“NORTH Down must be an interesting place to be these days,” the LibDem’s Northern Ireland spokesman told the Commons during Monday’s debate on the devolution of justice powers.
Alistair Carmichael was, of course, referring to the constituency’s Ulster Unionist MP Lady Hermon’s support for the transfer of powers – in stark contrast to the Ulster Unionist position in the Assembly.
But he was also referring to Conservative member Ian Parsley – UCUNF candidate for North Down – who has come out against his own party’s position in favour of the UUP’s.
Ian has retaliated at the LibDems, which suggests a nerve was hit, although to be fair he maintained his opposition to dump his own leader’s position in favour of Sir Reg Empey’s. It will be interesting to see if Ian’s new policy alignment with a party he once described as men in grey suits works out.
Still, he should feel right at home if he jump ship again, since UUP positions tend to shift fairly easily. Step forward Sir Reg Empey, who has apparently been considering voting for the SDLP candidate for the Justice Ministry.
Why a party opposed to the position being taken by ANYONE right now is simultaneously considering backing an SDLP candidate is contradictory enough. But when you consider that Sir Reg previously voiced concerns about David Ford not being unionist enough to take the job, it gives you an idea of just how principled his decision to vote against the devolution of justice powers really was.
For those who forget, Reg wrote:
[A]re we to assume that the Alliance Party in general and David Ford in particular dont really care one way or the other about the Union? Because if that is the case then it explains why they have never really been noted for their enthusiastic promotion of the Union.
And this does matter, because … David Ford has given a very clear indication that the Alliance Party is prepared to take the Justice Ministry. Many unionists – those who are not agnostic on the issue – would be very concerned that our first Justice Minister could therefore be someone who is not pro-Union.
In that case he should be even more concerned about supporting the SDLP candidate the job. The UUP would look utterly hypocritical to vote for the SDLP, so I hope they do.
In essence, we have a UUP MP lining up on the same side as the DUP against her own party, a Tory taking a UUP position against his own party, and the UUP leader thinking about opposing himself.
There’s nothing quite like a clear message. Good luck Davy Sims!
(Hat-tip: Roe Valley Socialist)