Bring on Colonel Tim to lead a UU charge in East Belfast

Surely the main significance of Peter Robinson’s convoluted comments on double jobbing lies in the prospect of his standing down from his East Belfast Westminster seat after 31 years. He didn’t specifically declare an end to DUP dual mandates for MPs and MLAs as such, only for those of them who were ministers or committee chairs, yet this further move can hardly be long delayed. Most parties are facing the amazing problem of having more seats than they can adequately fill, so the obvious conclusion to draw is- reduce the size of the Assembly. In those days of long ago, by narrowly defeating Bill Craig by only 64 votes in 1979 in the wake of old Vanguard leader’s dramatic switch to supporting a voluntary coalition in 1975, Peter won almost as striking a victory as Paisley’s seizure of North Antrim in 1970, where the opposition had been weaker. No wonder Peter shows signs of hesitation in paying quite a high cost to protect his flank. He must have expected that eventually, opponents would be able seriously to exploit public unease over double jobbing, although there are no serious signs of that yet. Jim Allister jibes by themselves should hardly have been be enough to unsettle him. More plausibly, it was the threat of David Cameron to legislate to end double jobbing that led him to advance the inevitable, in the febrile atmosphere of the expenses crisis. Nonetheless it’s to Peter’s credit that he’s signalling that from now on, developing Assembly government is the main priority. When he makes the split, he should end the DUP practice of rotating ministers before they can master the job; and by the way, remove the erratic Sammy Wilson who hasn’t the temperament to be a successful minister as I’m sure Peter knows. Leave him to sound off on the green backbenches and maybe the blue ones too. Together with the final retirement of Ian Paisley senior, Peter’s move introduces a new fluidity not only into DUP politics but in unionism and NI politics generally. But separating out roles between the developing Assembly and Westminster creates strategic headaches. Priority for the Assembly would seem a no brainer. And yet the impact of a single standard bearer topping the poll in a first- past- the- post election is hard to beat as the ultimate test of popularity and strength. While the DUP are taking a gamble, the Ulster Unionists face by far the bigger challenge. Peter’s departure without a natural successor presents the new Conservative – Ulster Unionist links with the big challenge they were forged to meet. I wonder if it’s not a mite premature for them? Still, in next year’s general election, the “Ulster Conservatives and Unionists- new force” have little choice but to go all out with a “we are the better unionists” battle cry, no doubt with storming endorsement from David Cameron In theory, there are powerful advantages in surfing the Conservative wave and opening up our claustrophobic politics to new ideas and influences. But will it impress the voters? And will Reg run and quit the Assembly? If not Reg, who? Pilot in David Burnside who I’d imagine hankers after a rerun at Westminster? Or is the time now ripe for Colonel Tim Collins to come riding to the rescue? I’m not close enough to the ground to assess the field in East Belfast. In the 2005 Westminster election Peter trounced Reg. At the nadir of UU fortunes in the 2007 Assembly poll, although plumping for Peter was avoided by carefully spreading DUP preferences, Reg suffered humiliation by Alliances’s Naomi Long’s coming in a decent second. For the DUP, I would have guessed that Wallace Browne would have been the strongest DUP runner had he not taken a peerage. I may be unfair, but am I right to have doubts about Robin Newton’s charisma? The UUs have the makings of a new purpose, which is the powerful one of copper-fastening the Union of the Belfast Agreement on a modern Conservative agenda. All they need is a candidate (all?) to give the DUP in transition a run for their money.

P.S. I’ve just had a terrible thought – they wouldn’t dare run one of the Robinson kids – would they?

  • Double-jobbing is an insult to the taxpayer.
    I don’t expect a UU resurgence until they have first collapsed and Cameron has increased his grip on it.
    The momentum is not with them and there are big splits among the Tories and the Ulster Unionists to contend with.

  • alan56

    No doubt if he were up for it he would be a very strong candidate. However he is a very independent minded character and would not ‘whip’ easily.

  • DC

    The reason why nothing like sort of sleaze fizzes on Peter Robinson is that politicians are now frowned upon and down at estate agent and journalist levels, which is right back where Peter Robinson started off. As an estate agent.

  • Driftwood

    He would make a very strong candidate, but his background will ensure he only fights where he knows he can win. There are a few MoD mandarins who hope he never gets near parliament.

  • Bigger Picture

    I thoguht the talk was that the DUP party leader would remain an MP and an MLA, in order to show leadership at all levels of influence?

    With that being the case, is this piece not a bit redundant?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Um, before the normal fantasy slabber starts, have any of you ever met him? Let alone talked to him, let alone talked to him about his Unionism? The Alliance would find him soft on the constituional issues. And modest fellow that he is, he’s not a natural tongue biter ie everyone who doesn’t currently know quite how soggy his views are would find then out pretty sharpish in any election campaign. He could have got elected in North Down for the UUP in a very good year, but there’s not going to be one of those again any time soon. As it is, he’s quite incapable of winning any other intra-Unionist contest.

  • Real figures. And the boundary changes are helpful to the DUP, removing Wynchurch and Hillfoot and adding Dundoland.

  • Driftwood

    Collins has an Irish passport, and had a lot of Southerners under his command in 1 RIR.
    I suspect his lucrative work in ‘private security’ duties globally might prove distracting. As LTU suggests, he is a small ‘u’ unionist and a mainland seat might suit him better. I see there’s one going free in Andrew McKays constituency shortly.

  • Driftwood

    ps, meant to ask

    Whatever happened to Bill Craig?

  • 6countyprod
  • Brian Walker

    Interesting assessments here of Tim Collins, but thought I’d throw his name into the ring. A big UU problem is their shortage of interesting characters. They supply plenty of solid citizens but having lost so many of their public positions, they lack enough chances to score. I don’t know enough about their party management these days to know who’s really in line and has been courting the area at council level. Driftwood, Bill Craig is still alive. Not sure about his state of health. He gave an interview to Peter Taylor a couple of years ago. An interesting complex man, a Unionist moderniser in his early days, he became the tough law and order man of legend when he felt the state was challenged by Civil Rights. Tactically, he was disastrous in October 68 in my opinion ( Glennie Barr wouldn’t disagree), but I don’t want to provoke too much digression. When he feared the Brits would scuttle in 1972-4,(not entirely without reason) he allowed himself to pose as a Mosley in Vanguard. Funny thing about Bill, the more he upped the anti, the quieter he spoke. Unerringly, he made bad situations worse without any strategy other than backs to the wall. But much preferring a stable state, he fundamentally lacked the heart to support mass loyalist paramilitarism for any length of time. I remember how privately horrified he was when the movement of which he was the figurehead, the UWC, threatened to overspill into serious violence. This was very different from his image of the military discipline of the serried ranks of the old pre-1914 UVF which I suspect he dreamed of reviving, with the RUC and UDR as the irresistible nucleus. I think that’s partly what prompted his sudden offer of a voluntary coalition in 1975 which he saw as completely different from the 1974 power sharing which he hated because he thought it was imposed. But Craig lacked the stamina and skill to make headway with this, had failed to prepare the ground, was torpedoed by Paisley and distrusted by the UUS, whom he had briefly rejoined. Being fairly idle too, he also failed to nurse East Belfast which was well targeted by the DUP. Personally, a kindly,quite shy man who enjoyed a drink or three.

  • 6countyprod

    Sorry for the wonky link. Try this. He is at the top of the list of William Craigs.

  • The Third Policeman

    “We must build up the dossiers on the men and women who are a menace to this country, because one day, ladies and gentlemen, if the politicians fail, it will be our duty to liquidate the enemy

    Jesus Christ on a fucking bike! That’s your quiet, kindly man Brian? Sounds like a lunatic.

  • Driftwood

    Since Colonel Collins had a Dublin father, any links to Michael? Anyway, now we’re down Nostalgia Avenue.. Jim Molyneaux and Oliver Napier, whatever happened to the Likely Lads?
    Oh and Andy Tyrie and David O Connell (inventor of the car bomb). All Languishing on the Boulevard of broken dreams?

  • Brian,

    I think my point is, it doesn’t matter who the Ulster Unionists run in East Belfast, Robbo will wipe the floor with them, unless he and Iris are caught in a menage a cinq with a gay bloke, a boy scout and a farmyard animal on the eve of poll. And even then, Naomi might beat the UUs.

    The UCUNFs want to win some seats? Then start in places they actually won before the DUP surge like South Antrim or Upper Bann. The fact that they are seriously thinking about (or at least, some of their fanboys on Slugger are wristing off about) the DUP stronghold of East Belfast shows the degree of hubris and fantasy involved in the ‘project’.

  • Harry Flashman

    I’m not sure there is anything intrinsically “lunatic” about pointing out that in the event of a breakdown in law and order and civil society (and anyone who is familiar with Northern Ireland in 1971-76 will no that was a very real possibility) it will be up to individuals to deal harshly with people intent in destroying your country.

    I might not necessarily agree with his analysis but that seems rather like pointing out the obvious.

  • The Third Policeman

    Funny enough Harry I’d didn’t really think there was anything particularly ‘lunatic’ about it either, because to suggest Craig suffered from mental problems would only diminish what in reality is just a very dangerous, frightening and irresponsible attitude. Are you seriously suggesting that to announce to a collection of assorted loyalist paramilitaries, thungs, gangsters, gunmen, goos, oafs and heavies that they need to start building dossiers on ‘menaces to the country’ (provos? shinners? stoops? Catholics? GAA members? journalists? southeners?) is pointing out the obvious? Tell you what Harry, go next door to the thread on William Moore. Keep in mind what Craig said and then come back here and defend it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Northern Ireland in 1971-76 will no that was a very real possibility) it will be up to individuals to deal harshly with people intent in destroying your country.

    Craig’s analysis was that the government and the army were incapable of it and his band of thugs would have to do it for them. In other words, he wanted to overthrow the state. That qualifies as “destroying the country”.

  • ??

    Double-jobbing is an insult to the taxpayer….

    double jobbing actually saves the taxpayer money

  • Harry Flashman

    I am not justifying what Craig said. I am pointing out that at a time when the IRA were in their own words “at war” with the state of Northern Ireland and when it certainly did appear that the British were on the point of pulling out, then Craig’s words to people who were intent in maintaining Northern Ireland’s position outside of Dublin rule was no more lunatic or reprehensible than any number of speeches made by leading Republicans who were advocating the destruction of the Northern state.

    As I mentioned on the William Moore thread the Republicans and Loyalists were mirror images of each other.

    Craig was no more a “firebrand” nor a “fascist” than O’Bradaigh, McGuinness, Adams, Drumm, MacStiofain or countless other Republicans who were making precisely the same type of statements to their followers at precisely the same time.

    But as I said in the Moore thread Republicans always seem to have the belief that their sectarian mass murderers and rabble-rousers were somehow morally superior to the other lot’s sectarian mass murderers and rabble-rousers.

    I simply dislike double standards intensely.

  • ?????

    “double jobbing actually saves the taxpayer money”

    strange to see ?? repeating this line as even the DUP are now admitting that their MP’s can’t do two jobs

    MP’s get paid to deliver representation the fact the McCrea etc aren’t in Westminster costs us in terms of democracy, question is what price do the DUP put on democracy

  • ??

    Just pointing out a fact..Mps who are also MLAs receive one third of an MLAs salary.

    Surely its up to the voters who they want to serve them?

  • loki

    ?? Is all your crap about double-jobbing just another indication that the DUP has no real talent coming through the ranks?
    I think Pete the Punt might be a tad worried about a gen-o-ine war hero and all-round good guy running aaginst him. Actually, I htink Naomi looking over his shoulder makes him twitch, especially since she has been known to give off about the absentee MP form time to time.
    Brian- yeah, they are just dumb enough to try and put one of the kids in

  • The Third Policeman

    The issue isn’t whether Craig was any worse than Adams and co at all. I never said Republican politicians were any better. I’m simply saying that to look at Craig’s speech, coming as it did from an elected politican and you have the outporings of a sectarian, petty and blood thirsty little man. Telling Loyalists they must keep records on menaces to the state is not a reaction to Republican violence any more than Kingsmill was a reaction to the Miami Showband Massacre.

    I hate double standards too Harry, which is why I’m capable of criticising Unionists and Republicans independent of the other, based on their own actions and words without resorting to whataboutery. Its a quality you seem incapable of applying to Unionists. Haughy called Northern Ireland a failed political entidy, I seriously doubt that in any debate about that you’d feel the need to bring up the numerous remarks Unionist politicians made about the south.

  • ??

    ?? Is all your crap about double-jobbing just another indication that the DUP has no real talent coming through the ranks?………

    oh dear loki come septber the DUP front bench will have many new faces in comparison to the tired old men of the UUP.

  • Harry Flashman

    “I seriously doubt that in any debate about that you’d feel the need to bring up the numerous remarks Unionist politicians made about the south.”

    Then you would be wrong.

  • loki

    ?? What new faces? they’re all going to be the same tired time servers we’ve seen for years. Again- Where is the fresh new talent you keep talking about? A quick trawl through various council websites just highlights the difficulties- you haven’t got any new talent coming up through council chambers, it’s just the same old, same old. Given also that there’s such a squabble over severance arrangements it could be argued that the old guard are proving pretty difficult to chisel out of their seats. Haven’t noticed all those long time mayors, chairs, quango holders rushing for the door

  • LabourNIman

    well, we can all hope that if/when double jobbing ends we could see some of the smaller parties make some movement.