“both have agreed the creation of a joint Conservative-Unionist committee..”

Another interesting aside from Frank Millar, to compare and contrast with what the, presumably, UUP sources are telling Mark Devenport, in today’s Irish Times.

Electoral confirmation of a real “Brown bounce” will, on the other hand, prompt some Tory strategists to contemplate a possible election victory by a considerably smaller margin than suggested by opinion poll leads of 20 points and more earlier this year. That in turn will increase interest in the Conservative Party’s strained relationship with the DUP’s nine MPs at Westminster – and Mr Cameron’s proposed electoral pact with Sir Reg Empey’s Ulster Unionists. The Irish Times understands both have agreed the creation of a joint Conservative-Unionist committee to oversee the forthcoming European and Westminster elections, with Mr Cameron and Sir Reg jointly nominating candidates.

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  • Brian Walker

    Pete, I’m in trouble here. These elliptical updates are way over my head. This is like knitting with spaghetti. Is there a vision somewhere of a de facto Tory takeover of the UUP by some other name that will elevate Jim Nicholson (what a profile, what a placeman!) for Europe in 09, win at least two Westminster seats in 2010 and challenge the DUP for the Assembly in 2011? No chance I’d say but I’m willing to learn.

    For 09 for a start they’d have to ditch Nicholson fast and find a charismatic figure and a real cause in 09 – Napoleon Collins? a sane version of Sarah Palin? – to turn the European contest into a personal-presidential, vote harvesting, referendum style campaign in the old Paisley mould. A bit late now. And then they’d have to invent a raft of policies with the new Big Idea, that would call out the non-voters, attract some cross-community support and keep their shrinking core.

    Can anybody envisage any of that?

    I fear Sir Reg is being strung along by the Conservatives. His party is as usual, split and unhappy. Cameron will want to keep his options open with the DUP, while not closing them with the single seat the UUP might to win in 2010 if Sylvia Hermon stands again.

    Prospects for a DUP-UUP pact for Fermanagh and South Belfast still look poor, so where’s the beef in any of this?

  • Pete Baker

    Brian

    “where’s the beef in any of this?”

    At the minute, my interest is in the apparent gap between the Irish Times’ understanding and what the presumably UUP sources are telling Mark Devenport.

    Until the UUP make a definitive statement on it all we have to go on are the whispers.

  • In a parallel universe, far, far, away — today’s Daily Telegraph blogsite has Daniel Hannan reflecting on the mess that is the Scottish Tory Party.

    His analysis of what went wrong for the grousemoor Unionists seems vaguely familiar:

    More Scots gain their livelihood from the state than from the private sector; but, because of the Barnett formula, there is no link between taxation, representation and expenditure north of the border. When someone else is picking up the bill, voting for a high-spending party is the rational decision.

    Throughout the Thatcher years, successive Scottish Secretaries sought to gain the gratitude of Scottish voters by winning larger and larger budgets. But that’s not how life works. The more public money was spent in Scotland, the more people looked to the government for their income, and the less likely they were to vote for a tax-cutting party. Sure enough, the number of Conservative MPs in Scotland fell from 22 in 1983 to 10 in 1987 and 0 in 1997.

    His recipe for change is:

    Two circumstances are necessary for a revival of Right-of-Centre politics north of the border. First, fiscal autonomy; second, a genuinely indigenous free-market party.

    I read into comments made, and attitudes struck by “traditional” Tories of my acquaintance (i.e. those who haven’t bought shares in Cameron) that Hannan is not a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

    Those same “traditional” Tories seem to regard NI as Neville Chamberlain did Czechoslovakia: “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing!” Indeed, some time back I had my ear bent with the opinion, well-lubricated with several G’n’Ts, that “Major had played it all wrong: Maggie was right. They needed some cold steel up ’em”.

    Despite the ambitious belief that a UUP link might deliver the odd seat, I still cannot comprehend what is in a pact for either the UUP or the GB Tories. Can anyone assist me here? Where I’m sitting, it bodes ill for both sides.

    There is an inevitable conflict looming for the soul of a (hypothetical) Tory Government. It will be fought, and viciously so, between the Cameroon “reformers” and the die-hard faction led by Simon Heffer: the Spectator versus the Mail and Telegraph editorials? Where would the UUP have any traction there? Hannan has a reflection which may be relevant:

    Nor is it often pointed out that the 1955 [UK General Election] result [when Tories took a majority of Scottish seats] was based, at least in part, on a sectarian vote from working-class Protestants. The Scottish Conservatives of that era still called themselves Unionists, with good reason: they were the heirs, lineally and ideologically, to the Liberal Unionists who had allied themselves to the Conservatives at the beginning of the twentieth century. Conservatives qua Conservatives have always been marginal north of the border…

  • ??

    so the UUP has had a committee working on this for months and the best they can come up with is.. lets form another committee?

  • Llamedos

    It will come there is no stopping it. Then positive thinking and optimism will change the political map of Northern Ireland. We can no longer afford to not get involved in proper constitutionalist United Kingdom politics. We want a place at the top table and to have to stop sitting below the salt with all the other single issue sectarian non entities. The UUP need this shot of real political adrenalin to break the mould and David Cameron is investing a collosal amount of political capital, which he does not need to do to win the next election, in securing the Union. Who says two seats will be the pessimistic target of the arrangement. The Conservative and Ulster Unionists have certainly not. All constituencies and all other elections will be fought well and aggressively with no side deals or political fudges tolerated. You do not break the mould to get a Completely Fresh Start by hanging onto all the previous failed policies. If you dont buy the ticket you cannot effectively be a major political force. Sein Fein boycott the Mother of Parlaments, The Dup are a crazed fundamentalist bigotted side show , and the SDLP are trying to link up with a party which is not even within the Union. This will take place special executive 15th November, UUP conference With David Cameron 26th December just for all you sniping doubters and afraid Dup supporters the Poisoned Dwarf included.Further more Leam Clarke is not the Delphic Oracle.

  • Tory

    Malcolm,

    We are doing this in precisely in order that Northern Ireland ceases to be a “far away land of which we know nothing”. That is what the parochial politics of the last 35 years have yielded us. And it is time for it to change.

    We know that there is a great deal of suppot for normal non-sectarian centre-right politics in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, that will lead to this being very successful. But, even if it didn’t, we would still do this as it is simply the right thing to do. Time to move on. End the charade that has been Ulster politics for deacades.

    In a broad church party, there will be people with diverse opinions. Daniel Hannan reflects that. His views on Scotland are not party policy. End of the subject.

    Brian – Ditto.

  • frustrated democrat

    A few eggs may be broken, but the result is probably inescapable the Conservative and Unionist Party will come about.

    It may take another 12 months to be fully ratified but it will happen because it is the right thing to do to keep Northern Ireland as a part of the UK.

    The new party will reach out to people that neither the DUP or UUP ever can. It will be the beneficiary of the normalisation of politics that will in the end spell the demise of the extremes of SF and the DUP as they need continued conflict to exist.

  • George

    Malcolm,
    very interesting. When I listened to the speech of the Labour MP who won the Glenrothes election I was struck by how he focused on the local before moving on to praise Brown. It was like Labour was the opposition and the SNP was the government. And indeed it is but that is something that the Anglo-dominated media forgets.

    The Conservatives have missed the boat in Scotland because Labour are now the defenders of the Union north of the English border. There is no niche for them.

    The right of centre position of which you speak will, in my view, eventually be filled by the SNP. They have very quickly filled the role of opposition to dominant Labour and will, in time, move ever more centrist. I’m sure many of the left in Scotland would say they have been always thus.

    Equally, there is no niche for the Conservatives in Northern Ireland which has a plethora of Union defenders.

    The problem with Unionism in the 21st century is that it is devoid of ideology and it’s main argument is the subvention cheque.

  • Llamedos

    It is quite a simple question. The Ulster Insular Spongers( Harold Wilson ) along with the Scottish Nationalist Whingers will be told to eventually leave the Union. This is what both Paisleyism and Sein Fein both want. However the self confident ones of us, who want to prosper within the Union as equal and respected participants, who wish to get their economy into proper economic balance want this rearrangement of the Northern Ireland political tectonic plates to take place. Both sides of Nationalist type supporters are being succoured into keeping a political elite with multiple mandates and large financial rewards, at the taxpaying ordinary 4x2s expense, in the obscene and excessively overpaid live style to which they have become accustomed. Just like their Socialist Euro Confreres who cant even balance the EEC books after all their abuses. Their paucity of intellectual input is also a well accepted fact by the electorate their sole motivation is perceived as sheer and wonton greed. The Conservative and Ulster Unionists are the only party equipped to take these serious economic inbalances by the horns of the dilemma and sort it out with a long term pragmatic, constructive and sympathetic approach. The watershed has come; it is either face reality or become a real banana republic. I know that the vast majority of forward looking, hard working, well educated voters of this province want a strong United Kingdom in which they no longer sit in the Commons with the other lunatic fringes.

  • They have very quickly filled the role of opposition to dominant Labour and will, in time, move ever more centrist. I’m sure many of the left in Scotland would say they have been always thus.

    Salmond’s cosying up to the Church Hierarchy in such areas as segregated schooling is an example of the SNP attempting to steal the Conservative’s clothes in the social arena, but economically? Not much sign whatsover of them buying into the free-market.

    Equally, there is no niche for the Conservatives in Northern Ireland which has a plethora of Union defenders.

    There’s a plethora of politicians describing themselves as Union defenders. Not so many that fully accept or even understand that the Union does not begin and end at Aldergrove Airport. A UUP/Tory tie up would be at least an attempt to end the kind of parochial and sectarian thinking that plagues our version of Unionism.

    The problem with Unionism in the 21st century is that it is devoid of ideology and it’s main argument is the subvention cheque.

    Again, you are confusing true Unionism with the rather narrower version on sale here. Plenty of thinking is going on throughout the UK, attempting to define where the Union presently is and could take us in the long-term future.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Brian Walker – “For 09 for a start they’d have to ditch Nicholson fast and find a charismatic figure”

    Jim who? The fresh start they are talking about would definitely need to involve picking a new candidate for Europe.

    I doubt if Sir Reg Empey has the leadership skills to make the new party a reality. After all, he has said that it will not be a merger. If not, what’s the point? The leadership of the DUP were initially worried. But Sir Reg has them smiling again.

  • Put aside the froth and spleen here: it remains the case that the optimum outcome the UUP can imagine is to have a couple of Westminster MPs sitting among 300 +/- mainly English Tories. “Clout”? “Engagement”? Quite frankly the East Anglian bloc have many times that megatonnage in the 1922 Committee.

    Were the Cameroonies to form the next Westminster government, the UUP are then defending all the neglect and misgovernment that other NI MPs can lament. That’s a recipe for bringing in the vote and assuring the long-term future (i.e. beyond the next Parliament) for a UUP?

    I would dearly love to see a realignment of NI politics along ideological rather than denominational lines.

    I acknowledge that the UUP has broken from its “big house” past. It is no longer an unhealthy cabal of Tory landlords and Whiggish businessmen, with its client train of middle- and working-class Prods whipped into line in fear of Romish unnatural practices (e.g. social inclusion and equality). I see that as progress.

    On the other hand, NI has to seek its own political fortune and future — hopefully, neither as a Paisleyite statelet, nor as a Deep North of the island of Ireland persisting in “peculiar institutions”. My impression is that ordinary folk, from both traditions, now recognise that settlement and “reconciliation” must come from inside NI before wider attachments can be properly formed. If the UUP decides to diminish itself into the Conservative Party of the Ards Peninsula and environs, it is effectively opting out of that necessary reconstruction.

    And the “submit the word you see below” box pops up with the predictive “english”. How does it do that so regularly?

  • runciter

    My impression is that ordinary folk, from both traditions, now recognise that settlement and “reconciliation” must come from inside NI before wider attachments can be properly formed.

    I doubt that many nationalists would see an “internal settlement” as a pre-condition for unification.

    Partition is, after all, the root of the problem – and not a symptom, as the British propaganda myth would have it.

  • Elvis Parker

    ‘where’s the beef in any of this?’
    Ah the frustrations of journalists who have discovered that the Conservatives and, believe it our not the changing UUP, do not leak.

  • bob Wilson

    “it remains the case that the optimum outcome the UUP can imagine is to have a couple of Westminster MPs sitting among 300 +/- mainly English Tories. “Clout”? “Engagement”? Quite frankly the East Anglian bloc have many times that megatonnage in the 1922 Committee.”

    Malcolm are you suggesting it is better to sit in splendid isolation? How can no clout be better than tiny clout? Please spare us the ‘balance of power’ argument – all that ensures is that you are treated with suspicion and contempt by both the main parties – as you are available for purchase by both sides.

    “I would dearly love to see a realignment of NI politics along ideological rather than denominational lines. … NI has to seek its own political fortune and future”

    “My impression is that ordinary folk, from both traditions, now recognise that settlement and “reconciliation” must come from inside NI before wider attachments can be properly formed. If the UUP decides to diminish itself into the Conservative Party of the Ards Peninsula and environs, it is effectively opting out of that necessary reconstruction.”

    Au contraire Malcolm it could just be that Mr Cameron wants to lead that ‘necessary reconstruction’? Could it be that having MPs who can play a full part in the workings of the Parliamentary Conservative Party is part of that process?

    Don’t be deluded by the trappings of power at Stormont many of the important decisions are still made at Westminster as the growing economic recession will make increasingly plain.

    VAT rates and scopes, corporation tax rates for small and large business, income tax, fuel duty and aviation duty – all set by Westminster – not to mention allowances. Also there are issues such as welfare benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and the Winter fuel Allowance and the whole question of pensions.

    People in Northern Ireland need to have access to the political system that influences these things.

    To suggest NI needs to build its own right/left parties BEFORE it can connect with Westminster does not make sense

  • Llamedos

    Malcom Redfellow. The truth is that this sectarian head count has dominated the local political scene from time immemorium.Your Northern Ireland has continuously failed to sort out the economic progress of this province; all you have done is perpetrate the Northern Ireland Soviet. We need to wise up- the rest of the United Kingdom will lose patience with us and wil want to see the back of us. If we continue with the Dup style of an elected multiple mandate plutocracy; No man alive can hold down up to four jobs successfully, furthermore it is an insult to the electorate to expect them to go on supporting this oligarchy of an excessive political gravy train. We need to adopt a self confident 21st century approach and start to play a full role within the Union. It is significant that probably twice as many Southern born Irishmen opt to settle in Great Britain and do well. Hanging onto the same old cracked record will only satiate misguided old style so called loyalists or little Ulster stand alone nationalists. Aesop coined the phrase “We stand united divided we fall” this is one fable that needs laying to rest. The DUP have peaked and the challenge is there. The next elections will be fought on constructive and positive policies and not the usual diet of negative bile that the electorate have previously bought.