Some more on Lady Sylvia

Gonzo wrote on Lady Sylvia Hermon’s speech to the North Down SDLP last week. Here, the excellent Alan Trench of “Devolution matters” gives his take.
He quotes Eamonn Mallie’s twitter thus:

“It’s good to be among friends.” The words of Sylvia Hermon addressing an SDLP dinner in Bangor? I wonder what she meant ?”
Trench continues:
“If a moderate, social-democratically-inclined, Unionist is finding herself more comfortable in the company of her moderate, social-democratic nationalist counterparts, that may say something one hadn’t expected about the ability of the St Andrews Agreement to drive together the ‘moderate centre’ in Northern Ireland. (I’m still sceptically inclined to regard it as the exception not the rule, though.) But the one thing the British Conservatives did not intend in creating the UCUNF alliance was to fracture the Unionist community along left-right lines – and if that is the result of the alliance, it suggests it has misfired in even more ways than one thought.”

Perhaps extrapolating a little too far?

  • Comrade Stalin

    There’s a video the Ulster Unionists keep on standby to deal with crises like this :

    Women, Know Your Limits

  • aquifer

    An MP must have an abundance of ‘friends’ to get elected. Lady Sylvia is very good at getting out and about with all sorts of people in North Down, and some, shock horror, will be nationalists.

    Unionists are not used to having friends, but normal politicians will have lots.

  • Eleanor Bull

    ‘Perhaps extrapolating a little too far?’

    That’s exactly what it is. ‘It’s good to be amongst friends’ is exactly the sort of thing we say amongst…er…friends.

    To extrapolate this to mean she’s uncomfortable with ‘nationalists’ is ridiculous. She knows the north Down people, probably as friends of long standing. She works with nationalists.

    How many people do you work with that you’d want to socialise with or regard as friends?

    Simply more desperation to sow division where none probably exists.

  • Scaramoosh

    North Down is the exception to the rule in N.Ireland. Whilst there would still be a fair number of “no Catholics about the place” old school nationalists, there is no compelling reason/need for the “exestentialist threat” mentality that prevails in other parts of the provence.

    Nationalists in North Down, are very much a minority, vis a vis their counterparts in other parts; hence, Gerry Fitt’s remarks that during the troubles he most feared for the Catholics in Bangor and Newtownards, should things take a turn for the worse). Their goals, aspirations are significantly different from their co-religionists elsewhere; if they are united, it is probably against the DUP.

    I remember Sinn Fein once standing in an election in North Down and getting 26 votes.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Well its nice to hear a Unionist politician say in public that she is happy to spend time with nationalists/catholics and consider them friends.

  • Cynic2

    What narrow minded little posts

  • [quote]There’s a video the Ulster Unionists keep on standby to deal with crises like this :

    [url=]Women, Know Your Limits[/url]

    Posted by Comrade Stalin on Feb 01, 2010 @ 07:14 AM [/quote]

    Yes, Women have a laugh at the stupidity of men with that one too, Comrade Stalin. Does such idiocy still survive to this day to render holier than thou Orders, fodder for ridicule and laughter and modern contempt and pity?

  • Of course, this is [url=]the real world [/url]and it frightens the macho man who would knows absolutely nothing about the power of women and even less about how life with them can be unbelievably satisfying because of what they are able to do, rather than fooling themselves that anything they would be doing is in any way satisfying.

    How many Harry Enfields do y’all know? Far too many for comfort, I’ll guess ….. and every one of them a loser and an idiot….. and they are easily seen and recognised by every woman, and every man who would recognise such idiotic losers.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    My advice as a Holywood man is never extrapolate anything from North Down to the rest of Northern Ireland. It’s just different out there.

    The last three ulster unionist MPs (which takes us back to 1970 btw), declined the party whip in the end. And they were all liberals of one stripe or another. Jim Kilfedder (Leitrim born, called to the Irish Bar at King’s Inns, Dublin, before going on to Gray’s Inn and practice London, so far as I know, about as deeply un-sectarian in his character as it is possible to be) was perceived to take a harder line on the Union than the OUP of his day (mostly because of the political company he kept). He was a Tory in all but name.

    Bob McCartney was another ‘liberal’. Again you can make a lot of criticism of Bob, but Protestantism was barely in evidence in much other than his almost fanatical belief in the central tenets of liberal democracy. He was a self declared Labour man.

    It may be the second most Protestant constituency in NI (82% Protestant, 12% Catholic), but it also contains largest of Ulster’s super rich (I know, I used to clean their windows when I was still at school); the first Steiner school and Camphill communities. These days is it fairly cosmopolitan (apart from hosting political dinners at the Pepper Mill, it wasn’t in the 1970s.

    In number terms, Catholics are not usually a significant demographic in people’s electoral calculations in North Down, yet there are few successful politicians in the constituency who are openly hostile to them. That may be because although the numbers are low, North Down Catholics have traditionally had a high social profile in their communities. In the Holywood of the 1960s for instance, 7 out of the 9 pubs were Catholic owned.

    Most Catholics tend to vote Alliance not entirely out of conviction, but on the basis that they are the only party like to speak out on their interests, and they are the only party in the constituency to have consistently stood Catholic candidates over the years.

    Kilfedder and McCartney were liberals of different sorts but their strength lay in strong identification with the politics of the union. Sylvia’s strength is her constituency work (as that ‘show of hands’ vote in her constituency association demonstrates), but also her disproportionate share of Alliance voters (Catholic nationalists included).

    For me, this is a pragmatic pitch for the sympathies (if not the votes) of local nationalists. If Hermon is moving towards independent status that’s just one group she’ll need to tie in. She’ll have to hope she can tie in others without her own overall offering becoming too confused (or even conflicted) that one cancels out the others. Particularly when she knows an Alliance vote is not enough to continue to hold this odd ball constituency.

  • Sylvia Hermon is a bit of a conundrum for me, can any one give me a run down of the woman and her politics.

    She seems uncomfortable within the Unionist fold, does this mean these days there is no place for a socially liberal unionist within mainstream unionism?

  • Dewi @ 06:32 AM:

    Nice one: missed that.

    If the consequence is to “fracture the Unionist community along left-right lines” (and why just “the Unionist community”?), then hooray, say I. As for the rest of that sentence, if the unionist/nationalist = prod/RC dichotomy fails, what remains in politics except a left-right cleavage? So it can hardly be the law of unintended consequences, can it?

    As for Slugger O’Toole Admin @ 10:37 AM, the economy of explication imposed by these comment boxes shows through.

    First, were Sylvia Hermon to stand separate from the UCUNF package-deal (which, anyhow, seems to unravel by the day), why does that necessarily make her appellation “independent”? We know where she is coming from.

    Second, if North Down is “an odd ball constituency”, there’s a whole snooker table load of them across the rest of the UK (and further afield). What I draw from that is the assumption (one discounted by UCUNF, too) that NI cannot suffer the same motivations and pressures as the rest of the UK. Would that make Dublin South East and Dún Laoghaire constituencies similarly “odd balls” in Dáil Éireann? After all, the same coincidence of prosperity and liberal tendencies seem to apply, despite the lack of a denominational distribution to explain the phenomenon.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Have Alliance ever approached her to stand for them?

  • Dewi

    Tochais -I posted a comment before – It would be truly wonderful irony if Hermon stood for Alliance and Parsley for UCUNF.


    Well I did say that any Unionist/Conservative pact would see me voting for the SDLP. The constitutional issue is settled, it’s about time for some normal politics. Bring it on.

  • Mick Fealty

    Independent councillors stand right across the south of England, and they are usually some class of Tory. The independence designates them as non party. Kilfedder founded the UPUPs… but they all but foundered with his death…

  • Mick Fealty

    It would also hand the seat to IJP, or more likely the DUP. She cannot fight this election on the basis on one party’s vote, she has to take bits off everyone.

  • Drumlins Rock

    It take a strong personality and a good team to go independant, a good constituency worker is not enough usually, as alot of independant councillors have discovered over the years. As someone else pointed out if she is def not a Tory, why has she consistently voted with them over the past few years?

  • As far as I am concerned the UU have always been conservative.

    The SDLP have always been centrist/socialist.

    Is Lady Hermon saying she only just realised this,and people are still likely to vote for her?

    Well its true we get the politicians we allow and deserve.

  • iluvni

    The Lady has spoken in only 1 Parliamentary debate in the last year. Surely cant be correct?

  • abc123

    The SDLP sit on the Labour Party benches in Parliament. Hermon supports the Labour Party. So they have that in common. The logical conclusion should be that Hermon stands for the Labour Party.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    North Down has indeed always been “different”. Middle class certainly and those that arent like to think they are.
    The “Catholics” in North Down have always been different too. I remember the early 1970s when some Alliance Catholic types were having a running battle with the then Bishop of Dow and Connor over the vexed issue of witholding First Communion from their kids.
    As I recall there was also an “English” Catholic element in that dispute.

    But are Catholics so very different in East Antrim or East Belfast…this Alliance thing.
    Well of course we are familiar with the term “heads lower than a Larne Catholic” and I think there is an element of not drawing too much attention to an indiviual”.
    Clearly with the demographics electing a “republican or nationalist” in North Down or East Belfast is not a very real possibility.
    Yet I suspect the SDLP and even SF serve a purpose in these constituencies…they can attract nationalists and republicans out to vote….to make a stand….but with at best only half a quota these votes make their way to Alliance as the least bad option.

    We do have the example of Danny O’Connor in East Antrim. A surprising election for SDLP to Stormont, reflecting a changed demographic AND a realisation that the numbers were there. And the effect……a mini pogram against Larne Catholics.

    Frankly there are other towns and villages where the election of a SDLP man/woman in say Bangor to North Down council might well provoke a backlash.
    Lets be frank that an Alliance voting Catholic living in Holywood or Bangor might find himself voting SDLP if he/she moved to say Portaferry in next door Strangford.

    AS I have said in other threads I firmly believe that all serious parties should at least invite voters to vote for them in all 18 constituencies…in multi seat constituencies this should not be a problem at “splitting the vote”…with second preferences available.

    To this end I commend SDLP or SF candidates Bangor and indeed Unionists of any hue in say Warrenpoint.
    And more so those brave people who serve us ALL by signing nomination papers etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t think she has though. There was an idea that 100% loyalty to the party line rate as mapped out on meant she always voted for the government.

    But since she is the only one in her party, she sets the party line and can only ever been 100% consistent with her own voting pattern.

    If you look at what she’s voted for and against, you do not get the profile of a Labour party loyalist:

    Voted a mixture of for and against a transparent Parliament.
    Voted very strongly for introducing a smoking ban.
    Voted moderately for introducing ID cards.
    Voted moderately for introducing foundation hospitals.
    Voted strongly against introducing student top-up fees.
    Voted a mixture of for and against Labour’s anti-terrorism laws.
    Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
    Voted moderately against an investigation into the Iraq war.
    Voted very strongly against replacing Trident.
    Voted moderately against the hunting ban.
    Voted a mixture of for and against equal gay rights.
    Voted a mixture of for and against laws to stop climate change.

  • Dewi

    “It would also hand the seat to IJP, or more likely the DUP. She cannot fight this election on the basis on one party’s vote, she has to take bits off everyone.”

    Maybe – although it wuold be handy for her if Alliance didn’t stand.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Fitzjames, do you think we should have 3 seat constituiencies? with the good old STV.

  • granni trixie

    DEWI: you may see it as handy,but Alliance are already committed to stand. To succeed in NI politics,it helps if you demonstrate that you have the skills for working with others..on this alone Stephen Farry is streets ahead.

  • Dewi

    “To succeed in NI politics,it helps if you demonstrate that you have the skills for working with others..”

    That’s an interesting hypothesis. Who has suceeded over the last 40 years?

  • granni trixie

    Well,for one thing, how do you think cultural change in NI came about?
    (I subscribe to the theory that we needed cultural as well as structural change).

  • Framer

    Hermon’s voting pattern is based on what is going on when she is in the House and what she feels at the time. It is not Tory.

    She, like Kilfedder and McCartney, once elected, do only what they want.

    Unionism is a movement not a party. Elected individuals will therefore not take party discipline.

    Would you, once selected and elected, bother to listen to some line constructed at party HQ in Belfast by policy grunts?

    BTW Jim Kilfedder started the Divis Stree riots in 1964 calling on ther RUC to remove a tricolour.

    And the ‘liberal’ Kilfedder was the one who in a victory speech declared his opponent McCartney was supported by communists nand homosexuals.

  • fpveritas


    You are in error about Jim Kilfedder it was the

    the MP for North Antrim who called for the removal of the flag

    I was there where you?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Drumlins Rock,
    I believe that multi seat, (not necessarily 3 seats) under proportional representation is fair. Too many people are disenfranchised by first past the post.
    For example I believe it to be a GOOD thing that Willie Hay holds a seat in Foyle …..and I tend to regret there is no unionist seat in West Belfast or a nationalist seat in Strangford.

  • Alan

    Who was there ?

    Kilfedder was standing in West Belfast for the ’64 General Election and sent a telegram that kicked the police action off.

    IKP Senior had already been aggitating for some time to have the flag removed – he wasn’t an MP at the time, however.

  • fpveritas


    JK claimed to have sent a telegram
    but we will never know if he did sent it

    It was RIP that the police did not allow to march
    to Divis Street not JK

  • Drumlins Rock

    i agree FJH, for example in the west we are completely disenfranchised at westminister with the MPs for Fermanagh and Tyrone refusing to take their seats, hence why I went for 3 seats, two counties is enough for anyone to cover, I know it could lead to stagnation a little as it would be similar to the Euros, with in reality one change in 30 yrs, from SDLP to SF, but I think we could risk that for westministers. I wonder will DC balk to the Lib Dems and bring in PR before the next election, if he needs them, most say he will prob wait to a second term.

  • Who else is going to contest electorally Northern Ireland’s strangest seat, once occupied by Sir Jim Kilfedder, and then by Bob McCartney? Only one of those is dead. And he won’t be the only coulourful character, we trust.

    Or are we about to see, there of all places, Northern Ireland’s first ever normal parliamentary election, between a New Labour incumbent, a Tory who would have expected the seat as of right any time before 1997, and a strong local Alliance Party linked to the Lib Dems?

    FitzjamesHorse, of course, there wouldn’t be eighteen constituencies under STV. On the three-member basis that you propose, there would be six.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Indeed Mr Lindsay.
    Although I think this was clear in the context. I personally like Sylvia Hermon (nee Paisley) but I dont see anything really significant in her addressing a SDLP Dinner. Her voting record as shown above does show an independent streak. In a sense North Down “doesnt do politics”. They are much too respectable.
    It is perhaps the constituency which has a significant number of people (but not a majority of course) who feel it is surgically attached to the Lancashire Coast.
    Those that fantasise about mainland politics coming to Norn Iron have been dealt a major blow by Sylvia.
    She is not a Tory
    Not a Lib Dem
    Not even a Labourite.
    And not the worst kinda flag waving unionist.

    As to Drumlins Rock point on Euro elections. To facilitate having one nationalist representing Norn Iron… was decided that there should be three Euro MPs for a single Norn Iron constituency….under PR…..while England, Scotland and Wales voted first past the post initially.
    Therefore there seems to be a precedent that MPS elected here for Westminster could be under a different system than English, Welsh and Scottish MPs.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Oh just to add Mr Lindsay I was not proposing three member seats. I was merely saying multi member seats.

    On reflection a single Norn Iron seat is possibly a good idea. Theres obviously a lot of nonsense talked about local identity but lets be frank…what unionist in their right mind would take a problem to Pat Doherty in West Tyrone when likely they would have another unionist MP west of the Bann. And what kinda nationalist would take a problem to David Simpson in Upper Bann.

    This of course in no way suggests that Doherty or Simpson would not sek to represent them. Merely that the constituents would be uncomfortable.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Lady Sylvia is certainly an intersting character though she seldom does media (Broadcast anyway)

    She is a Unionist that I would be interested in finding out what makes her tick.

  • Davros

    “Northern Ireland’s strangest seat”

    I would say it’s most normal seat, the rest of NI is the problem.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In some ways, it would be cool to have some sort of Alliance-Sylvia deal. But there are likely to be a lot of levels on which it would be problematic. Sylvia’s closeness to New Labour and her attitude to things like the 42 day stuff being one of them.

    Damn hard to say what’s going to happen in the election, what with Parsley, Sylvia, Farry and Weir all in the ring.