…genuine philosophical and ideological differences?

Among the disjointed messages from Orange platforms was a call for Unionist Unity from the Grand Secretary, Drew Nelson. In it he argued that:

Many ordinary unionists feel that the divisions in political unionism are driven more by personality clashes, minor differences of opinion and contrived rows rather than genuine philosophical or ideological differences.

In terms of the peace process with even TUV nudging the door open to power-sharing (under voluntary coalition) disputes would seem to be over when and how rather than if. The UUP (with PUP support) settled quickest taking a risk on promises (that weren’t delivered), the DUP waited for more up front delivery from the PIRA and more checks and balances while TUV essentially want to a bit more from the PIRA, wait a bit to be sure and change the form of devolution. Lately some UUPers seem to have been engaging in the superiority complex that contributed their problems in the first place with the “We are the real Unionists you know”. This seems to be more a rationalisation of their present usurption as the dominant party.

Considering the diversity of the Unionist community is the best way to maximise the support a single party considering the inflexibility it created in the past? The ‘one party’ view also excludes from Unionist political history the challeneges from left, right and populists that the UUP faced in the Stormont era. However, it would be difficult to argue that the diversity required:

Since Stormont collapsed in 1972, the unionist people of Northern Ireland have been encouraged to vote for at least 30 political parties

Keeping in mind the occassion and audience Drew Nelson can be forgiven for a reliance on a singular “community” and “people” if Unionism is to flourish in the 21st century it will move beyond its historic core community. While differences are theoretically possible in 2008 what are the “genuine philosophical and ideological differences” in the public positions of the Unionist parties?

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “…what are the ‘genuine philosophical and ideological differences’ in the public positions of the Unionist parties?”

    That ideological debate in full:
    “We hate taigs more than you do.”
    “No, we hate them most.”

  • Garibaldy

    It seems to me that the only serious attempt to think about unionism philosophically over the last decade or so was Norman Porter’s Civic Unionism. Which of course Trimble derided at a conference speech, before going on later to steal some of the language of.

  • ZoonPol

    Most, if not all unionist parties here state that they want to ‘maintain the union’ etc etc. That is like saying they want the sun to continue to rise in the mornings and fall at dusk. The UUP cannot be extreme DUP or become the neo-DUP of old. Not even the TUV can do that for they have not got a cult leader behind them – they only have a rational argument and that is void of being based on emotion.
    The UUP must remain a party that all can vote for and not just a protest vote for annoyed DUPers.

  • “the DUP waited for more up front delivery from the PIRA”

    f_d, I thought it waited until it was the main or ‘superior’ Unionist party and then we had Paisley confess that he was forced to go into a coalition administration with the PRM’s political wing.

  • fair_deal

    I’d appreciate it if people addressed the question. Thanks much appreciated.

  • FD if you’re suggesting Nevin’s post isn’t an answer to your question I would suggest that is unfair. He may not have directly said it but I think there’s a clear implication that the “philosophical and ideological differences” aren’t half as big as the DUP would have us believe.

  • Turgon

    Fair_deal,

    I think there are some ideological differences between the parties. The practicalities of the TUV’s wishes prior to their entering a power sharing agreement are significant and in NI terms come very close to ideological differences. I suppose it is in part dependent on what one terms “ideological.”

    There are also of course significant ideological differences within the respective parties especially in terms of things like religious position.

    In terms of a single unionist party there might be electoral advantages in terms of maximising the unionist vote. There would also of course be dangers of people feeling apathetic towards the single unionist party and as such not voting. Even a single party can produce electoral disasters if it manages itself badly: the SDLP in West Tyrone being a perfect example.

    In addition a single party would have less brake on it doing foolish things. I would submit that had there not been the TUV (and indeed UUP) the Paisley road show and chuckling would have continued. Even if it never achieves anything else the TUV certainly helped put a stop to that in a way which I doubt could have been as easily achieved internally. As an example look at the inability of a very large minority of the UUP to prevent Trimble abandoning pledge after pledge due to the tendency of many on the UUC to support him as he was “the leader” even if they personally had grave misgivings about his strategy and tactics.

    In terms of the ideal number of parties I would suggest in a perfect world probably two with pacts between them. However, in the current climate I do think there is a need for a party to the “right” of the DUP to prevent further DUP slippage and gain support from rejectionist unionists. Historically there has been a need for a party to the left of the DUP to gain support from people who could not face voting for Paisley and were less / non religious. Leaving aside any leftward slippage of the DUP, however, I do think that in the new Robinson era there may be less need for a more secular party than the DUP in view of the increasing number of non fundamentalists involved with the DUP.

    I hope that is an attempt to answer the question.

    Regards

  • fair_deal

    beano

    “if you’re suggesting Nevin’s post isn’t an answer to your question”

    No I am suggesting pretty much all of the comments so far haven’t answered the questions
    Billie-joe – usual ad hominen
    Garibaldy – a helpful note but not addressing the question
    Zoonpol – Mostly about party positioning and expression of desire about the UUP.
    Nevin – A bog-standard attack line on the DUP and Paisley that i took at face value (regardless of your kind re-interpretation and stretch)

    I’m trying to get a serious discussion on this topic not slip into the “personality clashes, minor differences of opinion and contrived rows”.

    Turgon

    will reply later tonight

  • Garibaldy

    FD,

    I was saying that unionism, like its counterpart, and like most political parties in this day and age, does not think philosophically. The DUP can think strategically as it has shown in overtaking the UUP, but mostly it thinks tactically now. You don’t think pointing out that the only serious attempt to define unionism philosophically was rejected by the unionist leader who claims the biggest level of intellectual engagement (rightly or wrongly) is relevant. It seems to me to directly address the question.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Turgon;
    “The new Robinson era” How long do you think that will be?

    FD
    The “genuine philosophical and ideological differences” in the public positions of the Unionist parties will not become fully apparent until an election takes place which clarifies what the electoral strength of the 3 competing brands of Unionism happens to be.

    There are issues needing addressed by which the three factions could unite;

    1. A meaningful political campaign to have N.Ireland withdraw from the EU as soon as possible.

    2. A united demand to have a public enquiry into the Mark Haddock scandal.

  • fair_deal

    Turgon

    “The practicalities of the TUV’s wishes prior to their entering a power sharing agreement are significant and in NI terms come very close to ideological differences.”

    Is it? Is mandatory coalition rather than voluntary coalition with the same parties a philisophical or ideological difference or the scale of political price being demanded?

    The TUV seems to have gone through three phases, the early Allister objections which could have been categorised as “too quick and not enough”, then a period of there is nothing good about it or the people involved and there never will be and now a conditional acceptance of power-sharing (similar to the original position).

    In the middle period you had the closest adherence to a strict ideological position of i.e. “a terrorist is a terrorist and unfit for governance” now under certain circumstances they could be fit for government.

    “There are also of course significant ideological differences within the respective parties especially in terms of things like religious position.”

    Not quite certain what you mean by that. However, all the Unionist parties are socially conservative.

    “In terms of a single unionist party there might be electoral advantages in terms of maximising the unionist vote.”

    The electoral evidence tends against that. Immediately post AIA the agreed candidates didn’t match the levels of the previous two. Also the best recent turnout for Unionism was in 2001 Westminster when comeptition between the UUP and DUP was at its keenest.

    “Even if it never achieves anything else the TUV certainly helped put a stop to that in a way which I doubt could have been as easily achieved internally. As an example look at the inability of a very large minority of the UUP to prevent Trimble”

    This is were we differ on the insider/outsider options. The UUP and DUP are fundamentally different creatures.

    Garibaldy

    Thank you for your clarification of your earlier post. It was not my intention to be dismissive of your point and apologies if my brevity conveyed that sense. I simply did not think it addressed directly the questions I asked.

    BTW It was not the only attempt you had “The Idea of the Union” publication and the work of the Cadogan group (although it was rather process focused).

    Sam Flanaghan

    A party set out its views regularly not just at an election and the size of vote is not a determinant of the level of difference between them simply the popularity of the differences (real or imagined small or large).

    “A meaningful political campaign to have N.Ireland withdraw from the EU as soon as possible”

    Surely you mean UK?

    “A united demand to have a public enquiry into the Mark Haddock scandal”

    Personally not a fan of selectivity on the past and as far as I can determone none of the three parties have a well-defined apporach to dealing with the past.

  • Sam Flanagan

    FD;
    No,I mean the EU.

    “as far as I can determone none of the three parties have a well-defined apporach to dealing with the past.”

    That says it all. None of them are worth voting for.

  • fair_deal

    Sam Flanaghan

    I realise you meant withdrawal from the EU. My query was how could a ‘Unionist’ party argue for NI’s withdrawal surely you meant UK

  • joeCanuck

    Sorry that I cannot directly address the differences, if any, Fair Deal, but when you look at how quickly the original monolithic party fell into many pieces after they lost their privileges, it has to be obvious that there were huge differences hitherto buried in the face of their common overriding interest.

  • Turgon

    F-d,

    I think our views as ever are not very dissimilar. Maybe we should start calling one another names to ensure we can argue.

    I suspect you may be correct on ideological differences but I tend to feel that there is a lot less ideology in politics than there used to be. NI with nationalist / unionist differences at least has some ideological differences. What I meant was that the TUV’s wish for pulling the whole thing down and starting again is a pretty radical difference from yourselves. Then again if the DUP achieve what they want internally then I agree it will be similar.

    I think you for one will believe me that if such a things happens I will be delighted and just go back to my books.

    In terms of religion I do think that the UUP was fundamentally secular whereas the DUP was quite a religiously based party. Now I regard it as a secular party containing many very religious people (a change I welcome).

    I agree with you re one vs multiple party and maximising the vote. The only thing left to differ on is the insider / outsider thing and I chose one you chose the other. Oh dear we will really have to call one another names to have a proper argument.

  • Peat Blog

    I don’t suspect there are any real differences between the two, although the DUP is obviously more dogmatic on religious issues, but they are both still socially conservative. I couldn’t tell you what they believe on any substantive bread and butter issue as we still seem to be at the stage were standpoints are only taken on issues of morality (usually remarkably regressive and old fashioned from a secular British viewpoint) and the rest depends on who is leaning on them (ie. business men, landowners etc. – clientalism seemingly practiced by most political parties on the island). And, of course, on the perceived hardness (or softness) of their opposition to “the others”. Foster and Donaldson seemed to be able to change sides with relative ease, all based on a particular negotiating position. They seem most interested in stealing each others voters rather than reaching out to those form their “own” community that don’t vote, never mind “the others”.

  • “A bog-standard attack line on the DUP and Paisley that i took at face value”

    f_d, I can tell you didn’t much like my exposure of your little bit of DUP spin 🙂

    Unfortunately for you, Papa Doc told us that he was ‘forced’. It was a choice between going into government with SF or Plan B.

    ““genuine philosophical and ideological differences””

    What has this fancy language got to do with, er, ‘bog-standard’ Unionists?

    Meanwhile, up on the North Coast questions continue to be asked about the tendering process for the new Rathlin ferry contract. Peter Robinson and Conor Murphy could well find themselves in the firing line as the Northern Ireland Audio Office carries out its in-depth investigation.

  • Smithsonian

    It takes along time to change the perception of a brand and during that time the people are confused(Natural enough because the message is changing).

    As it stands at the moment the Unionist people could be confused for not knowing what any of the Unionist parties stand for, apart for getting their snout in the trough.

    If I were to hazard a guess, the current thinking would be that the UUP tried their best to move forward but were let down by others. They are now a spent force.

    The DUP offered a robust, religious, uncompromising political stance which now appears to have been a load of hot air, devoid of any principle. They are now completely discredited.

    The TUV are viewed as being principled but unable to offer an alternative. A vote for them is merely a protest vote, which will further fragment the Unionist vote.

    My guess is that significant proportions of the electorate are patiently waiting the opportunity to take their revenge on a party that they feel mislaid them.

    Who will benefit? That depends on the emergence of a viable alternative, should one emerge the DUP are finished, in the alternative the Unionist vote will continue to decline and we will have a Republican first minister.

  • fair_deal

    Nevin

    “I can tell you didn’t much like my exposure of your little bit of DUP spin”

    You flatter yourself, a general sense of boredom was what your comment induced. Beyond that I’m trying to have a reasonable and serious discussion with those who are interested not get sidetracked.

  • Peat Blog

    The TUV will only be a minor vehicle for disaffected DUPers. However, I don’t think Alister has the charisma or the theological underpinnings that such a protest “party” would need in NI to mount a sustained challenge. They might take away some of the rural vote but that’s about it. Even the name, Traditional Unionist Values, suggests a movement reclining up its own posterior, although, on a positive note, Allister will form something of an opposition which is sorely missing from the current arrangements – taking up issues that might otherwise pass without scrutiny even though he (Allister) might ignore them himself were they not useful for short term political expediency.

  • While differences are theoretically possible in 2008 what are the “genuine philosophical and ideological differences” in the public positions of the Unionist parties?

    Erm…that’s a toughie!

    I’d say theoretically there is an element within the UUP inclined to engage/integrate to a greater degree with the mainland, whereas the DUP seem quite content to remain Kings of the Castle here and press, what at times, seems more an Ulster National Party than truly UK-wide Unionist agenda.

  • f_d, a ‘reasonable and serious discussion’ on Unionism is unlikely to follow on from a puff for the DUP and a thinly veiled hatchet job on other members of the pan-Unionist family.

    The liberal segment appears to have largely abandoned the family and IMO continued mutual bad-mouthing of the remaining segments bodes ill for the future of Unionism.

  • Peat Blog

    Would agree Nevin re. liberals and would wider it to others that aren’t too hung up on the constitutional question. We’ve put up with bad government for too long due to our “special” circumstances and it doesn’t really matter whether the bad comes from London or Belfast (or even Dublin) but it occurs to me that the continuing sideshows and proxy battles just distract us from making timely decisions on bread and butter issues that matter.

  • willowfield

    So Drew Nelson calls for unionist unity on the same day as his colleagues RObert Saulters and the looper Stephen Dickinson get stuck into Peter Robinson and the DUP. And, of course, after several years of the Orange Order undermining David Trimble.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    Unionists with sound self reflective ‘philosophical’ and ‘ideological’ views?

    …Swiss cheese has less holes!

    BTW, Stephen Dickinson is some piece of work!

  • Garibaldy

    FD,

    I don’t think that other stuff was on the same level as Porter’s, which drew on wider political theory, philosophy, and history of political thought in a way that I don’t think the others did (from the little I have seen of them).

    I think that the closest to Porter is probably Arthur Aughey, but both have been marginal in the wider debates I’d have thought. The Trimbleistas would like to have thought they were heading in that direction but the whole thing was a disaster.

    As for ideological differences. I can’t see any. Even Allister is about timing, although there are some on the extremes of the TUV who are different to the rest. But I’d be tempted to attribute that to bigotry rather than ideology. The Dickinson case is an interesting one. From an OO point of view, the complaints about the dragon, and about the attempt to downplay the religious and political elements made perfect sense.

  • fair_deal

    Garibaldy

    IIRC Porter’s work did define there being three ideological positions for Unionism – cultural unionism, liberal unionism and his own civic unionism. (At that time the DUP the first UKUP the second and UUP managing somehow to sit astride both.) Although IMO Porter’s civic unionism was so threadbare I doubt it had enough to be an ideology.

    The Idea of the Union book could be argued was the liberal unionist polemic.

    Arthur Aughey is indeed the other prominent contributor but he has taken more interest in England’s relationship with the Union of late (although that is still worth reading because of its broader impact on the Union and the west lothian question). He did contribute to the Cadogan group as well but its works seemed to jump about a bit depending on who the main contributor was taking away somewhat from its consistency.

    Of them all Bew seemed to have the most influence on Trimble although he himself would admit he got much more media credit for this than was actually true.

    There would be an argument that some of this is false choices. A political party has to appeal to a range of audiences with the key to success appealing to the diverse bunch enough to motivate them to vote but not too much emphasis on one that alienates the others.

    “The Trimbleistas would like to have thought they were heading in that direction but the whole thing was a disaster.”

    Indeed but like so much they toyed with something for a while and then did the complete opposite for another while.

    “The Dickinson case is an interesting one. From an OO point of view, the complaints about the dragon, and about the attempt to downplay the religious and political elements made perfect sense.”

    The OO fulfils four functions cultural political social and religious. When you ask an OO member what the organisation is about you tend to get the function or functions which attracted them. There will always be tensions between these functions especially for those who only want it to focus on one.

    On a personal level as an OO member with a Chinese wife I certainly intend to have a few words with my brother the next time I see him.

    Nevin

    As I said “a reasonable and serious discussion”.

  • “philosophical and ideological differences”

    Sorry it’s not an in-depth analysis but ‘nuff said. I would like to think/hope the UU went in for this stuff slightly less, as well as tending slightly more towards civic/liberal ideals (less wrapping themselves in the flag and appealing to the lowest common denominator). To what extent what I like to think reflects the truth I’m not sure.

    (Sorry about the double-post).

  • Dewi

    Traditionally I tended to look at the DUP as more “Ulster Nationalist” and the UUP as more sort of “English Unionist”. No idea if there is any truth in that stereotype these days.

  • f_d, [edited by moderator – play the ball not the man]

    London and Dublin’s main agenda is and has been to contain the Troubles and paramilitarism to Northern Ireland, in so far as that is possible.

    Trimble and Paisley IMO both faced the same choices: they could either go into government with the PRM’s political wing or they could have further joint direct-rulers dancing to the PRM tune.

    When Paisley finally jumped he had to jump further than Trimble. The US role in ‘housetraining’ the PRM spared him a few blushes; Junior’s activities in North Antrim soon brought them back.

    IMO (moderate and extreme) Unionism (and moderate Nationalism) will continue to play second fiddle to the ‘chosen’ paramilitary godfathers and the ‘moral’ electorate will continue to vote for those who can appeal to their baser instincts. It’s a far from delightful prospect but I see little point in running away from reality. And that reality includes 2016 …

    The OO is indeed a broad church. There are also tensions within the political domain, not least the influence of paramilitarism.

  • FD if you’re suggesting Nevin’s post isn’t an answer to your question I would suggest that is unfair. He may not have directly said it but I think there’s a clear implication that the “philosophical and ideological differences” aren’t half as big as the DUP would have us believe.

    Beano – what’s up with your site at the moment?

  • fair_deal

    beano

    Is there a difference in the social conservatism of the two main parties or is it an issue of vocalism?

    Nevin

    Interesting commentary on the politics of the process

  • Garibaldy

    FD,

    I think that you’re being a little unfair on Porter’s idea of civic unionism. Whether it was ever likely to be taken up by unionists is another matter. Some may wish to argue that the fact that unionism has failed miserably over the last decade or so to actually make the transition to the type of modernised, pluralist politics that so many have talked about – from O’Neill even up to the Big Man and Peter – is indicative of its being an inherently reactionary ideology. Or at least an inherently reactionary electorate might be more accurate (not that this isn’t true of the society generally).

    Nationalism likes to speak pluralist language, and is more comfortable with the language of rights etc. I’ll never understand why the theme of British rights for British citizens has never been used more by unionism to try and defuse that discourse, or even claim it. After all, rights were a major part of 1688. The discourse of rights is not, as some like to suggest, an alien import, but a fundamental part of British political culture for centuries.

    Interesting what you say about Dickinson. My understanding of what he said was not that it was Chinese, but that those particular elements represented something spiritual, and therefore something pagan. The point about the wife raises an interesting question. Would an OO member having a wife from another major non-Christian faith – say Judaism or Islam – be unacceptable to the OO the way a Catholic wife is?

  • fair_deal

    Garibaldy

    Maybe a little unfair 😉 but I would concur Unionism has not focused on the battle of ideas they way it should have and this has been a longstanding issue.

    The theme of british rights for british citizens has been toyed with but it was been developed beyond a catch phrase (believe it or not I designed a promotional camapign around this topic to try and get Unionism to engage with rights but no funder would touch it despite the obvious disconnect).

    Plus with so many things British rights have been muddled through with a lack of clarity. That’s why I have seen Brown’s talk as an opportunity (despite the scepticism of his motivations) I would concur the idea of rights is not an alien concept. However the post-war expansion of rights instruments, move into positive rights, the obsession with the particular over the general, judicial activism cannot be as easily squared.

    On the OO question I don’t know. In my general experience that unless it has a standing position for about 100 years the likelihood of the OO getting a formal corporate position on it is low with the ability/willingness to enforce its position probably even lower.

  • Garibaldy

    Interesting that you could get no funder for that. Surprising. If only for badness. I agree there is a lack on clarity on all this. I’m not sure though that rights should be such a problem. After all, citizens’ charters, the rights of the individial against the state are all from a right wing set of assumptions many unionists would share. Cheers for the answer to the OO question. I had thought it might have been a non-issue due to the virtual absence of these other religions, but that must change in future. As for enforcing its position, I don’t know what the expulsion procedures are, but they don’t seem that airtight.

  • fair_deal

    Garibaldy

    “Interesting that you could get no funder for that. Surprising.”

    The sectarian zero sum kicks in to a degree with the funders looking over there shoulder for a chorus of condemnation. They’d rather support something so broad it is largely meaningless but nice and safe.

    “After all, citizens’ charters, the rights of the individial against the state are all from a right wing set of assumptions many unionists would share.”

    True but human rights have moved away from individual rights to state duties. I think we are in broad agreement but maybe diverge on how substantial the task is.

    “I don’t know what the expulsion procedures are, but they don’t seem that airtight.”

    Like many things in the OO it’s an adminstrative nightmare. There was a successful court challenge to an explulsion in the late 80’s and a bunch of rows in the early 90’s so everyone has been pretty loathe to do much since then.

  • Garibaldy

    Maybe the new unionist academy will run such the British rights argument should it get off the ground. I’m not sure at all that rights have moved away from individuals. It’s now just that the right wing version of rights is often disguised as choice. As for expulsion, I remember the moves to get Trimble in trouble after attending the Omagh funerals. Good he wasn’t thrown out, but the fact that people were stupid enough to try it says a lot.

  • “edited by moderator – play the ball not the man”

    Mod, it would be nice if that rule had been applied to the blogger when he made the earlier over the ball lunge. Can we not have a bit of equality here on Slugger? 🙂