Proposed Westminster pact could have big implications for Stormont

Eamonn’s scoop about “secret talks” could eventually open up a whole new vista for unionism, if they came off. But one side’s new vista is the other’s deep gloom. If a pan- unionist pact with the Conservatives develops, fears of unionist triumphalism will consolidate nationalism around Sinn Fein and threaten the likely new SDLP leader’s seat in South Belfast.

However if they don’t make a hash of it, I contend that unionist consolidation could significantly enhance the chances of stable government at Stormont. If it happened it would be the first time in a hundred years that unionists of all stripes came together, rather than falling out, and apart.The impulse towards unity under power sharing was last explored jointly by both parties – and quickly quashed – by two young politicians in 1987, Frank Millar of the UUs — and one Peter Robinson of the DUP. Both of them got their fingers burnt for trying. It was nearly 20 years before Robinson revived the idea of his own free will. Upon the anvil of today’s extraordinary crisis, there are signs that 41 years after the first big intra- Unionist split in the O’Neill election of 1969, unionists of all shades and at a tortoise’s pace, are learning the hard lesson, that endless splitting to the right has delivered them pathetically little, right up to the point Trimble took the Damascus road. And that nearly destroyed the party. The shortlived weak United Ulster Unionist Council which was formed to destroy the first power sharing executive of 1974 also wrecked Conservative prospects of returning to power. Yet the UUUC and the succeeding Molyneaux minimalism achieved little for mainstream unionism, already riven over their response to direct rule. All it did was to expose uniomist impotence and give coalition member the DUP a big boost on the long road to unionist dominance. Even the eventual gain of 6 extra seats was a chimera. It ended the unionist near-monopoly at Westminster. Out of all that, the DUP learned the wrong lessons, until their assumption of the leading unionist role forced a radical rethink. Now they know what’s sticking to them, as they say on the Newtownards Road.

How times have changed. New lessons are being learned all the time. In 1998, it was hoped that the parties of the centre would impel the parties of the extreme towards compliance, and reap the electorate rewards. Next, it was the parties of the extremes which held the key. Sinn Fein and the DUP could not be outflanked on the right, could they? Wrong again. So why not try consolidation?

But this is to jump several hurdles at once. An electoral pact and a post-election deal to support a putative Cameron minority government is difficult enough, with so much bad blood and added complications for candidate selection. It is something else entirely for Stormont.

What Cameron stands to gain is obvious. What’s in it for unionism? Very little remains in the direct gift of the UK government. Under the GFA, nationalism will veto radical reform like the DUP’s dream of voluntary coalition. An amendment of the St Andrews Act to allow group designations instead of parties to nominate the First Minister seems more feasible. But even this would require nationalist and Irish government political approval. No, on fundamental reform, the local parties are on their own, aside from warm words. Might the prospect of stable government impel them towards a single unionist party? Or would the new political baby present a bigger tempting target to TUV, the new DUP? History suggests not the latter; in spite of Paisley’s charisma, it took the DUP decades to build up the numbers. And time is not on Jim Allister’s side. The bigger threat was – maybe still is – a DUP split or rapid retreat to the default right. For now, at least they’ve learned the lesson from the anarchic old Ulster Unionist party. Keep discipline under pressure The greatest favour the Tories can do is to keep urging them to agree to the devolution of policing and justice. Huge responsibilites rest with Cameron and his untried cohorts not to disturb the foundations of power sharing and the British-Irish partnership. It would a Tory blunder of the first magnitude if they were to introduce a new instability into the system just when many are working so hard to get rid of the old one.

  • Paul

    Speculation is a good word for all of this.until the facts if there are any come out it seems rather silly to speculate.

  • BryanS

    I can see no possibility of UUP and DUP coming together. The natural members of the UUP have little in common with the religion dominated DUP. In fact the UUP have much more in common with the SDLP on every issue except of course the union which is a non-issue for the forseeable future.

  • Paul

    can see no possibility of UUP and DUP coming together. The natural members of the UUP have little in common with the religion dominated DUP. In fact the UUP have much more in common with the SDLP on every issue except of course the union which is a non-issue for the forseeable future.
    Posted by BryanS on Jan 20, 2010 @ 03:16 PM

    I dont think they will come together I think its Eamonn mallie stiring the pot.

  • “the UUP have much more in common with the SDLP on every issue” Umm…

    A UUP and SDLP common position on education – pro or anti selection? On devolution of P&J – d’Hondt (SDLP Justice Minister)) or not? On Parades Commission – abolish/replace, reform/keep? Labour supporting or Conservative supporting? State control or individual freedom? ? ? ? ?

  • BryanS

    There is however a possibility that some of the less bigoted members of the DUP could return to the UUP while the remainder join the TUP.
    And of course Mr M is stitrring the pot.

  • someone

    Given the profound dislike that UUP and CP members have for the DUP this all seems to me like just so much sh*t stirring by Eamonn Mallie. And nationally can you imagine the damage any association with the DUP would inflict on Cameron?

    So not going to work locally, not going to work nationally, and the whole thing based solely on Mallie’s interpretation of some very sparsely worded statements… Methinks Mr Mallie is being used by his DUP sources to generate some distractions.

  • BryanS

    A UUP and SDLP common position on education – pro or anti selection? On devolution of P&J – d’Hondt (SDLP Justice Minister)) or not? On Parades Commission – abolish/replace, reform/keep?

    Yes why not?

  • Paul

    If anybody falls for the pot stiring of mallie they are daft.

  • Paul

    Here confirmation below the conservatives and unionists will stand in all 18 seats.People should take no notice of the pot stiring

    As the BBC report:
    A senior Conservative spokesman said the discussions were focused on the current difficulties at Stormont.

    The spokesman said: “So far as the Westminster election is concerned, the only deal is the current deal between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists.

    “We will be putting up 18 Conservative and Unionist candidates at the next election,” he said.

    All CU voters can rest easy – this is just an attempt to destablise.

  • alan56

    Mallie didn’t arrange the meeting. What were they talking about? Why no Reg. Tom Elliot, FST?

  • Neil

    If anybody falls for the pot stiring (sic) of mallie they are daft.

    I’ve been frequenting this site for about 6 years now and have never in that time met anyone who could use so many words and posts to say nothing at all. At least your continuous incorrect spelling of the word stirring shows that you’ve mastered cut and paste. That and almost all of your posts.

  • Paul

    I’ve been frequenting this site for about 6 years now and have never in that time met anyone who could use so many words and posts to say nothing at all.
    Posted by Neil on Jan 20, 2010 @ 04:35 PM

    good for you jog on.lol lol

  • I doubt there will an electoral deal with the DUP, however could this be the Tories looking for partners were there to be a hung parliament after general election.

    The Tories options of partners are not wide as the nationalists will not give them the time of day and the liberals are unlikely to step up to the plate due to Cameron’s policies of ‘cuts, cuts, and more cuts, let the economically poor pay.’

    That leaves ‘David Cameron, hug a hoodie for I’m just an ordinary guy’ with little option but to get into bed with the most reactionary party in the UK. (I wonder how Cameron’s pink pound crowd feel about that?)

    So the header should read. Proposed Westminster pact could have big implications for UK.

    Still this will not be the first time Unionists have helped place a rightwing Tory government in power.

  • Cynic2

    My how many here want to shoot the poor messenger. I never thought of Eamonn as an endangered species before

    The great advantage from a Stormont standpoint could lie in Unionist Unity giving the middle ground the confidence to boldly carry forward the agreement with nationalists unafraid of sniping from the sidelines.

    Yes, short term some of the fringe DUPs may skip off to join the TUV but that will mean either a clear outbreak of ethics for them or a foolish political calculation.

    The main new party would have such a block of support that it could confidently ignore these mosquito bites and forge ahead in partnership with nationalists. And its worth remembering that that confidence would come because

    1 despite the SF waffle the deal secures the Union for a s long as we want it

    2 many unionists support the Agreement and support doing the deal with Nationalists

    At the extreme what could be on offer is not just a UUP and DUP meger but a 3 way tie up with the Conservatives to create a new centrist Unionist / Tory Group committed to a common manifesto. That would also help to lift NI politics out of just the local swamp into National issues – somewhere it hasn’t been since about 1926! If nationalists can only do the same – both in Ireland and Britain – it will benefit us all.

  • Cynic2

    ” it seems rather silly to speculate”

    So interviews and direct quotes don’t do it for you then Paul. What do you want? A full two days video of the meeting on You Tube and a Solemn Covenant signed in blood with DNA evidence of those who signed it?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Theres much talk of reallignment …..UUP/AP/SDLP but its nonsensical.
    When push comes to showve Unionists are unionists and nationalists are not.
    The 2005 Westminster Election…particuarly losing South Belfast to a Catho….oops “one of the other sort”…I mean nationalist……really was a wake up call. They cant actually play games now.
    The 10-8 arithmetic is not tolerable for them so steps will be under way (Tom Elliott is in the talks) to get Arlene designated runner in FST and the UUP will prolly get a clear run in South Belfast ……well thats the thing……UUP get North Down…….and South Antrim goes to DUP (all those double jobbing seats Strangfrd, East Antrim, come into the mix.
    Its not rocket science.
    And where does Brian walker get the notion that unionism would be united “for first time in 100 years”? From 1922 to 1970 it was pretty “united” give or take a few nutters.

    Unionists have had pacts before…..it even led to them losing a seat in Newwry-Armagh……as tactics to keep……yaknow…..the other kind out. Now its “pro union” terminology so all very respectable.
    Whether this produces the single unionist party that has been missing for a generation. Hardly.

  • Neil

    Ok Paul, here are your posts from the two threads I’ve read on this discussion:

    … issues me thinks you are stiring (sic) the pot and looking for something that isnt there.Hmmmm naughty naugty

    Well I didn’t think it was even worth posting the thread its clear to me eamonn mallie is stiring (sic) the pot.

    I think that’s all it was garza there will be 18 CU candidates its Mr Mallie stiring (sic) with his big spoon.lol lol

    I dont think they will come together I think its Eamonn mallie stiring (sic) the pot.

    If anybody falls for the pot stiring (sic) of mallie they are daft.

    Here confirmation below the conservatives and unionists will stand in all 18 seats.People should take no notice of the pot stiring (sic)

    So you think Mallie is stirring the pot and you need to post it six times in order to get your point over? Real original lol lol try growing a brain lol lol and saying something original lol lol without prefacing it with the words I think lol lol or ending with lol lol. Makes you come across a bit thick lol lol.

    Incidentally syaing the same thing over and over is called spamming, something Ulster Watcher got pulled up for on another thread. Quite aside from cheerleading which you’ve been pulled for already, spamming is against the rules. I don’t really care about that, but if you’re incapable of making your point without repeating yourself six times then that must make you pretty inarticulate.

    Lol. <------------- No actually. I'm laughing out loud. At you.

  • Garza

    1 despite the SF waffle the deal secures the Union for a s long as we want it

    Cynic2 how so?? It doesn’t matter how many unionist parties there is, doesn’t matter if there is just one. When it deals with the future of the union it is a NI referendum.

    A unionist pact is going to halt a united ireland if over 50% want one. Therefore unionist pacts are useless when it comes to union. Thats why I’m against them.

    I’m not voting for a evolution denying, the world is 6000 years old politican who thinks that catholicism is the Satan’s religion just because he is a unionist, I have standards.

    Voting for unionists will not make secure the union.
    Voting for nationalists will not make a UI come quicker.
    It is down to the people.

    When will people realise this?

  • Paul

    So you think Mallie is stirring the pot

    try growing a brain and saying something original without prefacing it with the words I think l or ending with Makes you come across a bit thick

    you are pretty inarticulate.

    I’m laughing out loud. At you.
    Posted by Neil on Jan 20, 2010 @ 05:13 PM

    Personal insults above water of a ducks back to me sonny it only makes you look a nasty piece of work

  • Cynic2

    Garza

    My apologies if it was unclear. I was writing in the context of earlier posts – the deal in question is the Good Friday / St Andrews one – the one we voted for.

    Agree completely on the flat earthers – but how many of them would stay in a new centrist party with a different combined ethos. Don’t look to the past. look to what can be created for the future

  • Greenflag

    ‘It would a Tory blunder of the first magnitude if they were to introduce a new instability into the system just when many are working so hard to get rid of the old one.’

    It would not be the first Tory ‘blunder’ in Ireland . Irish political history-north and south is littered with the aftermath of reckless and irresponsible Tory self and party interest being put above the interests of both the Irish and British people in these islands . They have always been a force for instability in the matter of political relations between these islands .

    GARZA ,

    ‘Voting for unionists will not make secure the union.’

    True but it looks good .

    ‘Voting for nationalists will not make a UI come quicker.’

    Also true but it also looks good the more who vote nationalist and it will either propel sharepowering forward or drive ‘unionism’ into self destruction .

    ‘It is down to the people.;

    Full marks for the obvious .

    ‘When will people realise this?’

    They already have . About 30% really care about a UI and about 30% really care about the union and about 40% can’t be arsed to vote or really bother .

    If there has to be a UI then it will only be achieved by ‘voting ‘ numbers i.e changing demographics . Over to horseman’s analysis .