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.