Peter Robinson in new pitch for united Unionism – what’s the offer?

Peter Robinson’s reply in the Belfast Telegraph to Ed Curran’s two recent columns

Dear Peter and Reg, do we really need two unionist parties now?..

and

Could Tory pact hasten end of UUP at the next election?
is the clearest evidence yet that electoral politics dominate everything he does in and out of the Assembly. His vision of a two party system is now out in the open.

“I believe that in the future the time will come when unionism will be represented by a single political party. Demographic changes and the emergence of a single dominant nationalist party may make this inevitable.”

BTW it can easily be argued that this debate is wholly out of date. Monolithic sectarian blocs are the last thing our fragile democracy needs. Instead, it’s essential to continue to offer choice inside each camp. And how can Peter’s idea of united unionism be consistent with his dream of a future voluntary coalition, if he only has Sinn Fein to coalesce with? But back to the politics of today…As usual June’s euro-election will be treated as a straight referendum on the parties. The DUP no longer have their charismatic old chief to portray his mountainous victories of the past as his coronation as the leader of Unionism, even though he then led the smaller party. Today fear of being outflanked by the mouse that roars, the apostate sitting MEP Jim Allister, dominates the DUP inner psyche. Yet even in 1999, as Peter points out, John Hume ran Paisley close. The demographics were beginning to increase the pressure on divided unionism..This time round, Diane Dodds is hardly the charismatic substitute so a deal is attractive.

Can Peter now pull off united Unionist cooperation and presage an even more fateful deal for the general election? Is he simply firing the opening shots in a blame game? Or is he hinting at giving the UUs a clear run in say, South Belfast? Unionist unity was possible in 1974 but, as a negative force to resist Sunningdale and then only briefly. It foundered in the 1975 Convention over Bill Craig’s sudden ill-prepared offer of a voluntary coalition. Noone savaged Craig more than Peter who roundly beat him to take East Belfast. However Peter came to learn the pitfalls of co-operation for himself, with the stony rejection of his own efforts in the report “An End to Drift” in 1987 with Harold McCusker and Frank Millar recommending a united Unionist negotiating position to circumvent the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That rather brave act of rare individual initiative outside the folds of Paisley’s cloak threatened his career.

In today’s circumstances, Peter will have to stop taunting the UUP with oblivion and start talking nicely to them ( so very difficult for him). What has he actually got to offer? On the other side of the argument Ed Curran asked: Can the UUs survive? Probably they can, under STV/PR, and continue to attract some garden centre support, for the more important Assembly. However, there’s little sign of them showing fresh energy to fire up the shadowy Conservative link-up for Westminster contests. Has it been forgotten? Or might it become an entry vehicle for DUP support for the Conservatives if a DUP/UU deal can be done?

  • observer

    Read the article! It was little more than a pre election piece of staged rhetoric. How many times have we heard the mantra in advance of an election about how important it is for Unionism(aka DUP) to top the poll? Why is it only important for Unionists to stand together at election time but its alright to put the boot in where it really hurts at all other times? Do ordinary Unionists really care anymore about what the implications are of the Shinners topping a poll? This form of sectarian headcounting can just as well be satisfied by a headcount of the total Unionist vote against the total Nationalist vote. I wonder if Peter has lost sight of the fact that times are achanging in Norn Ireland and that the old scare tactics of yesteryear are really not as important as they once might have been. This is a harp back to the days when Unionist politicians turned up before an election on the back of the local coal lorry, bedecked in red white and blue( the lorry!) and headed up by the local kick the Pope flute band. The rhetoric then was the spectre of a united Ireland and domination from Rome. That sort of stuff is all history now Peter! The new version of this has been the importance to the survival of our wee province of topping the poll every time. Just what does Peter think will befall us if the Shinners nick the top position by a few thousand votes but Unionism is still the highest vote? The reality is that this is Peter’s rather pathetic way of trying to neutralise a serious opponent in the European Election. I don’t share the politics of the threat to the DUP but by heavens they are showing all the characteristics of being scared witless by him. Would the world stop spinning and would the DUP family suffer any great loss of public money income and perks if shock horror they didn’t win a seat by a country mile or horror of horrors fail to secure a seat?

    The DUP is a party that is more vote driven than any party in the history of politics. Everything they say and do is casting the net for votes. Nothing wrong with that but it needs to be done with a little bit of integrity.

  • ZoonPol

    Someone on Slugger O’Toole suggested this would be the fear tactic employed by the FM weeks ago – how sad of him.
    No doubt, he will act on his words and not put any candidate forward for the European Elections but instead voice his support for the very experienced UUP MEP. If, being our First Minister, a duty and social contract to all exists, notwithstanding the apparent OFMDFM morphing into a Politburo of joint dictatorship between the DUP and Sinn Fein axis, I would agree that the DUP no longer is fit for purpose as its founding fathers would agree as it quest for power has made it a moral cripple.

  • percy

    I’ve often been amazed just how much in-fighting and sheer hatred there is within the SF/SDLP and DUP/UUP.
    Top-dog politics!

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    “Monolithic sectarian blocs are the last thing our fragile democracy needs. Instead, it’s essential to continue to offer choice inside each camp. ”

    Then people should vote for the Alliance Party – Unionism and Nationalism ARE tribal blocks – the Tories have now entered on ONE side and have the outrageous cheek to suggest that Irish politics are tribal and particularly so given their appaling record in Ireland pre and post partition.

    The GFA which the is the (fair) response by the governments of Ireland and Britain to decades of mis-rule and violence has not even been implemented and people are jabbering on about changing it rather keeping pressure on the Unionism to implement it.

    It is entirely logical and sensible for 2 right wing Unionist parties to join together rather than one of them getting into bed with a mainland right wing party.

    From a Nationlaist perspective it of course great news that the hubris of Posh Boy David Cameron (PBDC) and the desperation of Wee Reggie(Weggie) will now conspire to damge and fragment Unionism further.

  • Andrew

    Interesting articles …

    Last night I attended a dinner with Tory MP Sir Nicholas Winterton present.

    He was very critical of the UUP-Tory link up thinking it was total poppycock.

  • Stereotypical Yu member?

    I think the Tory pact is brilliant because Reg is infallible and never makes mistakes.Also with this new look we will win over all those Protestant self haters.

  • Observer

    Andrew.

    Is this a Slugger record? Item five and totally off the thread!

    Sammy.

    The Unionist electorate is not that desperate just yet to consider voting for the fence sitting Alliance Party!

  • Andrew

    Observer,

    Not sure it is off topic.

    In fact I’d say it is rather relevant to the topic!

  • aquifer

    Quite: Fence sitting, neither fish nor fowl, too polite for politics.

    Yet, if “Monolithic sectarian blocs are the last thing our fragile democracy needs. Instead, it’s essential to continue to offer choice inside each camp.’ Then we need to open up some foul bloody rows among the less sectarian parties to take the limelight off the sectarian prima donnas at centre stage.

    What do people really think about the water rates that will come soon enough?

    What about abortion? Integrated education?

    £150 for fuel for the workshy?

    Social Democratic and Labour Party? or just a con to take the working man’s votes for the Catholic Middle Classes?

    What do Green Tories want that the SDLP and UUP won’t give?

    What do low paid workers really need?

    What would get the unemployed out of the house and down to the polling station?

  • ZoonPol

    Good to hear that the right-wing of the Tory party thinks its ‘poppycock’ lol
    Wasn’t he the MP who was investigated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner who’s opinion was that expenses were misused to rent a flat that they already owned?

  • ZoonPol

    Aquifer they are good and very relevant questions about our country and I desire and am prepared to answer and debate them if you wish: either on this forum or personally via email

  • ZoonPol

    The DUP have a talent for creating recruiting sergeants of their leaders. Now its an article to affirm why Peter Robinson is a recruiting sergeant for the UUP.

  • Bigger Picture

    “Good to hear that the right-wing of the Tory party thinks its ‘poppycock’ lol
    Wasn’t he the MP who was investigated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner who’s opinion was that expenses were misused to rent a flat that they already owned?”

    It doesn’t matter a thing about his background. Sir Nick Winterton isa senior Tory and Chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee. I think it is quite something for such a senior figure to come over to NI and say that, given Cameron’s efforts

  • ??

    the very experienced UUP MEP…………

    isnt he the one who is only elected due to DUP transfers?

  • ZoonPol

    Actually, it does Bigger Pictureand that explains why he never was promoted to the front bench and given his lack of loyalty to his Party it will only be a matter of time before he gets rewarded (sic).

    As for getting transfers ??, yes he did get transfers but so what? He remains a very experienced and influential MEP being a member of the largest European Parliamentary Party and elected by the Parliament to help run it – one out of six members elected by its members (785).

  • rj

    Bigger Picture

    I think you will find that it is the respected Sir Patrick Cormack who chairs the NI Select Committee, not Winterton.

    Winterton may be a senior Tory (whatever that means) but has never held cross-party office in the Commons.

  • Brian Walker

    rj You’re right, Sir Patrick Cormack is chairman of the NI Select Committee and is most unlikely to have described the link-up as poppycock at least in semi-public. But Sir Nicholas Winterton, and another parliamentary titan of immense dignity has in fact had quite a lot of cross -party experience. He has been chairman of the Health Committee and is a deputy Speaker when he chairs debates in Westminster Hall. He is very proud of his independent mind.

  • I agree with Bob Wilson. Ed Curran seems to be bonkers.

    Nobody really knows how the European Elections are going to be decided. The DUP are more than uncertain and I do detect a note of real anxiety in Peter Robinson’s words.

    The most interesting aspect of the Next Euro election will not be the result. It will be the conduct of the campaign because that will be the real determinent of progress which the UUP/Cons will have made in bringing about normal politics.

  • Terry

    Unionism United,
    Will never be defeated!

  • Greenflag

    Once upon a time Northern Ireland was effectively a one party quasi fascist state. Unionist politicians ‘looted’ everything that was going for 50 years or more. The other ‘side ‘ got a kick in the arse whenever the opportunity became available . Not until the educational and social reforms were introduced in England in the mid 1950’s did the ‘papists/nationalists ‘ get a look in .

    It’s 2009 and NI has become or is becoming an effective two party state albeit with lesser powers and the ‘loot’ now has to be shared .The Unionist side became too greedy during it’s 50 years as cock o the walk and eventually decided or to be more precise were forced to decide by others (especially HMG ) that half the loot was better than no loot at all.

    So how long will this ‘looting ‘ carry on ? Until such time as the people being ‘looted’ from i.e the English taxpayer allow it to continue .

    Whereas Unionists may take pride in their ‘looting ‘ credentials having been relatively successful in keeping up the ‘con’ NI game for 50 years or so – their opposing fellow looters on the Republican /Nationalist side can take some comfort in sharing in this joint reverse ‘looting ‘ of Mother England. They can view it as ‘ reparations for the centuries of ‘looting ‘ that Mother carried out not just on Ireland but on a quarter of the land surface of the planet as she built up the Empire on which the sun never set (with the assistance of course of many fellow looters from Ireland, Scotland Wales etc etc etc;) .

  • Greenflag

    terry ,

    ‘Unionism United’
    Will never be defeated!

    You don’t know your history man . This is a team that has been specialising in scoring own goals for the better part of 100 years . The only reason they are still in the game is that the other side has split up into about 7 or 8 teams and are still arguing amongs themselves as to

    I’d guess that Unionism United would hardly manage a draw against Brechin City or even the Gypsies ( Bohemians );)

  • Greenflag

    Apologies did’nt finish a sentence above in no 21

    ‘ The only reason they are still in the game is that the other side has split up into about 7 or 8 teams and are still arguing amongst themselves as to whether this UI game is worth the paper it’s not written on 😉