening to Mark Devenport’s interview with Environment Minister Arlene Foster on Inside Politics at the weekend. Mark was questioning Foster on Finance Minister Peter Robinson’s statement that “without an agreed programme for government, there cannot be government.” Devenport suggested that since there is no threat to the existence of the government if the UUP and SDLP vote against the Programme for Government in the new year, the only way Stormont could collapse would be if the DUP withdrew from it. Certainly, the DUP would find it impossible to alone serve alongside Sinn Fein without UUP cover, and so it made it made sense for Foster to focus on the divisions within the UUP about whether to go into opposition or stay in power. She had to, as she couldn’t actually say what the DUP’s intentions are. But there must have been a few listeners smiling as she accused her former party of operating ‘internal opposition’ in the Executive and not abiding by rules set up for mandatory coalition when she was a member – as this perfectly described the tactics of her new party in the old executive. The DUP and UUP have almost swapped positions; the DUP becoming the champions of the rules of the Good Friday Agreement – and clearly very dependent on it – and the UUP threatening to quit the government in a strop – although no-one seriously believes they will.

  • flamingballs

    I think they should quit the executive, that’d be great crack but would require Reg to have, ahem, balls of steel.

  • pith

    Excellent. Here come the robots.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Analysis not bad until the final, predictable, sentence. Threatening to quit in a strop? Would you prefer there to be no effective opposition? David Ford and Naomi Long an effective opposition does not make, especially with the broken (in so many ways) record of the economic cost of 95% of the public not being ideologically bereft APNI types droning continuously in the background.

    The DUP are terrified at the prospect of the UUP pulling out of government, that’s clear when you check their newswire for the 36 hours after the topic is raised here on Slugger, but to call the UUP pulling out a strop, when it would for example be over the Health budget being squeezed which one would imagine would prevent Michael McGimpsey from fulfilling manifesto commitments, is just nonsense. The Alliance are not anything close to an effective opposition, that’s why there is interest in the UUP and SDLP becoming one, and why the DUP and SF are so determined that it won’t happen. Pretending that it would be for trivial reasons doesn’t achieve anything.

  • The difference being that the UUP objects to the high-handed way in which the executive is operating as opposed to the principle of actually forming an executive. The UUP is seeking accountability, not to bring down the institutions. That is a substantially more constructive form of opposition.

  • Butterknife

    The UUP should draw up list of ‘line in the sand’ conditions they want from the pro-agreement DUP for 2008; publicise it better; and if the DUP fail to meet these, then walk.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Eh?

    I quite agree that the DUP are the new Turtleistas( how smug he must be now!) But to paint the UUP as heroic agonisers for accountability is just wibble. The DUP is attempting to freeze out the UUP- hence Punt’s stinginess in allocating cash to UUP departments. Basic politics to marginalise the competition. Even Trimble halfheartedly tried to freeze out the DUP by keeping back minutes of the executive- until the courts ordered him to.

    If Trimble had had the wit to take the money portfolio in the first executive he could have played politics with the DUP ministers’ budget too. And the DUP are no more terrified of the UUP pulling out than the UUP were in the last cabal- i.e. not at all. Because it will never happen. If either party was ever serious about opposition it would have stayed out of the executive on principle- as Alex Kane identified correctly in 2001.

    Just about the only thing the DUP are right about at the minute is their analysis of the divisions in the UUP. The UUP are not constructive in their opposition- as they were quite content with the structures when they were top dogs but hadn’t the nous to exploit them. At least the DUP pretend they want to change the present arrangements as soon as possible- however cynical the expression of the ideal. The UUP haven’t even plumbed that depth of cynical self-preservation!

    And if the DUP are reduced to sniping at the comatose UUP it’s to send out the subliminal message to the Unionist electorate-we might be fadge-eating surrender monkeys, but we’re competent ones- who wants that shower back?

    Perhaps Michael can tell us when Cunningplan House goes on the market to offset UUP debts. My sources tell me the for sale board goes up in March. Meantime, UUP organisation comes increasingly under the remit of David McNasty as Reg becomes increasingly irrelevant to the party apparatchiks.

  • Michael Shilliday

    I get the impression that they’re more worried about the prodiban becoming something close to coherant, then they would start getting heat for being surrender monkeys. Which will be 10 times worse when they’re holding SF’s hands in the executive without anything to hide behind.

  • belmont

    Cunningham House should be on sale very soon. That’s why the signs have been taken down on the office they have on the corner of the Holywood and Belmont Roads in preparation for it becoming the new party hq.

  • You know, there are times when I think Slugger should have a side-bar for current argot. At times I genuinely believe that you lot are speaking in tongues.

    The day cannot be far off when a coherent opposition develops. My present expectation is that, one by one, individuals will peel off. Soon thereafter, they could coalesce into something approaching a sane critical mass (or, more likely, two “wings”). The whole structure is too “new-build” for the building defects not to develop. Equally, there is too much pent up and frustrated ambition for it not to show, sooner or later.

    Meanwhile, can we recall for an instant what “mandatory coalition” amounts to, as defined by the Reverend Doctor last month (answering Danny Kennedy):

    “It is the duty of the Chairmen of the Executive Committee to seek to secure that decisions of the Executive Committee are reached by consensus wherever possible: if consensus cannot be reached, a vote may be taken”…

    That section of the ministerial code also provides for such a vote, if required, to be taken on a cross-community basis. … There is supposed to be a coalition, but sometimes when one looks at the Executive, one does not see much coalescing from certain Members — the reason being that they are no longer in power and thus can no longer dictate to the real representatives of the people of this Province.

    That sounds less like an invitation to cohere, and more like a finger pointing to the exit.

  • Darth, your posts are obviously worth reading, but I can’t help being distracted from the content by this tiresome insistence on using ironic soubriquets. It isn’t funny, it isn’t clever and it adds nothing to your posts. Is there any chance that the scales would fall from your eyes and you might consider desisting in this wearisome practice?

    Trying to set this aside, your rationale seems to be that the UUP should have had sense enough to be as authoritarian as the DUP when they were in the Executive the last time. In other words the old line that has been trotted out throughout every DUP u-turn, climb-down and hypocrisy – the DUP are hard-headed, the DUP are pragmatic, hard luck, the UUP should have been more like this.

    Well perhaps you’re right. And now is the time to begin that process by pulling out of the executive and taking away the cover for the DUP.

  • Ahem

    Predictably enough, I agree with Bro. Darth. Gonzo’s otherwise fairly reasonable analysis is, unfortuately, fundamentally wrong in one important regard: the DUP plainly *aren’t* frightened of the UUP ‘going into “opposition”‘ [sorry for all the scare quotes, but I’ll come back to them in a second]. This is for two obvious reasons. First of all, there’s no point in being worried about something which realistically isn’t going to happen – Reg’s numpty cabal has neither the guts nor the brains to quit the Executive (which they should of course do, thereby, incidentally, really putting the pressure on the equally sidelined SDLP to do the same). But it’s the second reason which matters most, as far as the DUP’s lack of fear of an UUP ‘opposition’ goes – for what in truth would or do the UUP oppose?

    The point is repeatedly and rightly made that the UUP had no problem with the blatantly inadequate structure of devolution when it was meant to be set-up in in their favour (and as Darth says, they still don’t have the wit to properly denounce it), but as I’ve said, if you had the UUP in opposition, given how useless they are in office, what exactly would they do there? Which measures are they agaist on their own merits (as opposed to them being against them simply for the eternal oligarchic gripe that *they’re* not the ones implementing them)? What spending would they put a stop to? What unpopular measures would they support? What wrong-headed but populist measures would they oppose? And the answer comes there none.

    I’m all for us having an opposition. It would be politically beneficial to the Province as a whole, to the devolved structures, and to the parties that find themselves discharging it. But as currently constituted Reg’s UUP is utterly incapable of performing this role. I ever thought they day would come when I say this, but empty cypher as he is, Basil seems to understand that the point of opposition would be to oppose. Should he and McFarland come to realise this at the same time then Reg and the Gimp are in trouble. However I think it’s against UUP standing orders for any two members both to have a thought each on the same day, so Reg lives not to fight yet another day.

  • jaffa

    “especially with the broken (in so many ways) record of the economic cost of 95% of the public not being ideologically bereft APNI types droning continuously in the background.”

    is the polite apartheid of separate facilities and schools for different denominational communities what you think passes for “ideology” then Michael?

  • You Know My Name

    “is the polite apartheid of separate facilities and schools for different denominational communities what you think passes for “ideology” then Michael?” –

    so which schools, hospitals, bus runs etc will alliance close then?

  • DC

    Alliance in terms of strategy, it could be said, broke away too soon from the Unionist block without stabilising a critical mass therein and since then it has been downhill only saved by the UUP’s utter uselessness, coupled with intrinsic arrogance making them look a little repulsive.

    We operate in changing times, it’s hard to say what the best approach is but we currently have two socially constructed ethnic groups associated with two politically functioning blocks anyway, there needs to be new connections made with both groups, a narrative if you like, or a differing strategy from within one group with a view to forming new ideas and partnerships with the other group.

    Currently there is neither. In regards to Alliance it has often sailed clear of certain cultural traits and left cultural issues alone whenever it should be more heavily involved in order to build up recognition and understanding of its political ideology in such sensitive situations, if you like, getting its hands dirty in that political environment to become involved and be seen to be working at that level for change.

    The question needing posed to Alliance is one surrounding the security and trust lacking in those neighbouring areas that require integration. What steps can be taken to change prevalent attitudes of distrust, at a political level, that can offer hope that a new ideology of accommodation is out there thus allowing people to vote according to that aspiration.

  • jaffa

    wtf does “you know my name” mean? sounds scary.

    which does Michael McGimpsey want closed to pay for his health budget?

    “so which schools, hospitals, bus runs etc will alliance close then?”

    regarding schools, those whose continuation in areas of over capacity can only be justified on the grounds of separate supply to different religious communities and whose merger or facility sharing can be acheived without the loss of religious character where deemed important by parents.

    regarding hospitals, those whose continuation in areas of over capacity can only be justified on the grounds of separate supply on different sides of the border.

    regarding bus runs, none.

    Closure isn’t always a neccessity. Sharing works too.

    I’d have thought that obvious.

  • jaffa

    I wasn’t speaking for Alliance there (not entitled). Just suggesting some obvious criteria.

  • DC

    To be fair Jaffa, ‘Sharing’ in the NI context is ideologically and ethnically vacuous.

    Hastening to add though that it is an achievable outcome yet for that ‘sharing’ to happen the political situation needs to be supplanted with new political understanding among both communities and indeed society here, in order for people to recognise that the practice of ‘sharing’ is safe and understood as such.

    What would be your narrative to share other than a context that to ‘share’ makes sense based on the fact that 2into1 makes financial sense, which can ultimately build better services across health and education sectors, for example.

    Thinking particularly on focusing on the longstanding ingrained political narrative that has built up exclusive in-out groups.

    What if anything can be built up that isn’t divisive, a narrative of sorts if you like that is dispensed in a way that comes across inclusive yet culturally supportive within a Northern Ireland context.

  • jaffa

    DC, Too cryptic for me. I do not know what you are talking about.

    What’s arrogant about not being at home with the Orange / Green labels? Old fashioned bourgeois liberalism, non-conformist christianity and everyday politeness and interest in others have their own history and at least as much cultural authenticity as romantic but bogus victorian notions of nationhood or manufactured capital-defending Orangeism.

    If Alliance need to do anything it’s to stop dancing around their position as the Liberal Democrats of the greater Belfast region and to consider what that means, both with respect to opposing Conservatism in the North and making common cause with other liberals across our island.

  • DC

    Okay Jaffa, how would you encourage kids from Protestant and Catholic schools to share a bus in contested spaces which have up until very recently taken to hurting each other based on the political narratives of us and them.

    Other than saying to the kids that its saving NI PLC money which is paying for your da’s bypass surgery.

  • jaffa

    “how would you encourage kids from Protestant and Catholic schools to share a bus in contested spaces which have up until very recently taken to hurting each other based on the political narratives of us and them.”

    Shared space and story telling for a start. Liberal myth making. Change their sense of identity through the curriculum and mass media. Tell them the truth – people aren’t cardboard cut-outs. Don’t believe stupid greedy people who tell you they are. They’re liars and there’s always a reason for their lies.

    Trips to the folk museum for primary aged kids, shared swimming lessons, a million things – get ’em before the testosterone kicks in.

    And in the meantime don’t provide further capital for the separate schooling which validates false differences whilst parents in the same areas are making applications to establish integrated schools (including converting existing buildings) and being denied.

    Support and consolidate the liberal centre first.

    That’s my sectarian interest.

  • DC

    “Change their sense of identity through the curriculum and mass media. Tell them the truth – people aren’t cardboard cut-outs.”

    But what if their template for life, as it stands, is something they enjoy, an expression of culture through sport and language is socially great too, it is neither rigid nor stilted; but quintessentially it is the substance of life why can this not continue with others accepting that without contradicting the ability to live together safely.

  • jaffa

    “But what if their template for life, as it stands, is something they enjoy, an expression of culture through sport and language is socially great too, it is neither rigid nor stilted; but quintessentially it is the substance of life why can this not continue with others accepting that without contradicting the ability to live together safely.”

    Super but your question was how do you get kids to share a bus without kicking the living shite out of each other.

    I absolutely agree that there’s no worthwhile cultural exchange without difference. There’d be nothing to exchange.

    That’s why I quite like the Irish tricolour – at least it doesn’t pretend the difference isn’t there.

    It’s said that the best way to learn a language is in the bedroom.

    Works for intercommunity relations too in my opinion. Send the prod boys and the catholic girls on school trips together!

    Official Alliance Party Policy that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gonzo, I am not sure I agree with the idea that the UUP’s presence enables the DUP to continue to operate within the executive. The UUP are such a spent and discredited force right now that I don’t think they could do anything which would make the DUP look bad – other than try to actually get their act together and decide what their policies actually are.

    DC:

    Alliance in terms of strategy, it could be said, broke away too soon from the Unionist block without stabilising a critical mass therein

    Usual bullshitty argument about Alliance being an offshoot of unionism. While several of the founder members were, the party’s policies are not rooted in unionism or nationalism. Please try to get out of that silly rut.

    and since then it has been downhill

    On the contrary, Alliance peaked a decade and a half after it was founded.

    only saved by the UUP’s utter uselessness,

    Nah, the UUP disillusioned all went to the DUP.

    coupled with intrinsic arrogance making them look a little repulsive.

    Whereas you aren’t ? Your snooty dismissal of Alliance is more holier-than-thou than anything I’ve heard from any local politicians lately.

    In regards to Alliance it has often sailed clear of certain cultural traits and left cultural issues alone whenever it should be more heavily involved in order to build up recognition and understanding of its political ideology in such sensitive situations, if you like, getting its hands dirty in that political environment to become involved and be seen to be working at that level for change.

    In other words, you think the party should pick a side to win more votes. Do you really think that kind of strategy impresses the electorate ? I much prefer the “expose the very obvious incompetence and malachievement of the incumbent political parties” myself.

    The question needing posed to Alliance is one surrounding the security and trust lacking in those neighbouring areas that require integration. What steps can be taken to change prevalent attitudes of distrust, at a political level, that can offer hope that a new ideology of accommodation is out there thus allowing people to vote according to that aspiration.

    It certainly isn’t going to come by institutionalizing those problems and make them official.

  • DC

    In good Alliance fashion such cultural comments ring loud because they come across as hollow. Empty vessels and all that.

  • DC

    “coupled with intrinsic arrogance making them look a little repulsive.

    Whereas you aren’t ? Your snooty dismissal of Alliance is more holier-than-thou than anything I’ve heard from any local politicians lately.”

    Sorry CS that comment should have read as being associated with the UUP.

  • jaffa

    “In good Alliance fashion such cultural comments ring loud because they come across as hollow. Empty vessels and all that.”

    Lost me again. Is your point that liberals have no culture or is it that people who know their own history but aren’t afraid of difference and enjoy exploring the perspective of others are somehow betraying their own culture?

    Is this socratic questioning or do you just like acting the arse?

  • DC

    “In other words, you think the party should pick a side to win more votes.”

    Depends, if they are voting-in intra-bloc change and accommodation towards the other then yes.

    It is only thought, thought in the sense of a strategic approach to enable change through generational shifting of former settled views towards new understanding, perhaps via inter-culturalism.

    The way things are currently going the Chuckle Brothers are beginning to apply what seems to be centripetal changes, which may through for example, images of them working together, may also then work its way down to community level where perhaps kids can share buses based on the above concept of centripetal intra-bloc change. Perhaps if the UUP and SDLP AND indeed Alliance were not so stuck in their ways they too may have achieved something like this.

    Why is it that those advocators of Alliance come across above and beyond criticism of the current political situation.

  • jaffa

    “Why is it that those advocators of Alliance come across above and beyond criticism of the current political situation.”

    Because they are. It would be truly pathetic for those who were not part of, did not contribute to, and rather spent decades trying to close these divisions, to start blaming themselves for their existence.

  • DC

    Alliance advocates are not responsible for actions of other parties, that wasn’t intended, but what was is the tendency of those advocates to hit out at those that suggest perhaps other ways of which to ameliorate cultural blisters by becoming more culturally involved. Involved with a particular train of thought that is more opportunistic in that cultural identity could have been exploited, like so many other parties have done, except Alliance didn’t do it in an engaging way or in a strategic way because of its apparent detached disliking of such trait, which in the end didn’t provide sufficient answers to our political problems.

    In relation to Alliance not being Unionist-lite, what is it then?

    To put it in simple terms to Alliance advocates, either the border matters or it doesn’t.

    And if it doesn’t why doesn’t it?

  • Turgon

    I of course agree with the analysis of Darth and Ahem (a bit predictable that).

    The DUP would have some problems with the UUP leaving the executive as the UUP might then mount a more effective opposition (unlikely but I guess theoretically possible). Such a move would, however, present the DUP with opportunities (such a gaining more ministeries) as well as problems. Also as has been mentioned already there are the greatest problems for the UUP.

    Firstly they do not have the people with the ability to be an effective opposition. Next they lack any real opposition ideas other than that they would prefer to be in charge as they used to be. A small minority may actually want to bring the whole system down but it is clearly only a minority. Few in the unionist community will believe that the party of Trimble which created the basis for the current agreement are serious about totally destroying it; that ship has long since sailed for the UUP. There is also the difficulty that the UUP is an organisation which (in my opinion) so consititutionally feels that it is the rightful party of government here that I do believe that it is not really psychologically capable of being an opposition.

    There is a certain recognition of the parlous state of the UUP in Michael Shilliday’s comments (accurate in my view) that the DUP are more worried about the prodiban. I suspect he is right. The fact that the DUP are more woried by a party which has not yet been formed than they are about the UUP shows the depths to which the UUP has sunk.

    My intrepetation of Arlene Foster’s comments about the DUP not really liking the current arrangement and their wish to see it reviewed is that I suspect she is trying to bolster the DUP position against the new party. She is trying to suggest that the DUP are keen on complete renegotiation.

    The UUP, Alliance and anyone else tempted by opposition all share the same problem. They feel there is a problem with the current arrangements; and in that the DUP seem to support them. All these groups have differing reasons for this but none are actually willing to come out and say that the whole process is fundamentally flawed on many levels and that a review is not what is needed but rather to tear down this hopless system of government and start afresh with a new agreement on how we are to govern ourselves here.

    As I have said before I do wonder if some of the current enthausim by the DUP for an Enviromental Protection Agency, however, sensible it is; might be about keeping Jim Wells on side. At the moment I would submit the single most important short term political objective of the DUP is to ensure no prodiban MLA or MP. That would be the beginings of real opposition to the DUP and hence, is something the DUP will try to prevent at pratically any cost.

  • patrique

    Of course the DUP are the new UUP, and Sinn Fein the new SDLP, it was all planned that way. The only solution was for the “extremists” to share power, after a warm up by the moderates, but obviously the extremists would have to become moderate, without anyone noticing.

    And it never ceases to amaze me that some people are only starting to notice. I think I first wrote this in 1994.

  • DC

    Turgon, given the recent turn of electoral events it is highly unlikely that the DUP fear any stand from an opposed to power-sharing Unionist candidate.

    As much as you want to believe the resurgence of the Prodiban it is clear that the DUP are steering a course with Sinn Fein as both parties are managing to quell any outspoken views against the dizzying pace of policy reversals. Any countering ruptures to this are being lessened and the bumps on the journey towards durable power-sharing are reduced by the ability of both parties to use convincing arguments in the media, convincing to a point that a certain mass people think currently that what they say is correct, which in the end keeps things rolling successfully with this support intact.

    If David Trimble hadn’t been so arrogant and blustery at times then perhaps such a different approach towards working with both Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan may have provided a seemingly tangible harmony that could have in the end gelled together a working centre-ground alliance. With Alliance involved too. But that wasn’t to be. Each had their own part to play in that.

    This was not the case unfortunately and the more moderate politicians have been played by those that opposed.

    The only outlet worthy of blame is the media in many respects in terms of focusing on bust-ups and defamatory behaviour that captured the headlines ensuring primacy in the news.

    Is there a lesson? Perhaps those who are moderates should adopt a more harsher tone and direct approach. They should be more outspoken, show disgust, ridicule and mock, while all the same holding on the backburner for another time the core essence of moderate policy, which can be applied when in power.

    Opposition is possible but it is about agreeing on key policy areas which each party can object to in unison while save key unique policy for themselves in order to show unique party brand. Do they have the humility and the co-operative approach of successful coalitions. Let’s see if they can apply this. So far Stephen Farry of Alliance has seemingly ruled this out in terms of opposition alliance with UUP and SDLP. Agreeing on suitable terms a problem? Well you would think that agreeing on suitable terms in power would be a problem then too. Sort it out you people!

    As the DUP and SF may have stolen the clothes of the moderate parties, but as is the case in fashion as with politics those clothes only look good and attractive for so long until another wardrobe of new designs becomes available.

    No better pay back than a coherent opposition grouping and it is hoped that those such moderates can work together on forming new policies that stand up strongly and robustly against what is currently being submitted as good ‘ideas’ by those parties in power. Those parties that look familiar but are quickly beginning to appear as if they have been caught wearing last seasons clothes, some stains included.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Darth, your posts are obviously worth reading, but I can’t help being distracted from the content by this tiresome insistence on using ironic soubriquets. It isn’t funny, it isn’t clever and it adds nothing to your posts. Is there any chance that the scales would fall from your eyes and you might consider desisting in this wearisome practice?”

    ..er, no. The whole point of the internet is that we ordinarily sober and serious people can kick it about a bit – and if I’m not allowed to use an ironic soubriquet then how can I be Darth Rumsfeld, right wing posterboy and force of evil. I’d have to revert to my real name-Eamon De Valera….

  • Turgon

    DC,

    A fair criticism. I must avoid getting too excited here in the cave; in fairness I think I have frequently pointed out the mountain the prodiban need to climb and the possibilities of heroic defeat.

    I do think, however, that the DUP do fear opposition from the more “right wing” (or whatever one calls it) position. It would be a reminder of their reneging on their manifesto comittments and the assorted claims thay made before they went into power sharing with SF.

    I suggest they suspect that most disgruntled DUP voters will come back on side provided no alternative party is set up. As such the DUP want to destroy the new party at birth and hence secure their position from attack from the “right”. Hence, the need to ensure that the new party is ridiculed as flat earthers, discussion regarding modifying the agreement in the future is talked up at this point and critically defections are kept to an absolute minimum (and avoided totally at MLA / MP level).

    If I over estimated the chances of the prodiban that is a failing (one of my many) but as I said above when you spend so much time in the cave in Ballymenastan you get so excited about the prospects of the victourous march to Kabulfast.

    I do find Michael Shilliday’s comments interesting yet slightly sad. I agree with him that the current priority for the DUP is stopping the prodiban before they begin. The fact that even a leading UUP member identifies this seems to imply a realisation on Mr. Shilliday’s part of the fact that no serious challenge will come from the UUP; and as such a not even formed yet party is a more immediate threat.

    Incidentally to those who criticise Darth. Look if he stopped being witty and ironic he would be as tedious in his posts as I am in mine. None of you really want that do you?

  • I’ve really appreciated the commentaries we’ve had here on this thread. Nobody has said anything much beyond the usual (even predictable) postures: that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.

    To complete the matched set of conventional wisdom, can I add my usual two devalued cents’ worth?

    Since the 60s, “Unionism” (which has increasingly become an elastic term in itself) has repeatedly split. Every split has been to the Right. Indeed, just as “mainland” (yeah — I know — but find me a better shorthand) British politics can only be controlled from the Centre, so the dominant position for “Unionists” is from the Right. That is the posture the DUP have surrendered to your (yukk! — but, again, it’s a convenient shorthand) “Prodiban”.

    The corollary is that the UUP, as presently constituted, is not a significant threat to the DUP hegemony, and not going to be one: that will come from elsewhere. Unless the traditional Unionist-voting (and increasingly the aspirant) middle-classes feel left out of the spoils. So, we need to watch job-security and house-prices as the markers there: since so many of that particular community depend on public-sector employment (previous postings ad nauseam) that may restrict the necessary and overdue changes in the local economy. It also means that if the “mainland” economy sneezes, the local one could catch a bad cold.

    By the way, Brian Feeney’s summary piece in the “Irish News” (also on Newshound at http://www.nuzhound.com/articles/irish_news/arts2007/dec5_no_pot_of_gold_US__BFeeney.php ) is as grim an assessment as it gets (north or south).

  • Michael Shilliday

    I think Turgon that you’re taking from my comments something that I’m not saying. The UUP have no credability attacking the DUP from the right to the extent that the prodiban can – thats why we won’t do it. It does make sense for us to pull out of government and attack them on policy terms however. My point is that the DUP fear us pulling out not for policy reasons, but because they would be left alone with the provos in government, which is prime territory for the prodiban to shear off the DUP’s right wing – a vote that we never got in the first place so we’re never going to get it ‘back’.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “a vote that we never got in the first place so we’re never going to get it ‘back’.”

    Wrong, Michael, just wrong.
    The UUP always had a significant right wing vote- up until 1998 that is. That’s why it dumped Faulkner and O’Neill. That’s why it elected Trimble. That’s why Vanguard was a UUP offshoot that went back into it. That’s why it swatted aside the DUP in many parts of NI-like Limavady, Coleraine and Antrim where the councillors were traditionally right wing. Coincidentally(!) most also were prominent orangemen. DUP claims they were Lundys were just laughed off. Throughout the 70s and 80s people like Enoch, Ross, Smyth and Molyneaux were portraying Paisley as dangerously weak on the core issues of Unionism, and the electorate agreed. We forget that voters from that era are mostly still alive, and older people tend to vote more than the yoof brainwashed by the BBC NI chucklechannel

    The present liberal direction was first tried out in Londonderry in the 1980s and resulted in the harder-working DUP councillors usurping the old UUP faces who were seen as weak on constituency issues . All the nice words from prod businessmen there resulted in no more money, no new members, and now no electoral base. A lesson studiously ignored by the “devolution at any price” brigade of place-seekers.

    Of course that was then, and this is now, but there’s a large untapped vote that just barfs when it sees the Chuckle brothers holding hands (as they will for Dubya tomorrow). Who’s pitching for them? If a key goal of Unionism (as Trimble always claimed)is to increase the Unionist vote who has asked why the east of the Bann Unionists stay at home. Could it just be because they don’t come into contact with large numbers of Shinners in their daily lives, and so don’t buy the lines that Marty as joint FM and cross-community/cross-border agitprop are necessary gestures to placate them?

    I agree the present UUP leqadership have more chance of winning the X factor than convincing people they are conviction politicians. Hence the DUP lack of concern at your party’s death throes

  • Ahem

    Couldn’t agree with Darth more, ‘cept for the fact that I’d date the UUP still having a ‘Right’ until 2003 – when the Turtle drove the wee man out. *That* was the point of no return for the UUP, as every election since has shown, each one still more painfully than the one that preceded it. And the tragedy is, if the UUP wasn’t run by such small, unimaginative, frightened men (that’s you Reg, and if we’re counting it as human, that’s you Gimp), they’d have the wit to realise that the old coalition is astonishingly easy to start rebuilding. Sure, have the left ball, but grow oe on the right too: offer the whip to Jim A, let a thousand flowers bloom. Naturally the Party would be deounced for division, but so what? Where exactly has the united [sic], undivided [sic] Turtle rump got the UUP?

    As for Trimble himself – he always claimed that his priority, in addition to firming up the Union (a task always beyond any local politician, being something always and only in the hands of national government to accomplish – which is why our failure to influence national politics is so dangerous, but that’s a heap big tangent to set off on), was getting more Unionists to vote. What he actually managed to do will always remain the political obituary of this most vain of third raters.

  • Turgon

    Michael,

    I think Darth has answered you far more effectively that I could have done.

    The reality is that once the UUP was a party containing hard line unionist elements (along with more liberal ones). During the 1980s and much of the 1990s the UUP was gradually gaining in percentage of the unionist vote at the expense of the DUP. I do not have a link but I am sure someone else has. When I first got involved in the UUP in the early 1990s there was serious talk about getting two UUP MEPs when Paisley went and also talk about a single unionist party which everyone knew would have been a take over of the DUP by the UUP.

    How things have changed.

    Darth correctly identifies that there were people like Willie Ross, Martin Smith and Jim Molyneaux himself. Whatever you may think of these people they presided over the growth in voting strength of the UUP. No one could have described them as soft on the union, nor liberal. They may not have been rabble rousers but the charge of “lundy” or Paisley’s of “Judas” to Molyneaux was never going to be taken seriously. In those days unionists west of the Bann were pratically completely UUP. In addition there were people like Harold McCusker who attracted a very significant working class unionist vote. Whatever McCusker’s right/left politics I do not think he was a liberal on the union. These combined with the UUP voters within the “pale” made for an overwhelming majority of pro-union voters.

    Even at a personal level Michael, have you never wondered why people like me and Darth (I hope not to speak for Darth out of turn and indeed I do not know him); evangelical pretty fundamentalist Prods were in the UUP? and we were by no means the only ones.

    Even your strategies to attract the middle class garden centre Prods may well be flawed. It is totally unscientific but many non voting middle class prods I know are pretty hard line, I am unconvinced that the UUP will attract them with the move to the centre. The only thing you may achieve is to ensure your position against the Alliance Party but that is not the vast voting block some in the UUP imagine it to be.

    I will agree with you that even if the DUP are more worried by the UUP than the prodiban; their project of the moment is to defeat the prodiban. The best anology I can think of at the moment is pretty insulting to the DUP and I hope they will not be too insulted but here goes. I think the DUP are like a poisonous snake (let us say a cobra as it has a big hood thing rather like Paisley’s hat, where has that gone by the way?, sorry, I digress) which has bitten its prey (the UUP) and is now happy to watch it die before gobbling up what is left. This analogy fails in that the UUP are then like a mongoose which was bitten and killed despite the fact that it should quite easily have defeated the cobra. Are the prodiban a new better mongoose or a harmless vole? Time will tell.

  • Michael Shilliday

    It seems unfortunate for you chaps then that times change.

    You all, or most of you, left the UUP over it’s position on Belfast Agreement. Even if you perhaps took your time, thats an honorable, sensible and rational thing to do over something so fundamental. You all seem to have found a new political home, even if some went via the DUP. That is also a rational thing to happen. The UUP has moved on, and has proved to be right on the substantiative argument, even if not on the surrounding issues of implementation. It would therefore be stupidity of the highest order to start trying to may hay out of the DUP’s surrender by pretending we would do anything of massive significance differently. Whatever happened in the 1980’s, the majority of the prodiban’s support will come from people who voted for the DUP in the first place, the DUP being left with an almost exclusively former UUP voter base. Those who do stick with them will be highly vulnerable to the prodiban. It is this, reasonably substantial, number of people that the DUP needs to protect. Hence they are terrified of us leaving them alone in bed with SF.

    I would go on, but I’m late for something. More later.

  • willowfield

    Malcolm

    Since the 60s, “Unionism” (which has increasingly become an elastic term in itself) has repeatedly split. Every split has been to the Right. Indeed, just as “mainland” (yeah—I know—but find me a better shorthand) British politics can only be controlled from the Centre, so the dominant position for “Unionists” is from the Right. That is the posture the DUP have surrendered to your (yukk!—but, again, it’s a convenient shorthand) “Prodiban”.

    If I may identify three major splits, I will do so as follows:

    1. The O’Neill split: split within the UUP between those supporting O’Neill’s gradual reforms and those opposed. Result – (1) ostensible defeat for the O’Neillites within the UUP (but little change to policy in the end, which prompts the emergence of Vanguard); (2) the emergence of extra-parliamentary opposition eventually leading to the formation of the DUP; (3) the formation of the Alliance Party; (4) the beginning of the retreat of the upper-middle-classes from unionist politics.

    2. The Sunningdale split: virtual 50/50 split within the UUP (but with anti-Sunningdale faction in small majority), combined with growth of DUP and formation and growth of VUPP. Result – (1) emergence for a short period of a three-party block of unionist parties; (2) marginalisation of “moderate” unionism as evidenced by the failure of UPNI; (3) creation of false confidence in the power of unionism as a result of the success of the UWC strike, leading, first, to the short-sighted throwing-away of the opportunity presented by the 1975-76 Convention to reach agreement with the SDLP on a voluntary coalition and, second, ten years later, to the shock of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

    3. The Good Friday split: Two-thirds/one-third split within UUP (which by this time had re-established itself as the prominent party in a two-party unionist system); total opposition of DUP. Result – (1) self-destruction of UUP and ascendancy of DUP to become largest unionist party; (2) movement of DUP on to the ground occupied by the UUP and acceptance of the Agreement against which its opposition to the UUP was predicated.

    Did these splits result in the unionist position emerging on the Right? I’m not sure that’s so clear – the O’Neill split – symbolically, yes – but in terms of policy, with Chichester-Clark and Faulkner effectively continuing O’Neill’s piecemeal and reluctant reforms.

    The Sunningdale split – most definitely yes.

    The Good Friday split – symbolically, yes, but in policy terms it led to possibly the biggest unionist shift ever seen from the right to the centre, with the DUP moving into the centre and effectively placing the whole of unionism in that centre.

  • “Incidentally to those who criticise Darth. Look if he stopped being witty and ironic he would be as tedious in his posts as I am in mine. None of you really want that do you?”

    His “Turtleistas”, “Tank Commander”, “Basil Brush”, “The Punt” shtick is already wholly as tedious as your “prodiban”, “Ballymenastan”, “I live in a cave” equivalent.

    As for DC’s gobbledygook, is he posting in Irish?

  • Turgon

    Michael,

    I hope we did not keep you late.

    You say the UUP has moved on. Exactly; it has moved on from the majority of its support base to a new smaller one. A political party exists to gain votes and represent people. To hold up “moving on” as a virtue when you did not bring your supporters with you is, I am afraid symptomatic of the attitudinal problem the UUP and especially their leadership face. Some in your party really seem to believe that they are the natural party of government here.

    You feel that you “did the right thing” and the voters let you down. The real nature of your mistake is, however, in this phrase “…even if not on the surrounding issues of implementation.” The implementation of local governance was the whole problem. Trimble fell on caving in time after time to the republicans. He negotiated a poor deal, then lost ground repeatedly on the deal he had made. A relatively small majority of the ever decreasing membership of the UUP supported him on each occassion and hence, you are left with a small party, a relatively small number of voters and the severe danger of gradual political oblivion.

    To look at the DUP cobra (in my rather contrived analogy) and say. “Ah the prodiban mongoose may get them” may be fun schadenfreude for you but does not address the fact that your party has very likely been mortally wounded. Staying in government or pulling out to form an opposition (if by some chance you do) is very likely to be (changing the metaphor) rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

    Telling us that times change may be valid but Michael, I am still below the average age of Northern Ireland voters (and I am sure a long way below the average age of UUP members). I think darth is only a bit older. Times may change but the vast majority of your members seem to be aging pretty rapidly and you may forgive me for not being overwhelmed with the quality of some of the current YUs.

    Incidentally I am flattered that you ascribe such potential power to the prodiban. I thought DC’s criticism of my previous post was pretty valid. Should you think the prodiban are very likely to win and want to join us I might be able to find you a cave.

  • willowfield @ 03:48 PM:

    Yes, I think that’s a pretty fair commentary. In each case the split takes the defectors to the Right, who then claw a way back to a more “respectable” centre-right position (because that’s where the rest of the vote is).

    What about the curious experiment of the PUP? I would read that as the main exception: a tendency with some pretty-leftist social positions (which is what I would expect in, historically, the most radical constituency base in the North)?

    The other element I have always failed to consider is the cult of the Leader. Is this somehow a characteristic embedded in all strands of “Unionism”? Surely, the great success of the DUP, as it achieved its coup in sequestering the majority “Unionist” position, was painting Trimble in faded colours? (And didn’t he help them in so doing!) And, by extension, makes the next few years potentially very intriguing …

    Hey, I’m none too happy with this “new-look” Slugger, by the way.

  • Turgon

    Chekov,
    I am sorry. I will try to stop using those above unacceptable words. When the new party is formed I will use its name but at the moment prodiban is a lot easier than Traditional Unionist / Right wing unionist or whatever. Okay I may try to stop the Ballymenastan and cave comments. I must admit in part I make them to try to seem less self important. Keeping a sense of perspective of one’s own complete unimportance in political (and other terms) is always valuable. Still (perfectly fair) criticism noted.

  • willowfield

    TURGON

    You say the UUP has moved on. Exactly; it has moved on from the majority of its support base to a new smaller one.

    Has the UUP moved on? I haven’t detected any movement.

    The DUP, on the other hand, has moved from a position of opposition to the Agreement to wholehearted implementation. It is this move which has put the UUP in an impossible position.

    MALCOLM

    Regarding the PUP, I would say that it is an experiment that has failed. The PUP is now irrelevant except in David Ervine’s former stomping ground. You’re right to note the radical heritage upon which it was founded, but NI is not immune to the global political changes which have emasculated the left in most affluent western societies.

    The question of the cult of the leader is an interesting one. Post-Troubles, the UUP achieved its greatest degree of hegemony under Molyneaux, who could not be considered to be a leader worthy of having a cult following. At the same time, and up until the end of the 1990s, Paisley was considered by most to be a liability rather than an asset, holding back the DUP.

    My personal feeling is that the emergence of capable deputies to Paisley – Robinson, Dodds, Campbell, etc. – has helped increased the DUP’s appeal, and made it easier for those previously ill-disposed to Paisley to vote for his party.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “The UUP has moved on, and has proved to be right on the substantiative argument, even if not on the surrounding issues of implementation.”

    Whoops. Faller at the first fence. The UUP proved that Unionists were prepared t pay a price for bums on ministerial chairs- that’s all we can say with certainty at present.

    “It would therefore be stupidity of the highest order to start trying to may hay out of the DUP’s surrender by pretending we would do anything of massive significance differently.”
    …Hence the talk of opposition being nonsense

    Willow makes good points about the positioning of the UUP.
    Actually the O’Neill split is most interesting because tactically there were many compelling reasons for some movement but it was handled so incompetently because he was foolish enough to destroy the soft-Unionist NILP first and because he was completely detached from grass roots reality.

    Faulkner had the toughest hand to play with and against, and might be argued to be least deserving of the rejection of Unionism, particlularly the populist irresponsibility of Paisley (though it should be noted that Molyneaux reeled him in throughout the 80s and 90s from the right) In hindsight the AIA should not have fractured Unionist politics to the extent it did.We might well blame Paisley for this too.

    Trimble just panicked and never played the cards he had.

    As UK politics is presently showing us, the electorate values competence vert highly, and on that testthe UUP has a long way to go. UUP voters in 2001 and since were faced with a choice best personified by Cecil Walker versus Nigel Dodds, and until the UUP produces a cadre of hardworking populist candidates they’ll be blamed by ther DUP and the voters for all the present unpleasantnesses, which Michael seems to regard as achievements. And surely even he doesn’t claim that the UUP are renowned for their competence post 1998…

  • A refreshing post free of ironic nicknames. I thank you Darth. 😉 And Turgon too of course, although he has made me feel somewhat guilty with his gracious retreat.

    “…Hence the talk of opposition being nonsense”

    The party would not be entering opposition on the basis of rejecting power-sharing with republicans. The basis of leaving the executive is that a workable opposition provides more accountable government. Whether this is a reasonably new notion dawning on the UUP is largely irrelevant. The fact is that the present arrangement is not providing accountability. On a more prosaic level the UUP and SDLP are being asked to assume responsibility for a programme in which their input is increasingly ignored. That’s simply not a good deal for either party. There is a very distinct difference between leaving government in order to bring it down on an issue of principle and leaving government in order to make it ultimately work more effectively.

    I have my doubts about whether the party will muster the guts to withdraw from the executive. I do believe that eventually, in order for a workable and accountable system to develop, opposition will be required. I cannot see that the UUP in particular have a great deal to lose.

    The current dispensation provides no real power or leverage for the smaller parties and yet the UUP and SDLP will be linked intrinsically with the DUP / SF Executive whenever elections are held. For the time being I foresee a huffy maintenance of the status quo with the UUP and SDLP highlighting the authoritarian impulse of teh other two parties and attempting to foster some distance in the electorate’s mind between their standpoint and the policies of an increasingly accrimonious and unsuccessful executive. In other words the so called internal opposition. I don’t think that such a strategy is sustainable over the longer term.

  • willowfield

    I think there is an opportunity for the UUP and SDLP – if they have the vision and are sufficiently brave – to withdraw from the Executive not merely because they are marginalised within it by virtue of the numerical dominance of the DUP and the Provos, but because they can offer a genuine alternative “vision” for Northern Ireland.

    To me, the prospect of a shared society is more appealing than that of a benign apartheid. It is my view that the DUP-Provo coalition is presiding over a benign apartheid in which society is divided into two camps, and power is exercised separately but equally within each camp.

    There is potential for UUP-SDLP-Alliance to offer to the electorate the alternative of something more genuinely shared.

    I may, however, be naive, and I suspect that persons with views such as my own are very much in the minority (hence there may be little electoral appeal). People like their comfort zones.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Queen’s IT dept are failing me at the moment, so I will be back for a more substancial response, but suffice to say for now, I’m happy in the cave I’m in. I’m saying I’m happy with the position my party has taken, and I think it’s healthy for unionism that the prodiban party will take a different one.

  • Turgon

    Chekov and willowfield both make an erudite case for opposition. There is a need for such an opposition. I am most dubious, however, that the UUP can provide it.

    The UUP are still very fond of power. Only a minority of the party seem keen on pulling out of the executive and setting up a true opposition. Those advoacting this also seem to be comming at it from differing positions, McNarry essentially proposing a position close to that of Jim Allister whilst others seem keen on the current ageement but with more competence.

    The competence issue keeps coming up. Opposition is very difficult and I really doubt the UUP has the people able to do it well. It often requires considerable charm and charisma. I am certainly not one to talk but I do not think any of the current UUP politicians have the charm and charisma to carry it off. The voters would also need to be convinced the UUP could do a better job. I remember a UUP supporter (I forget who) telling me McGimpsey would be a great success at health. I am not trying a personal attack on McGimpsey but he has been far from a great success.

    Then there remains the issue that people will feel that the UUP simply wish to replace the DUP in the current dictatorship. Since the UUP has been there before and done no better a job I am doubtful the electorate will rush to give them that mandate. People have long memories and as Malcolm Redfellow has observed in his scholarly contribution unionist splits have been to the right with the right then moving to the centre; never the left taking the position of the right.

    If the new party do get going we might have a situtation where the UUP are in opposition offering to replace the DUP and the new party offering to replace the DUP and asking for a new agreement. In that case the new party might well be more interesting to voters. I accept that the new party may not get going well which would negate their danger. I still think, however, that the UUP are not really in a position to be a coherent opposition nor a viable alternative main unionist party.

    The one thing which I guess they could do is completely reinvent themselves like Blair did with new Labour. This still has huge problems: the public seem a bit tired of spin, we come back to the leaders issue I mentioned earlier. Also the history of the UUP and spin doctors is very poor. To an extent Trimble tried the reinvention and spin doctor thing supported by the likes of Steven King. Although I always regarded him as a personable and pleasant individual; I always doubted not only King’s understanding of Northern Irish unionists but also the efficacy of that type of spin doctoring in a Northern Irish context.

    In summary therefore I submit that chekov and willowfield propose a good idea (opposition) but one which the UUP are unwilling to try, would be incapable of doing well enough and that for them the time to try this has past. Clearly things can change (and change radically) but like the Liberals after Lloyd George I do suspect the UUP are consigned to the wilderness for the forseeable future. Do not worry, I am honest enough to come back and admit I was wrong if you do have a sudden resurgence.

  • Ahem

    If the best the only Ulster Unionist willing to frequently post here can do is say that he’s ‘happy’ with where Trimble took the party (1 MP etc etc), I think we can see why the DUP’s not overly worried about them. I repeat what I said above: if the UUP is ever to be politically effective again, rather than Shillers-style retreating into a tiny little room with the handful of folk you’re comfortable with, the UUP needs once again to have a catholic range of opinion within ii. Grown-up parties, Labour, the Tories, etc, have within them oodles of people who are profoundly uncomfortable with each other, but as they’re serious politicians seriously in pursuit of political power so as to deliver something for their voters, they suck it up.

  • jaffa

    Ok.

    Taking up DC’s query on Alliance’s cultural position and responding to Willowfield’s point what might this scenario offer for the UUP.

    1) Let’s say that Fianna Fail joins the European Liberal Democratic & Reform Party (they’ve already applied) and that the SDLP merge with Fianna Fail.

    2) Suppose at the same time the existing ELDR members rebrand as the Liberal Party of Ireland and the Liberal Party in Northern Ireland, perhaps even aligned and resource sharing in similar fashion to the Irish Green Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland.

    If you have one Irish ELDR member with a traditional nationalist, rural and relatively socially conservative bias by default you may also have another Irish ELDR member with a more internationalist (pro Europe, pro-Commonwealth, perhaps pro-Nato), metropolitan and socially liberal bias; a party which might see its peers as the Post-Colonial Liberal Parties of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa.

    What attraction would a more overtly post-colonial Liberal Party hold for the next (or even present generation) of Lady Hermon’s and Alan McFarland’s and, if the Liberal Party of Northern Ireland does play that card, what part of the current Alliance (or if it’s all-Ireland, PD) vote does it forgo?

    Anyone who has spent time with Australians, Saffers, Kiwis and Canadians knows you don’t need British Citizenship to be part of the wider community of what Churchill called the English speaking peoples. Could a Liberal Party of Ireland speak for the Planter, FF for the Gael, and the two be natural ELDR allies?

  • good idea

    “the UUP needs once again to have a catholic range of opinion within it.”

    Splendid idea! Do you think actual real live Catholics (pro-Union ones of course) might be included in the “catholic range of opinion”?

    Maybe soon it’ll be able to boost its Catholic membership into even double figures…

    Most surveys in the last 10 years have said that between 20%-25% of Catholics in NI are pro-Union…

    Somewhere between 200,000 and 275,000 people. Roughly.

    Of which the “for all of us” UUP have how many members? At best a dozen or two?

  • Turgon @ 07:39 PM:

    Wow! “scholarly”: that’s not what they used to write on my essays at Trinity. More on the lines of “Knows little, but writes well.”

    I think, though, that Turgon is giving us the proper steer here. The UUP has this tradition of being the “natural party of government” and it will take a long while to get over it (the Tories are barely there after three elections).

    Then there is the dislocation of the activists and the voters. Activists make the party in their own image, and then have to market it to the electors. That’s almost always a situation prone to conflict and misrepresentation. Blair, Mandelson and their team managed it in the mid-1990s because the Labour Party was desperate for power. It looks (despite the sniping one sees on ConservativeHome and elsewhere) as if the same could be happening with the Cameroonies.

    Whether they like it or not, the DUP and SF are now welded together for the duration of this Assembly. The electorate will then have to judge them as a double act. Presumably, at that stage, they may well also have to stand together behind an agreed “programme for government”. Did someone mention Belgium?

    Meanwhile the UUP and SDLP (perhaps by then assimilated into arrangements with Tories and Fianna Fail?) are reduced to irrelevant me-too-ism … unless they have, separately or together, an alternative programme.

    So, I see two ways that a administration and opposition could emerge.

    First by natural causes: natural attrition through disgruntlements and frustrated-ambitions which leads to the creation of a bloc of nay-sayers in the Assembly. As I have previously implied, that is most likely to happen (in my thinking) on the right. Other contributors here (who are all nearer the situation than me) indicate that process is already under way.

    Second, the development of the inner-cabinet of the DUP/SF politburo (which, again, already exists, so we are told) progressively excludes and alienates the lesser breeds without the law. Now, there’s some prickly characters involved, so I refer back to the previous paragraph.

    The only third way is the least healthy: a one-party state, where the component factions find convenient differences for non-Assembly electioneering.

    We are still early in the process of confidence-building in the Assembly. The fear is hanging separately if the Assembly doesn’t hang together. In time that will pass. Once electors and elected trust the system is fundamentally stable, we can more maturely explore differences.

    Obviously, my hope is that somewhere in there a leftist faction can also emerge.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “they may well also have to stand together behind an agreed “programme for government”. Did someone mention Belgium?”

    Zaphod Beeblebrox mentioned Belgium in the Hithchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where it was described as the worst swear word in the galaxy..

    “Of which the “for all of us” UUP have how many members? At best a dozen or two?”
    I’d doubt it had that many. When it had them, they were promoted feverishly in a way that would make Billy leonard look shy. Remember Patricia Campbell and her magazine for GB supporters crammed full of pictures of kittens and clouds?

    Amazingly the DUP are probably better placed now to attract high-calibre RC members as it has hands on the levers of power, which always attracts people. I would never have thought of Seymour Sweeney as a natural DUP supporter for instance. Under next leader Robinson the business class will be wooed assiduously

  • “The UUP are still very fond of power. Only a minority of the party seem keen on pulling out of the executive and setting up a true opposition.”

    I think that from being very much a minority position the idea of opposition has gained considerable ground. A small number of representatives and advisers urged Empey to adopt this position from the start, but the actual practice of the executive has caused the idea to gain momentum.

    “I do not think any of the current UUP politicians have the charm and charisma to carry it off.”

    Turgon, will Allister’s mob be likely to offer any more charm or charisma? I would argue that the conventional wisdom that the UUP lack quality representatives is much exaggerated and has been exacerbated by the perpetual sneering and sniggering up school blazer sleeves that passes for wit and charm in the DUP. The UUP have able representatives. What is required most urgently is agreement on strategy and coalescence around a common approach.

    “The voters would also need to be convinced the UUP could do a better job. I remember a UUP supporter (I forget who) telling me McGimpsey would be a great success at health. I am not trying a personal attack on McGimpsey but he has been far from a great success.”

    Taking the health ministry and appointing McGimpsey was perhaps not the most sensible strategy Sir Reg has ever conceived I will grant you. My perception is however, that McGimpsey is far from the least popular minister and is not commonly viewed as the weakest link in the Executive. That honour is closely contested by Edwin Poots and Catriona Ruane with Ruane probably shading it by a short head. Although I agree generally with Willowfield’s rationale as regards the argument for opposition, I think it does no harm to capitalise on the sense that part of the reason we might leave the executive is that our ministers are being prevented from doing the job which they are capable of. It is also instructive that the most disastrous ministers are members of the DUP and SF respectively.

    “Then there remains the issue that people will feel that the UUP simply wish to replace the DUP in the current dictatorship. Since the UUP has been there before and done no better a job I am doubtful the electorate will rush to give them that mandate.”

    But in establishing a tradition of opposition the character of the Executive as a dictatorship is undermined. No-one within the UUP is naïve enough to believe that they can leave the Executive, form an opposition and make a triumphant return as the majority unionist party at the next election. To start on the process whereby the party, hopefully in conjunction with the SDLP, are seen to be offering an alternative to the twin nationalisms DUP/SF carve-up and increasing the accountability of the devolved institutions, would be the most positive step by the party in some time and will provide a platform for recovery as well as benefiting democracy in Northern Ireland. Of course ultimately the UUP would seek to return to government.

    “I still think, however, that the UUP are not really in a position to be a coherent opposition nor a viable alternative main unionist party.”

    With all due respect Turgon there is little evidence for that contention. I have never accepted the loose terms in which right and left are bandied about as regards unionism. To me, a more inclusive, less identity and community based form of unionism need not be in any way weaker on the Union. My contention is that as a party the UUP puts the Union in a more central position that the DUP. Even down to the negotiation of the GFA when the constitutional strands were prioritised perhaps to the exclusion of more symbolic and emotive issues. I guess I’m edging back to unionist / Ulster nationalist distinctions again.

  • darth rumsfeld @ 08:31 AM:

    Culture shock warning; your reference to the one-time President of the Galaxy may significantly date you. It seems that the younger element are no longer capable of extensive quotation from the Masterworks.

    Example; an A-level geography class. The teacher began by writing up “Slartibardfast”. Only two of the large group were able to recognise that what followed would be a disquisition on glaciated coast-lines. One of those enlightened two (who went on to study History at Uni) later defined Geography thus:
    GCSE: colouring in. A-level: shading in. Degree: cross-hatching.

    By the way, I finally cracked the problem of recruiting a Belgian cricket team by realising that all those Flemish painters were courtesy Belgians.

    Back on topic: your last paragraph is, I believe, spot on.

  • Ahem

    I DEMAND to be told who these ‘able’ UUP MLAs are. Seriously: who?

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Culture shock warning; your reference to the one-time President of the Galaxy may significantly date you”

    zarking fardwarks Malcolm

  • Ahem. I don’t think I wish to name able individuals because that might be taken as implying that others are not able. Suffice to say I think the talent within the membership is there and that an infusion of confidence is what is needed to tap it.

  • Turgon

    chekov,
    A very well reasoned and argued set of points. If I believed that the UUP were capable of what you suggest I would be not only delighted but inspired. I personally would have a huge problem about the IRA being still extant but I would agree that you had a future.

    As it is I am sorry but looking at your representatives I just cannot convince myself that you have the talent there. I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid personal attacks but really the personalities in leadership positions in your party do not seem up to it. You seem a much better analyst of the situation and indeed propose much more logical solutions than they ever seem to. Sorry,

    Regards,