Where will Labour unionists go?

It seems the UUP – Conservative link up is proving more better then worse for all concerned. That is of course as long as you are not a Labour minded UUP member. As Mark Devenport notes on his blog, Sylvia Hermon stayed away from conference for the second year running. Fred Cobain, a long time leftie departed early to go see his beloved Crusaders.

There has long been a significant Labour – Unionist tradition in the North. Is it large enough to go it alone or are people like Fred just going to have to accept the tory dawn?

Chekov notes that there could be problems extending the Tory – UUP deal to the Assembly elections. That could give the lefties something to stay on for but could also lead to UUP – Tory contests for key seats…..

  • fair_deal

    “Fred Cobain, a long time leftie departed early to go see his beloved Crusaders”

    I wouldn’t read anything into that, normal behaviour for Fred.

    I’d expect Fred’s dislike for the DUP to over-ride any disinclination he has for the Tories.

    BTW typo it’s ‘Chekov’ only one c

  • United Community Social Democrat

    Alliance and the SDLP have their franchises the wrong way round.

    Nationalism needs a party with some distance from Sinn Fein’s socialism while maintaining a claim to constitutional republicanism and all-Ireland politics. They might also benefit from the support of a party with 75,000 members and a history of governance. That party is Fianna Fail, which has declared itself Ireland’s Liberal Democratic Party.

    Alliance as the most progressive party not nationalist should be a natural home for a disaffected social-democrat like Sylvia Hermon or even for Dawn Purvis and John Kyle. It could also do with the support of a party which regularly raises £30Million+ in funds a year (equalling the Tories) and would be better positioned to get that support if it could return an MP.

    A tie up with Labour would allow Alliance to adopt the same status as its Green United Community colleagues – aligned with Parties east and south provide some clear social-democratic water between Alliance(NI Labour) and the Tory/DUP enemy and a offer a home to Sylvia that might suit her Westminster intentions.

    It’s time for a bit of musical chairs with the SDLP & Alliance morphing to Fianna Fail & Labour. Alliance have never won a Westminster seat so it’s likely the loss of Alliance support to the Lib Dems at Westminster would be bearable.

  • bobwilson

    Conall can I just correct the idea that Lady Sylvia Hermon ‘stayed away for the second year running’ I have been going to UUP conferences as an observer for ten years and to my knowledge she has only attended about 2 of those ten conferences

  • joan

    ‘more better’!!! what language is that?

  • interested

    Ulster Unionist conference riven by row over link with Tories’

    The Ulster Unionists’ sole MP failed to turn up to her party’s conference yesterday, increasing speculation that Lady Sylvia Hermon will stand as an independent in the forthcoming general election.

    Lady Hermon is understood to be considering standing against a joint UUP-Conservative candidate in her North Down constituency. She has refused to disclose her intentions over the seat.

    The North Down Tories have already selected Ian Parsley, a defector from the Alliance Party, as its candidate, and he attended the UUP conference. His former colleagues in Alliance have indicated the party would stand down and back Lady Hermon if she chose to run as an independent in the constituency.

    There was further discord at the conference in Belfast’s Europa Hotel yesterday, when some labour and trade union-minded Ulster Unionists, led by former Belfast councillor Chris McGimpsey, urged delegates to oppose the party’s fusion with the Conservatives. McGimpsey, Fermanagh UUP councillor Raymond Ferguson and unionist historian Roy Garland said the Tory alliance would destroy the party’s support in unionist working class communities.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/25/uup-tories-conference

  • Fred Cobain, a long time leftie departed early to go see his beloved Crusaders

    ….. get stuffed by rampant Ballymena. In fairness most of the headline stuff had already taken place by 1.30pm. Cobain was there to see Hague.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Speculation about Sylvia again. I’d love to know what she is going to do, but no decision has been taken within Alliance to allow her a free run in North Down. The Guardian may have its “sources” but they are not speaking for the party. Then again, neither am I, so make of that what you will.

    Allowing Hermon a free run would also be allowing Parsley a free run, and my personal opinion is that this would make it easier for Parsley to avoid addressing what made him change his allegiance and almost to act as a surrogate for the Alliance brand, something which I doubt the party is especially keen to do at the moment. When Parsley was in Alliance, he used to argue very consistently about what a mistake it was to stand back and allow Unionism a free run. He may well have made his mark in that respect.

    I also think it is unlikely that Hermon will run under an Alliance ticket. I’d personally have no problem with this, but her allegiance is to Labour and to Unionism. She may well just give up and decide not to run at all.

    UCSD, I have no idea where you are getting your weird analysis from, it looks like it was drawn up on the back of a cigarette packet. Firstly, most of us in Alliance, while we may be social democrats (there are various shades of opinion), despise the Labour Party which has wrecked the economy, overseen an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor, brought us into an illegal and very expensive war, and burdened future generations with massive debt. In any case, Labour already has formal links with the SDLP.

    The situation is likewise with the SDLP and Fianna Fail. Fianna Fail’s centre-right Catholic populism may appeal to some in the SDLP, but it would be a serious mistake for any political party to make an alliance with a movement widely perceived as a bunch of gombeens who collaborated with their friends in the banking and property sectors to crash the Irish economy into the ground. The Green Party have made a serious mistake by choosing to keep FF in power and I suspect they’ll be paying for it in the future.

    There is going to be no short term “morphing” in Northern Ireland politics. You can’t just take so many years of established political parties and replace them overnight with parties from the outside. Politics does not work like that or it would have happened decades ago. I’d like to believe that people are sick and tired of our useless politicians here, but you have to remember that people turn out and vote for them, time and time again. I find the idea that persuading them to change their minds is merely a case of waving the logos of larger parties from Dublin or London in their faces to be incredibly naive.

  • borderline

    CS,
    “I find the idea that persuading them to change their minds is merely a case of waving the logos of larger parties from Dublin or London in their faces to be incredibly naive.”

    I agree, but when you write “The Green Party have made a serious mistake by choosing to keep FF in power and I suspect they’ll be paying for it in the future.” I have to disagree.

    Last week the Greens went to FF with a shopping list – everything from abolishing uni fees to abolishing fur farms and got it. Oh, and complete reform of the planning system to boot. What are they in politics for? Lentil protests or real power. They have the latter.

    Back on subject, the protests by unionist left wingers demonstrate why “unionism” is shagged. Being a unionist is like being determined to marry one of your neighbour’s daughters, each of whom have completely different personalities.

    Don’t be surprised if you get a loveless marriage, and a letter from a solicitor.

  • United Community Social Democrat

    Comrade,

    The SDLP and Alliance were both founded in 1970 “morphing” from other Liberal, Labour, Unionist and Nationalist parties in response to the troubles. That doesn’t make them “long-established”. It makes them the career choice of a single generation of local politicians.

    Now that the environment has changed it’s appropriate to look at whether their positions are still appropriate.

    Alliance has lost Parsley to the Tories yet can’t provide a home to Hermon or other social-democrats of unionist/protestant background.

    You may be content to spend your time abusing government parties from a position of impotence. I’m suggesting your efforts would be better placed being part of the conversation within those parties.

    Losing a key candidate to the Tories but failing to attract an MP or MLA’s who probably agree with almost the whole of your platform should be sending you some kind of message.

    Were you a Goth as a teen? You seem to think sulking aloofness the only credible style.

  • New Blue

    borderline

    This is where Unionism has to grasp the nettle and start involving itself in left of center Vs. right of center politics.

    By doing so, and leaving the ‘all we have is the Union Jack’, pro-union politics moves us away from sectarianism and towards inclusive democracy.

    In my opinion, Labour and the Lib Dems are already looking at how they can engage the non-nationalist voter in Northern Ireland as potential supporters. The movement of Fianna Fail towards promoting a UI by developing support in Northern Ireland can only be seen as a good thing.

    Once again, the creation of non sectarian democracy in Northern Ireland should be every democrats primary objective.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Conall,

    Not sure what you’re trying to achieve here.

    Attempting to suggest that Fred was making some sort of point by leaving to go to a game that kicked off an hour after the formal business of the conference was due to end (but didn’t quite) is clutching at straws that is veering towards the malicious. There has never been any suggestion that he has a problem with the deal.

    The last conference I remember seeing Lady Hermon at was Newcastle in 2004, so there is nothing unusual by her absence.

    Four usual suspects sign a letter and another stayed away as she usually does. Story? Not really.

  • Seymour Major

    The problem with left wing Unionists has been acknowledged since before the Conservatives were negotiating the pact with the UUP.

    I have heard a conservative official say that it was identified that about 85% of UUP supporters were basically conservative. Conservatives have always expected that these supporters would eventually find a new political home. Indeed, that process is entirely consistent with a central aim of Conservative ambition in Northern Ireland – to change the axis of politics from North – South to left – right. So what’s new here?

    The bit that is new, which I do not yet understand, is Sir Reg Empey’s reference to legal difficulties. I think it might have something to do with the UUP’s internal rules and constitution, but I am only guessing. If that is true, then it is regrettable that Sir Reg has brought this out at the conference. However, there is time.

    There will bw a gap of at least 9 months between the General Election and the Assembly elections. In that time, I would expect this problem to be resolved by merger, if those legal difficulties can not be resolved.

    A merger would be hard for many in the UUP to accept. Indeed, that was what the Conservatives wanted in the first place. On January 11th, Lord Maginnis was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying that there would never be a merger.

    However, as chekov has previously acknowledged many times on his blog, there is no other way forward for the UUP other than being in partnership with the Conservatives. Whichever way you look at it, the UUP have some very tough decisions to make about their long term future.

    United Commmunity Social Democrat, I like the way you are thinking. In the background, natural Labour supporters in Northern Ireland who are Unionist are disenfranchised by virtue of the fact that the dominant Unionist parties in Northern Ireland are conservative. There needs to be a solution but any solution which maintains a constant battle between unionism and nationalism is bad for Northern Ireland.

    The best solution, in my view, is that political parties retain their identities but bring an end to advancing nationalism and unionism in every day politics. That may be a bit of a leap of understanding for some people, but it is already happening at the margins. For example, a person who is Nationalist by identity but conservative in terms of shared political ideals might chose to vote conservative at elections but should a referendum come along, he might vote for a united Ireland. That is the kind of voting habit which the Conservatives want achieved. Owen Paterson in his interview with Jim Fitzpatrick on a previous blog was alluding to that when he remarked about the constitutional position being determined were misunderstood. Unfortunately, he did not express himself as well as he might have done.

    UCSD it seems to have been implied in the second paragraph of your comment that Fianna Fail is a party of the right. If they were trying to merge with the SDLP, which is socialist, that does not totally make sense.

    The SDLP has been in a difficult position for some time. Their history and the title to their party is actually made up of elements of the trade union and labour movement in Ireland, which was not nationalist. There are many who would wish to see the SDLP do a mirror image of what the Conservatives have done. In other words, they keep their Nationalist identity but put the emphasis of their politics on socialism. In addition to that, so that the representation problem is completely resolved, they form a formal alliace with the Labour Party in the UK (they already have an informal one). In doing that, they achieve representation for the left in all types of election and they make their contribution to taking out unionism versus nationalism out of elections.

    All of what I have said would be a very difficult call for the SDLP to make. However, they face problems if they maintain their present position. At the moment, a significant proportion of their supporters are natural Conservatives. Those supporters will eventually leave them, whatever they do. If they do not do as I have suggested and look for left wing unionists, they will eventually face electoral oblivion.

  • stokesy

    ‘The last conference I remember seeing Lady Hermon at was Newcastle in 2004, so there is nothing unusual by her absence’

    Apart from being perceived as aloof, dismissive of the rank and file and plain bad manners.

  • United Community Social Democrat

    Seymour,

    I would not expect the membership of Northern Fianna Fail and the Labour Party in Northern Ireland to mirror that of the SDLP and Alliance, except in aggregate. I’d expect there to be a bit of shirt swapping between players.

  • Garza

    U&C are getting alot of stick on here. Maybe thats because they are trying to change Northern Irish politics. Alot of people in NI have settled into a wee rut. People vote for parties without having the slightest idea about their policies.

    There is a new generation that is coming ready to vote now who have had no recollection of the troubles. We have to grasp this chance.

    We have to move on from this unhealthy tribal orange vs green politics and into lefts vs right politics.

    Moderate unionists have made the first move. Will the rest follow?

  • [i]Last week the Greens went to FF with a shopping list – everything from abolishing uni fees to abolishing fur farms and got it. Oh, and complete reform of the planning system to boot. What are they in politics for? Lentil protests or real power. They have the latter.[/i]

    Ok, a few short-term concessions but they were pretty much the only Green Party in Europe to have a disastrous European election and they are a virtually non-existent force in local government. Weighing it all up, it was a mistake.

  • DW

    Seymour Major @ 12:21 PM: “On January 11th, Lord Maginnis was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying that there would never be a merger”.

    Lord Maginnis is mistaken. A merger is imperative. The Conservatives will have no other deal after they win the coming election. Do you think David Cameron will continue to support the UUP financially without a merger? Then and only then will UUP councillors and MLA’s who depend on working class Protestant votes in urban areas will see their votes decrease.

    Fred Cobain (North Belfast) Jim Rodgers (East Belfast)and Bob Stoker (South Belfast) are only just three who will suffer greatly at the next local council elections. They will need to find a heck of a lot of Alf Garnet Tory lovers among supporters of Crusaders, The Glens or the Blues to save their political careers. The only alternative is to jump ship and join Robinson or Allister in the DUP or TUV.

    DW

  • Paddy Matthews

    Last week the Greens went to FF with a shopping list – everything from abolishing uni fees to abolishing fur farms and got it.

    Good news for badgers and mink, certainly.

    The human beings who the Greens will be relying upon to get re-elected may not be as impressed with getting NAMA and the evisceration of public services in exchange for those small furry animals.

    Oh, and complete reform of the planning system to boot. What are they in politics for? Lentil protests or real power. They have the latter.

    They have it for another two and a half years at most. After that they will have the task of trying to rebuild from a position of 3 county council seats out of 882 and (almost certainly) 0 Dáil seats out of 166. They may enjoy it while they can.

  • Comrade Stalin

    borderline:

    Last week the Greens went to FF with a shopping list – everything from abolishing uni fees to abolishing fur farms and got it. Oh, and complete reform of the planning system to boot. What are they in politics for? Lentil protests or real power. They have the latter.

    Yes, that’s what the Progressive Democrats used to say. RIP.

    UCSD:

    The SDLP and Alliance were both founded in 1970 “morphing” from other Liberal, Labour, Unionist and Nationalist parties in response to the troubles. That doesn’t make them “long-established”. It makes them the career choice of a single generation of local politicians.

    These events happened in the dying flames of a single-party regime which had stood for five decades. The Northern Ireland government imploded and took the then Unionist Party with it; and leftist politics arose out of a period of general economic malaise.

    I don’t think we are in the same scenario. I was not trying to suggest that the SDLP or Alliance were “long established”, I was referring to the tribal voting blocs, which you seem to believe are about to be swept away. As I commented here some time ago, I used to believe that the ceasefires and talks were just such a world-changing event, until the Forum elections in 1996.

    Alliance has lost Parsley to the Tories yet can’t provide a home to Hermon or other social-democrats of unionist/protestant background.

    Persuading people to vote for the alternative to tribalism is far from easy and it is not just an Alliance problem – look at the Tories, prior to their hookup, or the NI Labour Party – or the Greens, or the “socialist environmental alliance”. Heck, look at the candidacy of John Gilliland in the 2004 European elections – a candidate with none of the baggage of any one political party, who yet still failed to win a seat.

    What do you think has changed between 2004 and now ?

    Losing a key candidate to the Tories but failing to attract an MP or MLA’s who probably agree with almost the whole of your platform should be sending you some kind of message.

    The message that I am concerned with is that Alliance’s vote has risen consistently for a number of recent elections and that I believe it will continue to rise.

    There are various theories as to what exactly motivated IJP’s defection, and indeed, there are various theories as to how the electorate will respond to it. It’s not for me to comment on any of those. As far as I am concerned, that defection was an isolated incident. There have been a few defections of activists from other parties towards Alliance in recent years.

    Were you a Goth as a teen? You seem to think sulking aloofness the only credible style.

    I don’t see how pointing out some realities is being aloof. Namely, that Fianna Fail and Labour are both failed political parties who would lose heavily if there were an election tomorrow. The very idea that Labour can even be defined as social democratic, given the continuity Thatcherite approach to government that they followed, is one that begs credibility. You haven’t properly addressed this, unsurprisingly as it completely undermines your whole worldview.

    This point of view some people have, which seems to say that the sheep-like electorate in NI will blindly vote for a “real” party from London or Dublin, has been already demonstrated to have been wrong by the Conservatives in the 1990s, and by the fact that Labour and the Liberal Democrats refuse to organize here, because they know it will be a waste of time and effort.

    Seymour:

    There will bw a gap of at least 9 months between the General Election and the Assembly elections. In that time, I would expect this problem to be resolved by merger, if those legal difficulties can not be resolved.

    It’s very unsafe to believe that this gap will stand. An early election triggered by the resignation of the Deputy First Minister is distinctly possible. Stupid, I’d grant you, but possible.

    Garza,

    I agree that everyone is settled into a rut. What I do not agree with is the way that people think this rut will be broken.

    The UUP are not moderate unionists. There are some cases where they are moderate, but they are pervaded by hardliners like David McNarry, and Reg Empey who wrote to a newspaper a couple of months ago to protest the idea that a nationalist could be a Justice Minister. And they have not made a “move” towards non-tribalism, they are trying to use the Conservative Party as a crutch. They haven’t changed any of their policies.

    The association with the Conservatives may yet prove to be an albatross for the UUP, which they will be stuck with when times become hard for the Tories. That may not be the case right now, but we’ve still got six months to go until the general election.

  • borderline

    So the Greens in the ROI have made a mistake going into coalition with FF and will emulate the PDs into going into oblivion.

    We shall see.

    The Greens are in power in the ROI, in the only place that matters, the national Govt. No green has managed this in the UK, and indeed in vast swathes of Planet Earth.

    Of course they are down in the polls, as is virtually every govt. party in the western world. There’s a recession on.

    But to suggest that the legitimate representatives of an increasingly popular global environmental movement will follow the fate of a party based on animosity to an individual in a small island of the north-west coast of Europe is stretching your wishful thinking a bit Paddy.

  • Comrade Stalin

    borderline,

    I sympathize with the idea that political parties should try to be in power (this debate is similar with Alliance/justice ministry etc).

    However, choosing to do this with a governing party which is at a historic low ebb is where the mistake lies. This decision will be widely seen as being bought off to keep an unpopular party in power, and there will be a long term debt to pay for that.

  • Seymour Major

    UCSD,

    I dont know why Fianna Fail decided to postpone or abandon its ambition to enter Northern Ireland politics but I think it may have been just as well for them that they did not.

    There are problems already for a national party such as the Conservatives when they promote different policies for different parts of the United Kingdom.

    Those problems are dwarfed in comparison to a party whose politics cross a state border. Different policies are obviously needed for different regions.

    Fianna Fail would have examined the position of Sinn Fein very carefully. They may not have liked where they believed their problems were leading to.

    The problems of Sinn Fein operating in two states has not yet been exploited by UK and Northern Ireland politicians. In some ways it is not ethical to compare unlike with unlike but that is politics. The DUP are already trying to attack the Conservatives by comparing their English Education policy to that in Northern Ireland.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that Sinn Fein’s difficulties are being examined and will be exploited politically in the future.

  • LabourNIman

    Where will Labour unionists go? Well, they should join the NI Labour party.

    The Irish Labour party did some research into orginising here and came up with some interesting facts..

    http://www.labour.ie/northernireland/

    The truth is there is a vote for non sectarian parties in NI, we just need one with some clout to make put a real case across that NI will do just fine without the DUP, SF etc. Sadly alliance just isn’t capable.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Seymour,

    I think Fianna Fail are concerned only with power in the Dail. They chewed Sinn Fein up and spat them out when it looked like they might become a threat. However, they have no interest in doing this in NI.

    I don’t think you need to have two states to have problems with having a single policy for all regions. This applies to the Scottish parliament – and to NI.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The truth is there is a vote for non sectarian parties in NI, we just need one with some clout to make put a real case across that NI will do just fine without the DUP, SF etc. Sadly alliance just isn’t capable.

    Strong words from a party that doesn’t have a single council seat. Or, indeed, a website.

  • Garza

    Comrade Stalin,

    Yes there is hardliners in the UUP, but there is alot of unionist moderates like me who flutter between the UUP and Alliance and is in the UUP. The UUP will change over time as more and more new blood come in. New blood that isn’t shackled with the events of the troubles.

    This is a new process that has never been done before, because before it wouldn’t have worked. But Northern Ireland IS changing, labeit in some places faster than others, but it is changing.

    I vote for the Alliance in the last Assmebly elections and I can see why they are worried. This alliance has the potential to capture the centre vote, because it is striving for what moderates want most, left-right politics.

  • PaddyReilly

    There are still a few mysteries in the world, and what Sylvia intends to do next is one of them.

    The problem for the UUP Conservative link up is that the Conservatives are the party of rich people who live in the stockbroker belt of London and other major English cities. In a good year (i.e. when the Labour Party is very unpopular) they may extend their support into the rest of the English Countryside, but there are very few places outside this heartland in whose interest it is to support them.

    In NI the only Constituencies which might be thought to be likely to favour them are South Belfast and North Down. South Belfast obviously is lost, and the strange thing is that the sitting MP for North Down finds Conservative policies far too right wing for her constituents. As she is apparently very popular I assume that Conservative policies are far too right wing for her constituents.

    Consequently, NI will be a total liability for the Tory party. Its
    ability to help the Tories stay in office will be miniscule, and even this will be delivered at the cost of denying them any support for their policies.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I vote for the Alliance in the last Assmebly elections and I can see why they are worried.

    UCUNF obviously see Alliance as the threat, given how they appear to have issued a memo to their activists to keep saying that Alliance are worried about them.

    For the record, I am not worried. I think the electorate will see you for what you are – the Ulster Unionist Party in drag. And anytime the UUP mentions change and newness, all I have to do is mention David McNarry. Or the Orange Order.

  • Seymour Major

    Comrad Stalin,

    “…..and by the fact that Labour and the Liberal Democrats refuse to organize here, because they know it will be a waste of time and effort”

    I dont know enough about the Lib Dems but in relation to Labour not organising in Northern Ireland, it is not as simple as that. The Labour party are tied to an obligation to the SDLP. There is a fuller explanation of the position on this post from Jenny Muir

    http://southbelfastdiary.blogspot.com/2008/11/close-door-on-your-way-out.html

    The current situation is that the Northern Ireland Labour Party, headed by Boyd Black, intend to contest seats in the 2011 council elections. Expect more interest by Labour in Northern Ireland after the next General Election.

  • Paddy Matthews

    borderline:

    But to suggest that the legitimate representatives of an increasingly popular global environmental movement will follow the fate of a party based on animosity to an individual in a small island of the north-west coast of Europe is stretching your wishful thinking a bit Paddy.

    Actually, the Greens are in a worse position now than the PDs were in 2004. The PDs came out of that election with about 18 or 19 county council seats.

    Five of the Greens’ six Dáil seats are in Dublin. In spite of the (Green Party) Minister for the Environment tweaking the terms of reference of the commission who drew up the local election boundaries so as to favour smaller parties, they don’t have a single council seat left in Dublin. Not even in Fingal which was traditionally their strongest area.

    The remaining Dáil seat is in Carlow, where they got about 1% of the vote at the local elections.

    The Greens are on life support. The voters will flip the switch as soon as they get the chance.

    (And incidentally the PDs had long replaced animosity for the long-dead Haughey as their raison-d’etre with advocacy of the sort of supply-side economics that their ideological soulmate Charlie McCreevy used to over-inflate the Celtic Tiger.

  • fin

    reading UUP comments, I’m beginning to think, Lady Trimble is another elephant in the room. Can she be discribed as been

    a) New blood
    b) Non Tribal
    c) having cross community appeal.

    Can anyone name the wife/husband of a party leader whose politics were different?

    How does Mrs Trimbles politics differ from Mr Trimbles?

    If Parsley is the type of person the conservatives and the ‘non tribal’ UUP members want, wouldn’t it make sense to join up/join the Alliance and get a whole party instead of an individual.

    How will the UUP attract this ‘new blood’ and ‘non tribal’ following without ditching the conflict era tribal leadership?

  • Seymour Major

    Comrade Stalin,

    “The Alliance are not seen as a “threat”

    Politics needs to be looked at in a more mature way than that. Politics is a form of combat. If you dont look at a political opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly, you are not really doing much of a job. In politics, everybody party fighting the same election should be a threat to each other.

    Having said that, there is another angle about the battle for Alliance voters which can not be ignored. it is a fact that Conservatism has become much more Liberal under David Cameron’s leadership. In fact, as an ideology, there is very little daylight between David Cameron’s “progressive conservatism” and many forms of liberalism. It is also no surprise that voters who supported liberals in the last election now intend to support the conservatives.

    If you assume that the Alliance Party is the equivalent of the Lib Dems (actually, I am not persuaded by that), you can perhaps perceive that there is a considerable ideological overlap. I confess that I do not yet know much about Ian Parsley. I have not yet met him in person but I would not mind betting that this is the sort of comparison that he had uppermost in his mind when he defected.

  • granni trixie

    CS: for the record, Alliance already has Labour supporters in its ranks, infact it is already a kind of catch all party, which suits the NI situation (a point I have ‘laboured’ before in Slugger). So whilst ‘alliances’ with the Lib Dems is favoured by some elites in Alliance, the step of formal links is avoided, cooperation being the approach. Lefties would find in Alliance a culture in which having a social conscience is valued.

    On another matter, surprised to read thast IJP was at the Unionist Conference – did’t he slag them off in insisting he was joining the Conservatives? And how does he get over the hurdle in N. Down of ‘could you trust the man?’

  • DC

    The only problem with Alliance I found was that it was like having 11 people turning up to play football who looked like they were “team centrist”; but sadly they didn’t have any discernible strategy or proper tactics to win. It does now also have contradictory baggage from GFA processing – saving Private Trimble to keep the moderates in power (but failed) yet now taking up policing powers so as to save the more extreme parties’ electoral bacon!

    There does need to be a certain degree of constitutional awareness and acceptance, it does need to be defined but not in a way that has been brightly lit up here to represent the orange and greens. If you don’t know how you are constituted it is hard to organise yourself politically and to orientate policies and stances to the issues coming out of Britain and Ireland and indeed those affecting life here.

    For example, many economic issues rest with Britain re Sterling but there are many shared border issues affecting Northern Ireland demanding proper partnership working with Ireland to think up appropriate social policy and responses to in-migration etc.

    The two issues are 1) whether there is any point in coming at this from a unionist / nationalist point of view regionally here as it might be more progressive having a new party that is constitutionally centrist and is fluid along these scales i.e. North South East and West working. And 2) whether it necessitates a new Labour party so as to fulfill all concepts of the GFA by having a constitutional stance that took up British and Irish identities. Clearly labour has always been anti-racist so is best placed to try it, also none of our parties are rooted in a way that they could draw electoral support flexible enough to try it, and lastly a new party would be appealing to new voters and would be free from any sectarian baggage to give it a go.

    That is to say working those North South and East and West channels for the mutual good focusing perhap on Irish/European issues when the priorities require it, or changing tact if something of urgency is as a result of UK policy. Accepting each part of the new dispensation with genuine excitement and encouragement about trying something new – that is open, a chance to travel and work across Britain and Ireland and not closed to people by saying you’re only one not the other – you shouldn’t really bother with Irish or British identity / policy issues.

    There is a need for a labour party in working class unionist areas of course. Strong leadership from any labour party would be needed to work in partnership with the PUP, for example, on an issue basis so as to set about fixing the deprivation and vast inequalities at that level, which Unionism has ignored over time. There is no point trying to throw down organisational roots there whenever there are local parties and groups who already know the issues which you can draw ideas from. Best to augment something stronger by pulling together a centrist Labour party with labour-leaning working class from whatever background. It would be impossible to do everything at once.

  • DC

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention on here that Gordon Brown is under pressure:

  • Framer

    These likely candidates for the next general election in North Down rather suggest Sylia will have an uphill struggle:

    Alliance
    DUP
    Greens
    Hermon
    UCUNF

    Ther self-stated popularity of James Kilfedder MP certainly worked wonders for years but he maintained a hardline link to the DUP and when trouble loomed in 1987 he had to call in the Unionist Party to survive.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Seymour,

    I think Labour’s formal relationship with the SDLP is merely a convenient place for them to hide. Hence my assertion that they don’t want to get mixed up in politics over here, because it’s not a winner for them. If it was, they would find out a way of doing it. Let’s take an informal bet that Labour won’t be interested at all in NI politics after the election. Neither, I might add, will the Conservatives, when UCUNF fail to win any seats.

    Seymour:

    Politics needs to be looked at in a more mature way than that.

    I agree, but your party colleagues haven’t got the memo.

    it is a fact that Conservatism has become much more Liberal under David Cameron’s leadership.

    I do not accept that. Cameron’s Conservative Party is a Eurosceptic one. So much so that they have teamed up with some distinctly unsavoury elements in the EU Parliament. And I do not feel that the Tory suspicion on Europe is grounded in political matters; it is grounded in xenophobia, a watered down form of what takes form in the UKIP.

    In fact, as an ideology, there is very little daylight between David Cameron’s “progressive conservatism” and many forms of liberalism.

    I haven’t seen Cameron propose anything concrete that would allow me to make that determination. The only things I’ve seen from him are welfare cuts and public sector cutbacks. Which is Thatcherism.

    It is also no surprise that voters who supported liberals in the last election now intend to support the conservatives.

    I’m not convinced about that either. The swing will be from Labour, and the only reason why the swing will be happening will be over the perception that Labour have mishandled the economy.

    I confess that I do not yet know much about Ian Parsley. I have not yet met him in person but I would not mind betting that this is the sort of comparison that he had uppermost in his mind when he defected.

    The political spectrum inside Alliance is reasonably wide, and Ian would always have been to the right. I don’t think that is why Ian jumped, because like myself, Ian surely must know that the next election is not going to be fought in Northern Ireland on a left/right basis. I would guess that Ian believes, like myself, that before we can have that, we need to bring in non-tribal politics, and Ian says that he felt it would be better to do this in the Conservative Party.

    granni, I quite like the Labour Party in the RoI. I do not like the Labour Party in the UK, look at this disgrace over the Royal Mail that is happening right now. How can you support what the Dark Lord Mandelson is doing, and call yourself a social democrat ? Labour is a Thatcherite movement in drag, it abandoned progressive credentials a long time ago.

    It’s not going to be possible for Ian to avoid the fact that he is part of an alliance with the Ulster Unionists. Perhaps he has accepted, and embraced, that reality.

    (submit word – “blue”. How fitting!)

  • LabourNIman

    “Strong words from a party that doesn’t have a single council seat. Or, indeed, a website”

    Ahem, yes it does http://www.labourpartyni.org/

    Also, hate to be a stickler and all that but they currently are the governing party of the UK.

    It’s also the party that has ensured the peace process has actually made it this far when the “local’s” have been throwing their tantrums

  • Rory Carr

    ‘more better’!!! what language is that?

    Quite right, Joan. As we all in Tottenham know the correct usage should be, “much more betterer”.

    But what else can you expect from a bunch of thick Micks?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ahem, yes it does http://www.labourpartyni.org/

    Ah, I stand corrected. The Labour Party in NI does have a website. Which is an overlay on the UK site and barely mentions NI affairs at all. At least the NI Tories have had their party leader visit a few times, and have a bunch of NI things on their website.

    Also, hate to be a stickler and all that but they currently are the governing party of the UK.

    That strapline is bound to be a winner in 2010.

    It’s also the party that has ensured the peace process has actually made it this far when the “local’s” have been throwing their tantrums

    That’ll be another great strapline. “We know none of you voted for us before, but you have to admit we made a great colonial-style administration”.

    Alliance is surely doomed. We may as well just give up now.

  • DC

    “Ah, I stand corrected. The Labour Party in NI does have a website. Which is an overlay on the UK site and barely mentions NI affairs at all. At least the NI Tories have had their party leader visit a few times, and have a bunch of NI things on their website.”

    Yea because Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have never been here at all and worked to make things stick.

  • frustrated democrat

    CS
    It doesn’t matter how often your repeat ‘the CU’s won’t have a seat’ doesn’t make it true or any more than your biased opinion.

    I feel sorry for your fixation with the CU’s but I suppose if you think your party is facing obliteration it is understandable.

    SM

    I suspect the possible problems are with the minutiae of the Assembly rules, and will not present any real difficulties.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fd, what will make it true is the next set of election results. Which I’m looking forward to, as we’ll finally get a bit of peace from you lads.

  • cynic

    Framer

    I understand that the TUV is going to stand in North Down as well but that won’t stop Hermon holding the seat. Mr Parsley has punched well above his weight with the help of the Alliance election machine and the Tory PR machine. He will have a major “trust” problem in North Down and don’t expect all the local UUP activists to fall in behind him. A few of them fancied taking Hermon on. The Tories do not have any meaningful election machine in North Down and will be depending on the UUP suckers to do the spade work. One situation has bothered me since the defection of Parsley. If he had been elected as an Alliance MEP does anyone think that he would have been overcome with a Tory calling in September that would have had him resign his European seat to concentrate on his Tory career?….. no me neither!!

  • Comrade Stalin

    cynic, I reckon you have that about right.

    But never mind the Tories not having an election machine in North Down – they don’t have an election machine anywhere in NI. They could fly a few people in of course, but that means taking them away from the key marginals in England ?

  • Smithsonian

    Comrade Stalin
    The alliance party have lost the plot. They have become the same as all the other parties interested only in power and personal progression. The decision to take the Justice ministry will be a huge strategic mistake. It will demonstrate to all what a sanctimonious bunch of self seekers they are.

  • PaddyReilly

    what will make it true is the next set of election results.

    What’s wrong with the last set of election results? They’re only five months old. And they show that UCUNF, while it has inherited the UUP and Conservative vote without apparently losing any, has not gained any either. Alliance continues as before.

    Whether this translates into a seat for a UCUNF candidate in Westminster is impossible to say, and depends on the exact way the vote splits between TUV DUP and UCUNF, what Sylvia Hermon does and where Alliance stands.

    But I wouldn’t bank on a landslide. And the God’s own truth is they’ll be lucky to any seats at all.

  • granni trixie

    Smithsonion: Don’t follow your logic. It is obvious that Alliance has weighed up the risks of taking on the job and the circumstances under which they would do so (atttempts to get some cross party consensus on the programme etc).

    Alliance are very sensitive to self interest and I hear no talk internally suggesting that David Ford is perceived as wanting to do anything but that which is in the country’s interest. Its called “facing up to responsibility” …isn’t it a case of youre damned if you do,damned if you don’t?.

    Although I predict that if you did a vox pops you would find that people are happy enough to support such an appointment. Can you think of others who could comman the necessary degree of trust?

  • Comrade Stalin

    paddy:

    What’s wrong with the last set of election results? They’re only five months old. And they show that UCUNF, while it has inherited the UUP and Conservative vote without apparently losing any, has not gained any either. Alliance continues as before.

    UCUNF supporters are claiming that the world is changed and, particularly, the likelihood of a Conservative government in London means that Northern Ireland, like a bunch of wannabes, will want to vote for that same government (bet you they don’t use this argument in Scotland or Wales!). We can argue all day about whether they’re right or not, but the only way we’ll know is when the general election happens.

    Smithsonian:

    The alliance party have lost the plot. They have become the same as all the other parties interested only in power and personal progression. The decision to take the Justice ministry will be a huge strategic mistake. It will demonstrate to all what a sanctimonious bunch of self seekers they are.

    Of course Alliance is interested in power, that is why politicians do what they do, is it not ? The opportunity to implement an Alliance agenda at the justice ministry will be valuable and it is, of course, the only way in the long term that powersharing can be sustained.

    I’d love to hear what you think Alliance should do.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: The only things I’ve seen from him are welfare cuts and public sector cutbacks. Which is Thatcherism.
    How would *you* balance the books? Or is Alliance a million miles away from grown-up politics?

  • North Down Psephologist

    Cynic

    I agree.

    Much of the comment does not take into account the special feature of the North Down voter. They have a long record of supporting the person regardless of party and admire those who take an independent stance. E.g. both Kilfedder and McCartney split from the Unionist party and were elected as independent Unionists. Others such as Jane Morrice and Brian Wilson have benefitted from this independence streak.

    Sylvia will win if she decides to stand as an Independent.

    Prediction approximate turnout 33,000
    DUP 7,000
    Sylvia 12,500
    Alliance 2,500
    Con/UU 5,000
    TUV 3,000
    Greens 1,000
    SDLP 1,000
    Sinn Fein 200

    NOTE: More than half the Alliance vote and other non unionists will lend their support to Sylvia.

    While there is latent support for the Conservative party in North Down. Twenty years ago they were the largest party on North Down Council but the voters soon saw them in their true colours and they were quickly wiped out.

    Parsley is in fact grossly over rated as a candidate. In his only local election in Holywood he polled 200 less than the Green party candidate and had to rely on transfers from the DUP.

    In hindsight his performance in the European election was not impressive only 10,000 above the Green party candidate who had no real campaign and very few resources.

    Given that the Alliance vote had been increasing in series of previous bye elections and the anger against all the other parties because of the failure of the Assembly to work and anger at the expenses of M.P’s this is a poor result.

    It is possible that the Alliance would withdraw their candidate as they did in 2001 to ensure that Bob McCartney was defeated.

    I am sure that given the betrayal by Parsley after making him Deputy mayor of North Down and promoting him as European candidate the party would be happy to see him soundly trounced.

  • Smithsonian

    When I was involved with Alliance admittedly some years ago it was on the basis of trying bring people together. I saw their role as a small but significant catalyst whose primary functions was to build bridges. The Alliance party appears to have taken a different tack. I do not understand why it is pandering to the DUP and SF. This reinforces the sectarian divide. IMO Alliance should be seeking to bolster the activities of other parties not usurp them.

    If Alliance does take Justice it will leave itself open to a charge of opportunism and it will destroy its relationship with the UUP and SDLP. I realise that you are not a big supporter of these two but surely you should be trying to strengthen the middle ground not destroy it.

  • Seymour Major

    Comrad Stalin,

    I’ve been away a few hours. I want to answer some of the things you have said on No. 13

    “I think Labour’s formal relationship with the SDLP is merely a convenient place for them to hide”

    I invite you to look deeper into Labour party history. Until 2007, NI residents were barred from being a member of the Labour Party until that was taken to the High Court. Without going into any detail, I believe you will find that there was a link between Labour’s pre-partition history and that ban. Labour’s interest in NI is behind that of the Conservatives but they are evolving their thinking. You seem to have ignored their commitment to fight Council elections in 2011. That is a stepping stone. I believe they will fight the General Election in 2014-15.

    “I do not accept that. Cameron’s Conservative Party is a Eurosceptic one.”

    I would suggest here that you have misunderstood the reasons why conservatives are Eurosceptic. Euroscepticism is an umbrella term for general conservative outlook on Europe. However, the term does not properly hang together with any particular ideology. Indeed, party positions have changed since the UK joined Europe. For example, in 1983, the Labour Party wanted to take the UK out of the European Union altogether. Now they wont even allow a referendum on Lisbon.

    The Conservative position on Europe has been much more consistent over the years. Conservative Eurosceptism exists not because the Conservatives are in some way anti- European. That is nonsense and that sets us apart from UKIP. There are two fundamental pillars of thinking which make up Conservative Euroscepticism. These are

    (1) In relation to Sterling, that it is necessary for the UK economy to have control over its monetary policy.
    (2) That most European Countries are driven by emotion towards a European Superstate as a result of the experience of World War II rather than a proper considered view of the best interests of the European nations.

    The trouble is, the Conservatives have to work with parties they would not otherwise want to in order to form a party block. Europe needs the conservatives to act as a check its own excesses.

    “I haven’t seen Cameron propose anything concrete that would allow me to make that determination.”

    I hope you are not under the impression that liberalism means sustaining welfare benefits. Whether you like it or not, a budget has to be balanced at the end of the day. Overall, the Conservative view of welfare is that people should be helped if they can not help themselves but they should also be enabled to take responsibility, where they can. In his 2009 party conference speech, Cameron emphasized that conservative policies will be designed to tackle welfare dependency. That is setting people free from the poverty trap. Whether you like it or not, it is enfranchisement and that sits perfectly well with old style liberalism.

    Perhaps easier examples to grasp of more similarity between the modern conservatives and liberals are the fact that the Conservative Party is now much greener and more libertarian (hence its position on the 42 day bill)

    “I’m not convinced about that either. The swing will be from Labour……..”

    You should be. At the last election, the Lib dems polled 23.68%. In the opinion polls, they have averaged 19% in the last 6 months. The Lib Dems. lost ground to the Conservatives in the last Council Elections. As opinion polls currently stand, they are set to lose about 20 seats to the Conservatives at the next General Election.

  • Garza

    Seymour, Lib Dems always poll poorly in between elections, but when the election comes up and the Lib Dems get more coverage they jump around 5 points.

  • frustrated democrat

    NDP

    I suspect she will not run she knows she cannot win in a first past the post election. In a PR election for the Assembly she would be more likely to succeed as an independent.

    So your forecast is irrelevant.

  • Comrade Stalin

    North Down Psephologist :

    In hindsight his performance in the European election was not impressive only 10,000 above the Green party candidate who had no real campaign and very few resources.

    European elections have never been that good for Alliance. Back when the party was doing 10% in elections, and Alderdice had the highest personal vote in NI, the European result was not a lot higher than Parsley scored this year.

    It is possible that the Alliance would withdraw their candidate as they did in 2001 to ensure that Bob McCartney was defeated.

    Alliance acted in the past to bolster pro-agreement politicians during a time when the institutions were in considerably more shaky ground than they are now. Things are not so shaky anymore, so I don’t feel that the justification for standing aside still exists. I don’t think the TUV pose the threat to things that the anti-agreement forces of the past did, although I wouldn’t underestimate them.

    I am sure that given the betrayal by Parsley after making him Deputy mayor of North Down and promoting him as European candidate the party would be happy to see him soundly trounced.

    I am reasonably optimistic that we will see all of the Unionist/Conservative candidates trounced, and I think the odds are on my side that this will happen. A major contributor will be the outcome of the UCUNF joint selection committees, which play right into the hands of the party’s opponents in the DUP and TUV.

    Smithsonian:

    If Alliance does take Justice it will leave itself open to a charge of opportunism and it will destroy its relationship with the UUP and SDLP. I realise that you are not a big supporter of these two but surely you should be trying to strengthen the middle ground not destroy it.

    I’m wondering what planet you are living on. I would be all in favour of a broad coalition incorporating moderate unionists and nationalists. There are a couple of obvious problems with this. Firstly, the UUP are not moderates. Half of them are from no-rassic park. They can’t abide a taig about the place. A group of respectable moderates – perhaps like the SDLP – would implement involuntary powersharing. Not the UUP, who still prefer to side with the DUP and TUV rather than allowing a taig anywhere near the levers.

    As for the SDLP, I think they are moderates and good parliamentarians, and there are some capable administrators among their number. However, they have consistently worked to undermine Alliance, from 1992 onwards. Alliance made a number of sacrifices in order to bolster the UUP and SDLP, and what did we get for it ? A kick in the teeth, which contributed to the electoral decline we have only just been able to turn around. The decline of the SDLP and UUP does Alliance no harm; the DUP and SF (who are now the moderates in the arrangement) will suck up the constitutional votes leaving a moderate core that Alliance must work to win over. That is by no means a given, of course.

    The complete mess that we are in, with the DUP and SF being in control, is the price that has been paid for the lack of foresight of the UUP and SDLP who architected a political system that works like a centrifuge, with all the power being concentrated in the extremes, the faster the wheel turns. It is fitting that these two parties should die by the sword that they forged themselves. I personally see no benefit to keeping either of these two parties on life support.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Seymour,

    Thank you for taking the trouble to make that well-reasoned and civilized argument.

    The Conservatives have always had rump of support here. Labour do not, they don’t even have someone to update a website for them or blog on their behalf. We have had Labour councillors before, excellent representatives like Mark Langhammer, but their appeal was nothing to do with being part of a “big party” on the mainland (which is a key part of the Conservative/Unionist appeal – “be part of the next government!”). Indeed, being part of the larger Labour Party would be a serious liability at the moment.

    I would suggest here that you have misunderstood the reasons why conservatives are Eurosceptic.

    I’m not really concerned about the reasons. I’d much rather have the Euro than Sterling. As we have seen lately, the Bank of England is somewhat subject to political influence; having monetary policy control has not saved us from being worse off than the rest of Europe in terms of the current recession. I would like to see the UK play an influential role in the heart of Europe, within the Euro.

    The way the debate over the UK being in the Euro (which has been muted somewhat of late) goes over the next 12-24 months will have a lot to do with the rate at which the UK economy returns to prosperity with respect to the eurozone.

    I am aware of those opinion poll results with respect to the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems have a job on their hands to get that situation turned around, that is quite plain. Personally, I think the Conservatives are in real danger of peaking early on and will run out of steam before polling day. Especially over here, with the debacle in the making that is the UUP/Tory selection procedure. But it would be a mistake to design a strategy around assuming that they run themselves into the ground.

  • North Down Psephologist

    F D

    I suspect your comments are just wishful thinking and you know nothing about the voters of North Down. They have always supported maverick independent candidates who are willing to put their constituents before party.

    It is wishful thinking to suggest Sylvia will not run. Over the past few months she has been seen at dozens of charity and community events, school prize givings etc. where she is always the centre of attention and extremely popular. She works with the people at the grass roots and her popularity is not obvious to those outside North Down.

    If you are so confident she cannot win who do you suggest could beat her? North Down voters vote for the person not the party and although I personally will not be voting for her I have no doubt that person will be Sylvia.

    C S

    Having canvassed for Alderdice in 1979 I do recognise that Alliance have difficulty in European elections but given the allowances scandal and the parties effective role in highlighting the failure of the Assembly to deal with issues such as a shared future, I do believe that with a better candidate than Parsley the party could have significantly increased its vote.

    During the Euro election campaign I heard potential Alliance voters in Holywood refer to him as pompous, smug, and arrogant. Not great qualities for an Alliance candidate but perhaps perfect for a Conservative candidate!

    Regarding the prospect of Alliance withdrawing from North Down some local party members would favour this, but even if Alliance stand, many Alliance supporters will lend Sylvia their votes to stop a TUV, DUP, Conservative MP being elected. This is what happened in 2005 when almost 60% of those who voted Alliance in the local elections transferred to Sylvia in the Westminster election held on the same day to make certain the DUP would not get elected.

    These voters supported Sylvia against the DUP but returned to Alliance in the next election.

  • northern whig

    CS is still right to urge Alliance to be ready to run against Sylvia if needs be. The growth of genuinely progressive and centrist politics across Northern Ireland is too important to be continually sacrificed to tactical campaigns against local anti-agreement candidates.

    At the next election Alliance should only be prepared to withdraw a candidate in favour is another who is:

    1. Pro-agreement
    2. Pro-bilateral or Dickson federated schools
    3. Pro-Euro
    4. Pro-Irish Language Act
    5. Pro-public sector wage reform & private sector growth
    6. Pro-civil rights
    7. Capable of winning if Alliance withdraws

    These are policies which Alliance has committed to in its recent conference motions. If Sylvia can’t openly commit to these things then Alliance should wish her luck but run against her.

    People often accuse Alliance of being wishy-washy or sitting on fences. The list above is clearly distinct from the policies of all of the four (four!) right-wing unionist alternatives.

    If self-declared left-wing Unionists can’t bring themselves to openly champion a centre-left policy platform then Alliance owes them no favours.

    What Alliance should be asking itself though, is why, when together the Labour Party and Lib Dems take c.60% of the vote in GB (where there’s no nationalist party) in Northern Ireland Alliance, as the sole centre-left choice to non-nationalists isn’t picking up a much greater proportion of non-nationalist vote. Perhaps Alliance needs a bit of a relaunch with both a more grass-roots approach to local politics and a greater stress on the centre/centre-left position of its policies and its international and historical associations.

  • Holywoodite

    ND Psephologist

    I really think you should return to Planet Earth, son.

    How did you canvass for Alderdice in 1979? He stood in 1989!

    You say Alliance should have stood a better candidate. Can you name one?

    You say people said he was “smug” etc – who, precisely, said that? I live and work in Holywood and voted for Parsley number three, but I never heard anyone say that (and I gather Parsley actually topped to poll comfortably).

    There is simply no prospect whatsoever of Sylvia holding the 12,000 she scored last time with a UCUNF and Green candidate also in the race.

    Really, there’s more to honest debate than making stuff up!

    I don’t always agree with Comrade, but at least he writes on the basis of actual evidence!

  • Holywoodite

    Northern Whig

    On that basis, by the way, Alliance should withdraw in favour of Parsley!

  • Junior Apparatchik

    If Alliance even considers backing Hermon (a designated Unionist), it will be the ultimate proof the party doesn’t really stand for anything.

    Alliance must stand as Alliance, in all 18 constituencies.

  • Junior Apparatchik

    By the way, if Sylvia felt she wanted to stand under any guise, she would have showed up yesterday.

    She’s an honorable woman and she’ll make an honorable exit.

    Then it’ll be Parsley versus Weir for the seat. I hope Parsley wins.

  • DC

    Here’s my hunch that Holywoodite and Junior Apparatchik are both actually IJP.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    FAO Comrade Stalin:

    http://www.allianceparty.org/news/003913/ford_says_alliance_will_not_take_policing_and_justice_ministry.html

    Now which one is it?
    1. Northern Ireland no longer ‘needs a strong coherent opposition?
    2. The Executive is no longer in a mess re education/environment/sports stadium?
    3. The Alliance Party have realised there uselessness and have jumped at the whiff of power?

    Hmmms

  • North Down Psephologist

    DC

    I think that your hunch that Holywoodite and Junior Apparatick are in factIJP may be correct when both suggest that IJP is a serious contender to Sylvia.
    Any serious observer would recognise that Sylvia would be a hot favorite to win the seat and that the only potential (however remote)threat would be from the DUP.
    Holywoodite
    Sorry I got the year of the Alderdice candidacy wrong but your statement that Sylvia polled 12000 in the last election is more relevent when she in fact polled over 16000 with an Alliance candidate present is much more significant as to who is in touch with reality.

  • Comrade Stalin

    IJP, it is transparently obvious that you’re posting under a pseudonym. Sorry old horse 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin

    northern whig,

    Sensible comments, but then again I suspect you are a supporter 🙂 Some clarification :

    These are policies which Alliance has committed to in its recent conference motions. If Sylvia can’t openly commit to these things then Alliance should wish her luck but run against her.

    Note that motions which are brought to conference are not binding on the party as policy positions. This is true of most parties, I think.

    I seem to recall in the past that the Tories used to have terrible trouble over a crowd who used to bring forward a conference motion about bringing back the birch. If I have it right, I remember this embarassing Duncan Smith in particular, as a motion to that effect was passed while he was in charge. Nonetheless, conference motions are a way for the party to ultimately formulate policy, but the party governing bodies are free to ignore them. Alliance’s governing bodies, like those of other political parties, meet in private and internal decisions aren’t generally made public, although having been to quite a few such meetings, there’s very little that goes on that would surprise anyone.

    If self-declared left-wing Unionists can’t bring themselves to openly champion a centre-left policy platform then Alliance owes them no favours.

    Touche, as they say.

    What Alliance should be asking itself though, is why, when together the Labour Party and Lib Dems take c.60% of the vote in GB (where there’s no nationalist party) in Northern Ireland Alliance, as the sole centre-left choice to non-nationalists isn’t picking up a much greater proportion of non-nationalist vote. Perhaps Alliance needs a bit of a relaunch with both a more grass-roots approach to local politics and a greater stress on the centre/centre-left position of its policies and its international and historical associations.

    I ask myself that question a lot, but you will notice that non-tribal parties generally tend not to be successful here. It’s not that there is a shortage of alternatives; we’ve got several left parties (NI Labour, Worker’s Party, Eamonn McCann’s crowd) and we’ve had the Conservatives, the Greens, and hell, even the Natural Law. And it’s not a case of people being worried about wasting their vote, as these parties have all run under elections which are STV, and we know that people understand how this avoids wastage since the small parties all tend to do better under it. That’s why I’m very suspicious of people who say “if only there were a real left/right alternative, they would get my vote”. That isn’t the way the NI electorate actually think, based on the copious evidence in the ballot boxes.

    That’s not to say that Alliance does not have areas where it needs to improve, of course it does. Building non-tribal politics is not easy to do (although it is right to say that it should be easier now, in a violence-free environment), and it’s not as simple as putting up a simple set of policies, or indeed a charismatic frontman. Which is where I think UCUNF are going to fail.

    NDP, I think that IJP is a serious contender for Sylvia, he has a better chance of beating her than any of the other unionists. That does not mean that I think he will win. If he does, it will be by accident, with the cards all falling on the table the right way up in terms of the unionist split.

    I know very little about grassroots politics in North Down. If Sylvia decides to run as an independent, will she take parts of the local UUP association with her ? Popular as she may be, she’ll need to get out and work the constituency to win the seat and avoid the abovementioned split.

  • Framer

    Psespholohgist

    I doubt the TUV will stand. Where does that put your prediction?

  • Standup

    Sylvia Hermon should persuade the Labour Party to let her stand as their candidate.

    They’ve already stated that they will put up candidates in 2011. So why not test the waters by having one candidate in the General Election a year earlier?

    North Down has shown in the past that it is willing to embrace change e.g. Laurence Kennedy’s considerable vote in 1992, standing for the Conservatives. But is Sylvia brave enough to stand up for her principles and the Labour Party?

  • Garza

    Standup, now THAT would be interesting. However the British Labour Party is pussy-footing around and making excuses about links with the SDLP.

  • united community social democrat

    That’s a beautiful thought Standup.

    Labour using the UUP’s only MP to attack Reg & Dave’s deal.

    A Sylvia Hermon & Kate Hoey double act on the campaign might be irresistible.

    Today’s news

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8325494.stm

    “The Ulster Unionists’ only MP, Sylvia Hermon, has said she refused to attend the party’s conference because of her unhappiness at a pact with the Tories.”

    Given the protests from Tories that she never goes anyway you have to admire her timing.

  • I think Comrade Stalin is right to say that we should be sceptical of the idea that British parties would mean a left/right division magically appearing. Despite what people like to think, actually NI is a fairly right-wing society, and the national question is dominant. The 11 Plus debacle, and the fact that all the parties – except the Provos who can’t to save face – have moved to accomodate the middle classes on this says something. Dawn Purvis hit home I thought when she noted that she had been left off the invitation list for Aliiance#s meetings on this.It might be the case that like the Lib Dems, Alliance is shifting rightward to some extent.

    In short, people who want left /right politics, need to get off their asses and get involved in local politics instead of waiting for the British to rescue us. Building a left alternative is of course complicated by the need to build a united community. Which means cooperating with people to the right. Like IJP for example.

    Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

  • Garza

    Garibaly, no-one is suggesting that left-right politics is going to spring here overnight, not with the NI electorate. But I do believe that the UUP/Tory alliance is the first step in a long journey towards that.

    There is no reason why NI cant be like Wales and Scotland with Con, Lib Dem, Labour and a nationalist party.

    The British parties are needed for this because all political partied need £££ to campaign. Thats why small parties find in hard to take up root in politics.

    Can you imagine a British party run campaign system in NI with all the finanical resources. That’s why Im looking forward to this election.

    We should be getting more MP’s as well.

    Wales – 40 Mp’s – pop 2,903,085
    NI – 18Mp’s – pop 1710300

  • Dewi

    Garza – I have a strange suspicion that equalising the number of MPs might mean reducing Welsh MPs rather than increasing yours…

  • Garza

    Yeah that could be a solution.

    Either way NI gets a bigger say in Westminister.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Standup,

    Sylvia Hermon should persuade the Labour Party to let her stand as their candidate.

    Yes. “Vote for me and another five years of Gordon Brown” is such a compelling political platform at the moment.

    UCSD, the Belfast Telegraph reported today that Sylvia was photographed walking her dog during conference on Saturday. Evidently, she tipped the media off that she would quite deliberately not be there.

    Dawn Purvis hit home I thought when she noted that she had been left off the invitation list for Aliiance#s meetings on this.It might be the case that like the Lib Dems, Alliance is shifting rightward to some extent.

    I believe that the Alliance initiative was about trying to act as a mediator to broker a deal between the executive parties. The PUP aren’t an executive party. I doubt a snub was intended, personally speaking I have a lot of time for Dawn, who talks a lot of sense. Now that the UVF have apparently disarmed there is less of an issue in working with her than before.

    In short, people who want left /right politics, need to get off their asses and get involved in local politics instead of waiting for the British to rescue us.

    That’s about as good a summation of the issue that I have yet heard. You’re absolutely right, this “if only the mainstream UK parties would organize here, then everyone would support them” belies the notion that we are not capable of thinking for ourselves and need others to do it for us.

    Garza:

    There is no reason why NI cant be like Wales and Scotland with Con, Lib Dem, Labour and a nationalist party.

    This line belies the attitude of assimilation that I would expect from a colonial governor. Why don’t those pesky natives civilize themselves and fall into line ? And I find it deliciously ironic that the Conservatives believe that assimilation is appropriate at a national level, but completely inappropriate at a European level.

    The British parties are needed for this because all political partied need £££ to campaign. Thats why small parties find in hard to take up root in politics.

    But the Conservative Party threw the kitchen sink at their Northern Ireland grouping years ago. Yet they failed. Money is nothing without a grassroots organization. I refer the honourable gentleman to James Goldsmith and the Referendum Party.

    That is why the Tories have bothered to hook up with the UUP in the first place. They’re hoping to marry the UUP’s grassroots with their financial warchest.

  • DC

    @’Yes. “Vote for me and another five years of Gordon Brown” is such a compelling political platform at the moment.’

    Labour is a cause and not a career that’s why it isn’t here in our wee place, too many opportunists and careerists about.

  • IJP

    Comrade

    I’d have struggled to post on here under any name for the past 72 hours – my account has bizarrely been diverting the Slugger address to the BBC CBeebies site for some reason! It’s for others to judge where the higher standard of discussion is…!

    I am only sorry the thread didn’t stick more closely to its title because it’s a very interesting point Conall raises.

    Likewise, of course, where now for centre-right Nationalists?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ian,

    It’s just too much like your writing style. Especially the selective bold type. Of course, that’s no guarantee that you were sockpuppeting. But I’ll reserve judgement 🙂

    Likewise, of course, where now for centre-right Nationalists?

    Fun in the Fianna Fellini crime family ..

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC:

    Labour is a cause and not a career that’s why it isn’t here in our wee place, too many opportunists and careerists about.

    The sight of Lord Mandelson and Gordon Brown berating the evil backward-looking Royal Mail union is all I need to know about where the Labour cause stands at the moment.

  • borderline

    “There is no reason why NI cant be like Wales and Scotland with Con, Lib Dem, Labour and a nationalist party.”

    one tiny reason.

    Northern Ireland doesn’t have a “nationalist” party because it is not a “nation”.

  • John East Belfast

    borderline

    You are right – it should ahve read “separatist party”