“Northern Ireland might be becoming more socially liberal, but…”

The Watchman is an occasional contributor to Slugger. Today he picks up on the notion that one potential candidate for South Antrim, Adrian Watson, has been excluded because of a hypothetical answer he gave regarding a (hypothetical) gay couple requesting a booking in his wife’s bed and breakfast business… An attitude which he seems to have moderated somewhat in recent times… By The Watchman

I can’t compete with Turgon’s historical analogies. So here I will simply predict that the horribly-named UCUNF selection process could well come seriously unstuck on the streets of Antrim and Newtownabbey.

South Antrim should be Number 2 on the UCUNF winnable list. In 2005 David Burnside did very well to keep the DUP majority down to 3’500 odd votes. The DUP is known to be nervous about South Antrim, given a strong TUV vote. One would have expected there to be a UCUNF candidate in place with just 6 weeks to go. But South Antrim remains without a candidate. Why?

The cumbersome UCUNF selection process always looked likely to cause problems. Under it, a name from each party was supposed to go before a joint committee of the 2 parties. The local UUP Association nominated Antrim Mayor Adrian Watson in November. I am not aware of any person nominated by the Tories. Certainly no one has been named publicly.

Watson’s grave sin has been to dissent from what the politically correct brigade (which includes Cameron) believe about gay rights. Many Christians feel that they are living in an increasingly intolerant age and that they face institutional harassment for living out Christian values in the public space.

The spotlight on Watson also says something significant about the intolerance of the self-appointed “gay rights movement” and its unwillingness to accept public expression of conscientiously held Christian beliefs. But that is for another day.

If Watson, the nominated candidate of the local Association, is blackballed as a result of pressure from London then that could cause all sorts of problems for the UUP at the worst possible time. The DUP is already poised to use any such blackballing (a) as an example of their rivals taking their instructions from London and (b) as discriminating against someone for their Christian beliefs. Both would be toxic for the UUP in an already difficult election.

South Antrim, and much of Northern Ireland, ain’t Notting Hill, despite what many people think. Yes, Northern Ireland might be becoming more socially liberal, but that rate of change seems to be happening at differing speeds across the divide. Certainly, what obsesses the Cameroons of Notting Hill is not what obsesses the unionists of South Antrim, and definitely not in the crucial swing group of “soft” DUP voters. Willie McCrea would be quite happy to run as the “traditional moral values candidate”.

I wonder if members of the UUP in South Antrim really expected that one day a Tory leader in London might be able to override who they might select as their Parliamentary candidate? (Would Jim Molyneaux have been selected there in 1970 if he had needed Ted Heath’s endorsement?) Election campaigns still depend on volunteers, especially in marginal seats. Would anyone be prepared to canvass for a candidate imposed over their heads?

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  • Dec

    Its illuminating that those who object to Watson’s stance on same sex couples and travellers (‘scum of the earth’) are the intolerant ones, at least in Watchman’s bubble.

    I wonder if members of the UUP in South Antrim really expected that one day a Tory leader in London might be able to override who they might select as their Parliamentary candidate?

    I’d venture that some may have considered the possibility, ever since Reg Empey formed his pact with the Conservative Party and started blethering on about Ulster Unionists being at ‘the heart of government’. Clearly, Watchman believes there is such a thing as a free lunch.

    Btw I don’t think anyone, save for the clinically insane, would ever confuse South Antrim with Notting Hill.

  • granni trixie

    I heard Adrian Watson defend on radio what can only be described as homophobic views.

    I am not so much in the gay rights brigade as in the compassion brigade.

  • granni trixie

    Dec: you missed out the best bit – UCUNF were going to be the ones to deliver a shared future.

  • jtwo

    And of course that one time he complained to Tesco’s about weans in GAA shirts doing a charity bagpack he was merely “passing on a constituent’s concerns.”

    And that other time he went on about “bringing back the birch” he was merely channelling the sort of elderly Tory who communicates with newspapers in squiggly handwriting.

  • Many Nationalists and Republicans have been critical of project UCUNF from it’s launch, suggesting as it does some type of institutional playing of the Orange card at party political level. They may also have been (secretly) worried that such linkage would help move moderate Unionism away from it’s damaging links with the Orange Orader and inject some new secular sensible blood into the ailing UUP.

    Well Fenians need not have worried themselves as this sorry project has been unmitigated embarassment to all on both sides of the Irish sea – of which the above is but the latest example.

    Can anyone tell us of a single actual concrete benefit that has resulted from this tryst between two political parties desperate to prove that they have move away from their historical positions but has only served to remind everybody how little the UUP have changed and how backward looking it is.

  • Dec

    Can anyone tell us of a single actual concrete benefit that has resulted from this tryst between two political parties

    The laughs it’s provided us with?

  • Paul

    rumours are that col tim collins has being approached.cant see him standing though

  • We also know that the Tories put up Margaret McVeigh. She seems to me in a different (and far superior) league to the discredited Mayor of Antrim. Decent, reasonably liberal, committed, bright, with a good record of public and voluntary service both in NI and London, a strong Anglican attachment, she might have achieved what it says on the UCUNF box: reached out to a wider constituency. Looking at the realities of the prospective South Antrim candidatures, I could even, at a stretch, have been tempted myself.

    Yet, she was unacceptable to the UUP.

    All-comers, including the Watchman, might exercise themselves by addressing the morality of that one.

  • I don’t have a problem with a candidate espousing “Christian” values standing for office, but he can’t expect the party he prefers to stand for to conform to his beliefs. That is the nature of parliamentary democracy as practised in Britain and Ireland – part of your attraction to voters is the banner under which you stand and the expectation that you espouse most of the party’s beliefs and ALL of the specific electoral platform (stuff that comes up between elections being a matter for your conscience).

    However, the experience in the South indicates that “silent majority” parties like Christian Solidarity are routinely annihilated, even where the multiseat system allows relative fringe parties like the Greens and PDs to get footholds. This is because they rarely come of as competent on the issues people vote on.

    The cautionary note here is whether a party in the vein of Christian Solidarity can exist in the UK post EHRC vs BNP.

  • It is difficult to imagine that absolutely nobody on the Conservative candidate list for all of England, Wales and Scotland shares Watson’s views on the gay issue, regardless of what Cameron and the Notting Hill crowd say. Perhaps none of them have actually said it publically however…..

  • ding dong

    Now the [Rev Dr]* McCrea, singing sensation, against Col Tim Collins,ego by nature.

    Now that would be a rumble I’d love to see!

    []* remove as appropriate

  • Fabianus

    “Many Christians feel that they are living in an increasingly intolerant age”

    It’s true. The Middle Ages were a lot more fun.

  • Lady Hermon just stuck the parliamentary boot firmly into the UCUNF crotch.

    Gwan Sylv.

  • alan56

    Can’t see the gay rights/Christian values issue being raised by DUP in South Antrim

  • Fabianus

    Moderate Unionist,

    “the UCUNF crotch”

    What an unfortunate juxtaposition of words!

  • Mick,

    I think Slugger has just been referred to in the ‘house’ by Liberal Democrats spokesman (Alistair Carmichael) who challenged Patterson to disassociate himself from Ian Parsley’s ‘blog’ remarks and he then asked Patterson if Cameron tried to presuade Reg to vote ‘Yes’ on Hillsborough. I asked that of Mr parsley myself after his ‘controversial’ posting on Slugger but got no answer. Not suprising Mr Paterson avoided answering the question today.

  • granni trixie

    MU: Very interesting. But can you refer us to or remind us here as to that controversial Slugger posting?

  • GT,

    It was strongly anti-Hillsborough and out of keeping with his own party, and will be on Hansard – perhaps some one from the Alliance Party fed it (rightly) to their sister party.

    Dont know where link in Slugger is though.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You can read Ian’s defence of the anti-agreement position taken by the UUP here. Apparently, he gushes, the UUP’s efforts to derail the political process here amount to a selfless effort to obtain “better devolution”.

    We knew Parsley had Tory connections, not something I have that much of a problem with (the Tories stood with Alliance and others on a joint, centre-focussed campaign for the Euro elections in 2004) but it is pretty obvious that he is not really a Tory but, rather, a de-facto UUP member whose position stands in stark opposition to that taken by his party leader.

    It was strongly anti-Hillsborough and out of keeping with his own party, and will be on Hansard – perhaps some one from the Alliance Party fed it (rightly) to their sister party.

    If it were down to me I’d be making damn sure that Labour and the Liberal Democrats were fully briefed on the Orange Order-linked, homophobe-nominating, wrecker-agenda party the Tories have jumped in bed with.

  • CS,

    “If it were down to me I’d be making damn sure that Labour and the Liberal Democrats were fully briefed on the Orange Order-linked, homophobe-nominating, wrecker-agenda party the Tories have jumped in bed with. ”

    Jolly well put.

  • Comrade Stalin @ 08:10 PM:

    If it were down to me I’d be making damn sure that Labour and the Liberal Democrats were fully briefed on the Orange Order-linked, homophobe-nominating, wrecker-agenda party the Tories have jumped in bed with.

    Some of us are doing our best.

    As always, too many Brits, especially Tories, see NI as a “small country about which we know nothing”.

    The Tory interest in NI and the UUP amounted to no more than the hope of a couple of seats.

    The Guardian editorial [9 March] encapsulated the state-of-play. To NI readers, it didn’t say anything new; but it was addressed nearer home, where it sounded fresher and crisper:

    The Conservative leader, David Cameron, also needs to face up to what is at stake here. Mr Cameron has put a lot of commitment into restoring the electoral pact between his party and the UUP. He has encouraged the Marquess of Salisbury’s reactionary romantic attempt to bring the Tories and the two large unionist parties back under one political roof. As a result he now finds himself simultaneously the leader of a party which began and backs the Northern Ireland peace process and the partner of a party which seems determined to prevent the final cornerstone of that process from being put into place today. This is not a cost-free contradiction in terms, as the US government and bipartisan congressional groups have now made clear. American economic investment in Northern Ireland as well as security are at stake.

    … Northern Ireland politics has known its fair share of posturing, but this is irresponsible by any yardstick. Mr Cameron needs to decide which side he is on: the peace process or those who want to derail it. He can’t be on both.

    For what it’s worth (not much), I have found the Tory blogsites are operating a strict “don’t-rock-the-boat” editorial policy. From here until the Election, it’s full blinkers on.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Malcolm, in the interests of objectivity, I never thought that the American intervention upon the Tories and UUP was fair. Personally speaking, I actually resented it. Americans would be livid if they heard that the politicians from the UK called up on the eve of the recent healthcare vote to urge senators and representatives to do the “right thing” – and quite rightly so. Interventions like that can be damaging, because if you had any intentions of voting for the measure you’re in danger of looking as if you caved to outside interference, and you may therefore feel compelled to vote against simply to prove your mettle.

    And I also never accepted the stuff about inward investment being under threat, taken in isolation. Apart from many of these promised deals often failing to materialize, business is business and there will be investment here as long as the returns are good. Political stability helps but is not a prerequisite; people do, after all, invest in unstable countries, dictatorships (there are foreign investment zones in North Korea which are bustling with outside cash flowing in, despite being under the control of one of the most unpredictable and flighty regimes on the planet).

    My problem the the position taken by the UUP is that it was a cynical stunt to undermine devolution and stability. It happened because Reg Empey is a weak leader who failed to face down extremist, conservative (note small “C”) elements. Abstention would have provided an opportunity to protest the deal without making a point about being set against it. Moreover, the criticisms of the deal make no sense, and are part of a wider sense of overall confusion within and without the party about what it stands for. The UUP is criticizing the same talks process that it used itself to corner it’s own interests when it was top dog. It is criticizing the effectiveness of the executive it is a part of, while simultaneously talking about unionist unity. It fails to see the prize within grasp, that of putting a local face upon policing (regardless of who it is) which is a means, however small, to combat dissident violence.

  • John K Lund / Lllamedos / Suchard

    England and Wales still have an Established Church whilst Northern Ireland which is disestablished is far less secular than England and Wales. Homosexuality has been with us since early man, so these people need to lighten up and be tolerant. There is room for us all on this planet and raving homophobics piss me off just as over the top overtly gays; however I am even beggining to find their parades slighly amusing.

  • Sammy Morse

    Wales has not had an established church since 1920. Scotland has one, but it’s a different one to the one in England.

  • Kevin Barry

    This was sheer stupidity on the part of UU selecting this guy. Some one should have had the common sense to know that though there are undoubtedly many Tories who share Watson’s moronic opinions on homosexuality, the UU/Tory JV would mean there would be far more media scrutiny on the character of all potential candidates selected in NI than someone in the Shires.

    It actually beggars belief that no one could see this as a potential media own goal, or that it didn’t cross the mind of someone in UU HQ that the Cameroons may not want a relic like this on the ticket.

  • CatinHat

    Banning discrimination against / for gays* in private provision of goods and services is socially ILLiberal. Let’s get it right.

    *don’t forget that this legislation works the other way too, for example,
    http://www.parisgym.com/about.html

    Same applies to not letting Catholic adoption charities only serve heterosexual couples.

    The government is effectively legislating against sin rather than harm-doing, the opposite of the Wolfenden conclusions that led to homosexuality being legalised.

    Curiously nulabour combines this with tougher laws and tougher rhetoric against prostitution. So a website designer who declines to do a website for a gay bar is a criminal (supposedly “liberal”) but a man who pays for sex has more ways to get himself in trouble than ever (liberal?).

    http://www.christian.org.uk/news/harman-unveils-plan-to-ban-prostitute-adverts-in-papers/
    Feminist inspired music to Free Presbyterian ears?

  • Richard James

    “Its illuminating that those who object to Watson’s stance on same sex couples and travellers (‘scum of the earth’) are the intolerant ones, at least in Watchman’s bubble.”

    Just a pity you’re a flagrant liar Dec. Adrian Watson described those burgling an elderly lady’s home as being “the scum of the earth”.

    It’s indicative of your own bigotry that you’d try to imply that this activity is intrinsically linked to the travelling and gay communities.

  • Framer

    The self-righteousness of so many of the nationalist posters on this site, in particular the nationalists and republicans, is nauseating.

    I can’t recall a single instance of any SF or SDLP public representative speaking, writing or voting in favour of any aspect of gay law reform or social change before it became safe to do so.

    Most in the SDLP actually voted against reform despite a 22 carat gay rights policy, while there isn’t a single LGBT Sinn Fein representative despite some 5% of the population being in those categories.

  • Framer

    I find the attitudes of so many of the posters on this subject, particularly those of a nationalist or republican persuasion, nauseating.

    There wasn’t a single public representative from the SDLP or Sinn Fein that voted for gay law reform or spoke out in favour of social change until it became safe to do so. Now they require everyone to adhere to their identical right-on view. Some persecute those who do not share it.

    Indeed the SDLP MPs regularly voted against law reform despite their 22-carat gay rights policy, while Sinn Fein amazingly hasn’t a single LGBT representative despite that category making up some 5% of the population. Indeed they actively argued against law reform for ‘anti-imperialist’ reasons.