“…radical and interesting, but destined to fail”

Chris McGimpsey provides his negative assessment of the proposed Tory UUP link-up. He argues that while it suits cameron it offers little to the UUP and states:

But I, and the many thousands of left-wing Unionists like me, need to be offered the option of voting both for the Union and for social justice. If that ceases to be an option, it may be time for some of us to look for a new political home.

  • Ned

    The ‘left wing’ UUP voters that he cites in the article no longer exist. How many votes did the UUP get in West Belfast last year? Answer: 558. Basically an also ran party. I think the people before profit candidate got about the same, or maybe more.

    Politics is moving beyond simple class distinctions but to the extent that the ‘left wing’ unionists exist, they are clearly voting DUP already – Diane Dodds got 3,661 in the same election.

    The vast bulk of the UUP’s supporters are Tory and that pary is their only hope of any revival. Evidence of this clearly comes from how vociferous the DUP is in attacking the proposed merger.

  • Ann

    Ned, Unionist WB is a very small ward, it’s hardly a back up to your argument.

  • bob Wilson

    I’ve a lot of respect for Chris McGimpsey but think his thinking in this article in somewhat contradictory. He seems quite positive about the idea of Con, Lab and Lib organising in NI and providing ‘real politics’ but seems to suggest UUP should stay outside this?
    Chris McGimpsey and other left leaning UUP members should join Labour and help drive forward real politics and their unionist prespective within Labour
    I appreciate joining Lab may not be an inticing prospect at the moment but many Ulster Tories had to bite the bullet and join the Tories in the late 80s – only years after the AIA and a time when the Conservative Party was not popular nationally

  • frustrated democrat

    Ned

    I agree, the brothers grim do not represent the bulk of UUP members, if fact I understand over 75% of UUP MLA’s are, in principle, in favour of a partnership.

    The problem seems to be a return to the usual dithering that has characterised the UUP leadership over the past few years. At least Trimple took the hard decisions, even if they caused problems.

    In any event a decision will have to be made soon as the the conference season approaches and regardless of what happens the NI Tories will have had a vastly increased profile as a result of the discussions.

  • bob Wilson

    Chris McGimpsey:
    ‘The Tories may contest elections in Northern Ireland, but will be unable to win them.’
    Wishful thinking on Red Chris’ part I’m afraid there is strong polling evidence and increasing anecdotal evidence to suggest otherwise

  • PeaceandJustice

    Chris McGimpsey should get in contact with Andy McGivern and stand for the Labour Party at the next election. Not everyone was going to agree with the UUP-Conservative link-up and this is the natural progression.

    However, I haven’t heard much since this news item last year. Is membership now over 200 and if so has the NI-wide forum been created?

  • Ned

    “Ned, Unionist WB is a very small ward, it’s hardly a back up to your argument.”

    Yes, but it is the constituency that he (Mr Mc Gimpsey) is using to back up his argument and the constituency where he is (according to the Observer article) President of the UUP Association.

    It is, in any case, generally indicative. The hypothesised legions of leftist UUP supporters simply do not exist.

    Frustrated Democrat – Yes, I agree that the UUP’s best interests would be served in getting this done as soon as possible. There are 4 elections coming up over the next two and a half years (first one next June). If they want to maximise the positive impact of the merger, they should try to conclude it ASAP to have a clear message to take to the electorate.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Ned – “[the UUP-Conservatives] should try to conclude it ASAP to have a clear message to take to the electorate.”

    If it’s anything short of a full-blown merger then it’s not going to work. We’ve had enough of loose link-ups in the past. It needs to have full Conservative & Unionist Party branding.

  • rabelais

    Ned,
    I don’t think anyone believes that there are ‘legions’ of leftwing UUP members, Chris McGimpsey included, but there are some, and a link-up with the Tories will probably drive them out of the party just as the mainstream politics of unionism generally has held little attraction for left-wing voters in NI who might otherwise have been well disposed towards the union.

    Mainstream political disourse may ignore issues surrounding class but class, and the working class in particular, haven’t gone away. Neither are the working class a ‘natural’ leftwing constituency (now voting for the DUP), as your first post seems to suggest.

    There is no question that unionism is a political formation more comfortable with right-wing politics. This has been a tragedy for the north’s protestant working class who have tended to be (mis)represented on social and economic issues by a politics that has done little for them. Perhaps there was a time when social imperialism served their interests but this is the era when the motherland has ‘no strategic and economic interests’ in NI. We’re being ‘modernised’ and privatised, recession is coming and the impact could be devasting on working class communities.

  • Conquistador

    If Chris McGimpsey threatens to leave the UUP *yawn*, although if the rest of his family did then that would be a different story…

  • Ned

    Peace & Justice – Concur. It must the whole hog or nothing at all. A half-hearted effort of ‘taking the whip at Westminster’ or whatever will have no impact at all.

    Rabelais – I agree that there is a small minority of left wing UUP members. And I agree that they will – indeed should – leave the merged party. At the same time though, the new organisation would have the potential to attract previously ambivalent unionists, pro-union Catholics and even some DUP or Alliance members attracted by the national politics narrative.

    I completely agree that is entirely wrong to characterise the ‘working class’ as left wing(though I prefer not to think in terms of class at all). As we know, ‘working class’ Toryism has always been key to that party’s success.

    I also agree that it is unfortunate that Northern Ireland politics have continually revolved around the constitutional issue to the exclusion of other important economic and social issues. The arrival of a full strength Conservative Party may help to move us on from that.

  • Greenflag

    rabelais ,

    ‘This has been a tragedy for the north’s protestant working class who have tended to be (mis)represented on social and economic issues by a politics that has done little for them.’

    Spot on. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place and a shower of paramiltarys. The DUP promises them ‘heaven ‘ in their next life – the paramiltaries can give them ‘hell’ in the here and now and the UUP are promising them political death followed by a quick funeral .

  • Greenflag

    ned ,

    ‘I also agree that it is unfortunate that Northern Ireland politics have continually revolved around the constitutional issue to the exclusion of other important economic and social issues.’

    It is but that’s a given -it goes with the territory that is the present NI State . As inevitable as night following day.

    ‘ The arrival of a full strength Conservative Party may help to move us on from that.’

    Conservative ‘politicking ‘ in Ireland in the period 1910 through 1922 did nothing for Ireland except to sow further division , war and political instability .

    The Conservatives have never been ‘friends’ of Ireland either North or South not then -not now and most likely not ever .

    McGimpsey knows that much at least.

  • Essentialist

    This over simplification of the working class unionist voting preference is based on historical voting patterns. The script has been torn up since the last election. It is not the UUP who should be concerned about any merger but the DUP.

    Their working class base have felt the real impact of deceptive manifesto promises.
    A joint unity move: Conservatives, UUP and DUP would give unionists a better representation. Robinson would rather burn in Hell. After all it couldn’t get any worse than present.
    Would the Conservatives however operate the D’Hondt system?

  • Limeflag

    Aye all things britsh are bad

  • There is no point in any politician joining either British or Irish Labour if they believe standing for election is part of political activity, as it is becoming increasingly clear that neither will ever put up candidates here. Certainly Irish Labour is getting ready to say no to its activists in NI – they want us all to go away and join the SDLP (as, indeed, does British Labour).

    So I don’t know what the next move will be.

  • rabelais

    Ned,
    You wrote: ‘…I prefer not to think in terms of class at all’

    Unionist politics depends upon the notion that any discussion of class is potentially divisive. And of course it is. So the Tory merger will be presented as if it will have no impact upon the UUPs ability to represent working class voters, which is not only crap, it’s dishonest crap! McGimpsey knows this and that’s the cause of his discomfort.

    Whether one likes it or not class plays a critical role in determining life chances. Just because most political parties choose not to talk about class does not make this simple fact any less so. But there must be some underlying assumption in unionist politics that the Union is good for working class people living in NI. I can understand why in the era of empire and industry it was possible to make strong secular arguments in favour of the union that appealed to northern Protestant working class. But what arguments could be advanced now? And how will a political party like the Conservatives, whose electoral fortunes depend largely upon it’s appeal to middle England, reach out to voters on the Shankill?

    Greenflag makes an important point about previous Conservative politiking in Ireland. You have to ask why the Tories on the verge of a potentially massive electoral victory would want to associate themselves with the unlovely politics of Ulster.

  • rabelais

    Jenny,
    There seems always to have been a constituency of potential Labour voters in NI waiting for either the Irish or British Labour Parties to organise here. Apart from both parties’ reluctance to do so there seems to me to be other problems for them. How would the British Labour Party avoid being seen as a Unionist LP and the Irish Labour Party avoid being seen as a Nationalist LP, broadly sectarian designation that would be the political death of both in NI?

    The only solution to this seems to me to be that Labour supporters in NI set up their own left party and associate to both the British and Irish Labour Parties in constitutional terms that correspond with the North-South, East-West provisions of the Belfast Agreement.

    Presto, a party that genuinely reflects the constitutional realities of Northern Ireland.

  • If there is room for a working class political party for unionists then why does it not exist already.
    Supply and demand and all that

  • Labourman

    While I’m still waiting on formal confirmation, Jenny and P&J;, you should be happy to know that the days of counting members are over. A figure has been exceeded and a contracted process should now be entered into

  • Labourman – does that contracted process including standing candidates for election? And if so, when?

    Rabelais – sadly I am coming to the same conclusion as you, but not for the same reason. I think the perceptions of sectarian bias could be overcome, but if neither party wants us then the two other alternatives are to form an NI party (being very aware here that there did use to be a NILP and it still fell foul of sectarian division) or to stay home and watch Eastenders.

  • Jer

    Greenflag you say that a conservative push into the north may be a way of moving past the constitutional discussion (for some anyhow). I think 5 years ago i would agree but today or at least in 2010 a conservative govt. would be at the mother of all constitutional arguments concerning the Scottish referendum. A poll today shows a conservative govt being the key factor in whether such a proposal passes. It of course would be good for the UUP to stand with the conservatives but I think any tory term will not be an uneventful one as regards constitutional changes.
    Courtesy of http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/news/display.var.2442500.0.Conservative_win_would_fuel_support_for_independence.php from http://www.nuzhound.com

  • I was with rabelais @ 02:57 PM (yes, just catching up. There are other aspects of my idle life… ) until his last sentence.

    Despite the public pretence, I doubt that anyone in the Tory hierarchy is privately confident their present polling will survive until Thursday 3rd June, 2010 (the last possible date for a General Election). As a result sprats are being tossed to catch mackerel. Or in the case of the UUP, old cod.

    McGimpsey is asking the proper questions, and coming up with some interesting answers. The demographics of Northern Ireland are moving in favour of an urbanised, socially-conscious, deracinated, less-confessional political centre. There certainly is a constituency there for the taking: though such a gross generalisation may not apply to Portadown for another three generations.

  • Ann

    There certainly is a constituency there for the taking: though such a gross generalisation may not apply to Portadown for another three generations.

    But surely such a party based on a constituency in Belfast that would not have broader appeal would be doomed to failure?

    Another new party on the political scene?
    I can’t see it happening somehow, especially on the left.

  • cynic

    “The demographics of Northern Ireland are moving in favour of an urbanised, socially-conscious, deracinated, less-confessional political centre.”

    You left out the “young, upwardly mobile, aspirational and materialstic.” and also the “older socially and politically conservative” as its a dumbell effect I think as the baby boomers hit pension age.

    All ideal Conservative territory then – at least compared to any of the other parties here.

  • slug

    Jenny although I am not a member personaily I undesrtstand that the UK Labour is at the stage where local organisation will imminently be permitted but not yet where candidates will be put up. One step at a time 🙂

    Regarding the electoral future I wonder whether part of the reason the SDLP want the removal of designation in the Assembly is so they can deny the Labour folks an argument for standing against them?

    I do believe, simply from the logic of the situation, that UK Labour will eventually agree to stand candidates.

  • G

    “I do believe, simply from the logic of the situation, that UK Labour will eventually agree to stand candidates.”

    Though then they will have to explicitly and boldly endorse the Union – you can’t stand candidates in part of your country and have them campaign in favour of that part of the country leaving.

    Also, the comparisons would be drawn with Scotland & Wales – where Labour are unashamedly pro-union. They would have to do the same here. I personally don’t think their up to that.

  • Greenflag

    jer ,

    What happens in Scotland is of much more significance to the UK than the game the Tories are playing in NI .

    Not sure what would emerge in NI if Scotland did bite the bullet during a Cameron premiership . And I’m not entirely convinced that the Irish without balls ( ie the Scots 🙂 are clever or daft enough to cut the ahem Gordian knot .

    Sorry crystal ball is all fogged up – scottish weather outlook ye see !

    I’ll have to pay more attention to the land of Haggis and Cromarty Bute , Islay , Rum and Moray 🙂

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Not sure what would emerge in NI if Scotland did bite the bullet during a Cameron premiership . And I’m not entirely convinced that the Irish without balls ( ie the Scots 🙂 are clever or daft enough to cut the ahem Gordian knot .”[/i]

    Care to explain that again, I got lost with biting the bullet in Cameron;s premiership, not to mention the inclusion of coughs (ahem) while your talking.

  • ??

    Chris McGimpsey:
    ‘The Tories may contest elections in Northern Ireland, but will be unable to win them.’
    Wishful thinking on Red Chris’ part I’m afraid there is strong polling evidence and increasing anecdotal evidence to suggest otherwise

    Posted by bob Wilson on Sep 08, 2008 @ 11:44 AM

    was that the same polling that said a majority of people wanted to ditch the 12th as a public holiday

  • There’s a lot in here; and it’s by no means simple.

    At one level the UUP-Tory marriage implies greater symbiosis, and that means the smaller element will have to adapt more to the greater. The days of the Orange tail wagging the Tory dog are long gone. At some stage there, it will no longer matter what the affiliation is on the ballot paper.

    The joy of English Toryism is that it truly is the Church of England on the stump: it’s a broad church, capable of containing most beliefs. There are very few die-hard principles or dogmas: except possibly, “we hate Brussels”. On second thoughts, that’s pretty well true (except for the Brussels bit) about all three major English parties.

    I’m not au fait with the latest version of the Tory line, but back in 2006 it went like this (quoting from the Conference Report):

    Conservatives believe that government should be closer to people and communities, not further away. So our Party must go beyond arguments about devolution – and be the party that makes devolution work. Devolution must mean the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament are free to serve the people of Wales and Scotland, to do what is in their best interests. But real devolution means much more than that. It means more than separate Parliaments. It means abolishing costly, unnecessary Regional Assemblies in England and returning power to local government. And it means giving more power to local communities to make the decisions about their local area. This debate will focus on how we should balance power between national and local government so that people feel they have real control over the things that matter.

    That leaves enough wriggle-room for anything.

  • slug

    “Though then they will have to explicitly and boldly endorse the Union – you can’t stand candidates in part of your country and have them campaign in favour of that part of the country leaving. Also, the comparisons would be drawn with Scotland & Wales – where Labour are unashamedly pro-union. They would have to do the same here. I personally don’t think their up to that. ”

    We are not in the 1980s. Its obious they are not going to be persuaders for a UI. Labour would probably take a fairly neutral position. Can’t really see the big issue here.

  • G

    Slug – Well, if they do that, they will limit their appeal to a small portion of the electorate. I do believe that Northern Ireland can and will move beyond sectarianism, but I am less convinced about the prospects of success for any party not having a position on the Union fullstop.

    The problem is that the examples of Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland itself suggest that parties with an ambivalent stance on the constitution do command widespread support. The problem is that the presence of strong nationalist parties – Sinn Fein or SNP or Plaid Cymru – must necessitate a need for the other parties to emphasise their Unionism.

    Of all three countries, Alliance in NI is probably the only party that has sustained a constitutionally neutral position and received enough electoral support to hold elected positions. I suspect that any left of centre party with a neutral constitutional position will be splitting votes with Alliance and the Workers Party and the people before profit candidates etc.

  • G

    Paragraph 2, line 2 of the above – that should be “do NOT command widespread support”. Doh!

  • slug @ 07:49 PM:

    “… Scotland & Wales – where Labour are unashamedly pro-union. They would have to do the same here. I personally don’t think their up to that.“

    The Labour Government (1997-?) may have been somewhat taken aback by the consequences of devolution. That’s still unravelling; and good luck to all who sail in her.

    That does not complete the account of Labour Party policy.

    As far as I know (and I’m prepared to be corrected by someone with chapter-and-verse) official policy, as endorsed repeatedly by Labour Conferences, is an Ireland re-united by consensus. That is the principled reason why the Party has never organised in Northern Ireland.

    Curiously enough, if we accept the various Acts of Parliament at face value, that’s also the long-term aim of all British Governments since 1914.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Labourman – “you should be happy to know that the days of counting members are over. A figure has been exceeded and a contracted process should now be entered into”

    So on to the next stage i.e.
    Andy McGivern (May 2007) “I am of the view that once we get past the magic number of 200 members and the forum is set up under this deal and gets operating, we will have enough people to form constituency associations in the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies.”

    They might want to get a move on so that the UK Labour Party in NI can at least contest some of the seats at the next General Election. An opportunity for Chris McGimpsey to offer his left-wing credentials to the electorate.

  • slug

    G

    “Well, if they do that, they will limit their appeal to a small portion of the electorate. I do believe that Northern Ireland can and will move beyond sectarianism, but I am less convinced about the prospects of success for any party not having a position on the Union fullstop.”

    Oh I think they would have a position as a party of government of the UK, but in a way that is fairly “neutral” in the sense of annoying as few people as possible.

  • Pounder

    I was under the impression that if a local here tried to join the Labour Party they directed you to the SDLP? Not sure who the tories direct locals to, a BDSM brothel I’d imagine.

  • Nathan

    The DUP and to a lesser degree the PUP could always hoover up any outstanding w/c voters.

    Isn’t that what they’ve been doing all along.

  • slu

    “was under the impression that if a local here tried to join the Labour Party they directed you to the SDLP? ”

    That’s 5 years out of date.

  • Continental Drifter

    What an incredibly poor article.

    “Such districts do not return Conservatives.”

    They don’t return Ulster Unionists either, you twit.

    The link-up is the only remaining option for the Ulster Unionists, and a good move for the normalisation of Norn Irn politics.

    But they’ll bugger it up. They always do.

  • future

    Maybe the SDLP will have the imagination to set up an associated Unionist wing, to cater for the likes of Chris McGimpsey and the 30-40% of UUP voters who cant stomach the Tories.

    They could campaign together under a common Northern Irish Labour banner which really see a much-needed shake-up in the Assembly (adn elsewhere)

    Not since the 60s has there been a party (the NILP) that could campaign on the Shankill and the Falls for votes – think about it!