Conservatives’ Orange card exposed as a joker

Owen Polley argues in the Bel Tel that “Tories respect our position in the UK”. I’m sure they do, but do they do it in the same way as the UUP? Not over the touchstone issue of devolving Justice they don’t. They want devolution completed to stabilise the Assembly and are embarrassed by the micro-politics of intra-unionist rivalry. UUs risk getting the worst of all possible worlds by confusing voters who stuck with them through the hard times of the first Assembly and who aren’t impressed by a little shake of ( tarnished?) Cameron stardust. Campaigns in favour of Labour and Conservative representation at Westminster are decent, democratically inspired and well intentioned but they suffer from mixed motives and a lack of clarity. All Uncunf may have achieved is to embolden the UUs to negativity at Stormont with no gain at Westminster. Cameron is covering all bases and chasing every potential vote for a hung Parliament. Beyond the presumed tactics, the Conservatives’ failure to explain what a more forward unionist policy means for Northern Ireland in the medium term is a serious error. It is a politically motivated exaggeration to claim that the Conservatives are threatening the stability of the GFA but they are behaving as if the point has never occurred to them. They are either being disingenuous or profoundly ignorant. It is not enough to say “why shouldn’t we “; they have to explain why they should in this divided polity which is only very shakily finding its feet. The Conservatives now find themselves being blamed for making destabilising gestures at a very sensitive juncture in our politics and exposed as impotent with their new found partners. We can be sure that they will pay careful attention to the noises from Washington however egregious these may seem at home. If you were David Cameron, who would you listen to more – Hillary Clinton or Reg Empey?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London