Unionist Pacts: the recriminations begin

As the likelihood of an agreed unionist candidate for both Fermangah South Tyrone and South Belfast recedes so the blame game seems to be beginning. Jim Allister has noted that the TUV can claim to be innocent in this argument. The DUP and CUs, however, are both in the process of getting their retaliation in first. The DUP of course are far from innocent in the past of the charge of being vote splitters. However, this time they do seem to have a bit more legitimacy in their complaints: unless that is of course one takes Trimble’s non sectarian claims seriously.
The problem of course is that stating things like: “We have said all along that we will not be joining with any party of a sectarian nature” could be seen to sit a little ill with one who made his political reputation tripping along the Garvaghy Road hand in hand with Dr. Paisley: the then leader of the party he is now describing as sectarian.

There is also another problem in Trimble’s comments, he went on to say: “we will be fighting every seat in the UK, and the Province will be no exception.” Whilst that is sort of true it is only sort of true as Norman Tebbit has pointed out on the BBC’s Politics Show (reproduced here on Conservative Home): “Mr Bercow is not a Conservative candidate. He is an independent candidate. And it’s, in my view, not the business of the Conservative Party to support independent candidates. He did cast himself in my mould, indeed. But he has been reworked in recent years. But I don’t think he would really be able to describe himself as a Conservative any more, even if he were not the Speaker.”

Reg Empey’s response was a little less inflammatory: “DUP have nine out of 10 seats and one wonders how many more they want. It was they who gave South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone to the nationalists and they should return them to us, the new coalition.” Again, however, that form of words ignores the reality that seats are not in the specific gift of a political party and further that in both Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast the sitting MP was retiring at the election where the seats fell to nationalists. In addition the DUP heavily out polled the UUP in South Belfast at the election when the seat was lost and it is far from clear which candidate the out going MP would have felt was his natural political heir.

In Fermanagh South Tyrone it is alleged that Norman Baxter was willing to run as a unity candidate but it was the CU’s insistence that he take the Tory whip which resulted in him withdrawing from the fray. Going back to Buckingham: it is abundantly clear that the MP the Tories are backing will not be taking their whip.

Somehow, however, honouring an age old tradition of not standing against the speaker and, hence, depriving the Buckingham constituents of the option of voting for a Conservative member of parliament, potential government minister etc. etc. is acceptable. However, having an agreed candidate to stop the election of an MP who refuses to take her seat and is an open supporter of the IRA’s campaign of murder, nowhere more brutal, sectarian or indiscriminate than in Fermanagh; is sectarian.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Is’nt it the Orange Order that decides what all the Unionist parties do.

    The rest is mere window dressing.

  • Paul

    turgon how many MPs will TUV get or is it you just want to help nationalists get elected.?

  • Michaelhenry

    would not matter if there is an agreed unionist canidate or not,sinn fein will walk it.

  • Sammy Wilson’s calculator for the sums

    Empey:

    “DUP have nine out of 10 seats and one wonders how many more they want. It was they who gave South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone to the nationalists and they should return them to us, the new coalition.”

    Jesus wept. The man’s an absolute embarassment.

  • TellMeMa

    I hope there is at least three Unionist candidates per seat and there is first past the post voting (not the proposed Australian one. That would change everything).

  • Drumlins Rock

    Dont worry guys, the Conservatives & Unionist are going to win both seats without the need for any deals, just me, honestly!!!
    I wish they would also stand against John “Ow What a Brec”, makes the former speaker look like a proper statesman, only reason the Labour MPs put him in was so that he would cause the Tories Hell when the got into power, shows how “contrite” they were over there expenses.

  • Peter Fyfe

    It’s tradition to let the speaker have a free run, the CU’s would be laughed at if they did run. This has nothing to do with FST. It would probably do them damage in England where their priorities are. It would be quite an own goal. FST on the other hand will not have the slightest impact in England and as such, why should they care? It is all about winning.

  • In the context of “first-past-the-post” [FPTP] Westminster elections, the following is somewhat off topic. Apologies, then, in advance. But it leads me to an on-topic conclusion.

    Yesterday, the Irish Times regaled us with Garret Fitzgerald’s regular prescription to reform the voting system in his own image. Let’s pass over that, except for one comment:

    Because of our multiseat constituencies, most of our politicians, including Ministers, are faced with the need to defend their seats against candidates from other parties and against members of their own party.

    Thus in the last two elections, Fianna Fáil TDs lost five seats to members of the Opposition, but almost three times as many – 14 – to members of their own party. Again in the last election, the only seats lost by Fine Gael TDs were those of two members who were defeated, in one case by another party member and in the other case by an Independent who subsequently joined Fine Gael. [My emphases]

    Now, of course, that is the generality of what NI politics is about. The ratio of unionists and nationalists shifts only marginally: the make-up of each faction has changed considerably — crudely, SF has displaced SDLP and DUP has evicted UUP over years.

    With PR in local and Assembly elections there remains scope for the junior party on each side of the divide to have an after-life, even a share of the spoils. Not so in the Westminster elections. It suddenly becomes all or nothing.

    As long as FPTP survives (not long, I would hope), this will persist. Clearly, the party bigwigs cannot manage things (it was ever thus). That means the only way to sort out DUP/UUP (and even SF/SDLP) faction-fighting is by some form of primary.

    Now, what about open primaries? They seem to work in seventeen of the United States.

    OK: I dream the impossible dream.

  • TellMeMa

    Malcolm:
    I have heard that Great Britain is thinking of adopting the Australian system of preferential voting (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preferential_voting)

    If this were adopted in NI it won’t matter to SF how many Unionists vie for a seat as it is unlikely a Unionist voter will give his/her second preference to SF. A Unionist voter will win if there are overall more Unionist votes than SF’s.

    Yes, I think it is an impossible dream about open primaries. I have my doubts about that system, especially the US model and how it managed to elect Obama.

  • TellMeMa

    Sorry, should be “A Unionist candidate will win if there are overall more Unionist votes than for SF.”

  • Garza

    If unionist pacts start forming, then you will get nationalist pacts forming. Soon you will just have one big unionist party and one big nationalist party and how is that an healthy democracy??

    We have got to get away from the green and orange to the red, blue and yellow or else the union with Britain will always be weak at best.

  • TellMeMa

    Garza: what does the yellow represent?

    Orange = Orange Order
    Red White & Blue = UK
    Green White & Gold = Eire

  • Michaelhenry

    weak is no good garza gone is a better term.

  • Garza

    TellMeMa
    orange = unionism
    green = nationalism
    red = socialism
    blue = conservatism
    yellow = liberalism

    Oh I don’t think so Michael, not for a good wee while yet. Depends on what road NI goes down, NI is at a crossroads right now.

  • TellMeMa

    Garza: I think the orange and the green will be tussling with each other for the foreseeable future.

    I mean, how many Unionist parties have selected a Catholic candidate? How many Protestants are in SF/SDLP?

  • Michaelhenry

    we were at the crossroads in 1996 garza, its now 2010.

  • joeCanuck

    Funny old me. I was always silly enough to believe that in elections you try to get your candidate elected, not just try to stop someone else getting chosen.
    I do understand that in “normal” places, people often vote against the Party in power but there is a clear difference.
    I also believe that an elected candidate is dishonest and cheating the electorate by not representing them through taking their seat.
    Yet, as someone said, the people have spoken, the bastards.

  • Garza @ 06:56 PM:

    If unionist pacts start forming, then you will get nationalist pacts forming. Soon you will just have one big unionist party and one big nationalist party and how is that an healthy democracy?

    The cynic might say: exactly where we’ve been stuck this last century.

    The pessimist (myself, much of the time), would agree with your appreciation of a never-ending dystopia.

    The optimist (myself, after the third full glass) might think: Yeah! Good Start!

    Sooner or later, the main parties have got to offer “added-value” beyond denominational purity (they may even, by default, — thank you, Iris! — be getting there). That “added-value” amounts to social policies (employment, housing, education, environment, transport …) which have wider appeal. That need to sell, to find a “unique selling point”, was a small glimmer of hope in my mad, Quixotic “primaries” notion.

    Alternatively, we are stuck in a time-warp …

    Time out for the statutory Malcolm Redfellow anecdotal aside:

    George Wallace was the racist Governor of Arkansas, famous for his inaugural address: “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He lost his first primary for the nomination as Governor, and commented: “You know why I lost that governor’s race?… I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.”

    That has parallels, too often, in the politics of our own little piece of heaven.

    As I see it, the basic problem with UCUNF was they could not manage to sell an intellectual leap and wider outreach: the result, perhaps not wholly fairly, was “Same old. Same old.” Missed opportunity: definitely. Particularly so, because if there was going to be an opening to the middle ground, among unionists, it was more likely to come from the UUP. Cameron squelched that one.

    Similarly, quite where SF is going, apart from offering pork-barrel politics to its faithful, is beyond me. It certainly isn’t left-of-centre democracy (though the movement contains leftists and even the odd democrat).

    Anyway, sad but true, it’s batten down the hatches for the next couple of months. Then, perhaps, fresh thoughts may be possible.

    Waiter! Waiter! Another bottle, if you will!

  • alan56

    Wondering why people are so bothered by talk of pacts, alliances etc.. Surely such things demonstrate that politics is alive and well? Would anyone here benefit from 2 permanent parties…one unionist and one nationalist?

  • Los Lobos

    Facts matter when allagations are made, so it is important to state in defence of David Trimble that he did not in fact “trip hand in hand down the Garvagh Road with Paisley”. It was a side road of the Garvagh Road and was should be seen in the context of a leadership race within the UU at that time. That is not to excuse the UU’s pathetic attempt to make themselves relevant by hooking up with the Tories. The old addage “if it has legs it will walk” is best kept in mind at times like this. Unfortunatly for the UU’s they seem to think that fielding Political lightweights like Mike Nesbitt will enhance their chances. One wonders will Mike be a challanger fo Reg’s job after he is forced to resign because of leading his troops to the slaughter? Either way the UU are washed up and out of ideas when they are forced to hang onto the shirt-tails of the Tories. They didn’t consult their base on the “big idea” and now they are going to pay. It’s sad to say but the UU are now seen as Sectarian as the DUP, they had a chance to be bold and brave and step into a new political demension but reverted to type. A curse on all their houses.

  • alan56

    Los Lobos
    Are you suggesting Nesbitt is going to win as that would be the only platform from which he could threaten Empy as leader? Thats a brave forecast!

  • joeCanuck

    Los Lobos,
    I apologize in advance but I am suggesting an amendment to your post:

    ..UU are now seen to continue to be as Sectarian as the DUP..

  • Comrade Stalin

    It was a side road of the Garvagh Road and was should be seen in the context of a leadership race within the UU at that time.

    What difference does the context make ?

  • dodrade

    So Elliott is once again Empey’s dog in a manger candidate in FST. How many times does Foster have to wipe the floor with him before he realises it isn’t UUP territory anymore? The UUP will never forgive the DUP for stealing their “birthright” to lead unionism, and the tories don’t care either as the more abstentionist SF MP’s there are the easier it will be to get a majority.

  • abc123

    Turgon on CUs “having an agreed candidate to stop the election of an MP who refuses to take her seat and is an open supporter of the IRA’s campaign of murder (nowhere more brutal, sectarian or indiscriminate than in Fermanagh) is sectarian.”

    Trimble played the people when he needed to in order to become leader. I don’t understand why the CUs have picked his wife to stand?

    The Provisional Sinn Fein IRA gang murdered members of the Conservative Party. Having an agreed candidate to stop SF candidates is not sectarian. The CUs are not dealing with an ordinary political party when it comes to SF. The people of FST deserve representation. It’s still not too late for common sense to prevail and for a more high profile Unionist candidate to stand who can defeat SF.

  • joeCanuck

    abc123,

    I take it you don’t think too highly of the idea of trying to get away from sectarian politics, on both sides.
    While I understand the frustration, even ire, of people in F&ST; not having a working MP, it would be depressing to see one Nationalist/Republican candidate versus a one Unionist/DUP one.

  • Turgon

    abc123,
    Just in case you did not realise: I was being ironic. Of course I do not think it is sectarian to try to stop Gildernew. Trimble, however, now seems to be trying to imply it is and in view of his previous views and indeed support for pacts in 1997 that is rank hypocrisy.

    This is aggravated even further when the Conservative party claim to be so obsessed with standing everywhere on principle supposedly to give people a chance to vote Conservative. Then they follow an arcane tradition and fail to stand in the speaker’s constituency and somehow that is also principle.

    For what it is worth I think it is fine if they want to stand aside in Buckingham and they should definitely stand aside in FST as it gives some chance of removing a non-MP who does not attend yet takes expenses; has suggested that people should not go to the police over criminality; glorifies sectarian murderers and has suggested that a future generation of republicans might “have to” go back to violence.

  • Michaelhenry

    abc123 says sinn fein are not the normal politacal party,waken up,both the unionist partys are in goverment with sinn fein,what can be more normal.

  • Driftwood

    Giving the speakers’ job to Bercow was a parting shot from Labour at the incoming administration.
    I’d like to see Nigel Farage win that seat for the hell of it.
    The DUP have never been interested in anything other than being the ‘top’ Unionist party in NI, going right back to O’Neill.
    Mainland politics is beyond the vision of a parochial party that believes the Earth is 6,000 years old.
    That’s why SF love them and see them as partners in a’staging post’ British withdrawal.
    No difference between voting DUP or their SF allies. Both are wasted votes at our Mother parliament.

  • Garza

    It appears this election the DUP instead of actually talking about international and national policies as should be in Westminister elections that would rather cry about pacts.

  • clancy

    “No difference between voting DUP or their SF allies. Both are wasted votes at our Mother parliament.”

    While the UUP are wasted votes at most elections?

    And the funny thing about that non-MP…only happens to get the largest share of the votes last couple of elections. Damn democracy.

  • From Turgon:

    Trimble, however, now seems to be trying to imply it is and in view of his previous views and indeed support for pacts in 1997 that is rank hypocrisy.

    From Nicholas Whyte’s Ark page on the 1997 general election

    Only the SDLP and Natural Law Party had candidates in all 18 seats. Alliance and Sinn Fein had 17 each (missing West Belfast and North Down respectively, in an odd sort of symmetry), and the Ulster Unionists 16 (they asked their supporters to vote DUP in Foyle and Mid Ulster). The DUP themselves had nine candidates, and the Workers Party and Conservatives eight each. The PUP and Women’s Coalition both ran three candidates, and the UKUP only one – but he won

  • Los Lobos

    Ammendment accepted joeCanuck with thanks. The debate on this thread is interestining in that “pacts” seem to be high on the agenda. There is one pact that hasn’t been mentioned however and it is one that would work very well in FST and indeed many other areas where the majority of voters are middle ground moderates. I refer to a pact between the SDLP and the UU’s. I know it is possibly a little late in the day at this stage, but if we as a society really wish to see Sectarianism nipped at the bud we must start somewhere. Tactical voting by both Parties could make all the difference if they dispensed with the negitive infighting within their respective ism’s by trying to look tougher than the big two. The next move would be to inform the public that they would be constructing a solid opposition at Stormont after the next assembly elections as the farce of a mandatory coalition actually weakens democracy (this could also get the UU’s off the Tory hook they have impaled themselves on as well as rejuvnating the SDLP.

    We get who we vote for, why should we not be allowed to vote for an oppositon option as opposed to everybody (Alliance) now included, for Government. Think about it, out of the 106 MLA’s, 103 are effectly on the Governments side! This leaves 1 Green, 1 PUP and 1 independent for an oppositon. And this is what we are exporting around the world as an answer to problem solving in areas where democracy is under pressure! The SDLP and UU didn’t (as many in their Parties think) have their clothes stolen, they were freely given away. In one fell swoop they could have the whole wardrobe back if they had the balls to see beyond the narrow margins of the next election.

  • Justin Case…

    I predict FST will see one candidate running. Foster can’t win it so the logical choice would be Elliott.

    The DUP’s integrity will be seen at this election

  • To be honest, the DUP would probably get a really good PR victory out of “being the bigger man” and standing down.

  • joeCanuck

    Los Lobos,

    I suggested a pact between the SDLP and the UUP across the whole province a couple of times in the past month. Not a single person responded (maybe Nevin did).

  • Turgon

    Los Lobos,
    Although I am not exactly a middle ground voter, I can see a logic to your idea and if it could fly it might help Northern Ireland move towards “normality” whatever that is.

    However, such concepts of a centre ground pact would vanish into absolute nothingness out here in the Dreary Steeples. I am not trying to be insulting but if you really think such an idea would work in Fermanagh you have absolutely no understanding of this part of the world; the naivety of that suggestion here is extremely touching. I am sure that any Fermanagh people you know would tell you how moderate they are. However, that is because of the way the world works down here. Everyone says how moderate they are in mixed company, even how they do not vote: then come election time everyone votes, the graveyards included.

  • Niccolo

    The DUP will stand aside in FST.

    They have nothing to loose and everything to gain by so doing.

    Even if the UUP/CONs win it will be a pyrrhic victory and one that will further boost the DUP in the eyes of those 63% of the Unionist electorate who wanted a Unionist unity candidate in the first place.

    Knight takes pawn, Queen takes knight.

  • alan56

    Turgon
    Take your point and broadly agree. No UU/SDLP alliance is likely. But when you think about it Elliot and McKinney are not idealogically (forgetting the constitutional issue) that far apart. A working relationship at Stormont might be very interesting?

  • Niccolo

    alan56,

    The United Kingdom/United Ireland question, like it or not, is the primary issue in Northern Ireland. To quote James Clarence Mangan, “the Erne (has) run red with redundance of blood” on the subject.

    The UUP and the SDLP stand on opposite sides of that divide.

    I ‘hear’ what you are saying but I defer to Turgon’s earlier advice on the point.

  • alan56

    Niccolo
    But on everyday issues surely it would not be impossible. SNP and Welsh Nationalists work with non-nationalists if not formally a lot of the time

  • Turgon

    Niccolo,
    They may be wise to stand aside but it is not quite as simple as that.

    For DUP standing:
    If the CUs come out of this election with very few seats (2 or less) then the whole CU project has stalled and the decline in the UUP will most likely continue whatever of the Conservative link. Hence, if the DUP stand they can effectively guarantee that the CUs will not take the seat and that has some longer term advantages for them. However, if Tom Elliott takes the seat people will soon forget that he did so by the DUP standing aside and since the CUs so denounce pacts they will dismiss the relevance of it to getting Tom Elliott elected and claim it a great triumph for the CUs rather than unionism overall.

    For DUP not standing:
    The electorate may be impressed and help them elsewhere. In addition there is a significant chance that Arlene Foster will do significantly less well than last time as compared to Tom Elliott. Whilst Enniskillen town and Lisbellaw have remained fairly loyal to the DUP (as judged by Foster’s by election performance), the suggestions are that Ballinamallard and Kesh in North east Fermanagh have defected to the TUV and, hence, might vote for Tom (who has a fairly hard line profile) in part to annoy the DUP. The same dynamic may well affect Erne East and Erne West (South east and all of West Fermanagh respectively) though they have small unionist populations. In addition the unionist parts of the Clogher Valley and around Dungannon may no longer be safe for the DUP.

    Hence, standing aside might be a pragmatic mechanism to avoid damage to the DUP here prior to the assembly elections.

    The final issue which I mentioned in a previous blog is that if there is a unity candidate there is a high chance that many nationalists will move to SF in order to stop the unity candidate. Then although the SDLP are standing it could become a simple head count battle like when the SDLP failed to stand in 1981 against Bobby Sands and then Owen Carron.

  • Driftwood

    Niccolo
    many, many people of a Unionist outlook will never vote for the DUP ever again. A lot of UU voters went over in the last few elections as a buffer against SF. That buffer has gone. Pete and Marty are good mates.
    The unionist vote will split. I’ve no idea how that will work out at the election, but I can guarantee there is no such thing as unionist unity.
    Some Unionists think Evolution is true and the age of our planet is more than 6,000 years. They tend to be educated and not vote for a loony religious cult. Most do not vote unfortunately, which is why the DUP exists and does well in elections. Willie McCrea and Paisley Jnr are an embarrassment.
    Some DUP politicians are above average, Arlene and Sammy. the rest are at best mediocre. The double/triple jobbing is pathetic.

  • Turgon

    Sorry to finish the comment above:

    It depends on what you feel the DUP should be aiming for at this time: the good of unionism or the good of the DUP. I often fear that the DUP (and all other unionist parties) see advantage for their own party as synonymous with advantage for unionism: a sort of we are the only proper unionists so we need to be strongest.

    If I were a DUP strategist I am afraid at this election I would advise running my favourite battleship (again Arlene if you are reading it is a compliment, as I told you last time we met) in order to stop any CU advance as this is the important election for the DUP to cut off the CUs. Some other time a pact might be good but since the CUs seem to have demanded impossible things of Norman Baxter to accept him as a unity candidate (essentially becoming a Tory) I think they can ride out the charge of vote splitting.

    I appreciate that if I am correct Arlene may lose some support to Tom compared to last time. However, much as I hate putting HMS Warspite in harm’s way: I would have overall strategy to consider. Also she always comes through and does the damage to our opponents. Sorry to be cynical and Machiavellian but if I were a DUP strategist, I would run Arlene and blame the CUs for not accepting a unity candidate.

  • Niccolo

    Driftwood & Turgon,

    The 3 options on the Unionist table are:

    1. DUP
    2. UUP/CON
    3. TUV

    If the Union means anything to you, and hold your nose if you have to first, but tell me hand on heart which of these is the best and most realistic option for maintaining the Union and moving forward.

    Please, no wishy-washy ‘half pregnant’ answers.

  • Justin Case…

    There was talk years ago of the Unionists & SDLP all falling in behind a candidate (someone like Michael Gallagher) to run against Doherty in West Tyrone.

  • lamhdearg

    Turgon has this right the whole issue of a unity candidate falls down when it is considered that the other side could do the same, If we only had two standing one irish nationlist one british unionist every election would be a mini border poll, the tension in the lead up to election day would not be good, As for an sdlp/uup link up it would need to start up not as an election deal but as them working together in the assembly (when there positions improve)as a defacto opposition, They are poles apart one linked to the right (cons) and the other the left (labor)so it is a long shot.

  • alan56

    The new dynamic of Feargal running for sdlp could be interesting in FST

  • Driftwood

    Conservative and Unionist.

    No contest.

    ‘Ulster’ nationalism – DUP – is backwater politics, and plays in to SF agenda.

    National politics is paramount. Chancellor, Foreign policy, defence etc.

    Lireally, Westminster Rules OK

  • Los Lobos

    Turgon the Dreary Steeples seem to have seeped into your pen. I, like yourself know this country well, I work there every day. I also know the electoral trends of the same area and have watched with great interest the rise of SF who it has to be said provide a really poor service to the area, even at Council level. What I don’t know is how a younger generation will see things as time moves on. A vote for SF is a vote for the DUP, it can’t be said any clearer than that. So why not counter that with the SDLP and UU’s forging some sort of relationship. My naivety may be really touching, I have often heard worse said about me but if it is naive to dare think that things can’t change for the better, then i admit guilt to that charge as I believe the current system is not set in concrete and is in fact built on sand. I don’t know what will replace it when it falls but it couldn’t be much worse than the dishonest, Sectarian hoods that run the place at the moment. Time the dreary steeples got a hose down with some thinking out of the box.

  • Niccolo

    Driftwood,

    Thanks for the clear response.

    However, is it not the people of Northern Ireland as vested in the agreements that decide if the Union with Great Britain is maintained?

    What then is the advantage of national politics in maintenance of the Union?

    Did it help Carson when he was a cabinet member?

    Did the increase in NI MP numbers negotiated by Molyneaux and Powell avert the Anglo-Irish Agreement?

    What happens if Labour wins?

    I do not want to shoot you down, but in my line of work clarity of thought is important and these questions immediately spring to mind.

  • Driftwood

    Niccolo
    What then is the advantage of national politics in maintenance of the Union?

    In my humble opinion, what is the point of the Union if we cannot engage in National politics?

    Did the increase in NI MP numbers negotiated by Molyneaux and Powell avert the Anglo-Irish Agreement?

    No, and we have to accept that our Government sometimes makes mistakes, like the poll tax. This is likely to continue on a broad range of issues.

    What happens if Labour wins?

    Are you serious? Their own ex cabinet ministers (cab drivers???) and the UNITE union leaders are polishing off any hopes there. A national Rail strike should provide the stake.

    Lets be friends with our friends. The Tories are providing us with funding and good will. Look at Lesley McCauley’s campaign in East Londonderry to see that there is clear blue water between the Unionist parties.

  • Impartial Reporter

    I agree with Driftwood here, the majority of the UCUNF candidates are anything but ‘traditional unionists’.

    Northern Ireland is lurching forward (like a learner driver who still hasn’t grasped the concept of ‘clutch, gear, release’)and the UCUNF project is a step in the direction that will ultimately see the end of DUP and SF.

    Labour are making more and more noises about running candidates in the next council elections, FF and FG are both dipping toes in the water for Council and Assembly runs – the days of ‘never never never’ are ‘over over over’.

    I may not live to see it, but politics here will move away from sectarian headcounts and towards issue led campaigning – the UCUNF project is the first, although fumbling, step towards that.

  • Justin Case…

    Anyone who is bored and needs bit of a laugh then they should watch this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqChukf1qJY

    It makes you want to squirm just watching it, I can’t understand why Chris Stalford needed to read of a transcript at the start.

    I remember encountering him canvassing during the 2007 elections, I wasn’t surprised to hear that he recieved an awful vote. He was the epitamy of smugness to me.

  • Niccolo

    Driftwood,

    I see where you’re coming from, but I heard the same case made to me nearly 20 years ago.

    We are in the age of devolution. As I pointed out earlier, the people of Northern Ireland will decide on the Union – there is no provision for a UK-wide poll. Integration did not happen despite advocates like Enoch Powell, and Jeffrey Donaldson as I recall.

    The reality is that influence at local level is what will maintain the Union unless, of course, you’re planning a re-plantation of Ulster from Finchley (which, if you remember, fell to Labour in 1997).

    As for your opinion on Labour’s chances of winning the next election….well, I seem to remember the press all but writing off John Major’s government in 1992. I saw his face on election night and the man couldn’t even believe it himself when he won….lol. Anyway, my point was in more general terms, if the UUP get into bed with the Conservatives for keeps, what happens at any time in the future when Labour becomes the government again?

    By the way, who is Lesley McCauley when he/she’s at home?

  • Niccolo

    Justin,

    I see your point on the DUP videos canvassing opinion in South Belfast – it made me cringe a little too.

    However, I have no problem with the sincerity of those taking part. They are real people on the ground and that is what they think. I also believe that they are expressing the majority Unionist viewpoint in that constituency.

    I know you do not mean to do this, but making light of other Unionists and their legitimate concerns led to the creation of parties like the DUP in the first place.

  • Justin Case…

    Niccolo,

    I think it is fair to assume all four being ‘interviewed’ are sympathetic to the DUP, in other words Duppers.

    Either that or they were getting paid, why else would anyone willingly be within half a mile of Christopher Stalford?

  • Niccolo

    Justin,

    Given that the South Belfast UUP is known to have approached the DUP about a unity candidate, I’m not sure it is “fair to assume”.

    Also, personal remarks about Christopher Stalford (or anyone for that matter) do not add anything here.

  • Justin Case…

    Niccolo, did you watch all the ‘interviews’? So the gloating about Trimble and concessions and so on is just a coincidence.

    Oh and it is a fair comment about Stalford, from people I associate with in South Belfast they can’t stand him. And they are standard middle of the road good ol’fashioned Prods, some who vote DUP but detest his (CS) character.

    It’s nothing personal. Trimble had appalling social skills, Doctor Paisley is one of the most civil people you could have a friendly chat with, but Christopher Stalford is smug in his character.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I may not live to see it, but politics here will move away from sectarian headcounts and towards issue led campaigning – the UCUNF project is the first, although fumbling, step towards that.

    How on earth is a party which entered talks with the Orange Order, has senior Orange Order members in its leadership, and has proposed a unionist pact, be considered a move away from sectarian headcounts ?

    How can a party which has taken an anti-agreement stance attract votes or transfers from nationalists ?

    All this stuff about agreement, sharing, ending tribal politics and sectarian headcounts – Alliance was doing that in the 1970s, while the current UUP leadership were goose-stepping for the dear leader Bill Craig in front of Stormont and participating in a paramilitary-led strike to overthrow the sovereign government.

  • Impartial Reporter

    I guess that, over thirty years on, we have seen how ignoring mainstream politics has helped the Alliance party then.

    Maybe it’s time for the Alliance Party to get of their moral high horse and start supporting a wider campaign for the benefit of Northern Ireland.

    But maybe they are too busy raising motions in the Assembly that they then vote against so they don’t annoy their new best buds in the DUP?

    The Alliance has no future in Northern Ireland and would be better deciding whether it wants to be Lib Dems or not, out of the Executive or in, let’s face it, the Alliance Party just need to made a decision on ANYTHING and stick to it.

  • YelloSmurf

    IR, You mean like sticking to a committment to a shared futre, like sticking to integrated education, like sticking to modern, liberal internationalist politics, like sticking to non-secterianism, like sticking to power sharing and being dismissed as idealists by those who have since come round to our way of thinking?

    Alliance have been an awful lot more consistant than Vanguard Reg, Powersharing Pete, never, never Ian, abstentionist socialist Marty or secterian-when-it-suits-me Margaret.

    In addition, the Alliance Party is fairly united in its aims, which is more than can be said for the UUP who can’t decide whether they are modern, non-secterian centre right conservatives, or old-school unionists seeing anti-union conspiracies in everything. We are generally consistant with the Liberal Democrats despite not being formally linked to them. Indeed relations between us are much better than relations between the two halves of UCUNF. We are also more constistant than the SDLP who claim to want a progressive shared future with everyone free to make up thier own minds with identity politics being consigned to history, but play the green card at every oppertunity, even claiming that anyone who isn’t a nationalist MUST be a unionist.

    Let’s not have anymore of this guff about Alliance inconsistancy, Alliance is the same party today as it was in 1970.

  • Let’s not have anymore of this guff about Alliance inconsistancy, Alliance is the same party today as it was in 1970.

    I was taught at school that initially Alliance was supported the union as long as the majority of the people in NI supported it.

    Now however, it seems completely neutral.

    It plays the fence sitting card at every opportunity, even claiming that anyone who isn’t a
    unaligned MUST be a sectarian bigot.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was taught at school that initially Alliance was supported the union as long as the majority of the people in NI supported it.

    That’s still the position, and thanks to the GFA, that position is now accepted by everyone.

    Now however, it seems completely neutral.

    Whether the union continues or not (and it, along with the current constitution of the UK, is under attack in ways that NI politicians cannot defend against) there are more important things to worry about. People talk more about the mess in academic selection, or the recession, for example than they do about the union.

  • PaddyReilly

    I was taught at school that initially Alliance was supported the union as long as the majority of the people in NI supported it.

    With slight emendation of grammar, yes, Alliance was a noticeably Unionist party when it started up, and pooh-poohed any talk of a United Ireland. But with the 1st pref Unionist vote down to 48.6% – 49%, that majority is no longer certain, so a more agnostic, neutral stance is called for. At some future time, presumably, there will be a Nationalist majority and Alliance will slip seamlessly into a Nationalist frame of mind.

    And whatsoever king may reign, they will be the Vicar of Bray, sir. And should they be blamed? I mean, if you’re a Chinese Taoist, what does it matter to you which brand of mad Paddy you come under? The same goes for people in mixed marriages or of mixed parentage, or who aren’t native to Northern Ireland in the first place.

  • Impartial Reporter

    Yellowsmurf
    We are generally consistant with the Liberal Democrats despite not being formally linked to them.

    That is the key Alliance problem – you are generally consistant with a lot of things but you are formally linked to nothing.

    My respect for Alliance has dropped completely in the last months, the whols charade in Stormont “let’s raise this in the chamber and then vote against it because the DUP tell us to”. The blatent selling of what made you different for a seat on the Executive.

    The Alliance party are, in my opinion, no longer relevant to the Northern Ireland political scene, they have no mandate worth speaking of and certainly no chance of power or relevance.

    The time for political parties that attract support by doing nothing is over.

  • PaddyReilly

    The Alliance party are, in my opinion, no longer relevant to the Northern Ireland political scene

    But that’s your opinion. Your impartiality is purely in your own imagination. As any opinion pollster knows, people divide into

    1) Strongly in favour
    2) In Favour
    3) Neither for nor against
    4) Against
    5) Strongly against

    Until the arrival of the TUV that covered SF, the SDLP, Alliance, UUP, DUP.

    There is a living of sorts to be made from adopting the no 3 slot. People employ you for being neutral, make you Minister of Justice, appoint you to quangos. Alliance will never get a quarter of the vote: but it will always pick up more transfers than other parties, which will give it a presence in Stormont: and if Unionists go on fragmenting, it might even find a place in the Palace of Westminster.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paddy,

    Things have moved on. 40 years ago the RoI was in a bad state and the government was under heavy undue influence by the RC church. Irish reunification would have looked like a bad idea then.

    The question is no longer so simple with the modern Ireland, with its dynamic economy, increasing secularism, and real efforts to reach out to unionists. Very few of the (objective) reasons to oppose Irish reunification now exist.

  • PaddyReilly

    Just as Aristotle pointed out that the youth of today are no good, people have been saying that the influence of the Catholic Church has been broken since the time of Parnell.

    Irish Catholics have always heeded the Church only when it suited them. In any case the Irish only exited from the Henrician schism in order to attract support for themselves from Spain.

    More to the point, in 1970 when Alliance was formed, Nationalists held only one seat in Westminster.

  • YelloSmurf

    I think the incident you refer to is the one a few months ago when the assembly team opposed putting one of their motions to a vote because they believed that they’d made their point about executive without forcing the UUP and SDLP MLAs to vote against their own leadership. Don’t forget that a vote against the executive is also a vote against Margaret, Reg and Michael. However the SDLP and the UUP decided that they wanted the vote. The reason why Alliance didn’t let it drop was that the assembly team believed that it was the proposer’s decision, under standing orders, whether or not to proceed to a vote. The speaker disagreed.

    I would also take issue with the phrase.

    The blatent [sic] selling of what made you different for a seat on the Executive.

    We never asked to be on the executive, we never demanded a seat, we never claimed a right to be on the executive. Instead we extracted numerous concessions on our key aims before we agreed to nominate. Progress has been made on a shared future. It may not be much progress, but it is significantly more than has ever occurred under a devolved administration since 1998 and can, therefore, be the foundation for further progress towards a shared society. The minister will now be a full member of the executive, working to an agreed programme which closely resembles the Alliance Party’s proposals on justice policy. That doesn’t look to me like a sell-out at the first chance of power; that looks to me like a situation where it would be churlish to say no. Alliance voters would not have forgiven the party if, when faced with the opportunity to advance a shared future and to shape the policy of a major area of government along the lines that they voted for, we had decided to say no. You said it yourself

    The time for political parties that attract support by doing nothing is over.

  • Erasmus

    ”More to the point, in 1970 when Alliance was formed, Nationalists held only one seat in Westminster.”
    It was actually three: Frank MacManus, Bernadette Devlin, and Gerry Fitt.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: The question is no longer so simple with the modern Ireland, with its dynamic economy, increasing secularism,…
    You mean the Celtic Crash and the Blasphemy law?

  • PaddyReilly

    It was actually three

    Well it was down to one by 1974. Nothing to write home about.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Reader, I’m not here to defend the RoI, but it has come a long way. I can think of plenty of criticisms of the country – Fianna Fail gombeenism factoring high – but it has done well.

    And while we’re on the subject of economics. There are unionists arguing that we should have a lower rate of corporation tax. If this is deemed good economics, and if it is deemed essential, then the logic is clear that joining the RoI is a better option. There’s no way that the UK government is going to create a tax haven in Belfast for the City of London to up sticks and move to.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paddy, I saw an article in the newspaper a week or two ago about government ministers effectively taking direction from Catholic bishops back in the 60s/70s. Of course, there are those who argue that Stormont took direction from the Catholic hierarchy as well, especially if you look at the way education is run here.

    You can’t deny that the RC church is in decline. Especially with the latest scandals.

  • PaddyReilly

    You mean the Celtic Crash and the Blasphemy law?

    Yes I believe the inhabitants of Dublin have started eating each other. Refugees have expired crossing the border from Louth with green stains around their mouths from eating grass, while in Mayo up to 50 people have been burnt alive for blasphemy.

    A true Unionist is against uniting Ireland, however attractive the prospect. Alliance unfortunately are not like that.

  • Impartial Reporter

    Now that the UUP are saying they will support the SDLP candidate, will Alliance withdraw and let the mandate of the people decide who is justice minister?

    Or is that too much like making a decision?

  • Comrade Stalin

    IR, didn’t I already explain this to you at depth ? Do you really think the party has gone through all this to back down now ?