Changing perspectives

Clearly Mick is right, and the DUP have been caught on the hop over the Conservative move today. Their statements today smack very much of desperation.

Some people have been making good use of their lunch hours today by seeing what I said about Cameron two years ago. And true enough here it is:

We’ve been over this ground before, and I think that it is clear that the Tories are dangerous to the Union, all over the Kingdom. From Scots being a second class part of the National Parliament to the “pro-union” nonsense in Northern Ireland, the Conservatives are not a party that Unionists can vote for anywhere in the Kingdom. Increasingly they are not a party that Conservatives can vote for either for that matter! Labour looks more and more like a party that I can support (Hain notwithstanding). I hope that John Reid gets the leadership myself.

My pointing out that Cameron is not a Unionist is not bigotry, and it is grossly offensive for you to suggest that it is. Cameron making “pro-union” noises does not make him a Unionist. I don’t trust him because I don’t believe he is genuine, not because I am a bigot.

Posted by Michael Shilliday on Nov 29, 2006 @ 06:44 PM

And here is the context to those comments. A year later and Boris Johnston penned this misleading and little Englander article. That was shortly after Sir Malcolm Rifkind proposed creating two classes of MP in Parliament. These examples skim the surface.

These days, the Conservatives are proposing much more measured answers to the West Lothian Question. By no means perfect, but certainly much better. And then we have today’s statement:

There would be no clearer signal that Northern Ireland was moving on and becoming a ‘normal’ part of the UK than Northern Ireland MPs supporting and serving in a Conservative Government. Such an historic move would be the ultimate expression that whilst the Conservative Party supports the devolution settlement, it is the only genuine national party that stands, and is represented in, every corner of the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party and Ulster Unionist Party want the support of all those who share our joint agenda and common vision, regardless of their religion, background, or whatever part of the UK they happen to reside in.

However, all the people of Northern Ireland need to be able to address and be fully involved in all the national issues that are not devolved – foreign affairs, defence, the strategic fiscal and expenditure issues and the broad thrust of social policy. Northern Ireland needs to be brought back into the mainstream of UK politics. It needs more full-time MPs working in the House of Commons, taking part in all the national debates. It needs MPs who have the real prospect of assuming office as ministers in the government of the day at Westminster. Northern Ireland needs to be properly represented in the corridors of power – and Westminster needs to benefit from the undoubted skills of its people. For too long many of the most talented have been turned-off by a political discourse dominated by the politics of division rather than the mainstream political debate of the nation.

This is time line shows clear movement by the Conservatives from Cameron’s early leadership. The dangerous sentiments expressed made Guido’s number two predication for 2007, that the Tories would abandon Unionism and their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish branches, look like a distinct possibility, Cameron looked and sounded like the leader of a Little Englander party that was on course to destroy the Union. That situation has clearly changed. Cameron is talking about the Union, the entire Union in ways he wasn’t before. His spokesmen are now on a tighter message, much less dubious scaremongering over funding, much more considered policy on the devolution settlement. So yes, for the record, I was critical of Cameron two years ago, and yes, I stand over those comments. But only in the context of 2006, not 2008.

On the matter at hand, my feeling hasn’t changed much having seen the analysis during the day. There are difficult times ahead, difficult decisions to be taken and arguments to be had. But frankly, it’s about time the UUP had them. Some people have been pushing this for quite a long time, and today has vindicated their position. Good UUP members will leave over this, there is no doubt of that, and I will truly be sorry to see them go. But the number will be smaller than what I would have predicted. I think there is a sense of realism amongst many members over what the modern political battleground is, and what Labour and the Conservatives stand for.

I used to write and get paid, now I read and don’t.

Former UUP staffer, currently living in London. @mjshilliday

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