Don’t play the Orange card folks, it’s a joker

Did Owen Paterson realise what a can of worms he was opening when he got that historic opponent of the Republic’s involvement in the north, the wily Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury to facilitate talks with the unionist parties – assuming Salisbury (or Cranborne as we knew him better) didn’t get there first? The very name throbs with significance, as its Victorian bearer the Prime Minister was the great opponent of Home Rule. The only half-tangible result so far has been a threat to the bipartisanship between the two main parties three months before the general election, a consummation devoutly not to be wished. The Conservatives’ bungled Hatfield House initiative, whatever it was, was bound to prompt nationalist charges of breaking the bipartisan approach. Labour’s reply given to Nick Watt the Guardian lobby correspondent who assiduously covers Sinn Fein’s occasional sallies to Westminster, simply deepens the problem.

One senior government source said: “We are simply astonished at what the Tories are doing. The Northern Ireland peace process has been strengthened by the bipartisan approach between all the major parties at Westminster. Holding talks at a country estate – and excluding the nationalists – is absolutely not within that spirit

The Hatfield “mystery” has been picked up by the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson, on the possible significance of an unionist electoral pact which could also benefit the Conservatives in a hung Parliament, however much the Tories deny the latter was a Hatfield theme. There is a glimmer here of Northern Ireland emerging an election issue between the two main UK parties, especially if the present Executive collapses. It will nobody any good in NI.
The problem would be compounded if elections for Stormont as well as Westminster were held on the same day, as is being rumoured as a possibility.

  • joeCanuck

    And what do Owen Paterson and a piece of warm brown bread have in common?
    They’re both toast.

  • LukeCass

    Disgusting behaviour on display from the conservative party.

  • joeCanuck,

    Cameron’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene.

  • tacapall

    Another wee Curragh mutiny perhaps.

  • someone

    Repeat after me: the Conservatives will not do a deal with the DUP. It is not in their interests. End of story.

  • joeCanuck


    Possibly. Doesn’t mean that the loyal courtier won’t have to fall on his sword with some sort of promise of becoming a “senior” Conservative upon future resurrection.

  • Davros

    If I was a Malcolm Tuckeresque character I would suggest that Cameron’s inept Tories are causing trouble in NI and that no one wants a return to the dark days of Warrington, Bishopsgate etc

  • JoeC,

    if UKIP win a few seats perhaps they will dispatch someone to talk to Mr Allister?

  • Driftwood

    Non-story, by a parochial pro SF commentator, the word ‘journalist’ only fits the Sunday World definition.
    Fills in his time after watching ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ I suppose.
    Walker, have you asked the Daily Sport if there’s anything going? They might be above your level, but money talks.

  • joeCanuck


    If Empey signs up to a deal with the DUP, it will be the coup de gras for him. The only thing that will matter will be how far his Party falls with him. He might be the unwitting saviour of Robinson.

  • Pete Baker


    “The Conservatives’ bungled Hatfield House initiative, whatever it was..”

    “whatever it was”?

    Bit late to be introducing uncertainties into the discussion.

  • someone

    UUP DUP positions on P&J are same but each refused to jump first. Paterson tries to stop a future problem for himself by getting both together. All that is obvious but of course it was I’ll judged because it gave DUP opportunity to spin this unity shit – Paterson gets fingers burnt. But it is obvious that the whole story is DUP lies and always was. I know a conspiracy theory is exciting but when it is so obvious that Conservatives would never touch DUP and nor would vast majority of UUP why are so many bloggers and commentators buying this shit – is there nothing else to speculate on?

  • joeCanuck


    Are you saying it would be impossible for the inept Empey to have a brain fart?

  • someone

    Joe I didn’t quite get that sorry?

  • someone,

    Do you honestly think that if the DUP (or the TUV) had a bunch of seats and the Tories needed them to form a government they wouldnt cut a deal?

  • joeCanuck


    I think Empey may be out of touch with the voters, even those who support his Party.

  • Cletus The Slack Jawed Yokel

    Empey’s position is the oddest one of all. He just doesnt seem to have any sure footedness at all…over anything.

    Soooo….when will Basil McCrea take over?

  • someone

    MU – no electoral pact for sure. 18 CU candidates. I personally think there is almost no chance of hung parliament – national polling irrellevant look at polling in key marginals and Cons have okay majority so no problem. Even if hung I couldn’t see Cons doing coalition with such toxicity as the DUP, they’d rather hook up with the libdems! Anyway there ain’t gonna be no hung parliament unless things go very wrong.

    Joe/cletus – empey useless etc yes. Think some top UUP have notions of pacts but grass roots and almost all heirarchy will refuse – I have no doubt on that.

  • Driftwood

    [Play the ball – edited moderator]

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Ah the Cecils and Salisburys…….not lovers of Ireland and Catholicism.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    but surely Mr Walker damaging our fragile Peace Process could be considered more serious than sabotaging Conservative-Unionist pact. I suppose it depends on priorities.

  • Los Lobos

    Empey by name and empty by nature! What sort of dipstick would court Cameron for 18 months or more, use the strategy to try and outfox the DUP whilst at the same time piss off Lady Hermon and a considerable number of party members (who still retain their Margaret Thatcher toilet rolls from the eighties) and then do a backflip into the arms of Peter Robinson? Yeah, that’s right, the leadership of the UU party, that’s who. When in doubt revert to type and start barking like Oswald Mosely. Roll on election day as heads must be mounted upon pikes and displayed at the big house on the hill.

  • someone

    Fragile peace process? What nonsense – P&J deal agreed by weekend. Brown finally has something to show off as an acheivement other than record debt, sf and dup avoid damaging assembly election.

  • tacapall

    Love all the old school talk, keep sucking the pipes, tally ho old chaps

  • someone

    Los lobos – has there ever been a more bizarre string of events than the UUP rescueing the DUP just when they were about to be destroyed? Empey is weird! Sammy Morse had a good term for the mythical DUPUUP meger though – DUPFUC – which just about sums that silly idea up!

  • Driftwood

    My -inoffensive-comment on Brian Walkers motivation has been removed. Obviously by the great man himself.
    Some people do not like views that do not conform to their finely tuned opinion.
    I didn’t play the man, so obviously the ball was not ‘appropriate’. So it goes.

  • someone

    Moderator – I expressed my honest opinion on the output of one of the bloggers on this site. The opinion was negative but not offensive as I talked of how I found his writing not about he himself. Yet that has been removed mysteriously – why? I played the ball (his writing) not the man (no insults to him as a person).

  • abc123

    Mr Walker – please get yourself a hobby, for the sake of the rest of us.

    “Holding talks at a country estate – and excluding the nationalists – is absolutely not within that spirit”

    Will Unionists now be invited every time a Nationalist/Republican party holds talks with either UK or RoI parties?

  • nollaig a chara

    abc123…It smacks of the tories trying to cover basess incase of hung parliment… I also think its a trip back 20/30 years and tory policy in Ireland then it smacks of trying to maintain majoroty Unionist rule

  • Cynic2

    The allegation from Brown is laughable. And why has it surfaced now – could it be that he has some little self-serving interest here?

    He knows that the process is is deep trouble so now he is trying to to spread the blame.

    And why have we finished up in summitry again with desperate last minute efforts to save the Assembly? Where has Brown been for the last 3 years? Didnt he notice the slide downhill?

    Apart from his traditional approach of throwing billions of public money at the parties, why was it left so late to sort this? Were was his Secretary of State? Didnt he notice? And in the end, just what did he get in return for all that cash? Were there no promises made? Of course we don’t know, because the discussions were held secretly in a big house with only two of the parties present.

    As for the issue of the need for the Government to be an honest broker, when was the Labour Government ever that? From Saint Mo who disliked the unionists but loved ‘babe’ Marty, their aim has been to woo SF, corral them, open doors and offer every concession to get them locked into the process.

    Good politics? Perhaps. Even handed? Not at all. For years the Government was happy that unionism was divided. Unionist fragmentation and SDLP inertia were ideal assistants.

    Well, their neglect of unionist politics and anything in the middle had led directly to this situation. Politically they brokered a deal between the two extremes but didn’t read the fine print. Then then totally neglected the centre ground that might cement the deal and at St Andrews allowed a system to be put in place that gave them no voice.

    So congratulations Jonah Brown. It’s a problem of your own making. Sort it.

  • Cynic2


    Perhaps you should get copies of the DNA of Owen Paterson and David Cameron. I have no doubt that, given a little research, a dollop of immagination and perhaps a Governmnet Grant, you could find a genetic link back to Carson, Peel, Cromwell, Judas Iscariot and Old Nick himself.

    That would really prove your case.

  • Brian,

    There is little doubt that the Conservatives discussed some “what ifs” at Hatfield House which touched upon the number of seats held by the Conservatives in Parliament. That can be read between the lines of the answer that David Cameron gave yesterday morning.

    There has been a lot of hysteria surrounding these talks. Much of it, I am afraid to say, has come from Northern Ireland Conservatives who are alarmed by the prospect of any talks with the DUP. They can not be blamed completely for that. The Conservative leadership is not providing the membership with enough detail or re-assurance as to what game they are playing.

    Thinking political followers need to be a bit calmer and a lot more circumspect for the time being. It is still a “mystery” until it becomes clear whether something has been agreed or has not. That said, sometimes the fear of the unknown can be more damaging than the reality.

    In a post on my own blog, I have invited Owen Paterson to go further than simply deny that there has been any sectarian agreement. He is asked to specifically deny that there has been no agreement of the kind listed in that post.

    The Conservative leadership now owes it to their members and to the Northern Ireland electorate to tell them what they are doing. If they do not do that very soon, the speculation will run out of control.

    I totally agree that the Orange Card is a joker

  • Cynic2

    ” Do you honestly think that if the DUP (or the TUV) had a bunch of seats and the Tories needed them to form a government they wouldnt cut a deal?”

    Perhaps they would. After all Gordon Brown did to save his Government over 42 day detention. And he held secret talks with them in a big house in London at which no other parties were present. And we were never told the outcome or what he promised in return.

    Bi-partisan? Non!

  • Comrade Stalin


    Will Unionists now be invited every time a Nationalist/Republican party holds talks with either UK or RoI parties?

    This wasn’t merely “unionists holding talks”. This was unionists holding secret talks, with the Shadow Secretary of State, during a period of political uncertainty, and in the context of an electoral pact. This was completely inappropriate and a serious miscalculation by Cameron.

    If the talks fail this week, there may be serious trouble for the Conservatives if Labour figure out a way to blame Cameron’s interference. While the public in the rest of the UK are largely ambivalent about our problems here, I don’t believe they will be happy about the idea of their government picking a side.

  • JoDave

    Has there been any official comment from the NI conservatives on the current situation?

    Check out the following link to a Q&A by Neil Johnston of the local Conservatives in 2008.

    Some interesting comments from him then about the ‘politics of tribal headcounting’ and ‘conservatism being the politics of inclusion’ rather than ‘the division …….of unionism vs nationalism.’

  • Impartial Reporter

    A little ‘light fiction’

    DUP, on the back of many recent beatings, a revelation that the ‘first familiy’ are not awfully nice and a collapsing power base up the hill are set to implode, scattering bewildered unionists all over the place.

    But what’s this on the horizon? Some silly bugger in England wants to talk about getting P&J through before the General Election? They’ve invited the DUP and the UUP to talks? How could this be spun to shore up the DUP vote?

    “This was a very positive meeting where all we talked about was how we could shaft the sinners and save the union (DUP).”

    The local tories come out crying “why don’t England understand us?”, the UUP say “we will never partner the DUP” to each other but forget to tell the rest of the world and the DUP work out a re-carve of the poor sods in ‘Norn Iron’ with SinnFein.

    But of course, no one would belive such things could happen in the real world.

  • Cynic2


    “unionists holding secret talks, with the Shadow Secretary of State, during a period of political uncertainty”

    Shocking, that Paterson should try and shore up support for devolution. How awful of him too not to invite the Shinners while he talked to the Unionist parties. Has he had the Unionists along to all the meetings he’s had with Sinn Fein?

    And as for the electoral pact, what pact? Have you seen evidence of one. The DUP have certainly spun that – and used it to great effect to scare the Shinners into pulling back from the brink perhaps.

    And this one on one meeting is terrible isn’t it. Like the regulator tete-a-tetes between the Secretary of State and Sinn Fein at various stages of the process? Like the secret meeting at a big house in London where Godson got DUP votes to save his government on 42 day detention? And what price did he pay? We don’t know ‘cos it’s secret.

    Then of course, there was St Andrews (a political carve up between Labour, the DUP and SF) with the other parties excluded and secret side deals we don’t know about.

    And then of course, just a few weeks ago, Brown chaired talks at a big house in London at which we were told he brokered a deal and promised billions. As a good Scots Presbyterian he wouldn’t have given all that money without getting something back. So where is that deal now? We don’t know, ‘cos it’s a secret between the 3 of them.

    So secret talks and bi-lateral meetings have always been the order of the day. But now Gordon’s ‘astonished’ that, as his neglect leads to chaos, the Conservatives step in with a genuine attempt to shore up the middle ground and persuade the Unionists to do a deal on devolution of Policing and Justice.

    At least Cameron and Paterson have shown some leadership, not just waved a chequebook and hoped it would make the pain go away.

    And if anyone’s trying to make political capital from this mess it is Jonah Brown as yet another policy crumbles to dust and he knows the verdit of the people is near

  • Jaggers

    Seems to me Gordon Brown is keeping his powder dry in a genuine attempt to rescue the Assembly. In private I am willing to wager he is furious at the skulking machinations of Owen Partisan. And if everything does turn to sh*te, Labour would be fully entitled to withdraw (as well) from the bi-partisan engagement in Northern Ireland and put the blame firmly where it belongs. Despite Northern Ireland being a somewhat insignificant part of the UK with 5 times the population of Croydon, I think there’s enough mileage from the Tory shenanigans to put a dent in the 10-12% poll lead on a national level. All it needs is 1-3% of a change and we’re in hung parliament territory.

  • Comrade Stalin @ 08:43 AM nailed it in one sentence, despite adopting the style of those irritating — leaving aside the delectable Ms O’Connor — M&S commercials:

    This wasn’t merely “unionists holding talks”. This was unionists holding secret talks, with the Shadow Secretary of State, during a period of political uncertainty, and in the context of an electoral pact. This was completely inappropriate and a serious miscalculation by Cameron.

    What irked me the more was the curious disciplined silence from the usually loud and lambasting Tory-apologists of the blogosphere. That in itself was the give-away. It was as if a decree had gone forth from Cameron Augustus that this particular turd was not to be stirred.

    When the relationship of MSM to blog-artists next comes up, perhaps someone might note that the likes of sluggerdom are the antennae of the modern media. Because of the cut-backs in the “serious” (and not-so-serious) press, there are no longer the feet on the streets: stories increasingly break via folk like us. If we make enough fuss, it attracts the attention of the screen-gazers of the MSM. So, what went wrong this time, that it took over a week for this one to turn from sceptic to septic? To gloze Ian Fleming: one day’s delay in the news breaking might be happenstance, two days circumstance, but over a week is enemy action.

    The Hatfield House meeting should not have occurred, at this moment, in these circumstances, at that venue, with a contradictory agenda, sub rosa, on a Sunday. It isn’t good enough for the ordure to be heaped on Paterson: he’s little more than the messenger-boy. It isn’t good enough for the Cameroonie apologists to lift stale gybes out of Guido Fawkes as a defence. It isn’t good enough for self-appointed “senior” NI Tories (“seniority” among such a select band, indeed!) to come over all Panglossian and assure us that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. This was a self-inflicted cock-up. It did nobody a whit of good. It serves as awful warning of a possible dystopia to come.

  • granni trixie

    I feel sure that, through time, we will get to know who it was thought up the wheeze for the unionist parties to meet in England and which has rebounded on the Conservatives big time. Doubt if it was Owen Patterson. Could it have come from individual(s) in a certain conservative think tank? Come on, own up to your ineptitude and bad judgement (again).

  • ding dong

    First – having met Owen patterson and some of his team, they haven’t a clue what they are doing so cocking this up should be no surprise.

    Secondly unionist unity is a myth – what is being played out here is tactics – pure and simple. Had Cameron a clear lead in the polls he’d be happy enough to run with the UUP tick in his all inclusive box but as things are tighter his insurance plan is actual seats.

    Thirdly what is this unionist unity myth based on? Clearly the UUP and the DUP are different kinds of unionists, the DUP have shown themselves over the last 3 years to nothing other than Ulster Nationalists so there is very little for the two parties to agree on – except of course not having Marty as first Minister – but that was another cock up – this time done by the DUP.

    All the rest is smoke and mirrors

  • “Ah the Cecils and Salisburys…….not lovers of Ireland and Catholicism.”

    as champions of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian white settlers, they never showed great love of indigenous Africans either. Which may go some way to accounting for Salisbury’s unionist predilections.