The story of the Ulster Unionists and the Tories

As debate rages on about the Ulster Unionists and Conservatives Fionnuala O Connor, writing in the Irish Times (see here) offers an interesting piece about the nature of their new relationship and how Mr Cameron is perhaps using the UUP to suit his own party political needs.

What is clear is that the UUP are in a mess about this; as their membership continue to raise questions, questions which are being raised in the media.

In the September issue of Fortnight magazine I offered my own comment on the spiraling story.

A marriage of convenience or the beginning of a new political friendship?

As the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Conservative Party embark on making history in a new political setup, questions have been raised about such an alliance. Will it help the UUP re-establish themselves as the main Unionist party? Or is this new relationship one of convenience, or one of political survival?

As the Conservative’s look to the next general election with excitement, given recent showing in opinion polls in Great Britain (GB), they are preparing the way for government. In a joint statement in the Daily Telegraph in July the leaders of both parties, the UUP’s Sir Reg Empey and Conservatives David Cameron stated that the move marked a closer relationship in politics between NI and GB, making mainstream British politics more relevant to NI. However politics in NI and GB are very different and have been since the Home Rule crisis of the late 19th Century. Ireland became a game of tug of war as the Conservatives and Liberals battled it out for the seat of power in Westminster. This recent move draws interesting parallels between then and now.

The Conservative party, going by opinion polls looks set to form the next government in Westminster. However the house itself may be divided and therefore the Conservatives will have to rely on the support of other political parties, and naturally the UUP fall into the frame. The Conservatives and UUP (before the rise of Ian Paisley’s DUP) have always had a close relationship, to put aside differences over the Anglo-Irish Agreement which angered Unionists. This relationship was prevalent during the Home Rule crisis until the establishment of NI in 1921 and after as the UUP took the Conservative whip in the House of Commons until 1974. However distinction was drawn between London and Belfast as mainstream political parties, including the Conservatives, distanced themselves from Ireland and more particular Northern Ireland. Unionists in the newly formed state were left to map out their own future – as a separate state away from the Irish Free State and GB.

Coming back to here and now, the UUP may have seen this as an opportunity to do two things. The first is to see off threats from the DUP and Alliance in battle for the middle-ground. Secondly it offers the UUP a chance to attempt to re-launch themselves on the back of David Cameron, after having failed to do this alone.

Since 2003 the UUP has been desperate for revival in the aftermath of the Belfast Agreement and rise of the DUP. Having failed to market themselves as the Ulster Unionist Party – ‘For all of us’ – they are seeking to make a fresh appeal with a British Conservative tinge. How will a merger affect the DUP? In short, it poses no threat. This is largely due to the setup of Northern Irish society. The DUP has successfully established itself with the Unionist electorate in NI and with mainstream Unionist opinion. The DUP offer the best way of opposing Sinn Fein, that’s what brought them into power, as the main Unionist party in 2003 in the wake of the Belfast Agreement.

However this goes deeper – ever since the late 19th Century Unionists in Ulster organised themselves independently, therefore distancing themselves from mainstream British parties. This was partly due to a lack of trust with Unionists in Ulster who sought to define their own destiny, within the United Kingdom. Backed up by many clubs and societies, particularly the Orange Order Unionists mobilised themselves under one diverse group uniting liberal and conservative opinion. This became more prevalent in 1905 with the formation of the Ulster Unionist Council, the backbone to the modern day UUP.

The recent move could secure a better future for the UUP than they would have had if they had weathered the continuing political storm alone. The UUP will never regain Unionist support over the DUP, largely due to the change in leadership within the DUP making the party more appealing to secular Unionists. The best they can hope for is to play second fiddle to Robinson’s new DUP as the party weather the growing storm at Stormont. The trouble with the UUP is that no one can take them seriously and the new link up with the Conservatives will buy them time and some support, but not enough to gain David Cameron’s sought after seats in the House of Commons.

(Edited version appeared in Septembers issue of Fortnight Magazine)

  • Andrew Charles,

    I presume you are the same Andrew Charles who is an active member of the DUP? (http://quis.qub.ac.uk/dua/labels/Officers.html)

  • frustrated democrat

    There is a not inconsiderable amount of comment being devoted to this subject here and elsewhere and plenty of diversity of opinion on the subject. Over at the Devonport Diaries http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markdevenport/ (sorry if this is not working I haven’t done a link before) and Three Thousand Versts there are some what seem to be informed comments being made and it seems Sir Reg is very happy in the company of the Tories (and I suspect is not arsing about) although some of his colleagues may be less so.

    I hope a decision will be forthcoming at the UUP Conference in a few weeks, and that it will be positive.

  • Ned

    A poster on Mark Devenport’s blog has made the following contribution and I think it ought to restated here:

    —–

    7pillars said:

    Some facts about the UUP Tory talks.

    1 A merger had been discussed but the UUP were not ready to down that road.

    2. What is now on the table is a formal working relationship under the NI Conservative and Unionist Council.

    3 This relationship would mean joint selection of candidates who would in the case of Westminister accept the main Conservative manifesto and in the case of Stormont an NI manifesto which although Conservative in nature would be modifed to suit local NI requirements e.g. Grammar schools.

    4. The Conservatives would inject funding (�40,000 has been mentioned including the 12 months run up to an election) and campaigning expertise into seats they would target as winable, probably 4-5 in the first instance, and limited amounts into less winable seats.

    5. The leadership of the UUP and the exxecutive are broadly in favour of the relationship with the exception of some such as Lady Hermon and Chris McGimpsey, but are nervous of the electoral outcome.

    6. The Conservatives are becoming frustrated at the lack of progress and the inability of the UUP to take a decision and the UUP are afraid to take a decision as they are unsure that it will lead them back into power and yield the promised increase in votes.

    7. The one thing that is clear to both sides is that in neither camp are there a bountiful supply of people who would make professional candidates that could signal a new start in non sectarian politics. This would mean looking outside current incumbents and hopefuls to find people who would be credible candidates. This would be acceptable to the Tories but would the UUP find it palatable to ditch some of their current incumbents?

    8. The UUP need the money and expertise or would probably face a slow death over coming elections as they become irrelevant so in reality have little option but to proceed to have at least a chance to get back into power.

    9. The Tories need to make a breakthrough in NI and this is the time to do as power is calling in Downing Street, without the relationship it will take a long time to finally replace the UUP.

    10. So what will really happen? It is probable that a deal will go ahead because both parties know it is in their best interests to make it work; money and power are powerful motivators and they are both in play in these discussions. Whatever happens in the longer term the future of the UUP is in looking increasingly unsustainable as on one hand money is in short supply and on the other a realtionship with a much bigger partner will almost inevitably end in a marriage after a short engagement.

    11. The DUP are very unhappy and have been thrown off balance at the prospect of taking on a merciless machine that has the potential to derail their progress or at least apply the brakes to their progress.

    12. It will be an interesting run up to the European Election, look for Jim Nicholson the Conservative and Unionist candidate to do well and cement the relationship.

    —–

    If true, this sounds to me like the merger that isn’t called a merger. 😉

  • Michael Shilliday

    A mess? Have you any evidence for this bald statement? One article by a member of the party of the left does not a mess make.

  • Messer

    Mess, confusion, horlicks etc

    All would seem to sum up this bizarre step by Sir Reg to do whatever it is he plans to do with the Tories – lets not forget we are not allowed to describe it as a merger.

    There are a number of party members left scratching their heads as to what exactly is going on re – this “relationship” – are we allowed to call it a relationship Michael?

    The opinion piece by Fionnuala O Connor is a timely reflection on what exactly is going on here.

    It does seem odd that the Tories are courting a party with only one MP who doesn’t even support them and has openly displayed her preference for Labour.

    The entire thing smacks of a cheap publicity ploy by the Tories and desparate money grabbing by the UUP.

  • Andrew

    Michael,

    The UUP seems to be as confused about this ‘new relationship’ as much as the public are.

    Historically speaking this issue is of interest due to the nature of Northern Ireland’s political history and the relationship between Unionism and the Political Parties in GB. Questions surrounding how an alliance would play out with NI electorate are most interesting, as Unionists in Ulster have never given sufficient support to the Tories (hence formed a separate movement to push their interests during the Home Rule crisis – a movement which is the backbone of the modern day UUP – under the formal structures of the UUC).

    The relationship between Unionism and the Tories was always one of convenience, from Home Rule to the present day. That is the nature of Unionist politics.

    Only time will tell as to how this story plays out. But it offers interesting reading for anyone interested in the politics of Unionism, and the nature of party politics in GB.

  • Michael Shilliday

    You’ve written a lot there without attempting to answer the question. As far as I can see there is little confusion around, except amongst a tiny minority of people who wish to be confused for their own purposes.

    And you know that I know that is where your information comes from.

  • elvis Parker

    Interesting how Irish nationalist concerns, as reflected by the Irish Times, seem to parallel the concerns of the Ulster Nationalists in the DUP!

  • Ned

    “The trouble with the UUP is that no one can take them seriously and the new link up with the Conservatives will buy them time and some support, but not enough to gain David Cameron’s sought after seats in the House of Commons.”

    To be fair, the UUP are within 3000 votes in South Antrim and South Belfast, so even the addition of just ‘some’ support will likely carry a merged organistion over the line to 3 Westminster seats, I would think, though for sure the candidates would have to be strong.

  • Andrew

    Michael,

    ‘Play ball not man’

    All I will say is that people can read it in the media for themselves and come to their own conclusions. It is a story that people are talking about.

    In many ways the UUP have pushed this into the headlines themselves with the statements made ever since July.

    You have a line to push as a member of the UUP, I understand and respect that.

    Taking party politics out of it I think it offers interesting reading for anyone interested in Ulster-British politics. Thats the point I am making.

  • Andrew M

    “To be fair, the UUP are within 3000 votes in South Antrim and South Belfast, so even the addition of just ‘some’ support will likely carry a merged organistion over the line to 3 Westminster seats, I would think, though for sure the candidates would have to be strong. ”

    I’m going to be brutally honest here – no disprespect to the person mentioned. Do you really believe that David Burnside could get 3000 more votes in South Antrim?

  • Michael Shilliday

    Actually I believe what I say. If I didn’t I wouldn’t say anything rather than invent an argument. You have a line to push as a member of the DUP and lets not pretend otherwise. I thought Fair Deal was sufficient coverage of the DUPs desperate attempts to discredit this, but clearly I was wrong.

  • Interested Observer

    Andrew M – who mentioned Burnside?

  • same old story

    I am not sure the new soft focus Torys would welcome links with a party whose members can’t bring themselves to bestow the freedom of a borough on a religious minister who worked towards cross community cohesion.
    Perhaps they will use the North as a place to send all their right wing loons to run. Enoch Powell anyone?

  • Ned

    ““To be fair, the UUP are within 3000 votes in South Antrim and South Belfast, so even the addition of just ‘some’ support will likely carry a merged organistion over the line to 3 Westminster seats, I would think, though for sure the candidates would have to be strong. “

    I’m going to be brutally honest here – no disprespect to the person mentioned. Do you really believe that David Burnside could get 3000 more votes in South Antrim?”

    I didn’t say who would or should be put up. However, any seat with a majority of only 3000 or so *can* be won. A good candidate can find that number of people or persuade the necessary 1,500 who supported someone else to change their mind.

  • fair_deal

    Ned

    “To be fair, the UUP are within 3000 votes in South Antrim and South Belfast, so even the addition of just ‘some’ support will likely carry a merged organistion over the line to 3 Westminster seats, I would think, though for sure the candidates would have to be strong.”

    The 2007 results show a different picture. The distance increased to over 4000 in South Antrim and narrowed in South Belfast.

    As previously said the problem is (some) new faces need to match the new arrangements and that seems generally unlikely.

    South Belfast can only be assured by a deal any equalisation in the vote between the two Unionist parties or leap-frogging by one of the other will reproduce the present result.

    The quickest and most likely way to 2 Tories from NI is to make a deal with the DUP.

  • fair_deal,

    … the problem is (some) new faces need to match the new arrangements and that seems generally unlikely.

    I have come to the same conclusion, but cannot (yet) imagine who these ‘new’ faces would be. Tory thinking would surely be along these lines:

    1. In order to emphasise the newness of the arrangement some new faces are necessary.
    2. In order to emphasise the ‘Britishness’ of the arrangement some of these new faces must have a track record outside Northern Ireland.
    3. In order to appeal to the (mythical) Catholic unionists, at least one or two must be Catholic.
    4. Yet each of the new faces must be electable, otherwise the whole project will crash.

    So, who can think of any Tories, preferrably with some NI background, maybe Catholic, who would want to be parachuted into NI? I cannot.

  • Interested observer

    ‘The quickest and most likely way to 2 Tories from NI is to make a deal with the DUP’

    Despite wee Jeffrey’s protestations I suspect the DUP would be terrified of doing a deal that would allow any Tories to be elected in NI.

    It would reveal how impotent and insular they are

  • slug

    “2. In order to emphasise the ‘Britishness’ of the arrangement some of these new faces must have a track record outside Northern Ireland. ”

    I would argue that track record outside NI is not necessary and that the people must ideally be rooted in the NI community.

  • Clouseau

    Bluntly people do not vote for Tories here and fewer and fewer people are voting for Ulster Unionists. Thats what the last ten years of elections tell us.

    Shillidays grand theories are just fluff.

  • fair_deal

    Horseman

    “cannot (yet) imagine who these ‘new’ faces would be”

    Plus we already now the first election to be fought under any new arrangement will be the same old face, Jim Nicholson.

    I can’t see the basis for 7pillars optimism that “look for Jim Nicholson the Conservative and Unionist candidate to do well and cement the relationship”

    IO

    “I suspect the DUP would be terrified of doing a deal that would allow any Tories to be elected in NI.”

    They aren’t that easily frit.

  • “(Edited version appeared in Septembers issue of Fortnight Magazine)”

    A good bit of editing needed before you could inflict that on the general public.

  • Tory

    “I have come to the same conclusion, but cannot (yet) imagine who these ‘new’ faces would be.”

    We already have a number of people in the Conservative Party from or in Northern Ireland. We had a good set of candidates for last year’s Assembly elections and some good people who didn’t stand last year. Certainly, they are more diverse in terms of age and religion than the typical UUP / DUP candidate.

    There are 3 Conservative candidates for target seats in England who are from Northern Ireland. Of course, they won’t be standing in Northern Ireland. But, there would I think be others involved in the party with an NI background who would be interested in getting involved if there was the potential to win.

  • John K Lund

    I first start off with an enclosure of my contribution to a debate on the future direction of The Ulster Unionist Party Conference on October the 27th. 2007.

    It’s time for Ulster Unionism to come home.
    We are proud of the achievements of the Ulster Unionist Party. We are proud that our Party has over the generations sought to build a Northern Ireland at ease with itself. Above all, we are proud that Ulster Unionism rose to the challenges of the peace process.
    Now in 2007 we believe that Ulster Unionism has fulfilled its historic vocation. We have secured agreement on the foundational constitutional principle that Northern Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom as long as the people of Northern Ireland so decide. We have normalised relations with the Irish Republic, removing past enmities and working together as partners on matters of mutual interest. We have designed devolved institutions that have the consent of the entire community in Northern Ireland. And above all, our commitment to the political process has given to our children and grandchildren the reality of peace and stability.
    So great has been the change that Ulster Unionism has brought to politics in Northern Ireland that our Party is now called upon to re-examine its role, purpose and mission rn Ireland we have created. We all hoped that the Belfast Agreement would transform the political landscape of Northern Ireland. It has. There is no greater evidence of this than Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness working together as First and Deputy First Ministers. With our historic vocation thus fulfilled, a new task now lies before us — renewing politics in this part of the United Kingdom.
    For Ulster Unionism to rise to this new challenge, we believe that our Party must now renew and deepen its historic relationship with the Conservative and Unionist Party. That relationship had its origins in the inception of our Party during the Home Rule crisis. It found expression over decades in Ulster Unionist MP5 taking the Conservative Whip at Westminster. Our MEP sits as a respected member of the British Conservative delegation in the European Parliament. And many of our representatives, activists, supporters and voters have a natural affinity with the centre-right values of today’s Conservative Party — respect for hard-work, self-reliance, law and order, public service, and our obligations to others.
    For Ulster Unionists to renew and deepen our relationship with the Conservatives — to merge with the Conservative and Unionist Party — would be for Ulster Unionism to both return home and face the future with purpose. To the Conservatives we would bring our experience of devolution, our commitment to prosperity, social justice and political progress in Northern Ireland, our understanding of the need to articulate a progressive, inclusive case for the Union in the 21st century and a significant presence in this part of the United Kingdom. From the Conservatives we would gain a place in national political debates, party colleagues throughout the United Kingdom and a political home in a modern, vibrant political party.
    Above all, however, we believe that it is the people of Northern Ireland who would gain most from such a merger. In his conference speech, David Cameron said “real change is about doing what our Party has always done, which is to make sure we understand and reflect and meet all the challenges of the modern world”. A Northern Ireland Conservative and Unionist Party would offer voters the opportunity of supporting such a Party. For our Party and for Northern Ireland, it is time for Ulster Unionism to come home.

  • unionistvoter

    But people just don’t vote for your party here, you have been trying for years and never come close to getting even a councillor elected.

    Your only elected rep won his seat as an Ulster Unionist so what sort of bollocks are you talking?

  • UIster says Maybe?

    It’s hilarious watching the DUP becoming so jealous of this UUP/Tory talk.

    lol

  • John K Lund

    After delivering this fairly anodyne contribution I received support from grass roots members of the newly recreated Ulster Unionist Council, which now consists of all members of the council regardless of gender,colour,race or creed i.e. a totally modern one member one vote secular political party devoid of any political allegiances to any other religious and charitable single issue trades unions,institutions and orders et al. Mr. McGimpsey states that “ the UUP is much more than a political party. It can be more accurately described as a movement.” This may well have been the face that, it originally in it’s first hundred years, it’s policies especially post Molyneaux appeared to most voters and political observers as a single issue party where with little attention was paid to real socio economic politics and more attention paid to so called Loyalist issues like parading; thus alienating a large proportion of the electorate who rightfully perceived themselves excluded from the body politic. The 2001 census showed there were 61,609 English born ,16,772 Scots born,3008 Welsh born,39,051 Republic of Ireland born, 10,355 born elsewhere in the EEC and 20,204 residents born else where this totals 150,999 and by now could up by a further 80,000. Ie a total of 230,999. This probably amounts to 20.4% of the total electorate. These people are not presumably part of the 62.5% (down from 67.5%) who voted at the last General Election and if these economic migrants started voting when offered a real political mainland party standing locally after the merger( I quote Mr. McGimpsey’s terminology)could well give slightly in excess of 20% share of the vote.
    No wonder the DUP are displaying near paranoia over this series of events they found out at the last minute of the eleventh hour and it is said that Cameron gave very short shrift to Peter Robinson in all of the five minutes of the meeting, Ulster’s answer to Gordon Brown too long being the Sorcerer’s apprentice and being perceived as a nail biting bully.
    Mr McGimpsey’s contribution goes on to claim large New Labour support amongst his own vote of around 500. This is a fallacy since the arrival of Ian Paisley on the Northern Ireland Political map this querulous non conformist cleric set out with an agenda of destroying the then Ulster Unionist Council of Independent Constituency Associations which had a near political stranglehold given to the Orange Order a lot of whose members voted for Paisley. Initially Paisley set about a near neo-fascist destruction through the ballot box by mobilising the least educated and least prosperous members of the electorate by alienating them against so called Big House Unionism. This initially succeeded in the North East of the province but Paisley’s support gradually grew over the ensuing 40 years until his own largely self inflicted demise. Paisley achieved this by some violent confrontations between the so called loyal orders and Republican Nationalists so successfully that the best agreement ever, Sunningdale, was destroyed .He also with Molyneaux succeeded in smashing the Anglo Irish Agreement finally rejecting the Belfast Agreement until he finally won power and got the very worst ever deal offered or badly St Andrews.
    If Unionism had accepted Sunningdale there would more than likely been no Sein Fein and no Provisional IRA or its re-inventions.

  • John K Lund

    This has finally changed the potential political landscape in Northern Ireland creating a huge sea change in the electorate’s political thinking. The Ulster Unionist core voting base possibly changed very dramatically at the last General Election it is thought that 2/3rds of its original support defected to the DUP and that a new 1/3rd moved in from Alliance. Mr. McGimpsey is now looking at a very different political landscape. The electorate nationally are fed up with being over taxed, loss of their pensions thanks to Brown’s FSA, the plundering of our gold reserves, the mishandling of Foot and Mouth, the highest energy prices across the entire board in the world, the largest national debt ever, Northern Rock, supposedly secure Highly Confidential Government information being scattered to the wind and an unprecedented decline in the value of Sterling to name but a few of their myriad of concerns. They have totally lost faith in New or Old Labour or anything to do with the third way.
    The sad news for Mr McGimpsey and his fellow Left Wingers is that they will have to catch another bus and make, like some of us early Northern Ireland Conservatives, their party organise here and join that stalwart campaigner Michael Lammercraft in a fully integrated part of the British Labour Party and give myself and up to 20+% of the electorate the chance to pass Labour at the ballot box and get equal pleasure in not voting Labour.

    It is ironic that the only small but real opposition to this merger is coming from a small group of locally elected politicians who fear that they might lose their in their elected positions in the new candidate selection procedures which will no doubt apply in the new merged party. However it is essential that a large new and vibrant group of candidates enter into the candidate training and the selection process. I left the Northern Ireland Conservatives to join the UUP and I am totally convinced this merger will give the people of this Province stable government committed to prosperity for the entire population, a broad and better education for those who are not receiving a fair deal , the dismantling of the Northern Ireland Soviet style economy with sympathetic management to get our public and private sectors into normal proportions as in the rest of the Kingdom , a special fiscal approach to take in our present disadvantaged Economic Standing i.e. lower levels of corporation tax, lower fuel duties and a lower local Vat Rate all will be on the table. Let’s say good bye to insular Ulster Nationalism and become part of the future in the biggest UK party as well as the next party in government.
    John Keighley Lund,

  • John K Lund

    Unionist Voter.
    I am a member of the UUP secretary of its Moira Branch and we either become a full and proud member of the United Kingdom or wither on the vine and be subjected to the Uber Paranoid bigotry of Iris Robinson and her uneducated so called Christian fundamentalists. This is a secular country not a sole franchise for uber protestants. We want everyone regardless of faith, creed, colour,ethnicity to be able to vote Conservative and Unionist at all future elections and feel comfortable in their skins doing so.

  • fair_deal

    Two individuals appear to be using dual identities on this thread. Please desist and stick to one nickname.

  • Tory

    “But people just don’t vote for your party here, you have been trying for years and never come close to getting even a councillor elected.

    Your only elected rep won his seat as an Ulster Unionist so what sort of bollocks are you talking?”

    This is a product of the current system in which a lot of people sympathetic to us don’t vote for us because they don’t think we will win. Likewise, the UUP are also becalmed in the current situation, just retaining their core vote.

    There is reason to believe that a new organisation would keep the core vote, but also reach out to those who presently vote for other parties or none with a fresh image and policies.

  • frustrated democrat

    Fair Deal

    Can you point out which 2 you are referring to as I can’t easily identify them?

  • Andrew M

    INTERESTED OBSERVOR: “Andrew M – who mentioned Burnside?”

    One assumed that if the UUP remained the UUP with no link to the C&UP;, Mr Burnside would be the candidate selected. I am sceptical to whether Burnside would be the candidate for a joint Party.

    NED: “I didn’t say who would or should be put up. However, any seat with a majority of only 3000 or so *can* be won. A good candidate can find that number of people or persuade the necessary 1,500 who supported someone else to change their mind. ”

    Do you believe the UUP have such a candidate?

  • Andrew M

    Unionist Voter: “But people just don’t vote for your party here, you have been trying for years and never come close to getting even a councillor elected.”

    In 1992 the Conservative Party received 32% of the vote in North Down. That was close to getting a MP elected. People haven’t been voting for the Conservative Party recently due to the contaminated brand between the mid 90s and mid 00s, because they were scared of Republicans being voted in (remember the IRA only decommissioned recently), and probably a host of other reasons.

    The NI Conservative Party are dynamic. They have dynamic people within the party. YouGov polls suggest people WILL vote for them – currently many who would don’t vote, vote DUP, vote UUP or vote APNI. Middle Class Unionists want people like the Conservative Party to represent them. Not the same old politicians from the DUP and the UUP.

    Before anyone asks – I have not been asked to write this or push a line.

  • truth and justice

    Would it not be great if the DUP and UUP joined that should be the main priority.

  • pith

    Funny that, I was saying to someone just the other day that there used to be a magazine called, ‘Fortnight’. I genuinely thought it had disappeared when the really good writers moved on.

  • frustrated democrat

    T&J;That will not happen, of course if the UUP and Tories reach an agreement the DUP can try to attract UUP members and voters but the reverse will also be true, so beware of what you wish for.

  • Andrew M

    Why T&J;? So we can have more of uninclusive unionism?

  • WhiteKnight

    From Charles’ article: “The DUP offer the best way of opposing Sinn Fein, that’s what brought them into power.”

    In essence, this isn’t a commentary or analysis; merely a puff piece for the DUP written by someone who was, until quite recently, a member of the UUP and associated with its pro-Agreement wing.

    What I fail to understand is why the DUP are getting so worked up about the UUP-Conservative talks. If, as they want everyone to believe, the Conservatives can’t be trusted on the Union and the Union is (according to Peter Robinson) “stronger than it has ever been thanks to the efforts of the DUP,” then why the fuss? Unless, of course, it has something to do with the fact that the DUP has about as much control over Sinn Fein as Gordon Brown has over the current economic chaos. When in trouble of their own the DUP can always be relied upon to throw the mud at the UUP.

    More important, though, why were the DUP in their own talks with the Conservative Party?—a claim which hasn’t been denied by Robinson? And why did Robinson have a private meeting with Cameron 2 days before the UUP-Cons issued their joint statement? Perhaps Mr. Charles would care to offer some “commentary” or “analysis” on those matters?

    Most of the comments on this and similar threads are nothing more than speculation. Not one piece of hard or sourced evidence on the exact nature of the relationship. Anyway, how could there be? Sir Reg Empey stated yesterday that his party would be holding a series of internal consultations over the next few weeks: and it is those consultations which will fashion and steer the report from the Working Group—due in early November.

    At that point the debate can begin in earnest. So perhaps Mr Charles, assorted posters and the DUP hierarchy (who clearly have too much time on their hands thanks to the fact that Sinn Fein won’t allow them to get on with government)could find something else to vent their orchestrated spleen upon. Like why, for instance, Peter Robinson has only been allowed to co-chair one meeting of the Executive since he became co-equal First Minister?

    Whether the talks between the parties will deliver the new political dynamic or electoral force that Empey and Cameron have mentioned is still open to question. But to my mind at least there is nothing to be lost (and potentially much to be gained) by exploring the options. Reg may as well do something to fill in the time he should be spending at meetings of the Executive!

    And since it was, after all, the DUP who told us how bad the Belfast Agreement was and how they would “tear it up and start from scratch,” I’m inclined to the view that their criticism of the UUP-Cons talks is based more on sour grapes than strategic substance.

    Anyway, nice to see yet another UUP defector being wheeled out to put the boot into his former party.

    WhiteKnight

  • ??

    If Unionism had accepted Sunningdale there would more than likely been no Sein Fein and no Provisional IRA or its re-inventions.
    Posted by John K Lund on Oct 02, 2008 @ 03:57 PM

    ……………
    So you blame Reg and others in the UUP then.

    Also, as the mess of theUUP/PUP shows, unless they operate as a single party , rather than 2 parties working together, they`ll run into problems in Stormont.

    And lets not forget MANY UUP supporters lean more toward labour than the tories

  • Elvis Parker

    Why did ‘Robinson have a private meeting with Cameron 2 days before the UUP-Cons issued their joint statement’
    To inform Robinson as First Minister of what he (Cameron) was doing and to point out the differences that would make any relationship with the DUP impossible?

  • What a load on nonsense from O’Connor…and she got paid twice for it !!! Fortnight and the Irish Times.
    Michael is quite correct…..there does not appear to be any disagreement within the UUP about a possible link [it was never ever going to be a merger]with the Conservative Party.
    Remember, until Grocer Heath stabbed his erstwhile Unionist friends in the back in the mid 70s, the Unionist party were an integral part of the Conservative & Unionist Party [still the full and correct title of that party], so having a link with them now is merely restoring what Heath destroyed previously.
    I’m a member of the Party Executive and I have only heard two dissenting voices within the ruling body…of course there will be more – some for idealogical reasons, socialist inclinations being one and others who have a long and unforgiving memory of Heath’s treachery and the Anglo-Irish Agreement foised on us by Mrs. Thatcher.
    However, those above who sing the praises of the DUPes should remember their lies at the last Assembly election about voting DUP to keep Sinn Fein out of the First Minister’s job…….many voters won’t forgive them next time around. Isn’t that why Arlene Foster, when Environment Minister, postponed the Local Government Elections for 3 years….she and her fellow DUPes hoped that the Unionist electorate will forget their treachery and lies. I’m sure the Unionist people won’t forget and they’ll not forgive either !

  • Michael Shilliday

    William, there is an important distinction between dissent and confusion. Andrew is pushing the latter point, entirely incorrectly. There is some limited dissent, and to my eye no confusion.

  • Melanie

    What I have pieced together from those I know within the UUP and the local Tories supporting this is:

    Most within the UUP know they are stuffed.
    The Tories are keen to have a growing party throughout the UK. Cameron does not want the party to be successful only in England. Potentially the best way to secure the future of the UUP in some format and for the Tories to speed up progress in NI was for the two to come together. The leadership of both parties gave the go ahead for talks with the aim of maybe ending up with something like the Tory party in Wales or Scotland

    The talks started on this basis. Supporters of the idea in the UUP used the M word, the local Tories did too – though notice how long it took for anyone to realise anything was going on – it seems both sides were remarkably sucessful in keeping the lid on it for ages – though I can’t actually pin down when they started

    As the talks have gone on frustration and anger have set in. The UUP supporters are angry nothing was done in time for the Tory conference and MEP Jim Nicholson doesn’t know where he stands with the election coming up fast. Some believe the leadership is about to waste a great chance to shake things up. For their part the Tories seem frustrated at the UUP backtracking and wonder why so many who were involved at the start and very keen have been dropped. Johnny Andrews and Brian Crowe have both been banished and it seems a UUP MLA was involved at the start but has also been quickly dropped though I do not know who this was.

    I get the very clear impression from the Tory side that this is a much tighter operation then the UUP side with the local Tories and the Cameron leadership working well together. They know exactly what they want and if it all goes wrong they don’t appear too worried to be honest…..

  • When Melanie and people like her ‘piece together’ political chit-chat, it often ends up, as it has with her, a mish-mash of nonsense. This business of people being dropped ???? Johnny is a party officer…I didn’t hear any objections, dissent or otherwise from him at any meeting I’ve being at.
    I don’t know Melanie’s political leanings [perhaps she’s another DUPe] as the DUP are furious at the potential for good that a working relationship between the Conservatives and the Unionist Party will bring to Northern Ireland.
    So it is in the DUPes interests to sow the seeds of division amongsts the Unionist Party electorate, but then isn’t that what the DUP does best; creating division amongst Unionists !

  • fair_deal

    FD

    The one the UUP presently hold plus one of the potential two deal seats SB & FST

    John K Lund

    “If Unionism had accepted Sunningdale there would more than likely been no Sein Fein and no Provisional IRA or its re-inventions.”

    Good grief. Apart from it being odd to hear SDLP thinking coming from a UUP member, both those organisations existed prior to Sunningdale. The PIRA had murdered over 400 people before Sunningdale had been signed. An argument is always assisted by getting basic facts correct.

  • fair_deal

    MS

    Some of them over at Conservatives NI seemed to think merger was on the cards on the day of the announcement.

    http://conservativesni.net/2008/07/24/a-historic-statement/

    Mick Fealty did exactly the same the day it was announced

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/ulster-unionist-and-conservatives/

    Plus the key phrases used in the initial statement are ambiguous enough to cover both co-operation/merging/co-operation leading to merger as the options.

    “explore the possibilities of closer cooperation leading to the creation of a new political and electoral force in Northern Ireland”
    “These discussions with the UUP should mark the beginning of a creation of a new mainstream political movement” “Northern Ireland could have a new political force”

    Neither is Mark Devenport a DUP stooge and in his reporting merger was among the options
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markdevenport/2008/09/mergers_and_acquisitions.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markdevenport/2008/09/a_passionate_unionist.html
    It seems clear from these entries that what conservatives were briefing him and the UUP were briefing him were two different things.

  • Michael Shilliday

    I assume you aren’t talking to me there? Andrew is trying to claim that there is confusion within the UUP, which is nonsense.

  • John K Lund

    Fair Deal,
    John K Lund was born on the 22nd of May 1941 and like all people has not got a super human recall.
    Also at the time he was rather busy from 1976 sorting out the problems of Glenanne Mill. He would however be prepared to discuss Fair Deal’s comments directly by telephone you can Email him initially @ johnklund@btinternet.com

  • Beno

    Interesting to hear Michael say what hes saying

    the UUP is in a major state of confusion over this!

    What on earth is going on!?

  • Yvette Doll

    “In order to appeal to the (mythical) Catholic unionists, at least one or two must be Catholic.”

    The UUP are more sympathetic to the Vatican than SF. Irish culture, it could be said, has more to do with Catholicism than language.

    The UUP are worth being nice to, because the UUP will always do Catholics a favor if they are asked.

    How many factories has SF given to West Belfast if we are asking?

    SF expect Catholics to vote for them, and they don’t do anything much for Catholics in return.

    For 99 percent of the time, SF don’t want anything to do with Catholicism. In a real sense they’re more bigoted than the Unionists on the pro or anti Vatican perspectives.

    They would sell us out on the abortion if they thought they could get away with it. They would do that in the blinking of an eye. The only reason they don’t is a feared shift to the SDLP of Catholic voters.

    SF expect Catholics to buy into emotively selective issues such as OO marches until such times as they properly migrate Catholicism into Nationalism.

  • Yvette Doll

    “Middle Class Unionists want people like the Conservative Party to represent them. Not the same old politicians from the DUP and the UUP.”

    I can’t say I have noticed when I was going door to door, have you any idea where they live?

    That would be a bit of a help, I’ve not stumbled across them.

    I was sorry to learn of the lap-dancing promo tickets at the Tory party conference by the way.

    It is not a good law & order position.

  • Unamused Observer

    Check out last week’s Economist.

    See the large swath of yellow in Ross Cromarthy and Firth which is there because it is the largest UK constituency.

    Over to the left and down a bit where you would expect to find NI is the article because NI is an irrelevance in the next election unless the Tories can make some headway.