Unionist unity is an opportunity to shift baggage in BOTH parties…

Inter party talks involving the Conservative Party in Britain, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party are set to escalate in the next week to ten days. This follows the disclosure that last Sunday, Northern Ireland’s likely next Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, held secret talks with Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson and Ulster Unionist deputy party leader Danny Kennedy, Tom Elliott, David Campbell and Mark Cosgrove. The discussions took place at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.In an official statement the Conservative party confirmed: “Private talks with a number of senior Unionists took place, the purpose of which was to help promote greater political stability.”

News of the surprise meeting has energised the broad Unionist base according to one senior party insider. Conservatives in London are coy on their real motive for becoming centrally involved with the two main Unionist parties. The Tories are already in a relationship with Ulster Unionists and had been working on a Westminster electoral strategy. There has been no agreement on the choice of candidates.

Any suggestion to the Conservative party that its motive for securing support of DUP and Ulster Unionist MPS in advance of an election, being linked to worries of a hung parliament, is treated with the same contempt as an indiscretion at supper in Hatfield House!

Talk of Unionist unity has already put a pep in the step of Unionists back in Belfast. “This would be the desire. All candidates would be willing to take the Tory whip. The Tories are after hung parliament support. Once the polls came through they did their head counts.” said one well placed source.

Unionist unity has been thematically gathering momentum in the past three weeks as the prospect of Sinn Fein becoming the biggest political party came into view in the driver’s rear mirror.

Sinn Fein’s emergence as the largest party has been anticipated against a backdrop of a three way split in Unionism. “No Unionist would serve in an administration under Martin McGuinness.” said a DUP spokesman.

Another Unionist said: “The big prize is Unionist unity. People are looking for stability in a settled Unionist society.”

Peter Robinson’s inclusion in the DUP team going to Hatfield House last Sunday was something of a surprise. He had already stepped aside from some of his first minister’s duties making it known he wanted to attend to ‘domestic responsibilities.’

Not everybody is totally wedded to being in bed with the Conservatives. One individual, who is sympathetic, sounded this warning: “I am not keen on the Tories manipulating parties here. I do believe in maximising unionist strength however.”

The drive for Unionist unity and the tie in with the Tories are quite advanced in thinking. One source said:

“The mood in Unionism has already transformed on news of this development. This is a clear cut situation where once again the Unionist people are a bit ahead of their politicians and Unionist unity would protect us from the situation where Sinn Fein could hold the post of First Minister.”

Interestingly any Unionist coalition would want to retain the current method, the D’hondt system for election to the Executive. The Ulster Unionist spokesperson source said:

“We have to work hard to establish that: the last thing we can do, is be triumphant. Sinn Fein is in to stay. We have to show good faith to our opponents. We have a chance to stabilise Unionism, to send a signal that sectarian politics is something of the past. Any unity will be built on policies not on personalities.”

One of those familiar with the Unionist unity philosophy spoke of “an opportunity to shift those with baggage in both parties. There has always been ‘never say die militant Unionists’ in our parties.”

The same source, mindful of the turmoil in the DUP said: “Peter Robinson is cute enough to see how the wind is blowing. He has thirty six members in the Assembly. We have sixteen. Jim Allister will take some of these. The DUP and the Ulster Unionists could end up with twenty four each. This would mean that a coalition of Unionists could have forty eight seats guaranteeing the post of First Minister.”

All of this back-room discussion within Unionism and in conjunction with the Conservatives in England is taking place at a time of turbulence in the political environs of Parliament Buildings with pressure on Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen to become centrally involved in hot house talks to iron out differences between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein.

The two Prime Ministers are meeting in London to take stock.

This new alliance within Unionism and with the party in waiting which could form the next government at Westminster has the capacity to revolutionise politics in Northern Ireland. Many nationalists and the Alliance party fear Unionism is opting for a sectarian head count.

In politics there is normally cause and effect. That is what is potentially worrying.

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  • jtwo

    Alex Kane’s fond farewell to McCann and Davidson, a few highlights from his NL column:

    “…get on perfectly well without them”

    “…couldn’t stand a bit of pressure on the lowest rung of the political ladder.”

    “…sick to death of some career-changing self-styled ‘unionists’ making it sound like they are doing the unionist brand some sort of favour by supporting our cause.”

  • Garza

    “This new alliance within Unionism and with the party in waiting which could form the next government at Westminster has the capacity to revolutionise politics in Northern Ireland.”

    Maybe. If it catches the attention of Labour and Lib Dems it could totally change our politics. Labour could actually support its fledging party here, and an electoral pact with Alliance would be a logical choice for the Lib Dems. We shall see.

  • [quote]This new alliance within Unionism and with the party in waiting which could form the next government at Westminster has the capacity to revolutionise politics in Northern Ireland. Many nationalists and the Alliance party fear Unionism is opting for a sectarian head count. [/quote]

    In think you need to rewrite that, Eamonn, for it would be revolutionary and the worst mistake that could be made by bigots, intellectually challenged by the 21st Century and unfit to sit in governance and in service of others.

    And where is the Transparency that is supposed to be the New Age Democratic Model. Open up Government and the People will decide.

    Capiche, Gregory Campbell?

  • alf

    Quite painful to listen to Campbell there, all that ticking boxes crap

  • unsettled

    Just finished reading the Newsletter and noticed that in his column Sammy Wilson speculates about the power of a unionist 10-12 seat bloc in the event of a hung parliament. Sounds rather like Owen Patterson isn’t going to get the DUP taking the Tory whip. Remember back to 42-day detention and the DUP cheating the Tories then? Owen’sobviously been at the funny pills if he thinks the DUP will come on board with him. Also in today’s paper was an interesting suggestion that IJP, the great non-sectarian (who’s comment on another thread was blindingly sectarian and shows him up in his true colours)will be given a “safe” seat should Lady S run in Norht Zdown. Nice thirty pieces of silver there for selling out. Wonder how his constituency asociation feel about the thought of him ignoring their desire to see him as the ND candidate?

  • Scaramoosh

    I wonder if the Tories have got around to calculating how many votes they will lose in the UK, because of their (planned) allegiance with the two Ulster Unionist parties..?

  • Cynic2

    It isn’t just a matter of the arithmetic of seats Eamonn. It’s also about the fundamental philosophy of what the modern Conservative Party stands for. It’s about transforming attidues and creating a genuine non-sectarian Conservative and Unionist dynamic that provides a basis for real partnership with Nationalists.

    The war is over. Now we need to make the peace work.

  • Framer

    “Remember back to 42-day detention and the DUP cheating the Tories then”.

    It was the UUP’s Lady Hermon whose vote was the critical one ‘cheating the Tories’.

  • Impartial Reporter

    Lady Hermon should stand as a Labour candidate in North Down, with IJP standing as a Conservative and Unionist candidate.

    A real UK political battle being fought at the ballot boxes of Norn Iron – who’d a thunked it??

  • unsettled

    Cynic2- if the Tories are willing to do a deal with DUP then it isn’t “about transforming attidues and creating a genuine non-sectarian Conservative and Unionist dynamic that provides a basis for real partnership with Nationalists” as you claim. It’s about a last ditch attempt to gain power.

  • unsettled

    Framer- crap. 1 uup didn’t make the difference. 9 cheating DUP votes did

  • “opting for a sectarian head count.”

    The Border question continues to be the main question for Unionists and Nationalists so there is very little for Alliance politicians to get traction on even if they did have the resources and determination of the larger parties.

  • LottaNonsense

    Eamonn

    I’m not sure that you, and some of your bloggers, are aware that in effect, and in practical terms, nothing short of a complete merger between the DUP & UUP will have any affect on the ‘largest party takes first Minister rule’ in the Assembly.

    This is because of the ruling that came out after Reg’s attempts to have David Ervine considered as one of his Assembly team. It was later ruled by the speakers office, after they took QC level legal advice, that this wasn’t legal.

    Basically, if the UUP & DUP are to be considered as one block at Stormont then they would have to have: ‘one HQ, one staff, one & only one candidate selection process, one leader, one bank account, one name, etc… etc..’ If the DUP & UUP had an electoral pact like UCUNF (i.e. like the UUP and the Conservatives have at the moment) the this wouldn’t work. E.g. say 50 MLA’s were returned – 25 from the UUP and 25 from the DUP, then the Assembly would legally have to rule that this was two political partys of 25 members each. Therefore if Sinn Fein obtained 30 seats they would get the First Minister post anyway.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Lotta,
    Just out of interest where did you get that information from? It certainly sounds right as unlike the Northern Ireland Act the St Andrews Act 2006 refers to the largest political party of the largest designation so in interpreting that one would have to have regard to the wider legislative definition of Political Party and I agree with you that a short term UUP/DUP pact probably wouldn’t be enough to meet the definition of a party and thus would be ineffective anyway.

    It’s such a strange set of conditions in the Act in regard to the FM/DFM appointments. On the one hand it lays a sensible set of conditions in “the largest party of the largest designation” condition in section 8(1) substituting for Section 16A and B of the 1998 Act but then in sections 16C (6) contradicts that by simply stating it’s the “nominating officer of the largest political party” without reference to the largest designation part. It is a very strange legislative formulation (I really do wonder what the hell the DUP team where doing when they agreed to that or did they not agree to it? Anyone know who was on the DUP team who agreed the draft bill?) The reformulation re-opens the door to a potential SF FM when the earlier clauses in 16A and B had pretty much closed it unless the nationalists could get a majority of the designations as well as being the larger party and when that day comes who will be the FM/DFM won’t matter versus a border poll anyway. It’s really quite an odd piece of drafting sleight of hand.

  • Reader

    Duncan Shipley Dalton: The reformulation re-opens the door to a potential SF FM when the earlier clauses in 16A and B had pretty much closed it unless the nationalists could get a majority of the designations as well as being the larger party and when that day comes who will be the FM/DFM won’t matter versus a border poll anyway. It’s really quite an odd piece of drafting sleight of hand.
    It’s exactly what the DUP wanted for the STA. Preoccupied as they were with topping the poll, they wanted a way to blackmail the unionist electorate into making the DUP into the largest party at the next Assembly election. They tried similar emotional blackmail in the EU elections, and failed.
    The blackmail clearly has a bit of weight among some dinosaurs even outside the DUP, but not enough to save the DUP from punishment by the electorate, I hope.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    I had wondered that myself but I find it hard to believe that anyone on the DUP team could have been so arrogantly short sighted about it. It might have worked in the short term but it was always going to bite you in the ass eventually. Idiots, and they gave us shit for poor negotiating, hah.

  • danielmoran

    lottanonsense msg 13. Thanks for that. you have just confirmed what I thought in the Stormont instance. Marty WOULD still be FM. Maybe it’s academic anyway as these two parties could never merge, long enough to boil a kettle.