“it has never been about a merger..”

At the Our Kingdom blog, Tom Griffin rounds-up the sceptical voices on the proposed UUP/Conservative Party link-up – much as fair deal did. Meanwhile, UUP leader Reg Empey was on Stormont Live today from the Conservative Party Conference and, whilst he was keen to emphasise a positive meeting with David Cameron, he was also stressing that any link-up would not be a merger and that the process was at a very early stage.. He’s also warning of a potential “spike” ahead in unemployment here.

Adds
Whether or not the Guardian’s Nicholas Watt’s prediction is accurate, he paints an interesting dynamic in the circumstances.

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  • Andrew

    Reg offers some clarification?

    Its not a merger, but a special relationship?

  • ??

    hows this going to work in the Assmebly, remembering the mess of the UUP/PUP deal, when they were deemed to be 2 distinct parties and could not be treated as one grouping within Stormont?

  • David beginning to see the light
    In the light of recent bigotry in the uu a wise decision

  • DC

    The problems within unionism are not political but psychological. Any attempts to supplant it with politics using the same Ulster political cohort will only aggravate the level of harmful political contortions.

    Probably same reasons why FF decided not to inject its political idealisms directly into the SDLP as the essential characteristics were not there either.

    The only way it would work is if the UUP were to be merged with the Tory party itself, summarily gagged and treated like civil service treats ministers. The merged UUP would require ‘lines to take’ so as to stay on message. That too still requires management.

    If Cameron gives the UUP enough rope, under Empey’s non-leadership they must surely hang themselves?

  • IJP

    Sorry, but this was indisputably originally about an out-and-out merger. Local Tories clarified that to me with absolute clarity.

    Now we see the first of many step backs from that position.

    Selling something like this required:
    – clarity about what was actually on offer;
    – full internal discussion;
    – research into the likelihood of success with the NI electorate;
    – something coherent to offer the UK Conservatives.

    What has happened has been total lack of clarity, lack of communication with senior party members (not least the MP), no research, and rampant bigotry (latest example Limavady, and there was McNarry-gate and Stonyford before it).

    What a shambles.

    And just like with the SDLP/FF, it’s a great shame for NI politics that this hasn’t even come close to working out.

  • Pounder

    Why on earth would the Tories even consider a merger with the Ulster Unionists. I can see what the Unionists get out of this, but the question is whats in it for the Tories? As I can see it very little. The UUP has one MP, Lady Hermon who in the last crucial vote sided with Labour, not a very good start. The Unionists also carry the tremendous weight of their massive debt, how goes the sale of Cunningplan House BTW?

  • fair_deal

    Maybe the speculation about the models is wrong. It is not the German model ie CDU/CSU but the Quebec model ie Parti Quebecois/Bloc Quebecois.

    That said if these talks collapse in a heap then Sir Reg’s leadership will be in serious trouble.

  • WhiteKnight

    IJP:

    “this was indisputably originally about an out-and-out merger. Local Tories clarified that to me with absolute clarity.”

    There will be no merger of the UUP with the Conservative Party.

    There will be no swallowing-up of the UUP by the Conservative Party.

    A merger has never been discussed by the UUP.

    The UUP Executive would not endorse a merger (particularly bearing in mind that Hermon, McNarry, Kane, Maginnis, McFarland etc etc are on record opposing a merger)

    The Ulster Unionist Council (whose approval would be required for a merger) would not endorse a merger.

    The only deal which would be acceptable to the UUP is one which would involve closer cooperation between the parties—but would leave the UUP and Conservatives as seperate, independent parties.

    The NI Conservatives have been going nowhere for almost 20 years. Do they now honestly believe that the UUP will simply roll over and do their bidding?!

    There was the seed of a genuinely good idea in this project. But the whole thing has been endangered by the stupidity and arrogance of the local Tories; briefing to anyone who would listen that, at long last, their time had come.

    It hasn’t. It won’t.

    And the likes of Peel and Fry can return to the anonymity they richly deserve.

    WhiteKnight

  • ??

    The only deal which would be acceptable to the UUP is one which would involve closer cooperation between the parties—but would leave the UUP and Conservatives as seperate, independent parties.

    …………………………………

    So all this has been about is to have things as they are, with both parties existing and contesting elections? What was the point reg?

  • The UUP do not want a merger. As I have said else where CDU/CSU Bavarian model and as Fair Deal has alluded to there are other models out there that will be looked at with interest.

    The NI Tories have been briefing some very dangerous ‘aspirations’ that not only are non-starters but only serve to put a wedge between the parties.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    There is still scope for this to move ahead. The aspirations of those within the local NI Conservatives for a merger were always unrealistic. There was never any prospect of a 100 year old party like the UUP winding itself up. There is still room for cooperation, joint candidates and those in Westminster taking the conservative whip. The references to Sylvia and her Labour record are exaggerated as well if you look up her votes on ‘they work for us’ those whose voting record are over 65% the same as hers are overwhelmingly Conservative although the nearest is Peter Robinson with 72% of the same votes. The nearest Labour MP to her is Margaret Beckett with a 46% the same rating. Although perhaps someone has other data that indicates different.

  • DSD – Your right about Sylvia’s voting record – it is no incompatible with the Conservatives.

  • DC

    It was Mick Fealty what spun it as a merger, a cappuccino politics moment.

  • DC

    @IJP

    “and there was McNarry-gate”

    Yes, I fear that for it to work at all, at any level, McNarry would need ‘Saddamed’.

  • LURIG

    This is just another example of the nauseating double standards that permeate politics in the North AND the entire Peace Process. A few months ago when the SDLP were thinking about merging with Fianna Fail Reg Empey and the UUP danced a jig of fury and forewarned that it “would have dire consequences for the Process’ AND that “The North needed to bed in it’s own institutions BEFORE this (SDLP/FIANNA FAIL MERGER) could happen”. He said it would destabilise the political institutions…………YET lo and behold the UUP and Tories are in talks about…….merging. Hypocrisy how are ye? There is no doubt that the hand of Lord/Duke/Prince Regent Trimble is in here somewhere. Well Reg, given your fury on the SDLP/FIANNA FAIL merger do you see why and how Nationalists might be getting a tad uneasy given the right wing, anti-Irish antics of the Victorian Tory arse spankers?

  • Lurig,

    Fianna Fail told us the constitutional question was ‘parked’. To then go into discussions about another irredentist excursion into Northern Ireland was hypocritical.

    For the UUP to talk with a fellow UK party or consider a link is nothing in comparison as they are operating effectively within the same jurisdiction.

    No hypocrisy from Reg on that issue.

  • LURIG

    Ignited,

    It might escape Unionists sometimes but THIS is IRELAND and how Irish Nationalists want to further their Irish credentials is NO concern of Unionists. It is quite obvious what is going on here. Unionists see Gordon Brown and Labour as a dead duck and are manoeuvering their way into the inner circle of David Cameron and the Tories with Trimble paving the way. The DUP and UUP are stalling on the transfer of Policing & Justice in the knowledge and hope that a bigoted anti-Irish, anti Nationalist right wing Tory government will stick it up to Sinn Fein AND demand IRA Army Council disbandment BEFORE any transfer of P & J. A further pre-condition has been set and irrespective of what Bertie Ahern & Gordon Brown have recently said about a date having been agreed at St. Andrews Unionists are playing the longer game. NOTHING will be done before the next Westminster election and I will stake my savings in Northern Rock, Halifax and Bradford & Bingley on that! Is it any wonder Adams and Sinn Fein are panicking? They can see a Tory government coming at them like an express train and all that entails. You have to give it to Robinson and the DUP, they have played the Shinners like a fiddle and have them eating out of their hand. It is the monkey and the organ grinder. The Shinners and the SDLP are the weak, pitiful, toothless tigers in the corner being thrown the odd scrap from the Unionist table. It is TOTALLY humiliating for most Northern Nationalists to watch!

  • autocue

    Sounds like back-peddling from Reg to me. Cameron was quite clear that he wanted full-blown merger as were most of the UUP bloggers on here commenting. The DUP has successfully exposed the splits inside the UUs over this and have achieved what they set out to.

    Interestingly, when Trimble mooted the idea of an IDS-led Tory, Trimble-led UUP link up, which UUP figure put the kibosh on that one? Step forward Reginald Norman Morgan Empey…..

    Still, having tried and failed to link his party with the political wing of the UVF and now having tried to link up with the Tories, where will Reg go next? Greens? Monster Raving Loonies?

  • Continental Drifter

    White Knight

    I know there WILL be no merger, but there WAS GOING TO BE!

    Sorry, but most Ulster Unionists I know were talking clearly about an out-and-out merger (specifically they referred to David Cameron as Leader).

    The whole thing is crumbling.

    Is there ANYONE we can trust to run this place?!

  • Who honestly believed this would amount to anything other (or more constructive) than a bit of publicity for the UUP?

    come on – own up…

  • autocue

    CD is correct. They were openly discussing merger. Cameron made it clear he wanted merger. Any UUP people who were asked defined the discussion as “to merge or not to merge”. The thing has fallen apart.

  • DC

    Yes but what it has done too is to show up Jeffrey Donaldson as a Willie Frazer type with just a shade more manners.

  • autocue

    DC

    Hardly. JD highlighted what the practical outworking of Trimble’s comments would be – helping advance Unionism by splitting the Unionist vote? Hardly sensible stuff is it now?

  • Tory

    If there’s no merger, then there’ll be no deal.

    We won’t be settling for anything less. Time for the UUP to make up it’s mind.

  • autocue

    Tory

    Is that the offical position of the NI Conservatives?

  • DC

    “helping advance Unionism by splitting the Unionist vote? Hardly sensible stuff is it now?”

    What exactly is unionism in today’s world post-GFA, it is worth as much as nationalism when up against specific domestic policy goals available under devolution. It is a concept beginning its political worth.

    To me concern about vote splitting border-politics is a nonsense, and to be frank seeing Arlene Foster getting elected to a Council she left after legislating against double-jobbing proves this point that it is time to move on. Unionists were hoodwinked by the complete two-facedness of Arlene Foster’s hypocritical stance to move in take a position that she is hardly even able to fulfil, even without the hypocritical two-facedness.

    But change has to be organic and genuine, not some business-model type takeover although that was hardly surprising given the party proposing it i.e. Tory pro-business and once anti-society.

  • Tory

    I can’t point you to an official statement, but in private it absolutely is. 100%.

    The people who have been involved in the local Conservatives have campaigned for so long for equal citizenship and true Conservative representation that we are not going to settle for any semi-detached construct.

    As for ‘cooperating’ in elections / just taking the whip at Westminster / joint candidates? Not a cat-in-hell’s chance. Not a cat-in-hell’s chance.

  • DC

    correction: ‘beginning to *lose* its political worth’

  • Tory

    I should add that there would, of course, be local autonomy for the merger organisation on devolved matters.

    The model we want would be same that operates with the Scottish and Welsh Conservatives.

  • Here’s a quick test for the UUP-Tories merger/co-operation/whatever:

    Tory policy on community relations says: Building stronger, more integrated communities is central to our vision for Britain. [http://www.conservatives.com/Policy/Where_we_stand/Community_Relations.aspx]

    Today the BBC announced that: Parents objecting to a County Antrim primary school becoming integrated have taken their children away from the school. The principal of Ballymoney Model Primary said that 16 pupils have left since it was confirmed it will become integrated next September. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/7646507.stm]

    The proto-New Tories of the UUP, I presume, support the ‘integration’ policy, so what have they to say about their anti-integrationist brethren in Ballymoney?

    Or will there just be the usual hypocritical silence, or waffle about supporting parental choice (to be anti-Catholic!)?