TVU analysis and way forward

The dust has far from settled on the TUV’s election but I thought a few first thoughts from the resident blogger who is a member of the flat earth party with no supporters might be appropriate.

Many people seem to have been astounded by the TUV vote: that surprises and does not surprise me. The Belfast based media tend to be poor at reading the unionist electorate. I do not mean that as an insult but as an observation: there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly hard line unionist support is rarely admitted to amongst the educated unionist middle class who are the unionists most journalists come from or interact with. A surprising number of these people actually support hard line unionism (and hence, now the TUV) but few will openly admit it, least of all to a journalist. I can imagine few people whom Martina Purdy would have at a dinner party owning up to TUV support (though Martina if you want to ask me round I will try to ensure the wife cannot come). In reality, however, TUV support is probably strongest amongst the dour Presbyterians of North and East Antrim, the Orangemen of County Londonderry and the border Prods of the Dreary Steeples (though no part of the province seems devoid of TUVists). These are not people that Belfast media types interact with on a regular basis and as such the media underestimate their numbers. In addition these people (especially the border Protestants) are extremely skilled at hiding their true political views: yesterday I met an man who only after five minutes conversation and much skirting around the issue until he trusted me, admitted to being a TUV voter.

Jim Allister complained both during and after the campaign about less media time for him than for other candidates and he has a very good point and it is likely that there is at least a little concious bias. However, to slightly defend the media, especially the BBC, I suspect they were as shocked as anyone by this result: they just do not understand unionists let alone rural ones. Even the News Letter, the house magazine of unionism seemed to grossly underestimate the TUV vote: that is a little less forgiveable; Darwin Templeton is from North Antrim and I would suggest that a look at the editorial direction may be indicated after this result.

There were, however, plenty of signals about what was to happen.

The fact that many people were unhappy with the DUP volte face two years ago must have been apparent to some at least. In addition the Dromore by-election, fought in a pretty medium unionist town, (no Aghogill or Cullybackey, Dromore) garnered the TUV a relatively similar proportion of the unionist vote to last week. Following Dromore we had the end of the chuckle brothers and indeed the end of Dr. Paisley thereafter many, even unionists for whose analysis I have a lot of time suggested the TUV had passed its high water mark. However, that was to wilfully ignore the sophistication of many of the electorate, the optics might have changed but the substance was no different.

In addition one cannot ignore the scandals about double jobbing, the woeful DUP campaign etc. However, in part these are symptoms of the disconnect between the DUP and the population: the possible DUP responses will be the subject of a future blog.

Some will try to suggest that the fall in the overall turnout magnified the TUV’s percentage. However, as I have observed previously there is no good evidence that garden centre unionists are particularly more liberal than their garden-less peers. In addition it is likely that once a person has made the leap to voting TUV it becomes easier to do it next time. Once one realises that far from being an insignificant minority one is part of a significant body of political opinion it becomes easier to vote TUV. So dismissed were the TUV’s chances that some may have felt it not worth turning out. As such it is by no means certain that as the turn out rises (as is most likely in the next Westminster and Stormont election) the TUV percentage will fall. New TUV voters may well be added to the ranks.

Also of course dire as the DUP campaign was there is no reason to suggest that the claimed need to top the poll was a completely ineffectual appeal. Some may have voted DUP to save Ulster from the dread reality of a Shinner topping the poll. The fact that this has happened and yet the sky has not fallen in may make some reluctant DUP voters feel that it is safe to abandon the party which they supported this time with a very heavy heart.

As such there is no reason to guarantee that the TUV has reached its zenith: surely this time the DUP will not be so foolish as to suggest such?

There are of course very significant challenges facing the TUV.

We played our greatest political asset in this election: Jim Allister. Clearly he will stand in North Antrim at the next Westminster election and whilst Arlene Foster was able to claim that the DUP would hold it next time; no one in the DUP can relish facing Allister there. However, we cannot stand Jim Allister everywhere next time and there is a need to produce high calibre candidates. In reality we do have a considerable number of high quality people in the party. The problem has been that many of them have little or no political experience (hence, the media know little of them). However, now in a climate where professional politicians are held in low esteem; it may be the perfect opportunity to wheel out business and professional people with good political brains but little experience to take on the established and at times rather tarnished politicians of the other parties. The next set of elections may be a time when a new face and real world experience will be more valued than a career as a Stormont functionary.

An additional strategy is to gain supporters, members and politicians from the non aligned and from other parties. Jim Allister both on the radio and at the thank you event for party workers specifically appealed to those who are in other parties (and indeed none) to consider joining the TUV. Clearly there is a problem for DUP MLAs due to the fear of being resigned by Peter Robinson. However, everyone knows there are sceptics within the DUP (most know their names) and some may feel that both their conscience and the likelihood of defeat next time round now argue for jumping ship. It is clear that any unionist with views similar to the TUV will be welcomed in the party and for some it offers a better chance of re election than to say put.

I have always argued that politics is in large measure about momentum: I argued this after Dromore. Now the TUV have gained vast momentum. However, we must also see a problem: Jim Allister is no longer an elected politician; there are no TUV members with a representative role beyond that of local councils. The media may now try to justify not interviewing Allister by pointing to his current lack of elected office. We can counter this by pointing to the size of our vote and the fact that the political views of a third of those who voted for unionist parties at this election are no longer represented in the assembly. However, there is the danger that after the current blaze of publicity the media will begin to lose interest. As such vast though our gain in momentum has been from this election, it will begin to dissipate. A week is a long time in politics and a year is an eternity. The coming months are a time for the party to consolidate and integrate new members, to refine policy positions, even maybe to look at focus group work (though I know some are suspicious of such things). In addition the party needs to take every possible opportunity to be seen on the media. When the next election comes round it is vital that we are ready and this time the media will have no excuse not to cover our campaign with the appropriate number of broadcasts etc. Next time we need not merely to upset the political apple cart but gain MPs, to fail to do so would be a serious set back: I have, however, always been confident that that is not too big an ask. The media and the political classes may have finally woken up to the fact that this is vastly more likely than they suspected a few days ago.

  • RepublicanStones
  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Indeed very true!

    Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Jackson, Franklin & Co (as well as a bunch of ‘Ulster-Scots’) revered in the US today as being the liberators and founders of the ‘great republic’….. however they should be classed as ‘terrorists’ by todays transient standards.

    …and a statue of that other great ‘terrorist’ of the 20th century, Mandela, stands in London today.

    How attitudes and opinions change!

    Ah, remember Rambo fighting along side the Taliban against the evil U.S.S.R in the 1980’s when it suited political opinion.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    6countyprod

    “[i]There’s no hope for UMH I’m afraid. Chronic case of delusional expectation. The possibility of a terrorist being: ‘…threw out on his arse and sued to high heaven’ was, unfortunately, obliterated by the UUP in the Belfast Agreement, 1998.”[/i]

    Civil action can still be taken against them.

  • Big Maggie

    Ulsters my homeland,

    “Civil action can still be taken against them.”

    This I’d like to see. Genuinely. Don’t know if it would be “politically expedient” however.

  • Sorry: dropped out of the thread when it became predicatable and repetitive.

    Meant to add that I have the same thing about Tamsin Lightwater of The Spectator as others seem to have for Ms Purdy.

  • HeadTheBall

    “A meaningless, propagandist absurdity.”

    Only, I am afraid Padraig, because people like you have colluded in this prostitution of language. Terrorism, genocide, war crime, atrocity, ethnic cleansing – all these terms have clear, specific and useful meanings.

    GOF

    I know little about Nelson Mandela’s track record (apart from the Robbins Island part). Did he plant bombs in bus stations to crack the nerve of the apartheid state, viewing any fellow black Africans disabled or killed as mere propaganda fodder? If yes, then he was a terrorist. If not, then not.

    At the risk of circularity I acknowledge that terrorists can later turn into “statesmen”. Look at the SF leadership, for example.

    (Submit word “blood”, BTW, is that creepy or what?)

  • Big Maggie

    HeadTheBall,

    “Terrorism, genocide, war crime, atrocity, ethnic cleansing – all these terms have clear, specific and useful meanings.”

    Hardly “clear” meanings. I have another: “collateral damage”. What does that mean to you?

  • Different Drummer

    Well Malcolm the Red Fellow

    We will have to see if Ms Purdy will submit to the Phantoms’ Music of The Night or Jim-Ulster-Allister’s organ grinding…

    PHEW! what a choice for a LADY!

  • HeadTheBall

    Hi Maggie,

    “collateral damage”

    Hi Maggie,

    You are right, of course, to point to a whole other class of terms, such as the above, which I would characterise as cowardly euphemisms, or, better, weasel words.

    Doesn’t change my point though. If anything it might reinforce it as weasel words are used by those who realise that the correct terminology, awkwardly for them, still has meaning.

  • Padraig

    [b]have colluded in this
    prostitution of language.[/b]

    The true prostitution of the language comes from dreaming up the modern word terrorism to defend attacks on the status quo from those who seek change. The haves being attacked by the have nots.

    Hence the SAS or Green Berets, who by any reasonable application of the term are most certainly terrorist forces are never deemed so.

    Similiarly the occupation of Iraq which was most certainly a terrorist, illegal act is never described as such.

    Thats real prostitution of the language.

  • HeadTheBall

    Hi Padraig,

    “dreaming up the modern word terrorism”

    Oddly enough I agree with much of your post, but not the above (check your phrasing, BTW, from “..to defend attacks..” – I don’t think what you wrote conveys what you meant to say).

    There is no need to “dream up” anything. I despise hypocrisy in public affairs or the media as much as you, if that is what you are getting at.

    Many on here (and I am disappointed to find GOF, a man of intelligence and balance, among their number) seem to be interpreting the mantra “Yesterday’s terrorist is tomorrow’s freedom-fighter” as meaning that neither term has any meaning or that the two are interchangeable. Not so. Reactionary regimes tend to routinely vilify all armed resistance as “terrorism” and the same word will be peddled by those whose journalism amounts to reproducing press releases from a dictator’s palace. When same dictator is toppled those same hacks have to find new term for the winners and suddenly “freedom-fighter” makes its appearance. This elastic morality is what, I think, the sentence lampoons.

    Misapplication of a label does not invalidate the label.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Terrorism, genocide, war crime, atrocity, ethnic cleansing – all these terms have clear, specific and useful meanings.’

    Really?

    Terrorism can emanate from a state organs, but is routinely denied as terrorism. Perhaps if we prefixed it with ‘state’ – so does ‘state-terrorism’ qualify? Is it clear and specific? Well….ummm…no again its who you speak to isn’t it?

    ‘Genocide’ the term itself is unclear. Its application likewise. Some people argue ‘ethnic cleansing’ is often mistaken for ‘genocide.’

    ‘War crime’…again very ambiguous if looked at from a moral viewpoint, not so if you accept the ‘victors’ idea of a war crime. As Chomsky writes about WW2

    “The operational criterion for what counted as a war crime at Nuremberg was a criminal act that the West didn’t do: in other words, it was considered a legitimate defence if you could show that the Americans and the British did the same thing….So part of the defense of the German submarine commander Admiral Doenitz was to call an American submarine commander, Admiral Nimitz, to testify that the Americans did the same thing – thats a defense.”

    So HTB, do you take a moral viewpoint or the victors viewpoint of what constitutes a ‘war crime’?

    Atrocity?

    Please, the fact Kevin Hughes still has the nerve to shoot the odd time when he has posession could be described as an atrocity…given his two left feet !

  • HeadTheBall

    Hi RepublicanStones,

    Oul han’ you seem to be getting yourself into some kind of moral quagmire there.

    “..does ‘state-terrorism’ qualify?” – Like Black’n’Tan reprisals in Ireland, you mean? Go on, where’s your moral relativism on that one? Of course it qualifies. How governments try to spin it is neither here nor there.

    “Some people argue ‘ethnic cleansing’ is often mistaken for ‘genocide.’” And some people can’t tell shit from shoe-polish. Trying to totally wipe out a people/community (the Jews, say) is different from, say, trying forcibly and violently to remove all Tutsis from Rwanda. The fact that one may lead to the other does not abolish the distinction. Nor the fact that they are equally morally reprehensible.
    “what constitutes a ‘war crime’?” Nuremberg was a long time ago and no necessary arbiter of objective morality. What happened at Lidice and at My Lai were war crimes, no ifs or buts. Was Dresden a war crime? My initial reaction is “No”, but I remain open to persuasion.

    On Kevin Hughes we are of like mind, God help him.

  • HeadTheBall

    Greagoir Ó Frainclin (if you’re still around).

    On the terrorist v. freedom-fighter thing you offered Nelson Mandela as food for thought. Let me offer an alternative. How would you go with Menachim Begin. In the years after WW2 he participated in the murder of British service personnel. Some twenty-odd years later he turns up in London feted as a hero. What changed? Not Begin I suggest. Just that the British public were having a love affair with Israel, and especially the Israeli army (vicarious machismo, I think you would agree). So Begin becomes a pin-up boy.

    A fickle British public and fickle media do not change the facts, nor the value of the terminology, I suggest.

  • Padraig

    [b]Misapplication of a label does not invalidate the label. [/b]

    HTB,

    You appear to believe that there there is an objective meaning at the end of the subjective rainbow….the implication being that that gold is in your own definition, all others being fool’s gold.,, that all other understandings fall beside your own objective truth.

    But what evidence do you put forward that your own subjective definition of the word ‘terrorist’ is the ‘true’ one, the gold at the end of the subjectivist rainbow?

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘And some people can’t tell shit from shoe-polish.’

    Indeed. So are you saying the Rwanda episode wasn’t genocide? or are you saying it was?

    ‘Nuremberg was a long time ago and no necessary arbiter of objective morality.’

    True it was a long time ago…but the point remains the same, the victors decide the crimes, but if you take a moral viewpoint quite often you’ll see the victors committing the crimes as well. It seems you are happy to accept their definition.

    At least we agree on Hub !

  • HeadTheBall

    Padraig,

    Thanks for your reply and sorry for the delay in getting back to you – we are in different time zones.

    I am claiming, I think, not that my “definition of the word ‘terrorist’ is the ‘true’ one” but just that it is the original one, ie, I am asserting that there was a time when people knew exactly what it meant. Certainly it was frequently misapplied by repressive regimes but most reasonably well-informed people could see past the propaganda smoke-screen.

    We seem to be getting into a rubbery moral universe where, if one says: “That was a terrorist act” the reply tends not to be: “No, it wasn’t” which is a defensible and even moral response, but rather “Oh well, terrorism can mean anything you want it to” which, it seems to me, is the start of a slippery slope. We might be getting into a position where we can never lay the blame where it lies for lack of a vocabulary to handle it (perhaps perversion rather than lack of the vocabulary).

    Best wishes,

  • HeadTheBall

    RS

    Please see my apology to Padraig above – to you likewise.
    “So are you saying the Rwanda episode wasn’t genocide? or are you saying it was?”
    Genocide, without a doubt. Suppose the Hutu had been able to use the threat of slaughter to drive the Tutsi over the border into Uganda, etc. A clear case of ethnic cleansing but hardly genocide? (In the real world, of course, I acknowledge that the threat of slaughter almost always turns into the actuality.)
    “happy to accept their definition”
    By no means – it was I that brought up Dresden, after all. I accept of course your, and Chomsky’s, point that “it wasn’t a crime if we done it” has often governed war crimes trials. Over a pint a WW2 veteran once told me that a British regiment he knew of had, in his own words, “raped a nunnery in Italy”. The incident never saw the light of day, of course, but if known would that have served a German unit as a defence in like case? I think not. The “rubbery” bits at Nuremberg were, I think, the attempts to deal with actions which were previously unheard of, like carpet bombing of whole areas. Certainly some wrong decisions were taken at Nuremberg, but would that prevent you or I classifying the Italian incident above as a “war crime”.
    On Hub, my earlier response was too cryptic. I should have said” :Ach, shure God help him, for nobody else will.”
    All the best,

  • Padraig

    [b]but just that it is the original one, ie, I am asserting
    that there was a time when people knew exactly what it meant[/b]

    Yes indeed, but what evidence do you have to support this contention?

    Were for evidence did the term originate, what evidence do you have as to its original meaning and in what particular circumstance did it apply?

    In either case its become such a very malleable, politicised propaganda term it has no real meaning at all, or, rather it means whatever folks need it to mean at a particular time and circumstance.

    Whether or not at some mysterious very speculative point it did have a fixed definite meaning, that’s the way it is now.

    The very real problem I have with the term is that it serves to demonise not only individuals but entire political groupings, countries and causes.

    For instant the nauseous, superficial and vacuous ‘security experts’ who haunt the media are forever trotting out the word ‘terrorism’ as a tar brush.

    Its a word for the mentally lazy use to stereotype and save the effort of real thought as to cause and effect to real problems and their solutions.

  • HeadTheBall

    Padraig,

    I think you are tripping over yourself.

    In your post #10 above you use the phrase “most certainly” to qualify “terrorist” at 2 points. Clearly, therefore, you have in mind some acceptable (to you) definition of terrorism but you do not trouble to set it out nor to provide the chapter and verse which you demand for my usage of the term.

    I have the greatest respect for your distaste for special forces but in your hands the term “terrorists” seems to have degenerated to mean simply “nasty people”.

    The difference between us is that, essentially, you are prepared to surrender the word to its abusers. I prefer to try to rescue it by insisting on a defensible meaning. I certainly never use it in a “mentally lazy” fashion.

  • Big Maggie

    This thread set me to consider what terrorism really is. I did a swift google of “define terrorism” and was led to the Terrorism Research website. Interesting reading. Among all the definitions put forward my eye was caught by this one offered by the British Government in 1974:

    “[Terrorism is] the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear.”

    As I thought, fear is the key, and more specifically fear among civilians. Mind you, there’s no mention of state-sponsored terrorism in that definition. But does there need to be? Any group, large or small, can sow terror among a civilian population.

  • TUV

    RepublicanStones

    [i]”So are you saying the Rwanda episode wasn’t genocide? or are you saying it was?”[/i]

    What has this got to do with ‘TUV analysis and way forward’?

  • HeadTheBall

    Maggie,

    I think you’ve got the nub of it. It’s about force used to spread terror/fear rather than to achieve a tactical objective (gain ground, take out an installation, etc).

    You mention state-sponsored terrorism, which certainly exists (vide the Black and Tans, etc). I wonder where “shock and awe’ fits in the mix?

  • RepublicanStones

    HTB @ 01:17 – agreed.

    TUV me ‘aul flower you don’t seem to be familar with the weird and wonderful world of internet blogs. A thread is started and people discuss it and very often the conversation goes off in loads of lovely strange directions and tangents which have little to do with the original topic, which is part of the allure to such sites…you just never know where the conversation will end up. Stick around you might like it 😉