Chaos Theory and elections: UUP

The New Force are of course also in an interesting position. Although they are running Nicholson who seems to have been there since shortly after the end of the Second World War (well actually since 1989) they have gained the addendum of the Tories. The start of the new relationship seemed to be a great hope though I did caution at the time that it was very much a politicos idea and one which I was unsure of the relevance of outside the political anoraks (like us lot) and maybe parts of the Pale. I was also worried by what I call the Stephen King factor, namely bringing in talented, affable young English conservatives with a lack of the depth of knowledge and complete understanding of NI politics which I regard as essential to achieve anything here. There was then the chaos of the name and logo and the discussions around it followed by Jeffrey Peel’s outbursts.
However, all the above is simply more of the stuff of anoraks. Out there in the real world little has changed for the UUP. That may well be a problem as Jim Nicholson’s vote has been progressively falling in Euro elections. In addition the UUP has had a pretty disastrous series of elections over recent years; their more recent attempts to spin Dromore as a victory are gravely hampered by its tiny size and the fact that actually their vote fell.

In Nicholson they have a far from dynamic candidate: he is not maybe as bad as he is at times portrayed but his near invisibility between European elections is undoubtedly a significant handicap. Despite that he was undamaged during the UUPs self destruction strategy (Trimble’s leadership) and he is acknowledged as knowing a fair bit about farming and about European affairs. In addition the lack of charismatic leaders has never done the UUP that much harm. I repeatedly point out how the highly uncharismatic Jim Molyneaux gradually eroded Paisley’s support in all elections except Europe.

There are also some more positive vibes around the UUP. The defeat of the Peel types along with the fact that the coalition with the Tories is still intact does bring a bit of new excitement. In addition if David Cameron or other leading Tories can be brought over to press the flesh that might have some benefit in greater Belfast (no point bringing them to Fermanagh, North Antrim, East Londonderry etc.). The recent spat with the DUP claiming that the UUP / Tories had been involved in the expenses issue was interesting. Although denied by the New Force I must admit that the very idea that the UUP had started to wheel in some Tory spin types was interesting. Whilst the pin stripe suited public school Oxbridge types may know little about NI politics they know a lot about hard political fighting and how to fling the dirt when it is needed. The playing fields of Eton may no longer prepare boys to run the empire but they do make a surprisingly good training ground for very polite, smiling political street fighters. The DUP have had the monopoly on hardness in unionist politics with the exception of rather pathetic camp hardness from the likes of McNarry or Burnside. If the UUP can gain a new hardness from the Tories (the better if it is done with shiny politeness) then they may start to gain. The suggestion of stopping Sinn Fein allowances was a good move on this front. More than anything if the UUP start to believe that the New Force really can achieve something they might gain a bit.

The UUP need to face in several directions at once. They need to point out that they are competent in running their departments. They need to project stability and suggest that the DUP have had to move onto their ground. They need to point up national issues to try to attract liberal non voting unionists (however many there are of those). In the ideal world they might even try to gain a few Roman Catholic unionist votes. Equally they need to face in the opposite direction and suggest that the days of Trimble and push over unionism are long gone; indeed that that was almost a different party. That is especially important in gaining transfers from the TUV if Allister loses; they must be credibly hard enough to attract TUV votes.

I regard this as a very difficult ask. The New Force probably will argue that by shifting the whole paradigm of unionist (and indeed all) Northern Irish politics this can be done. I do not know, I have grave doubts but it is I suppose possible. For the meantime I would submit that a realistic aim would be to loose less votes than the DUP vote and hold their seat. I am sorry if that is not exactly positive but I fear it is more realistic. Yes maybe the New Force dawn is breaking but I am unsure. The only alternative would be if the DUP can be persuaded to self destruct and good as the Tory black propaganda brigade undoubtedly are, I doubt they are that good. Still as I said at the start there are so many variables in play in this election that I suppose anything could happen.

  • The Fops you speak about are pretty much out of touch in England nevermind NI.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Turgon

    The alliance has had it detractors on both sides however some of those have gone and others have now seen the benefits. The closer the two sides work together the better it seems to work, there have been many joints meetings, dinners etc together which have been very successful.

    The question is whether this unity of purpose at the active level can be translated into votes, that is where the expertise and funding of the Conservatives and their election machine will be tested.

    Their job is to put an alternative proposition to those who favour the United Kingdom option. That option will be to cast their vote for a party with local candidates that can make a difference, one which has the power to change things such as the amount of money available to spend in Northern Ireland, its economic status, payments to parties who do not attend Westminister, taxes, pensions etc. etc. They will have to accept the main thrust of the GB manifesto but will be able to amend it to suit local condiditions such as selection, grammar schools and health.

    The candidates will have to be seen as local and national at the same time and that is where it will be necessary to come up with a blend of people who represent not only the past but also the future of Northern Ireland. Obviously in the EU election with one candidate that is not possible but across the 18 seats it will be and new candidates in ‘winable’ seats will be have to be apparent.

    Those voters who favour the UK option will have to see a new political entity where ALL are welcome but one that does not lose the core vote that the UUP held.

    I do not expect major advances in the EU election where, dependent on the candidates, I would expect a return of the vote loaned to Gililand and the return of a few ex UUP voters who went to the DUP.

    I would however expect the Westminister election to show a major improvement over the UUP vote in the last election but how this translates into seats it is too early to forecast.

    All is to play for on the United Kingdom leaning side of the electorate.

  • Turgon,

    Obviously there hasn’t been any time to develop policies, strategies for this election so like FD and yourself I don’t think we’ll see any kind of “breakthrough” at this election. If the total or % vote can be retained (and obviously Nicholson reelected) the base will have been set for an an all-out assault next year.

    Regarding the alleged Conservative Dirty Tricks dept “smearing” Robinson. I seriously doubt it exists, but the effect that the reports had on the normally well-oiled DUP PR machine being put under real pressure was interesting to say the least. They played it very badly I thought and I’m sure that fact will have been taken on board.

  • Silverline

    DUP Delivered

    A) Unionist in charge of Victims Commission
    B) Millions for deprived Unionist Areas
    D) De-rateing of Orange Halls
    E) Good redundancy package for RIR
    F) 4 DUP members on Policing Board a Unionist majority
    G) Decommissioning
    H) Funding for Orange Order £110,000
    I) Rates rebates for Orange Halls
    J) 50/50 recruitment stopped
    K) Sinn Fein signed up to Policing swearing an oath to the Police to take office
    L) North South bodies made accountable
    M) Ministers made accountable
    N) The DUP don’t have to vote for a Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister
    O) Irish Language Act stopped
    P) Maze Stadium stopped
    Q) Irish Language Act stopped
    R) Free Prescriptions
    S) Free Public Transport 60 over
    T) Fuel Payments £159 for most vulnerable
    U) Regional rates frozen for three years
    V) Academic Selection for Grammar School

  • Turgon

    oneill,
    Looking at silverline’s contribution with O and Q being the same thing and D and I being the same along with R which your minister did, N which has not really stopped the DFM.

    It appears that at least the silverline part of the well oiled DUP machine seems in need of a service.

  • Turgon
    Indeed. I didn’t think they would oblige me by proving my point quite so quickly and blatantly!

  • Silverline

    Turgon

    I see you did not deny the above as true

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Turgon/oneill

    Kindergarten is out for the holidays.

    The DUP will need to get some new cogs in the machine.

  • Turgon,

    I can knock down one of your “ifs”. There will be certainly be senior Conservatives “pressing the flesh” in NI during the Euro Campaign. It would be entirely logical that David Cameron comes to Northern Ireland for at least one day during that campaign.

    You are also right about the “dirty fight” expertise that is being brought in by the Conservative political machine but it is too early for any substantial benefit of that kicking in before the Euro Election.

    The dominant national election issue in the UK will be the Lisbon Treaty. There are hardly any unionists in Northern Ireland who are supportive of the manner in which the Labour Party have signed up to the Lisbon Treaty. By the time this campaign is over, every Northern Ireland voter will feel a sense that the more votes Jim Nicholson gets, the bloodier Gordon Brown’s nose will get.

  • The Raven

    I’m interested in the “millions for deprived areas” bit. Some quantification, financially and geographically, please…?

  • Isn’t this new OLD force just another sign of a drift back to times past with all that that entails?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Manfarang

    The world has changed, so have all the parties maybe not Alliance or SDLP.

    This not ‘back to the future’ it is on to a brighter and better future.