Is it Time for Politics at UK Level?

As a North Down born Liberal Democrat who is on the approved candidates list for Westminster elections one phrase grated at me from Ian Parsley’s defection statement yesterday.

“With a heavy heart, today I left the Alliance Party. I was, however, delighted to join David Cameron’s Conservative Party, and to become involved in politics at a UK level.”

Ok there two things there that grate a Lib Dem, there’s also how can it be a delight to join anyone’s Conservative party. However, the main thing that got my goat was that what seems to be the prime reason is to be involved in politics at a UK wide level. To hear that coming from a former member of the Alliance Party seems odd in light of the fact that the Lib Dems do have a branch in Northern Ireland, indeed have had one long before Labour allowed Northern Irish people to join, or the Conservatives not only decided to recognise their Northern Irish brethern and merge with the Ulster Unionists, but even before the Northern Irish Conservative Party first formed. That branch has also been working with the Alliance party whilst themselves remaining electorally inactive.

Earlier this year when Labour began to actively organise in Northern Ireland I blogged about the possibility of that relationship between Alliance and Northern Ireland being formalised. After all if the Tories and Labour are up to it why shouldn’t the Lib Dems. Lord Alderdice does take the Lib Dem whip in the House of Lords, the Alliance Party always send delegates to the Liberal Democrat conference and some of us, myself included, have been affiliated and able to vote for both during our adult lives.

It’s an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while and the longer normality returns to Northern Irish the stronger its appeal. Indeed I’ve had discussions with other Northern Irish born Liberal Democrats about it, most notably Lembit Öpik just before the 2005 General Election. So if Parsley thinks joining the Labour is the right thing to get involved with politics at the UK level, is Northern Ireland really ready for it? Could the UNUNF alligning to Cameron, a Labour Party led by Brown, or sucessor (possibly incorporating the SDLP, Workers Party and whoever else wishes to align), the Lib Dems, Sinn Féin matching the nationalist SNP and Plaid Cymru in the other UK Countries, plus of course the DUP and any other party that wishes to really appear on the next Westminster ballots across Northern Ireland?

I know Slugger readers will have a lot of opinion on this, so let’s hear it.

  • CS Parnell

    Err, no.

    Next.

    PS If Alliance wants to lose all its seats it can merge with the Lib Dems. Good news for the SDLP, so I’d be happy to see that happen.

  • Drumlins Rock

    the Lib Dems exist in NI? first i heard of it,

  • Coll Ciotach

    I have already mentioned on a different thread that the attraction of joining a party that cam actually form a national govt is very attractive. this summer, with FF moving across the imposed border and the intruson of the tories we see politics changing here.

    The demise of provincial parties has started.
    Perhaps the DUP and TUV will become Ulster
    nationalists, but one thing is for sure. The pretence of “our wee country” is over. This place cannot exist in any form, political economic or whatever, without the support of Dublin or London.

    However it creates a worry for unionists on the long term and that worry is Scotland.

    Interesting times ahead.

  • Turgon

    Stephen,
    An interesting blog and although it may sound odd if what sounds like your dream could become true I would be pleased.

    The error in you idea is, however, contained in words three and four of your blog: North and Down. Substitute those words for almost any other constituency in Northern Ireland and certainly any West of the Bann and it would not be that the answer would be no it would be that the question would be so preposterous as to illicit a wry smile to your face and utter derision behind your back.

    I am sorry but try East Londonderry or especially Fermanagh South Tyrone and you would understand.

  • Only Asking.

    The first I heard of the lib dems in NI was when Opek was on the radio over the MP’s expenses thingy. He didn’t come accross well, it was a bad interview, he was totally out of touch with the electorate on this issue. He defended Sylvia Herman, and didn’t do her any favours.

    there’s also how can it be a delight to join anyone’s Conservative party.

    Could be those in Alliance are all closet conservatives….

    Post more often Stephen, it’s rather a nice change from the usual samd old same old shite….

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’d love to see the days when other parties could organize here and we’d have “normal” politics. However, I don’t think it will happen, at least not that quickly. The Liberal Democrats and Labour (have they really organized here ? As in opened an office and established a presence on the ground?) are smart enough to know this.

    It’s to do with the fact that people here are not yet voting along left/right lines. It’s not as if people in NI have not had the chance to vote for a Labour Party (just not The Labour Party) – they did have that chance. Conservatives too. The people campaigning for Labour to organize here never addressed this.

    Coll:

    I have already mentioned on a different thread that the attraction of joining a party that cam actually form a national govt is very attractive.

    So why did the Conservatives fail so catastrophically last time ?

    And what happens when the day comes, as it inevitably will, when the Conservatives are out of favour ? Are we supposed to believe that the electorate in NI will just switch their vote to Labour, or someone else, because that is the way the prevailing wind is blowing ?

    This idea, that the electorate in Northern Ireland consists of people who want to say “me too” and blindly vote for whoever is in favour elsewhere in the UK because they want to believe they are part of something bigger incredibly naive and hasn’t been at all thought through. It is as if the people putting this idea forward think that policies, or attitudes, play no role.

    On another note, right now, it would be very foolish to predict that Gordon Brown will win the next election. However, as Howard Dean and Neil Kinnock found in recent memory, spending a long period of time waiting in the wings as the favourite to win can be a curse. There is evidence that a “feelgood factor”, whose elusiveness cost John Major in 1997, may be returning and if it does, the Conservatives will have a fight to put up. I don’t think it is going to be as easy for them as it seems, and if by what presently would be a miracle they do not win, what does that mean for UCUNF ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Could be those in Alliance are all closet conservatives….

    I can assure you that Alliancers are by and large not Tories.

  • “Earlier this year when Labour began to actively organise in Northern Ireland I blogged about the possibility of that relationship between Alliance and Northern Ireland being formalised.”

    Stephen,

    What do you reckon are the disadvantages of such a link-up from the Lib-Dems and Alliance’s point of view?

  • Only Asking

    I can assure you that Alliancers are by and large not Tories.

    You could have said that here a week ago about Parsley. Alliance haven’t had this much drama since……never! Any party that links up with them is going nowhere but down….a bunch of losers that excell at nothing but punching above their weight.

  • grannie trixie

    What unites members of the Alliance Party is value for liberalism (in the sense of live and let live),dialogue,consensus politics, diversity etc. Its identity and operation however attracts people from a broad church of opinion. So whilst some elites in Alliance would like to portray the party as “sister” to the Lib Dems, they know also that attempts to formalise the link would be extremely divisive and likely to mean they would lose more than they gain from an ambiguous identity.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You could have said that here a week ago about Parsley.

    I’m not sure that I would have, especially since he was a member of the Conservatives in earlier years. We can forgive youthful indiscretions, of course.

    Alliance haven’t had this much drama since……never!

    There was the time when we prosecuted the unionists for failing to operate council business during the Anglo Irish Agreement business, and our vote went up as a result. That was fun. But I guess you weren’t born then.

    Any party that links up with them is going nowhere but down….a bunch of losers that excell at nothing but punching above their weight.

    Stupid comments. Any project involving a party outside NI presenting a common brand with one inside NI will fail.

  • cynic

    All very well talking about the Lib Dems. The crunch is could they offer Mr Parsley a good paying non job, secured with a contract, and a crack at the North Down seat?

  • Turgon you may have a point, North Down has always been atypical of Northern Ireland Politics. Kilfedder, McCartney and the UKUP, the Northern Irish Conservatives, even when they go ‘main stream’ they have the sole UUP MP.

    Oneill the disadvatnages of such a link up? Interesting. For the Lib Dems it would be that the Alliance aren’t as socially Liberal over some of the issues that are party policy, that is probably down to the religiosity of Northern Ireland as a whole compared to greater degree of secularism in the rest of the UK. (Although having said that the Lib Dems are strong in the religious Highlands of Scotland). For the Alliance, as indeed with the UUP joining with the Tories, it would be becoming a small cog in a bigger wheel.

  • Comrade Stalin thanks for your comments. I may well agree about the not yet trained to vote in left or right terms, yet. But is that because they don’t really have an option to do so?

    I tend to agree the Alliance are no more Tories or Labour that the Lib Dems are with their mix of Economic Liberals and Social Democrats occupying the centre right/left parts of the classical swing.

    Though I’m intrigued why you consider that ‘any project involving a party outside NI presenting a common brand with one inside NI will fail’? Seeing as I can associate with both the parties mentioned in my personal example and have done all my adult live in both locations.

  • Only asking, thanks for the kind remarks. I will try to post more often here, just I’m a bit out of the loop at times on the Northern Ireland issues. Head down fighting to win a few victories over here in Scotland, but I’m glad my insider’s outside persepctive makes the occasional ‘nice change’.

  • aquifer

    Its all a bit sad really. Alliance started off with many labour types who were well motivated to benefit local people by challenging loyalism and violent nationalism. They expanded their middle class membership and probably found it difficult to develop strong policies on economic issues, or a shared analysis of ‘the national question’. Too often Alliance people accepted plum piggy in the middle jobs, lending credibility to a local politics infested with sectarian opportunists.

    On the positive side, if the other half of Alliance defect to labour maybe the political action may move to ‘bread and butter’ rather than ‘which flag’ issues. Non sectarian politics needs some winners and losers to displace the faith and fatherland blood and iron nonsense.

    Roll on public expenditure cuts.

    Cosy consensus always made lousy copy anyhow.

  • Only Asking

    Though I’m intrigued why you consider that ‘any project involving a party outside NI presenting a common brand with one inside NI will fail’?

    Yeah tell us stalin. Or better still, don’t. Your comments are usually so way off the mark its easy to see why Alliance are on their way to the dung heap. Not that they ever left it. One seat – Anna Lo, hoping for two with Parsley,darn!!

    I predict next time round 0 seats. Anna Lo has hardly been a raging success and LOngs bum won’t be on the mayoral seat for ever. Prognosis = obscurity for alliance after the next general election.

  • Stephen,

    as a Northern Irish born and, more importantly, actually Northern Irish resident member of both the LibDems and the Alliance Party, the idea is a non-starter. For a start, Liberal Democrat members in NI are almost universally opposed to fighting elections here – I’m cool with Northern Irish born LibDems across the water talking to one another, but it would be nice if you talked to us as well.

    As liberals, we ought to be comfortable with the idea of regional autonomy, and sceptical that the unitary national state – which the UK never really was and is less and less – represents the acme of liberal democracy. In particular, we ought to be sceptical of integrationism, which is underneath its veneer of metropolitan sophistication is actually a fairly supremacist view of the world: it holds that one form of nationalism in Northern Ireland is “right” another is “wrong”, and that if only the British Labour Party organised here then the scales would fall from the eyes of Irish Nationalists and they would realise that they were actually British all along.

    I’d instead argue for a liberal vision that says that while Ulster-Britishness and Irishness (not necessarily mutually exclusive) are entirely legitimate, basing your political party on either is a retrograde and illiberal view of the world. This is particularly so in a situation where the legitimacy of both identities is enshrined in constitutional law, and where both the principle of consent and the electoral means for deciding the constitutional future of Northern Ireland are no longer contested issues. While it’s up to others to decide how they form political parties, as liberals, ours ought to be based on values on not on ethnicity or nationality.

    I’m afraid you seem to view normality as meaning Northern Ireland is the same as the rest of the UK. Party systems grow up to reflect social and ideological cleavages, rather than the other way around. If Northern Ireland’s “normality” was the same as, say, Yorkshire’s normality then we would have the same party system as Yorkshire. The existence of cross-border bodies with executive powers – agreed to by the UUP in 1998 and later accepted by the DUP – is the clearest evidence that’s simply wrong. The idea that SDLP voters would suddenly flock to the standard of the British Labour Party if it contested elections here is flat out wacky; although some Alliance members and voters might – a lot less post-Iraq than was the case before, but it’s worth remembering the Alliance voter base is not identical to the LibDem one, and sadly is a lot smaller. Remember also, we absorbed most of what remained of the old Northern Ireland Labour Party in dribs and drabs through the 1970s.

    I’d rather politics here was based on ideology and not ethnicity, but that’s only going to emerge from the society and political system that actually exists here, not one imposed from outside. All the things you point out on your blog post in terms of technical assistance and sharing ideas already happen. The current relationship between Alliance and the LibDems is healthy and does not need “reinventing”. At present, we actually need to put – and are putting – serious work into deepening links with the many people in both Fine Gael and Irish Labour who are sympathetic to Alliance especially as the looming Labour-FG coalition will end more than a decade of Alliance having no real friends in government in Dublin. The centre-left end of FG in particular are much more comfortable ideological allies for Alliance than the PDs ever were.

    And, if you’re in Bournemouth, I’ll buy you a pint and we can discuss things further then.

  • For the Lib Dems it would be that the Alliance aren’t as socially Liberal over some of the issues that are party policy

    Untrue and a sign that you are a bit out of touch with political life here! Abortion is a particular shibboleth here (and it’s a conscience issue in Alliance just as it is in the LibDems… and Labour and the Tories), but otherwise, Alliance, the SDLP and Sinn Féin (and Dawn Purvis) are as socially liberal as either the LibDems or Labour and a damn sight more than the Tories. If you’re going to cite Séamus Close at me, I’ll raise you with Phil Willis, Bob Russell and Colin Breed. You’re got FagStag Evan Harris. We’ve got FagStag Stephen Farry.

    Moreover, I could never imagine any Alliance people (or to be fair, Sinn Féin people) brandishing their ultramontane Catholicism as a reason to deny people basic legal equality in the way quite a few Labour and LibDem MPs do.

    Finally, as a primer as to why integrationism is bullshit, at least from a liberal point of view, I’d recommend reading Nicholas Whyte’s addendum to his excellent personal memoir of the 1995 North Down by-election campaign. Actually, I’d recommend reading the whole thing for entertainment value (ah, happy memories) but these lines are the most telling:

    I never bought the idea that the solution to the Northern Ireland problem would be attained if only the British mainland parties were to fight elections there, and the more I looked into it the less convinced I was. In the 1960s, the Ulster Unionists were an organic part of the Conservative Party, the Ulster Liberal Party was an organic part of the British Liberal Party, and the Northern Ireland Labour Party, while not quite so firmly linked to the British Labour Party, was nevertheless so close that nobody could see the difference. This did not prevent the violence from erupting at the end of the decade. […] I simply do not buy the integrationist analysis, because it basically leads to the absurd proposition that the whole conflict was triggered and continued past 1992 because people were unable to vote for the British Labour Party.

  • I predict next time round 0 seats.

    You mean for UCUNF in the General Election. Damn straight!

  • DC

    “flock to the standard of the British Labour Party if it contested elections here is flat out wacky”

    It depends on how that party orientates itself in relation to the regional assembly and the NSMC obligations.

    If it takes a unionist stance then you are right.

    But why would it want to given it would be a new a party in practice and would need to consider all angles across the isles, why would a new Labour party with no history here want to follow the staple of unionist parties which are very cognizant of just where their vote lies. I am saying there is little manoeuvre for the parties with roots here because of the stances taken in the past. A recent DUP u-turn has cost that party, a case in point.

    But a Labour Party that is only British in shell in so much as branding, image and of handing down media management skills to the region and members here would be in practice a *new* party and entirely something different. Especially if its members are mindful of the changed political circumstances and are forward-thinking.

    It is such a situation that even the Alliance Party can’t discount, as it has its own skeletons in the closet in terms of re-designation, which is all part of those historical problems re the GFA and the tortuous peace process and hits to political integrity and reputation.

    There may be some argument that while Labour, under Blair, did seal the peace process – with that add the anti-agreement unionist argument, Labour mobilising locally would, if people do stand, actually be something *new*.

    But, I give you that Sammy that if Labour does stand here and adopts a unitary British approach to its political and identity outlook then it is pretty much finished from the word go. Collapsing through its own political incompetence given the changed political landscape.

  • Collapsing through its own political incompetence

    Labour is making a pretty good go of that part right now anyway!

    There’s another serious point here, which tends to get lost – what’s so great about the British party system? It is clearly no longer reflecting the actual cleavages in British society. Not only is the two-party vote at a record low (a serious issue in a country whose electoral system presupposes a two party system as a basic condition of fairness), the three-party vote is at an all time low (even if you ignore European Elections conducted under list-PR, look at the 2005 General Election result). Labour is undoubtedly unpopular, but that vote is scattering all over the place rather than moving to the Tories, and sadly from my perspective, the LibDems aren’t making hay either. So the integrationist argument is that Northern Ireland adopts a three-party system that is clearly under severe strain in its own home.

    Assuming Labour lose next year (and I struggle to see how they don’t lose, although I can see all sorts of scenarios where the Tories equally don’t win), then what becomes of Labour? The working-class tribal Labour vote is becoming much more contingent. After 12 years in power, Labour has seen inequality between rich and poor rise, has taken part in two disastrous foreign wars at the behest of the most ignorant American President in living memory and having banked everything on economic competence, wrecked the economy on a tidal wave of debt and financial services monoculture. Labour could fracture badly post-2010 in the same way the German SPD is doing now, or the Candian Tories did in the early 1990s.

    While socialists across the water might have lifelong commitments based on friendship as muich as anything else, just why would any socialist or social democrat in Northern Ireland want anything to do with the British Labour Party?

  • DC

    As I said it depends on how it orientates itself and responds to the certain problems that you raise. It will be new and it must learn lessons and evolve, basically it is about to eat its own shitty performance and die, largely at Brown’s behest I must add both as chancellor and PM.

    One thing that we all have in our lives is work and until the concept of work goes away better to be involved with Labour than with anyone else on the business side of things.

  • aquifer

    OK DC, but what will labour do with difficult issues like corporation tax levels, welfare dependency, policies on drugs and sexuality? The british labour movement was not very good at articulating its own core values, and until ‘new labour’ could not fasten on its attitude to market capitalism, and was always vulnerable to domination by revolutionist cults with no regard for personal liberty.

    Not enough social capital, too much Das Kapital.

    Without a real grounding in theory, commitment to civics, or experience in alleviating real material deprivation, the ‘leadership’ of New Labour seem to be a gathering of callow careerists unable to present a common front.

    They did not even seem to notice that the Westminster expenses system was rotten, what does that say about their core values?

    Mandelson is cool though, and Irish labour had a better ratio of thinking heads to brain deads.

    In an NI society sceptical about the left, labour would have to get real and relevant very fast, so it could work. They would have to purge socialista gangs out regularly though.

    Also, maybe ‘labour’ has too many associations with big employers of manual labourers, a very minor part of a modern economy.

    How about a new name.

    ‘Alliance’ has a ring to it.

  • New Blue

    Sammy

    What is this fixation that Nationalists have that UK Unionists sole aim in promoting the expansion of the main pro-union parties in Northern Ireland is to ‘convert’ Nationalists?

    As a pro union Irishman, I respect the (peaceful) actions of Irish Nationalists in promoting a UI agenda, such actions only strengthen the broader democratic principles on which I base my personal beliefs.

    The aim (as I interpret it) of ‘mainstreaming’ political representation in Northern Ireland is not to ‘brainwash’ Irish Nationalists into becoming raving tories or liberals but to remove the two colour, religious led, excuse for politics we currently have to endure.

    Democracy is far more important than any party or party ideology, Nortern Ireland has fought to create a level playingfield in the area of religion, let’s now create a democratic, non-sectarian political structure where opposing ideologies can exist without the fear of violence and intimidation.

    I do see an end coming to the current partisan political system in Northern Ireland, people are awakening to the fact that ‘the family over the wall’ is more similar than different.

    Our personal pro-union or pro-nationalist agendas have to be placed second to providing the best possible representation and service to those who all of our parties answer to.

  • DC

    Aquifer your theory is right, but the Alliance has more problems with image and reputation than Labour, it is an arrested development. Im hoping Labour evolves as it did back in the 80s but the media onslaught against it then had a neurotic affect on New Labour’s approach to things. It is part and parcel of the retardation of old to New Labour, initiativitis etc. But is a problem generally across the political spectrum.

    Besides on personal levels it is easier to get on with the more socially minded people than those leaning more heavily on the individualism side of things. It’s better being around the more socially compassionate than the unencumbered individual types in Alliance or say even those ruthlessly individualistic in outlook.

    Your analysis about Labour not being grounded in real political philosophy is correct, but apply that to other parties and look at the opposition and choice around us. It is more apt, I think, to today’s Conservative Party (and Thatcher’s before) as since when did rampant free markets and individualism ever have a part in social cohesion and helping to put families back together again?

  • fin

    “remove the two colour, religious led, excuse for politics we currently have to endure.”

    New Blue, noble sentiments, however, how do you convince nationalists of this. Until the last decade it was a single colour, Orange. Now its two colours Orange and Green, with Green increasingly coming to the fore, topping the EU poll this year, and every possibility of Green been the largest party in Stormont next time around.

    It would seem that Orange having been winning the game but now struggling suddenly wants to play a different game, and it has to be a game where they can start winning again.

    The need is to convince Green that the new game is for their benefit, can you convince Green that playing UK politics facilitates their goals?

  • New Blue

    Fin

    The pro-union agenda is about maintaining the union, the Nationalist agenda is about the unification of Ireland as one country.

    What most here seem to neglect, normally to suit their own agenda, is that the pro-union / pro nationalist argument IS secondary to the key issues facing the electorate.

    The parent who wants a good standard of education for their children.

    The man / women who want employment that provides for them and their families.

    The citizen who has had enough of anti-social behaviour and wants to see the effective management all forms of lawlessness addressed.

    The patient who wants to make sure that a visit to the hospital is not going to result in them becoming more sick.

    These issue do not respond to Orange and Green arguments.

    The GFA has created a unification process that the majority have signed up to, democracy at work.

    The existing Assembly is failing us all with its ‘whataboutery’ and ‘veto everything’ mentality, we need to create issue led politics that make a difference for the poor shmuck we expect to come and vote for us.

    I don’t want to convince those who are green that orange is a better colour, I don’t want to ‘brainwash’ nationalists to become unionists.

    What we need is to put down the flags, see where we are really standing and get on with the job.

    If you want to do that while campaigning and promoting arguments for a UI then I support you, can you support me while I promote what I believe in?

  • otto

    New Blue

    except

    “The parent who wants a good standard of education for their children.”

    I’m one and I the southern education system seems a good bit more thought through and rational to me than ours up here

    “The man / women who want employment that provides for them and their families.”

    The best long-term prospects for economic development in Northern Ireland (at least for my business) are provided by Irish unity and the resulting economies from currency to advertising to administration and, (again at least in my case), taxation and a standards.

    “The citizen who has had enough of anti-social behaviour and wants to see the effective management all forms of lawlessness addressed.”

    Which won’t happen with the hamstrung management of policing and social regeneration we have in northern Ireland.

    “The patient who wants to make sure that a visit to the hospital is not going to result in them becoming more sick.”

    fair enough.

    These issue do not respond to Orange and Green arguments.

    well the first three did for me.

  • joeCanuck

    Turgon, alas, is right.
    Here is my support for his thesis. Back in the 60s, living in West Tyrone, but before I could vote, I was nonetheless very interested in politics, particularly in the UK. Harold Wilson had won his first election. Anyway, a Stormont election was called. Since I couldn’t vote, I spent my energies trying to convince others. The N.I. Labour Party put up a candidate in our constituency. After many discussions, I believed that I had convinced my Ma and some of her friends that the way forward was to unite the Protestant and Catholic working classes. When I arrived home from school on election day I looked at Ma and said “did you vote and how?”
    Well”” she said, when I got down to the polling station a man told me that the Unionists had paid the N.I. Labour guy to stand in order to split the Catholic vote, so I voted Nationalist”. The same turned out true for her friends.
    I don’t think it would be any different today.

  • New Blue

    No Otto they don’t

    The simple thing you seem to misunderstand is the Orange and Green is NOT Unionist and Nationalist – it is fear fuelled sectarianism.

    There are protestants who would like to see a UI, there are catholics who are pro-union.

    If you are capamigning for a UI then you will do so by selling your view of how a UI will benefit the North. The same sale with a different pitch is more than likely how I would contest my side of the argument.

    What I am discussing here is that the pro-union Vs. UI argument needs to move off the religious wagon and onto the democratic, one person one vote horse.

    I am very happy to discuss the pros and cons of the UK V’s a UI, as long as it is not done on the back of sectarian scaremongering and, most improtantly, as a side discussion to addressing the needs that our electorate have here and now.

    Security word purpose – go figure!

  • otto

    Ok NB but it’s not as if voting Conservative leaves open the option of being an all-Irelander on the constitutional issue.

    Or perhaps you think it does?

  • otto

    should have said “joining” rather than “voting”

  • New Blue

    Otto

    I am not asking nationalists to vote Conservative.

    Go over my posts above again.

    The political structure offered to the electorate has to change, a Scottish model suits me fine.

    A pro-nationalist party that can work with pro-union parties (and vice-versa) in the best interests of the whole electorate is what I am pointing to.

    If you want to campaign for a UI then I support your democratic freedom to do so.

    If I believed that I could convince everyone to vote Conservative then I would be leading the party (or locked up for my own mental health)

    We have got to move away from thinking that because I say Conservative or Pro-Union that I cannot respect and recognise those with a differing political view.

    Maybe that is the real first hurdle we face.

    It’s not about my way being the right way, it’s about my way being the right way FOR ME.

  • New Blue,

    you might prefer a Scottish political structure but you’re ignoring the fairly fundamental point that this is not Scotland. The constitutional question in Scotland is a political one; in Northern Ireland it’s an ethnic one. Nobody ever got killed by people fighting for or against an independent Scotland, nor is anyone really likely to.

    What you’re actually arguing for in your posts here is not post-tribal politics but for left-right politics within each tribe. If that’s what you want to do, fine, but you ought to say that instead of pretending you’re about something else.

    That model holds no attraction for me and I don’t think it does any good for Northern Ireland in the long run. Look at Belgium’s chronic instability and scary government debt, both a direct consequence of the primacy of tribal politics since the 1960s, even in a country with virtually no history of ethnic violence.

  • borderline

    For some years now on SO’T Sammy Morse has been the sharpest reporter of political movements, and the keenest interpreter of electoral trends IMO. It seems he is adding most thoughtful analyser to his quiver.

    I quibble, but only slightly, with his preference for ethnic as the best word to describe the constitutional question here. It infers that you cannot move across.

    Identity, a complex concept, and common to all ethnicities, plays a major role.

    New blue: Unfortunately for your purposes, identity, ethnicity, and even tradition are before practicality in the determinants of voting behaviour in NI. Always have been, and until resolution of aforementioned constitutional question, always will be.

  • fin

    “one person one vote” New Blue, that slogan has a familar ring to it, and thats your blindspot, you see both Orange and Green starting from the same beginning and level playing field, the reality is much different, as Otto pointed out day to day issues are married to the national question and as nationalists approach the leverage for a UI than so did NI society improve for them, previously when unionism had a stranglehold on NI politics life was fairly rotten for them.

    While day to day issues are of course important, more and more nationalists see NI as a temporary state, while waiting for a UI.

    Why should nationalists help make NI work, what arguement do the parties of people like Carson, Craig, Bonar Law and Thatcher have to get them on board?

  • Quite by chance I have also been thinking about this today: http://eastbelfastdiary.blogspot.com/2009/09/normalising-politics-revisited.html although I do confess I had to rewrite it because I wasn’t aware of the connections between Alliance and the LibDems.

    NI is very slowly moving towards a different kind of political realignment, based on ‘links’ with parties in other jurisdictions rather than these parties moving into electoral activity here. There may be 2 reasons for this (i) we already have a very crowded electoral marketplace and any newcomer is going to do badly for some years until they establish themselves – and for some it will never happen (ii) as I know to my cost with Irish Labour, if you are a member of a party based in another jurisdiction, that is where the decision will actually be made about the type of relationship that party will have with its NI members.

  • New Blue

    Borderline and Fin

    Are you saying that the process for a move to a UI as set out in the GFA is not acceptable?

    Fin ‘Why should nationalists help make NI work, what arguement do the parties of people like Carson, Craig, Bonar Law and Thatcher have to get them on board?

    Nationalists in Northern Ireland are suffering from poverty, unemployment, lack of direction in education and inadequate social housing just like their pro-union brothers and sisters.

    Not to do what is best for the electorate, whilst continuing the ‘prime directive’ is to be failing as an elected representative or political thinker.

    Yes, a level playing field and equal starting position was something that had always been missing, but not now. Tell me where the sectarian imbalance for housing, education or employment is now?

    We fianlly have a level playing field, and if I had have been of age at any point over the last 100 years, I would like to think that I would have supported the struggle towards religious equality (not the partition or a UI).

    What I keep saying and what you refuse to hear is that we now have a level playing field, we have a real, workable, democratically accepted path to the formation of a UI. In light of this why do very knowledgeable and passionate individuals here continue to only want to play games of ‘Ussuns and Themmuns’?

    We have people living in complete poverty, we have people growing up in thrid generation workless families, the complete distruction of concepts of community or neighborhood, Kids leaving school with no future.

    If, as a nationalist, you want Ireland to adopt Northern Ireland in twenty, thirty or whenver years time, do you want six counties that cannot tie their shoelaces or a vibrant successful and forward thinking six counties to enter with pride?

    By playing the ‘not my problem – blame the brits’ game you are selling nationalists – and unionists – in Northern Ireland short.

  • borderline

    “Tell me where the sectarian imbalance for housing, education or employment is now?”

    Well you got me there new blue. For 70 years we struggled on those issues and now, and for probably the last 10-20 years, those issues have not been administered in a sectarian manner.

    Far from blaming the Brits, on those issues, their involvement in directly ruling the North hastened the advance of fairness IMO.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jenny,

    NI is very slowly moving towards a different kind of political realignment, based on ‘links’ with parties in other jurisdictions rather than these parties moving into electoral activity here.

    I am not sure what “moving towards a realignment” means (you mean we’re about to realign but have not started yet?) but the links to parties in “other jurisdictions” (the UK is not really another jurisdiction!) have existed for quite some time. The Tories and the UUP have always enjoyed friendly relations, and certain sections of the Tories are also friendly with the DUP. Alliance’s links with the Lib Dems go back a long time and the nature of that relationship has not fundamentally changed.

    borderline, the credit for ending the discrimination in housing actually lies with the old Stormont government which belatedly moved to fix things by taking powers away from the gerrymandered/unionist controlled local councils and put them in the hands of the Housing Executive, which was required to operate strictly on non-sectarian guidelines. A lot of people don’t actually realise this. Not to defend the unionists, they got us into the mess that we’re in with their disastrous approach to governance, but now and again they made the right moves.

    new blue:

    We have people living in complete poverty, we have people growing up in thrid generation workless families, the complete distruction of concepts of community or neighborhood, Kids leaving school with no future.

    Yeah, and who do we thank for that ? The concept of long term unemployment became reality under the Conservatives in the 1980s. You seem to have no idea how laughable to hear a Conservative supporter talking about how bad it all is, when their economic policies created all these problems in the first place. There is the argument that what Thatcher did may have been necessary, but she came down too fast and too hard and entire communities were destroyed as a result. The Conservatives did not care then, and I don’t believe they really do now. They think that workers and their families should go wherever the Invisible Hand tells them and that life is just that simple.

    The memories of the shutdown of the DeLorean plant are still fresh in the minds of some people here, particularly in West Belfast. That plant had a chance, it needed not subsidies but a leg up from the government. Thatcher pulled the plug, not long after Denis Thatcher was coincidentally appointed as an adviser to the board of DeLorean’s competitor, General Motors. I mean, when you’ve got that sort of corrupt shit going on it’s going to be very hard for people to trust.

  • borderline

    CS,

    I know WIKI ain’t gospel but……..

    “A single all-purpose housing authority for Northern Ireland had been advocated as early as 1964 by the Northern Ireland Labour Party[5] but it was not until the British Home Secretary, James Callaghan, visited the Stormont Government in the wake of the Belfast Riots of August 1969 and pressed for a unified housing body that the Stormont regime took the idea seriously. Although the Bill was proposed by the Ulster Unionist Minister of Development,Brian Faulkner, it was strongly opposed by Unionist right-wingers[6] and by followers of Ian Paisley.”

  • Comrade Stalin – I *did* mean ‘moving towards realignment, because it’s hard to tell what these ‘links’ may develop into, no matter how long they have been there.

    Also by ‘jurisdictions’ I meant to include the Irish Republic, plus I suppose to emphasise that a lot of the GB links are actually with English parties: I’m sure you know that the 3 main parties have different administration sin England, Scotland and Wales (and produce different manifestos in the general election). I wonder if the ‘British’ Labour Party members here might get further by linking up with the Scots?

  • New Blue

    CS

    Do you remember the Conservative campaign to get Maggie in?

    Was it something like ‘Labour isn’t working’?
    – Showing the balls that Labour had made of the economy, forcing the higest number of people out of work since the war? Sound familiar?

    The Conservatives did not care then, and I don’t believe they really do now. They think that workers and their families should go wherever the Invisible Hand tells them and that life is just that simple.

    So your answer is ?

    I hear you saying that this will not work and that will not work, Comrade what is your solution to fix the problems I have highlighted?

    Pointing at history and saying “It’s their fault” will not create jobs, it will nor improve education, it will not reduce crime.

    Please share with us your philosphy on how we fix these things, I for one would like to hear what you believe and not what you don’t believe.

    Submit word = ‘lost’ well now…….

  • YelloSmurf

    have they [The Lib Dems] really organized here ? Get in touch and I’ll see what I can do about you meeting us?

    the Lib Dems exist in NI? first i heard of it
    Drumlins, that’s exactly our problem. We work well with Alliance, but are dangerously small because most people in NI who identify as Lib Dems don’t know we exist. We need to publicise ourselves better.