Cameron – a warmer house for unionists , but what about nationalists?

Traditionally people in NI judge British politicians by how they match up to their own hopes, fears and prejudices, and  relish  it when they fall down over some nuance or hidden trap and then wail : ” they don’t understand.” Nationalists will surely have said that and more,  as they listened to David Cameron speaking from the  La Mon House hotel  today.

By dodging the volcano ash in the middle of a 48 hour mammoth campaign swathe, Cameron was doing far  more than backing   Sir Reg”s outside chance.  He was out to break  the mould. In part, he did it.  His aim, as Paul Bew has just said on the BBC, was “to warm up the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”   He was reclaiming Northern Ireland, so often forgotten or treated as a special case in permanent  need of quarantine, on behalf of the Conservatives, ” the party of the Union.” You could see the joy in the audience’s eyes.

Yet while allowances can be made for electioneering, he left quite a few hostages to fortune in the NI version of the usual stump speech, with local inserts by Owen Paterson out of Jonathan Caine.

His crack “there’s nothing swish about the Conservative and unionist family ’ won’t be forgotten in the Robinson camp. On the other hand where else has the DUP to go now ? Cameron may be laying down new terms of political trade.

I will never be neutral on the Union

A place for NI at the cabinet table – this must mean a government, if not a cabinet job for Sir Reg if he gets elected and perhaps for David Trimble too ( only anoraks will remember Robin Chichester Clarke as Ted Heath’s junior employment minister; few others noticed).

We will look at ways of turning NI into an enterprise Zone.. and will continue to fund NI according to its needs.. There is no way NI will be singled out – we are all in this together in the UK

We will work with the Assembly and defend the education system from those who are out to destroy it

( How? This is a sore subject for Stormont.  Is he intervening with what  sounds like a defence of academic selection or new ideas for breaking the deadlock?)

Assurances were offered that the Agreements will be honoured. A warmer relationship will increase stability not weaken it.

A new kind o f politics, contain the dissidents, promote a shared future, look forward to a close relationship with the Republic

We take great pride in the men and women of the Royal Irish ..

We will not rewrite history and equate those who upheld democracy with those who tired to destroy it.. .. (So no universal recognition payments)

We will draw a line under the past with no more costly and open eneded inquiries.

Little enough here differs in substance from the Blair –Brown approach What is different is the tone of personal conviction.

If I become your Prime Minster I will be back in Belfast in a week.

To be nicer to the DUP and offer some warm words to nationalists perhaps?


  • Just as Northern Ireland parties offer views on issues such as taxation that they are unable to deliver, is Cameron also doing the same in offer enterprise zone (without talking the, er, DUP Minister or on education as Brian notes. But if Reg get’s a seat at the table, and is taking his cue from the Conservative Party he can’t possibly lead the Ulster Unionist Party? And Reg and DT at Westminster is manna for the DUP.

    This regional/national relationships at all levels will no doubt be the subject of a great many threads on slugger in the coming weeks.

  • perhaps, but it would show a political naivety on Cameron’s part I’m not sure is there. Certainly nothing in his speech today indicated as such and I detect a pre-election cementing of the Tory borders generally in the last week.

    As it stands the DUP are in a muddle, actively playing catchup behind the scenes after the UUP made a break for real politics whilst on the other hand allowing their knuckle draggers to make barely-disguised xenophobic jibes at the CU project without a hint of irony.

    It remains to be seen who needs who more. If Cameron faced the DUP down, would the DUP assume the role of chief NI spoilt brat in the absence of the Shinners at Westminster?

    This taxpayer would be interested in watching that little drama unfold.

  • That will all depend on how the result falls and the number of seats making the difference. Anything over 20-30 of a majority would make both the DUP and UUP irrelevant. 2-3 and it is a whole different call.

  • Cynic


    You comments about nationalists are very condescending.
    Do you not think that they too want

    * a place for NI at the Cabinet Table
    * an Enterprise Zone
    * an end to the wrecking of the Education system
    * a shared future and new kind of politics
    * a line drawn under the past

    Why do you see these as predominantly Unionist issues?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “Lord” Trimble is of course the most obvious choice for Cabinet as one of the wiser Slugger posters has been saying for a while now. But thats enough about me.
    Hard to justify Reg getting a cabinet place notwithstanding his extensive local experience.
    With 300 plus Tories in the new Commons it seems unlikely that 200 plus of them would not feel more deserving than Reg.
    It has however been the lot of our local tribes to be sold down the river by their friends at Westminster and I see no reason to think that Cameron is any different.
    But wasnt Heath a Unionist Stormont abolished)?
    And Thatcher/Major with all those “Lundy” Secretary of State figures.
    Did nationalism fare any better under Merlyn Rees and the repulsive Roy Mason?

    Unionism would be well advised to keep a close eye on its “friends”.
    Of course the UUP “might” think that it helps to have a “party member” as Secretary of State so that the Assembly can be by-passed……But with power-sharing and Dublin involved… just wont work out for them.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    If Cameron were as good as his word ( as we know generally as per FST he aint) and he got elected then it would be Christmas come early for the dissers as he attempts to move away from at least the spirit of the GFA.

    Luckily, if we can believe the polls, a right-wing-Pro-Unionist British government (possibly propped up by the DUP) is not gonig to have the opportunity to meddle in the still bedding down Political Process.

  • Charminator

    Unionism may find that putting stock in Cameron and the Tories is only bound to disappoint… again. The bare reality is that when political bargains must be struck, ‘cool Dave’ will have to work with not just the Irish Govt, but SF as well. He will find that doing so, in a climate of rolling back on years of Tory policy of having ‘no selfish strategic interest etc’ in NI, will be very tricky indeed. He’ll change. He’ll simply have to. And in the process, he’ll remind Unionists once again of lessons already taught by Heath, Wilson, and Thatcher, that in the context of the NI Unionists, British parties and the British people, know very little and care even less.

  • none of what you say is a foregone conclusion – some may turn out true, some may not. The key issue here is that this discussion is possible in the first place.

    Opening up government to the electorate in NI isn’t an end in itself, it’s an opportunity to be used. Not in a tribal smash and grab fashion as the Shinners and DUP would have us believe is a viable strategy long term but in adding to the fold another voice in UK government with that post-industrial demographic that the conservatives are lacking in.

    In that sense, the opportunity isn’t just an NI one.

    It has however been the lot of our local tribes to be sold down the river by their friends at Westminster and I see no reason to think that Cameron is any different.

    Except that your examples are outdated and rely on a part of the UK effectively descending into anarchy, and another part to undergo a pretty sustained bombing campaign.


  • Ah the ghost of the GFA makes it’s reappearance.

    together with an equally incomprehensible opinion on the ‘Political Process’ here. Whatever that is. Photograph opportunities in front of No 10 perhaps?

  • Again, a remarkable inability to infer the differences between NI as a failed state and NI as a stable UK region.

  • Cynic

    Ni was never a state. It was a province within the UK

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    st etienne,

    Ghosts operate in relation to dead things and according to Davey he is a subscriber to the GFA and it with it’s attendant legislation is very much alive although Davey is trying to do a bit of wriggling and speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.

    Being very much alive contrasts markedly with project UCUNF which if we are to listen to the funny noises coming out of Tory central office is being supplanted by and agreement between the righ-wing-Tory party and the right-wing-anti-Catholic-anti-science-DUP-party.

    There was an insurgeny here for about 30 years and everyone bar Unionists ( and some mad-dog-right-wingers-in-the-Toryparty) recognise that the historical differences between Britian and Ireland take some time to bed down in the political/peace process – lets all hope Davey hasn’t forgtooten that little uncomfortable fact.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Ulster is a province in Ireland.

    In the GFA the British recognised that it was for the people of Ireland alone and free of British interference to decide it’s constutional future. The GFA is also a reflection of the Tory party policy when they were in government that they have no strategic interest here and Davey’s funny Unionist noises will therefore be judged in that context.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ It was a province within the UK’

    The only province to have it’s own Parliament for 50 years until it was abolished by a Conservative Government who will repeat the exercise if it becomes necessary to do so .

  • A spirit is a dead thing in my eyes. This particular spirit gets dragged up so often by reactionaries unable to see that their interpretation of the GFA is just another religious belief with no ground in the reality that politics will keep changing whether they like it or not.

    From a right-wing-anti-little-NI-nationalist-pro-radical-voter.

    historical differences? Get your head out of the history books. There’s people’s livelihoods that need safeguarded.

    bloody hell.

  • I did think before typing ‘failed state’ but essentially a mismanaged fiefdom so the imagery is correct (in my eyes) if not the letter of the law

  • John East Belfast

    A Northern Irish unionist at the heart of the UK Cabinet will be brilliant for the Union.

    Better inside the tent and all that

  • Reader

    It was Sammy: The GFA is also a reflection …
    It’s not a reflection, it’s a document, and it has spawned legislation across the British Isles. If you need guidance on what DC is obliged to do, or not to do, pass the stuff on to a lawyer.
    I take it we are in agreement that DC has not done anything actionable *yet*?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I agree that would be an excellent result for Unionism.

    In the event of a small Tory majority how good will it be if the British government is propped up by the DUP – do you think it would be good a) for Ulster and b) for Britiain.

  • Reader

    It was Sammy: Ulster is a province in Ireland.
    Yep, one of the ancient sporting provinces of Ireland. And Northern Ireland is a political province of the UK. In the context of Tax; Health; Benefits; Jobs; David Cameron; and the Election coming up on Thursday, it is the second fact that is more relevant.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    ” Get your head out of the history books” 1998 for fecks sake.

    “There’s people’s livelihoods that need safeguarded”

    So you wont be voting for the mad-dog-right-wing-Tories then?

  • John East Belfast


    No I dont think the DUP are good for Ulster or Britain – I think in their present form they are a total disaster

  • Greenflag


    ‘Better inside the tent and all that’

    Inside or outside and no matter the winner NI will get it where it hurts . Some might be unkind enough to even suggest NI has earned it -as a reward like -for all those years of ‘loyalty’ to the half crown ;)?

  • John East Belfast


    Whether Ireland or Britain we are all going to suffer the next ten year with higher taxes and cuts in Govt spending to pay for the excesses of some – NI will be no different

  • Greenflag

    True . But no other region in the UK or Ireland is sitting on a potential timebomb as is NI , if the Tories are elected and if they do a Maggie repeat act . Cameron is still keeping 80% of his economic cut cures under wraps until he’s safely behind the doors of number 10 . At least with Brown you can expect he’ll be somewhat more mindful of those areas of the UK which have not benefitted from the Thatcherite and Blairite financial services revolution ;(!

    Cameron is very quiet on the banking front -too quiet .

  • John East Belfast


    I think you are sitting on an atomic bomb called the residential mortgage market when ECB rates start to rise

    In the end of the day NI will still avail of UK standards of education and health – if a lot of the non welfare front line civil servants discover they dont really have a value added job and have to do something more productive then that is no bad thing.

    Ultimately NI (like NE Engalnd, Wales and many other UK regions will be supported by the rest of the UK).

    Unlike the ROI who are on their own – i know where I would rather be

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Bit of muddled thinking there in these 2 points.

    1) “I think you are sitting on an atomic bomb called the residential mortgage market when ECB rates start to rise”

    2) “Unlike the ROI who are on their own”

  • John East Belfast


    I dont know hat you mean so either I am very muddled or you have misunderstood somehow ?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Ireland cannot simultaneously be sitting on an EU atomic bomb and also be on her own .

  • John East Belfast


    To be honest I had meant to put in dependent on the EU or IMF but I thought that would be unnecessarily rubbing it in so I thought saying “you were on your own” would leave some national pride.

    I also thought it best I leave out the German attitude to Greece as well

  • RepublicanStones

    A Northern Irish unionist at the heart of the UK Cabinet will be brilliant for the Union

    At the heart of the cabinet? Seriously, John, you think one of the big jobs is up for grabs? Reg as Defence Minister? Or how about Trimble at the Foreign Office? Or do you think perhaps, one of those rather less glamourous posts, which aren’t at the heart of the cabinet…Minister for licking the Stamps perhaps?

  • JoeJoe

    Does it sound to unionist ears (as it does to nats), that the DUP -and even many other unionists- shouting about support dependent only on NI issues sounds strage? Previous unionist generations were happy to die for the Queen, but the pragmatic DUP pronouncements on which British party gets support post-election seems to have nothing to do with what is best for Great Britain, the Queen of England, the sceptred isle etc.

  • yes-i-will-as-no-one-else-realises-the-state-of-the-nation.

    And you’re the one comparing the unspoken historical differences between Britain and Ireland – which is about as relevant to the coming Conservative government as the last Argentine junta

  • the republican disdain for real democracy is most amusing.

  • the DUP are Ulster nationalist in outlook. If it acts and barks like a dog…

  • John Joe

    Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense. Sterling is under-valued by 15-20% relative to the last ten years. If the Euro slides against sterling, UK exports are going to get worse (in theory they should have enjoyed the good exchange rate). Given that some of the EU (like RoI) are further along in terms of making budgetary cuts (whether you support how they are made or not at least the process has started). If the general election debate is anything to go by, it will be autumn before any budgetary interventions are made. In the event of a hung parliament, no-one will probably make those choices. Thus UK national debt will be rising rapidly with no beginning of a correction process. There is no serious public discussion of this and none of the politicians are facing up to it. What is worse – the UK property recovery of sorts was stimulated by cheap credit locally and so that bubble is also likely to burst very soon.
    The RoI at least has the back-up of being in the Eurozone and out of its property bubble. The UKs current one is going to burst at a time when uncorrected national debts are getting increasingly worse with no sign of improvement anywhere.

  • how long would a press conference last with a unionist Tory minister being asked about his membership of the Orange Order?