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

  • frustrated democrat

    The Conservatives have always been a unionist party (in the context of a United Kingdom), so there is no cover for you at all.

    But the fact you were wrong then is ameliorated by the fact that you have had the good sense to move to a position that is right now.


    btw the UUP was made up of a mix of people who were not natural ‘bedfellows’ Fred Cobain and David Burnside in the same party was always a contradiction. Some will think about leaving, some will, the vast majority won’t and the increase in membership will be dramatic.

  • elvis Parker

    Darwin Templeton, the News Letter editor has surpassed himself this morning with his editorial
    ‘Pact may not be in interest of unionism’
    He states ‘The DUP is in a much stronger negotiating position at Westminster with nine MPs to the UUPs one’
    Lets fast forward to not to very in the distant future.
    Cameron is PM with 400 plus Conservative and UNIONIST MPs (Darwin re your title dont mistake the Ulster Protestant community for unionism)

    Lord Empey is the Northern Ireland Leader of the Conservative Party. Perhaps with a couple of MPs from NI

    Peter is the leader of a small group of (10)MPs who are shunned because of the lunatic intolerant views of the leader’s wife (hard to dismiss as a maverick eh Pete?)

    Darwin reckons this may not been in the interests of unionism.
    Darwin get it into your head that electing a dozen Prods to Westminster – regardless of whether they are DUP or UUP to site in splendid isolation until they can sell their votes in a tight division UNDERMINES the Union.

    BTW I am sure the Conservatives will take note of your stance

    VOTE Tory

  • fair_deal


    So a distrust of Cameron and the Conservatives is a reasonable position then?

  • The Bogeyman

    Michael liked the tories until Peter Bowles defected to them then he flip flopped and decided they were just bad eggs.
    Anyhow Mickey, how does this development affect your idea of hooking up with the SDLP to fight elections, or have you flip flopped there as well?

  • darth rumsfeld

    This story is just sily season froth.

    The link up won’t rescue the UUP which is flatlining, and it won’t make significant difference to the Tories at Westminster( my man in the Torygraph says the UUP claim they might have up to 6 seats to bring to the party next time- as if!). Trimble may well get a job in the next cabinet that noone would begrudge him, but that’s about it for Ulster’s political classes.

    In the unlikely event that Mr Oleagenous needs the DUP’s votes to get into No 10 an understanding will be reached, and the UUP will be told to get over it- in fact this alliance may actually make it harder for them to whine about it

  • i agree darth rumsfeld

    the UUP have a mountain to climb… no point in dressing it up otherwise…

    when the summer break is over – it’s still Sylvia on her own…

    linking with the tories won’t impact one bit on the average UUP voter…

    how well have the the NI Conservative candidates polled here in the past – not well…

    the UUP have also been descending

    2 not very encouraging trends

  • DUP Voter

    If only the UUP could be perfect like us

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    For the New Tories the religious intolerance and religious extemism of the DUP would be a step to far for Cameron – not good for the image.

    Though the UUPs relationship with the Orange Order must give the boy David a few concerns. But good on Wee Reggie it looks like a good move – though probably confirms them as the middle class Prod party and the minor unionist party from here on in.

  • Steve

    A coule more back linke Michael and I would think you were doing a pete b impression or spoof?

  • Blackmouth

    “For the New Tories the religious intolerance and religious extemism of the DUP would be a step to far for Cameron – not good for the image.”

    Yes but a link-up with the people who were trying to link up with the political wing of the UVF is?

    This is froth. Paul Clarke put it best to Empey on UTV

    Clarke: Is this an act of desperation?
    Empey: Does David Cameron look like a desperate man?
    Clarke: It’s not Cameron who’s desperate, it’s you.

    Just about sums it up.

  • Blackmouth

    BTW, Shilliday, what part of Nigel Dodds statement smacks of desperation?

    There was certainly no sign of a DUP fall out with the Conservatives judging by today’s NL – Simpson and Moutray with Owen Paterson at Dan Winter’s cottage.

  • Supine Prop

    ‘I will truly be sorry to see them go’ – I’m sure this will be a comfort. Perhaps, sadly, your ‘contextualisation’ just won’t budge some people from outmoded 2006 positions 🙁

    ‘the number will be smaller than what I would have predicted’ – predicted in 2006?

  • Blackmouth

    Supine Prop

    Well said.

  • frustrated democrat

    I must admit it gives me some satisfaction to see the DUP carping and squirming, they were well and truly caught out on this occasion and are right to be worried about the future!

    If all they can do is throw stones from the sidelines, which is where they are on this occasion, they would be best to shut up and say nowt!

  • Blackmouth


    I don’t think the DUP have carped at all. What they did was provide a rational and reasoned explaination of why they adopt the policy they do. Being free to defend Northern Ireland’s interests without being bound to any one party is a perfectly sensible position.

    Instead of actually getting down to work, grafting on the ground and taking the DUP on over the issues after the 2005 defeat, the UUP has looked to Dave Cameron to throw them a life-line. I doubt very much if there will be any Cameron bounce in Northern Ireland (remember John Major visitng Upper Bann to campaign for the Tory candidate after McCusker died? – the Tory candidate still got gubbed) and I cannot see the logic in this decision. It will also (as acknowledged by Michael above) lead to defections and resignations from the Ulster Unionists – given the choice between having people like David Christopher etc in my party or the massed cranks that make up the NI Tories, I know who I would choose.

  • Blackmouth,

    As I have fond memories of Upper Bann 1990, I can confirm that John Major didn’t show up. Although Kenneth Baker, Chris Patten (boo, hiss) and the much-missed Ian Gow did.

  • Blackmouth

    The Watchman

    Fair enough, but you take my point.

  • truth and justice

    Only two years ago the UUP were trying to do a deal with the PUP and also an electoral deal with the Alliance Party now it is the turn of the Conservaive party so that Trimble can get a job in the cabinet rather sad if you ask me.

  • frustrated democrat

    They just can’t give up can they!

  • Blackmouth


    Give up what? Pointing out the facts?

  • Nice perspectives