Slugger has just received an email from the Vice Chair of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, Jeff Peel, announcing his resignation from the Joint Committee. He lays out the reasons in the full text of the email below…
Today, as Vice Chairman of the NI Area of the Conservatives, I took the decision to resign from the Joint Committee set up between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionist Party. The purpose of this email is to explain why.
Last Thursday evening both the UUP and Conservatives NI area councils met to agree a paper from the joint committee of the UUP and Conservatives. The most substantive element of this paper was the name that the two parties would campaign under. The proposed name in the paper (Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force) was essentially an arrangement to ensure that the paper would be passed by the UUP council. The Conservatives received assurances via email from David Campbell, Chairman of the UUP, prior to the Council meeting, making clear that despite the wording in the paper, the only name that would be used for campaigning purposes would a short form of the name i.e. Conservatives and Unionists.
It was also made clear to the UUP in the joint council meetings that the only branding that would be acceptable would be the regional form of the official Conservative tree logo device, and the Conservatives and Unionists typography in the official Conservatives in NI colours. Therefore we took the email to mean that the UUP had accepted the short form name and branding. Our Area Council was briefed to this effect and passed the paper. The UUP Council also passed the paper (with no dissent). As Conservatives we wished to ensure that branding reflected the non-sectarian and national nature of our joint initiative – with successful candidates taking the Conservative whip in Europe and in Westminster.
It was agreed by both sides that there would be NO media briefings on the Thursday evening. However, this deal was broken by the UUP who briefed the media on the long form version of the name despite assurances to us that the short form version would be used. The local and national media coverage only featured the long form version of the name that was NOT agreed by our side.
As a result of this, it was agreed by our side that we would release a logo featuring the correct short form branding.
The UUP complained bitterly that we had released this branding. At a joint media conference held last Friday the UUP insisted that we remove all logos from display material. Moreover the UUP has continued using the long form version of the name in media releases despite assurances that the only naming to be used was to be Conservatives and Unionists.
As a result of this, I have come to the conclusion that the UUP does not have the interests of Conservatism at heart. Rather, as the UUP is facing a severe financial crisis, it sees the Conservatives as a means out of its financial and electoral woes. Many UUP members (although by no means all) still adopt a little Ulster mentality when it comes to politics, and the Partys only MP is simply not a Conservative.
It is for these reasons that I have taken the decision to resign from the Joint Committee. Although Id like to make clear that I am NOT resigning from the Conservative Party and am NOT resigning as Vice Chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland. I fully support the Conservative Party under the leadership of David Cameron and I hope to see it elected to government after the next general election. I would encourage the Party to seek a mandate to govern every part of the United Kingdom without entering into deals with other political parties.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty