Unionist Academy

It seems a long time ago now but when Peter Robinson was first elected as leader of the DUP he made overtures to the UUP regarding unionist unity: the suggestions were of course rejected by Empey (as they had been before) and subsequently we had the establishment of the Conservative and Unionist New Force. Recently the unionist parties have been involved in the at times acrimonious European election campaign and there are now, at least for the meantime, three unionist parties. Whilst any prospect of unity is a very long way off (and it is far from clear if it was ever possible / desirable), Robinson at one stage mentioned the idea of a unionist academy.The TUV recently attacked Robinson for not having brought these plans forward and Robinson has announced that he would be making his plans public soon. (Hat tip to Horseman for first noticing this.)

Unionism has never been very adept at the idea of meeting to discuss and debate the past or the future except in a confrontational fashion where the objective is to defeat the opponent. Nationalism / Republicanism has, however, seemed rather better at this sort of internal debate with events held both ad hoc and at various community festivals etc. To be fair at times it is pretty clear that these events have been far from consensual in tone such as debates on the Hunger Strikes noted here on slugger by Rusty Nail. However, nationalism at least seems to be better at this sort of concept.

Leaving aside the TUV / DUP wrangles; some sort of “unionist academy” whether it is a one off event or set of events or a think tank of whatever degree would be an excellent idea for unionism. There are currently three competing strands of unionism and a large number of ideas within those strands. The objective of any meeting(s) should not be to create unity nor to subjugate other views below a dominant ideology: it would rather be an opportunity for people to debate and think through ideas in a more private and less adversarial setting than one usually encounters in public discourse (or even here on slugger).

Now with the dust beginning to settle after the European election campaign and with the general election likely to be at least some way off, there may be a window of opportunity for the possibility of an internal dialogue within unionism. Alternatively that may just be hopeless naivety and as one of those who has frequently spun against one side or the other maybe I should go back to what I normally do.

  • Mr. Stimpson J. Cat

    acadEmy

  • Turgon

    Thanks,
    I hate making those sort of stupid mistakes.

  • fair_deal

    A think tank or tanks are needed but (beyond the practical issue of money to pay for them) it is the lack of an open debate culture in Unionism and desire to trap and throw accusations that helps keep it less open.

  • Turgon

    fair_deal,
    I agree entirely: I honestly do not know how we can get round that. I fear that this academy if it happens will end up being seen as a DUP vehicle or else as an opportunity to bash the DUP.

    I suppose if Robinson clearly brought in UUP TUV and non aligned types it might help but even then I do not know: he might then be accused of being weak.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Turgon,

    in practical terms in would surely be difficult to have pro-agreement parties in the shape of the UUP* and the DUP in the same forum as the anti-agreement TUV as there is too little common ground. And I dont think Robbo would want to give air time to Jimbo although he might not want to be publically seen to be trying to exclude him.

    *assumption that the UUP are pro-agreement although they currently appear to be anti-agreement on the crucial issue of Police and Justice.

  • Turgon

    Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit,

    I was sort of hoping the thing could be done in semi private: not to be secret but to allow everyone to talk without it being dredged up later. Maybe allow the media in but not let them broadcast debates: I know that sounds undemocratic and that troubles me but I think some mechanism to allow open debate and exploring of positions would be useful.

  • slug

    Turgon

    Wouldn’t it be better to ask people to publish policy papers-much as the UK think tanks like IPPR and CPS do?

    These then get launched at a public semimar, the author is asked to outline his position in the media, and this generates a broader public debate, at one remove from political parties.

  • Mark McGregor

    Turgon,

    The DUP and others being invited to events at the like of the West Belfast Festival isn’t about debate. It is about reinforcing SF’s position in front of a sympathetic audience. Don’t hold that nonsense up as a totem of debate, the day they start asking dissienting republicans on the platform with the Unionists is the day it will stop looking managed.

  • Jimmy Riddler

    You mean Chathom House rules Turgon?

    Unionism would have to get over Lundyism first and its state of perpetual siege/defenceness. The first to show “weakness” through compromise usually gets tarred.

  • slug

    For example one could imagine some pushing-the-envelope policy paper on adoption of an Irish Language Act that no unionist political party would want to be associated with (at this stage); but if after some public policy discussion there is seen to be a good case for and indeed support such an Act then one of the parties might bite.

  • love thy neibhour now shut up and listen to Turgon

    I was sort of hoping the thing could be done in semi private: not to be secret but to allow everyone to talk (EXCEPT THE TAIGS OF COURSE)without it being dredged up later. Maybe allow the media in but not let them broadcast debates: I know that sounds undemocratic and that troubles me but I think some mechanism to allow open debate and exploring of positions would be useful.

    Posted by Turgon on Jul 27, 2009 @ 09:05 PM
    lololololol You would have made a great old time storment MP.love thy neibhour now shut up and listen to Turgon Taig lololol.

  • slug

    Turgon

    To be honest I would nearly rather we had think tanks that were not labelled unoinst or nationalist but were left or right–focussing on social and economic issues.

    The issues of poverty and lack of training and education, of economic inactivity and lack of entrepreneurialism are not unionist or nationalist issues but they are the most important issues facing us.

    Wouldn’t it be better to have think tanks on issues that are the stuff of social and economic policy debate?

    After all one obvious failing of our local media and political class is that they are not very good at social and economic policy debate.

  • love thy neibhour now shut up and listen to Turgon

    Turgon says(I know that sounds undemocratic and that troubles me) FEK ME you couldnt make it up.I wonder Turgon would you ever think that that is exactly how this wee country ended up in this mess

  • slug

    By the way the Cadogan group were quite good at writing interesting position papers that I found were essentially unionist in character.

    Where they fell down is that they did not seem to publicise their work enough- they should appear on GMU and H&M detailing their latest works, and articles for newspapers, and there should be seminars and discussion meetings to work through the ideas.

  • love thy neibhour now shut up and listen to Turgon

    Slug says (The issues of poverty and lack of training and education, of economic inactivity and lack of entrepreneurialism are not unionist or nationalist issues but they are the most important issues facing us.
    Wouldn’t it be better to have think tanks on issues that are the stuff of social and economic policy debate?)LOLOL am picking up what your puttin down slug and i agree but im afraid old Turgie baby is more into nostalga.

  • steve48

    As all of the unionist parties have been involved in similar activity both at home abroad, it would be entirely feasible to initiate a process where the initial steps could be taken under Chatham House rules.

    Such a process would allow the establishment of terms of reference and agenda.

    What would be important is that the process is inclusive of all unionists.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Can somebody ban that twat up above.

    Turgon,

    It seems a long time ago now but when Peter Robinson was first elected as leader of the DUP he made overtures to the UUP regarding unionist unity: the suggestions were of course rejected by Empey (as they had been before) and subsequently we had the establishment of the Conservative and Unionist New Force.

    You make it sound like the UCUNF rose out of the failed overtures to the UUP. It, in fact, rose out of the UCUNF’s spiralling electoral failures and the harder fact of the party’s chronic lack of cash.

    The problem with unionism in general is the complete lack of pragmatism you guys have. You argue everything from the point of view of ideology, rather than the nature of the (changing) world.

  • frustrated democrat

    I can’t see the CU’s being interested in a debate that only focuses on the union. As far as they are concerned that debate is setttled and the union is guaranteed for the next generation at least.

    Their leadership, in a Westminster election, is more likley to be focused on national issues like the economy, education and health, which apply to the whole community and not just a part of it, and if sucessfully dealt with will further cement the union.

    So what motivation would they have in discussing policy with the DUP and TUV, who have no real control, when the Conservatives (including the CU’s) in all likelyhood will control the money supply in Northern Ireland from next year onwards.

    I would imagine their message will be ‘vote for a party that can make real change in NI and is your best safeguard for the union’.

  • guest

    Fd?

    Just another Unionist party then?
    At least your being honest.

  • frustrated democrat

    CS

    I understand that the Conservatives and Uunionists’s are well funded and have found very considerable support for their project across the UK. It also appears from the Sunday Life that the UUP have all but eradicated their losses and have refinanced their balance sheet.

    Is that also true for Alliance I wonder?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Turgon,

    I dont think that from the DUP point of view it will be practical to have the TUV there until they have finished their electoral battle with them. You cant have Jimbo calling Robbo No. 1 Lundy and then Robbo sitting down to discuss the the future of Unionism – that would be too confused a message to send to those in the front line of the battle – even if proceedings were behind closed doors.

    Speaking on behalf of the entire Nationalist/Republican community – as I am want to do – we would be far happier if you dropped this foolish (and slightly worrying) talk of Unionist unity and continued to kick eight colours of Orange out of yourselves so that we can can continue to benefit at the polls.

  • stormont@hotel.com

    Representatives of both the UUP & DUP spotted at a meeting with Tim Collins in the Stormont Hotel

  • Kaido

    Thought plenty of unionist academy classrooms scattered about the counties.
    Amount of pupils declining despite there being some very mature students.
    Plenty of outdoor activities, country walks, throwing the brick etc, living off the land, being taught how to light a (bon) fire while exposed to the elements.
    Classics not ignored either, music all the way – learning to play a multitude of instruments.

    Then on the 12th July a grand open day and prize giving when all the newly acquired skills are paraded in front of relatives and neighbours, whether they want to participate or not.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It also appears from the Sunday Life that the UUP have all but eradicated their losses and have refinanced their balance sheet.

    Er yes, because the Tories obviously gave them a big pile of cash. Wee tip, don’t put Basil in charge of it.

    Is that also true for Alliance I wonder?

    Like most political parties, Alliance doesn’t have any toffs, millionaires or big shot executives to drop a few million in the kitty every now and then. Normal political parties operate on a hand to mouth basis and tend to go into the red when elections happen. Sorry for messing up your scoop.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Sammy,

    Speaking on behalf of the entire Nationalist/Republican community – as I am want to do – we would be far happier if you dropped this foolish (and slightly worrying) talk of Unionist unity and continued to kick eight colours of Orange out of yourselves so that we can can continue to benefit at the polls.

    There’s nothing even faintly worrying about this talk of unionist unity. Like I said above, unionists are incapable of pragmatism and their egos are far too great. They’ll never make sacrifices for the greater good of their political creed. Jim Allister’s efforts to stop powersharing will wreck unionism but don’t think that’ll stop them.

  • boss hogg

    Well Turgon what is your view on Mr Tosh then?

  • Alternatively that may just be hopeless naivety and as one of those who has frequently spun against one side or the other maybe I should go back to what I normally do.

    Turgon,

    If you check this thread to date, there have been several good ideas and comments interspersed with the usual spin and tedious anti-Unionist knee-jerkery.

    However, I can’t see a grandiose Academy type idea coming off- cost and reluctance to move publicly outside the normal comfort-zones would prevent it from having any value.

    Something more ad-hoc perhaps, working from the ground-up (rather than having the terms of *debate* dictated from the Hierarchy), producing ideas and policy papers on sensitive subjects such as the Irish language (similar to what Slug suggested) has a greater chance of producing something worthwhile. This wouldn’t require that much finance, more an investment in time, open minds and a lot stronger (personal) trust than that which presently exists between the various parties.

  • Billy

    Turgon

    Comrade Stalin is right – Unionism over the years had shown itself incapable of acting in it’s own best interests as opposed to narrow self-interest.

    I think if the Union is to be safeguarded in the future – the UUP/Cons are going the right way. I believe Cameron is a small u unionist who believes in selling the Union as welcoming to all irrespective of religion. The trouble is that there are still many in the UUP who are associated with anti-Catholicism and even “loyalist” terrorism.

    Therefore, it will take time for the UUP/Cons to win over potential Catholic Unionists and convince them that the days of OO domination and anti-Catholicism are gone.

    However, at least the UUP have realised that they will need Catholic support to maintain the Union beyond the short term.

    The DUP + TUV are still trying to “out lundy” each other as to who can be the most anti-Taig rather than trying to deal with the real problems facing NI.

    Even in the extremely unlikely event of TUV/DUP agreement, there is no way that Cameron will be associated (or allow his party to be) with blatent anti-Catholicism. There are plenty of DUP + TUV folk whose main interest is transparently keeping the taigs down – this will be obvious to a “mainland” audience.

    It’ll be a choice for the UUP – either throw in with the hard-liners oand even more hard-liners or stay in with the Tories – they won’t be able to do both.

    My view is that they’ll stay with the Cons (which is the sensible thing to do).

    So, the chances of a TUV/DUP deal being made or lasting any period of time are slim. The chances of the UUP/Cons joining such an alliance are zero.

  • frustrated democrat

    CS

    I suspect the Conservatives will not have put any funds into the the UUP coffers, whatever they will have achieved will be seen to have been done by themselves.

  • loki

    CS you say politicial parties live hand to mouth in terms of financing – have you looked at the dUP coffers then/ they were doing pretty well in terms of millionaire investment. Seymour Sweeney, Jr’s mates, peter’s builder friends etc etc.
    think also you’ll find the UUP dug themselves out of their hole by flogging Cunningham House- in other words they’ll still be broke, but now have no assets to realise- oops.
    Also, Labour have some fairly big donors, as do Shinners (ok, mostly in USA)
    As for Tim Collins meeting the DUP, can’t really see that one- he hates DUP with a passion so doubt they have a lot to talk about.

  • I remember on member of the DUP telling me that the Unionist Academy was “about getting the plebs to vote”.

  • love thy neibhour now shut up and listen to Turgon

    Comrade Stalin says Can somebody ban that twat up above.

    I think Comrade Stalin sounds like he has a lot in common with his namesake oh well there goes any comment from 100s 1000s 100,000s of us and of course to begin with the other dear leader sounded sort of ok as well.Oh and slightly amusing kindof like dear old turgon.Guess i better go pack.

  • Different Drummer

    Comrade S

    -As they say in New York wrong reading, wrong reading!!

    It is the very fact that Robbo can’t deliver on his Unionist promises that is of interest to Dr T and Jim-Ulster-Allister – it is a chosen indicator of how much more he fails and how much that failure will produce the desired reaction – more votes for Bob McCartney Mark II.

    There will be better indicators – but this? This is just clutching at straws.