Devil in the detail?

David Cameron has admitted that there are some difficulties in established the future UUP/Tory relationship. Devenport seems to focus upon where Sylvia Hermon stands. Lord Trimble’s intervention seems to have contributed to some electoral and relationship concerns. The subtext seems to be the Conservatives looking for a full merger with Ulster Unionists happier with what has been described as the CSU/CDU model. Chekov argues the jitters are natural and Mark Devenport suggests a large financial carrot for the UUP, up to £40K to spend in each constituency in advance of the Westminster elections.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    As Jeffrey Donaldson has remarked a UU/Tory entry in all seats in Norn Iron is good news for SF and the SDLP.

    In the long run it is probably good for Unionism as the UU will have to rid itself of its sectarianism and will give sensible unionists a proper alternative to the bigotry of the DUP.

    Interesting how this will play with the sizeable Irish vote in the UK who will not like a strengthening of ties between the mainland and Norn Iron.

    If El Gordo rides out the current financial storm he will inevitably benefit in the polls and Posh boy Dave not not turn out to be the certainty hhe appears at the moment.

  • slug

    “I am a passionate Unionist” – David Cameron.

    It is quite striking language that David Cameron is using, that he is so committed to doing this, and so committed to doing it right. Not a convenient arrangement like the old one but something more joined up. The possibility that NI MPs become Ministers. Investing in building up to gain seats in NI. etc. Good for the quality of politics.

  • Carson’s Cat

    I’m not saying that the Tory/UU merget can’t/won’t work but its high risk. They face the possibility of alienating a large section of their party in return for what?

    Well, the alleged £40k per constituency is pie in the sky stuff. Are even the Tories going to throw £40k at West Belfast? The figure just happens to be the amount you’re allowed to spend per constituency in the run-up to an election so why chuck money into W Belfast, W Tyrone, Foyle etc when they’re about as winnable for the Tories/UUP as Glasgow East.

    Also, £40k might buy a bit of campaigning, but it won’t buy new candidates. Reg Empey with a blue rosette of the UUP losing East Belfast is still going to be the same Reg Empey in a blue rosette of the Tory party losing East Belfast. The best present the Tories could give Cunningham House is a few presentable candidates.

    However cash does seem to be the single sole motivating factor for the Ulster Unionists to get into bed with ‘Dave’ and the lads. Hardly the basis for a good deal. It would explain why Reg was so opposed to a merger the last time it was proposed though, the UUP were in sightly ruder financial health in those days.

    If they do agree a merger it’ll be interesting to see just how much cash does front up, mind you, I’d imagine Tory Central Office would want a say in how its spent. The way Cunningham House squandered Ballyedmond’s money and got bugger all as an electoral result is probably a lesson that the Tories wont let the squander Ashworth’s the same way.

    Also, it would appear that this definitive statement that the Tories will run in every constituency rules out any possibility of an electoral pact within Unionism in Northern Ireland, something which a large section of the pro-union electorate favour, particuarly in those constituencies where it could pay dividends.

    However, I suppose it could be argued that Trimble’s refusal to allow anyone other than James Cooper to be selected in Fermanagh handed Michelle Gildernew the seat. Its ironic that his re-emergence as Tory in-chief could ensure that she keeps it…

  • Andrew

    I dont know how anyone can say this ‘merger’ will benefit anyone, in fact I think it only seeks to benefit the Tories as a pure act of PR. People are delusional to think that it will benefit the UUP. It will only seek to benefit the DUP in gaining more Unionist voters, and the DUP are rubbing their hands.

    I sense that it is just more of a ‘relationship’ that has and continues to grab the medias attention.

    On the UUP/Tories gaining electoral advantage in NI, I very much doubt that. NI is generally anything anti-mainstream Irish or British. NI is a place apart where people look locally at their politicans, media or community; despite differing national affiliations.

    NI Unionists (whom the party – UUP/Conservatives are aiming at) will never trust a mainstream British Party as they are continually on the frontline in defence from London – always have been, always will and I would not accept anyone arguing that this will change.

    On the issue of the UUP getting a position in a Conservative led Government cabinet…I’d expect Lord Trimble to get something fairly junior, perhaps in the foreign office, thats how I’d interpret that story…and thats if the Conservatives form the next Government.

    Anyway, look closely at the Lib Dem/Tory relationship. If Nick Clegg could get a few Ministers in a coalition Government with the Tories would the UUP be relevant? (This is all assuming the UUP make significant gains at the next Westminster election.)

  • oneill

    Interesting how this will play with the sizeable Irish vote in the UK who will not like a strengthening of ties between the mainland and Norn Iron.

    It’s never been a natural constituency for the Tories anyway.

    Carson’s Cat

    Also, it would appear that this definitive statement that the Tories will run in every constituency rules out any possibility of an electoral pact within Unionism in Northern Ireland, something which a large section of the pro-union electorate favour, particuarly in those constituencies where it could pay dividends.

    Such pacts anyway would surely defeat one of the main purposes behind any possible merger which is the development of a secular Unionism away from the neverending communal bunfights with SF and closer in line to the type of (just for a change I’ll not be say “real” or “bread and butter”!) politics seen on the mainland?

  • Driftwood

    A more secular UUP tied to the Conservatives would have much more appeal than the DUP loonies like Iris and Mervyn Storey. It might also bring out many people who never bother to vote.
    The quality of some UUP candidates however would be a different matter. But thats a problem for all the parties.
    Sir Patrick Mayhew and Roy Mason were streets ahead of any local politician ever to be elected here.

  • Carson’s Cat

    oneill
    Oddly of course politics on the mainland may well be heading more towards the battle between unionism and nationalism that we here in NI are only too well aware of.

    Who knows if a suggestion of a pro-Union candidate to take an SNP seat might ever emerge?

    Also, whilst not forming an electoral pact might well work in high theory, as some of this UUP/Tory talk seems to, the problems occur when rolled out in practice. “Non-sectarian unionism” is a perfectly legitimate aspiration, but it has a number of problems. Firstly by implication it labels people who vote for the DUP as “sectarian” and given that a majority of the pro-Union community in NI do vote for the DUP it manages to lable the very people whom they’re trying to attract as sectarian.

    Also, whilst many people in NI would love to have politics in Northern Ireland more like the rest of the UK we have factors and history which the rest of the UK doesn’t have (yet possibly) and many people in South Belfast or Fermanagh (for example) might well be happy to be labeled as ‘sectarian’ by the Tory party in return for a unionist MP.

  • Greenflag

    fd,

    ‘The subtext seems to be the Conservatives looking for a full merger with Ulster Unionists happier with what has been described as the CSU/CDU model.’

    Talk about timing and models :). The CSU has just dropped 30% in it’s vote in the Bavarian State Elections the biggest loss of support in their political history . Could it be they have been taking UUP advice ;)?

    Using Tory money to help divide the Unionist vote and make SF the largest party after the next election (if there is one) seems to have all the earmarks of a ‘well thought out unionist strategy ‘

    Go for it lads shure it’s a great idea . Shure Mr Heath meant well abolishing Stormont and NI owes it’s existence to the support of the non friends of Ireland party known as the Tories .

  • Driftwood

    and given that a majority of the pro-Union community in NI do vote for the DUP

    They DID you mean. The sheer medieval ignorance of Iris Robinson and Mervyn Storey this summer will have any Unionist with an IQ in double figures thinking again.

    Actually a UUP/Conservative/Alliance pact would be acceptable. SDLP/FF would be a good opposition. Anything to rid us of the 2 pre- Cambrian sets of velociraptors presently in power.

  • oneill

    Firstly by implication it labels people who vote for the DUP as “sectarian” and given that a majority of the pro-Union community in NI do vote for the DUP it manages to lable the very people whom they’re trying to attract as sectarian.

    I’d have (perhaps) said more “cultural” than “sectarian”… but regarding your main point there, I don’t think it makes sense for any merged party to go after the DUP vote anyway, the DUP’s main threat in that regard is from the right-wing of the TUV. And regardless of what might or might not (putting up a higher calibre of candidates next time in FT and SB could also do wonders) happen in one or two tighter constituencies, the alternative civic Unionism promised by this merger could well deliver a higher aggregate not split Unionist vote. Either way, nothing for Unionism as a whole to lose and a lot potentially to gain if it goes through.

  • oneill

    I’d have (perhaps) said more “cultural” than “sectarian”…

    That’s “cultural” as in the “cultural” wing of Unionism as opposed to the stuff Gregory now deals with.

  • Carson’s Cat

    oneill
    “I don’t think it makes sense for any merged party to go after the DUP vote anyway,”

    Well, who eles vote do they go for? The Alliance vote? Even if you consider Alliance as pro-Union, there’s no point fishing in a small pool. If this is about developing a unionist party of any sort, sectarian or not, then the DUP vote is going to be the first place you look.

    If this is a rehash of the crap spouted by Alex Kane about reigniting the mythical “garden centre prods” who don’t vote then they’d be better off searching for fairies down the bottom of the garden. Of course it’s nice to think there are all those terribly intellectual people out there who aren’t voting currently because of the sectarian pool of NI politics. However, the figures show that its loyalist working class housing estates which have the lowest turnouts and they aren’t going to be the hunting ground for the Tory party. The Ulster Unionists long since gave up on them anyway so I don’t see them going back with Dave Cameron or Trimble in tow.

    I’m not opposed to any party fighting elections in Northern Ireland and a different option for unionism to choose from would be fine. However, is it a different option?

    Lets remember, the Tory party does fight elections already here and does fairly woefully. There was the false dawn a decade or so ago where it looked like they might take off, but I can’t see why merging with the political eqivalent of the corncrake in Northern Ireland is somehow going to help the Tory electoral fortunes.

  • oneill

    If this is a rehash of the crap spouted by Alex Kane about reigniting the mythical “garden centre prods” who don’t vote then they’d be better off searching for fairies down the bottom of the garden. Of course it’s nice to think there are all those terribly intellectual people out there who aren’t voting currently because of the sectarian pool of NI politics.

    There is a dichotomy between those who are happy for the Union to continue and between those who actually presently get off their backsides and vote. That first group may or may not be prods, may or may not be middle-class, may or may not be intellectuals- the important point is that irrespective of their religion, class or intellect they are not voting Unionist (or Nationalist). Hopefully they will turn out for any Border Referendum, but in the meantime, as I said Unionism (and most probably also the DUP, which makes their, at times, hysterical reaction to these talks difficult to understand) has nothing to lose whatsoever in terms of overall vote, by examining why it’s not energising that passive potential support. I’ve no idea if the Tory/UU talks will help towards that or not…but in the absence of anything else more concrete from any other quarter, I’m prepared to at least give it a chance.

    I’ve asked these 2 questions previously of other DUP supporters with no joy:

    Do you think this merger/agreement if it goes through will in nay way damage NI’s place in the Union? Will it damage the DUP’s place within Unionism? If not, then rather than carping from the sidelines, sit back and wait to see what happens, you might be pleasantly surprised.

  • Carson’s Cat

    oniell,
    I don’t believe any merger would damage the Union – its much stronger than that. It possibly could damage the DUP if it was to emerge as some electoral giant, but that’s competition and all’s fair in that regard.

    I’m quite entitled to “carp” however, as I’m not actually saying they shouldn’t do it, but please forgive me if I don’t get a Tory flag and start waving it. I’m merely pointing out a few of the nasty practical details which are likely to throw a spanner in the works of the whole thing. Just because some people believe that there’s a magic wand to solve all the Ulster Unionist woes doesn’t mean everyone has to join in with the charade.

    Let the UUP go for it, it might work. I happen to think that it won’t but I could well be proven wrong.

    The whole thing, maybe more from the UUP POV than the Tory view seems to have an air of hope more than expectation about it. Its like the last throw of the dice for Cunningham House and if this one doesn’t work they may well just admit they’re f*cked and throw the towel in. Apart from a bit of “party of the Union” cudos on the mainland I still have trouble working out what’s in it for the Tories.

  • It is all about Scotland, of course.

    The tories have FA chance of a seat in NI, and know it. Sylvia Hermon is a New Labour supporter, and holds the UUP’s only seat. Where else could they possibly win a seat?

    Cameron needs this pretence of a Tory presence in NI to bolster his image as a party of ‘Britain’ rather than just a party of England, which does him some harm in Scotland. He knows that Scotland is the real key to the UK. Basically there is no UK without Scotland. So, in a round-about way, he is campaigning in Scotland via NI – trying to use the ‘Ulster Scots’ to show that you can be Tory but not English.

    If he can win seats in Scotland by posing as a ‘British’ Tory then his money is well spent. He certainly won’t buy any seats in NI with it. As for NI Tories in the British cabinet … well, I suggest we return to that subject after the next election to see how much BS was being fed to the foolish unionists of the UUP.

  • borderline

    Horseman’s no fool. That’s exactly it.

    And as for the Cat, and other Unionists, worrying about NI’s place in the Union, don’t make the assumption that ‘the Union’ is a static, unchanging arrangement. It’s not a mistake made in Scotland.
    I don’t know when ‘the Union’ will end, but it will be long gone before ‘Ireland’ becomes irrelevant.

  • oneill

    Horseman
    Where else could they possibly win a seat?

    Depending on the canditate, how about South Belfast for a start?

    Carson’s Cat,

    Thanks for the answer and something that Robinson said at kells during the weekend actually shows me that there is some kind of movement also from the DUP on dealing with the problem I mentioned (although I probably wouldn’t put so much emphasis on the “bickering” as a cause).

    The gap between the number of unionist votes and the number of nationalist votes cast over the last number of elections has been narrowing. The gap between the two unionist and the two nationalist candidates at the last European Election in 2004 was less than 40,000 votes. I do not believe that those figures accurately represent the number of people across Northern Ireland who support the unionist cause. Therefore there needs to be an assessment of what factors are causing people to stay at home instead of coming out to vote for a unionist party. I have no doubt that unionist bickering is one such cause.

  • Greenflag

    Driftwood,

    ‘The sheer medieval ignorance of Iris Robinson and Mervyn Storey this summer will have any Unionist with an IQ in double figures thinking again. ‘

    So about 90% of Unionists will be thinking ‘again ‘ ;)? . Anyway what’s with this again business ? Seems to many outside NI they have’nt yet started i.e ‘thinking’ .

    As for the velociraptors -when extant they hung around for tens of millions of years during the Jurassic until the ‘environment ‘ changed .

    Their political equivalents in NI will do the same . The particular environment that is NI in it’s present format makes it an ideal niche for the preservation and long term survival of velociraptors 🙁

    The ‘No friends of Ireland ‘ Tory Party will do nothing for NI . They will leave the vast majority of UUP voters in NI even more ‘alienated’ on the island on which they live for the benefit of perhaps one or two who might make it to a junior ministry in a possible Tory Government next time around .

  • Ian

    “many people in South Belfast or Fermanagh (for example) might well be happy to be labeled as ‘sectarian’ by the Tory party in return for a unionist MP.”

    On the subject of a potential FST/SB electoral pact and sectarianism, I seem to recall Reg Empey responding to DUP calls for such a pact, by making a distinction between on the one hand FST, where an agreed single unionist candidate would be justifiable in order to oust an abstentionist (SF) MP, and on the other hand South Belfast, where the sitting (SDLP) MP currently attends Parliament and thus represents (all) his constituents. i.e. Empey was suggesting that South Belfast shouldn’t be brought into the electoral pact equation, as the simple fact that the MP is a nationalist isn’t sufficient reason to stand back in favour of an single, agreed unionist candidate.

    That seemed to me to be a non-sectarian approach, and the mooted UUP-Tory link-up would be a natural progression. (Not that I hold out much hope that the unionist electorate would back it, as opposed to the DUP’s “keep as many nationalists out as possible” attitude.)

  • Interesting how this will play with the sizeable Irish vote in the UK who will not like a strengthening of ties between the mainland and Norn Iron.

    It’s never been a natural constituency for the Tories anyway.

    Much as I wish it were otherwise, there are plenty of Irish people in Britain from a Catholic/nationalist background who vote Tory. In theory, I suppose part of the point of a merger would be to tap into a similar constituency in the North. That is what Cameron’s anti-sectarian rhetoric would seem to point to. In practice, I suspect it may add to the potential for banana skins.