A warning to the unionist parties

Unionists would be wise to resist the temptation to crow and come out as anti-Labour partisans in any hung parliament scenario or Cameron government. History shows that Labour were as good for unionism and often better than the Tories with whom they are now making up. This applies even to United Ireland supporters who are strong within Labour. The peace process is not yet a wasting asset. I found it remarkable at a hustings in Hammersmith last week that Andy Slaughter the Labour candidate and ex MP, proud of his Troops Out past and still wanting the British out of Ireland, explicitly supported continuing higher public spending in NI than in his own Hammersmith.

There are real risks for unionists of either party if they overplay their hand or raise expectations too high, buoyed up perhaps by a place in the government or a role in backing a minority administration. That will not transform their position or mean that a Conservative government is an Ulster Unionist government.  They could all too easily revive the sort of ire and contempt that unionism suffered from for generations, referred to by Nick Watt in his dreary “dreary steeples” and perfectly adopted by DT’s Mary Riddell

Would Mr Cameron really want to harness himself too closely with a party whose erstwhile campaign ,”Save Ulster from Sodomy” , mutated into what one newspaper called a “near pathological obsession with all things gay”? More recently, leading members of the DUP racked up such eye-watering sums in expenses that the leader and his wife, Iris, were dubbed “the swish family Robinson.” Ken Clarke, always one to tell it like it is, says: “In the end you can always do a deal with an Ulsterman, but it’s not the way to run a modern, sophisticated society.”

Unionism or more appropriately Protestantism, is split over ” a modern sophisticated society” and now sends out the sort of mixed signals  we’ve seen in south Antrim and Irisgate. But the ultra evangelicals will find no more friends among the dominant Cameroons in the Conservative party than they will within Labour. Since the GFA and then St Andrew’s, unionists were gradually losing their pariah status at Westminster. Witness Brown’s extravagant compliments to Paisley on his retirement at the penultimate PMQs of the last Parliament. If unionists are wise they’ll plot a careful modernising course, Cameroon fashion.

 Brown and Cameron’s flirtations with the DUP haven’t disturbed my belief that dreams of unionist power broking are unlikely to amount to much. With all his experience I doubt if Peter Robinson is letting the attention he’s sought go to his head. All sides in this game are covering their bases, little more.

In the coming weeks unionists shouldn’t jump to conclusions either that the Owen Paterson agenda for reforming the Assembly system including a voluntary coalition  is about to enacted. They days have long gone when any Westminster government could act unilaterally in law and in fact.

Westminster is a warmer place for unionists now but they shouldn’t take it for granted. They will always need friends among all parties there, whatever the future of the Conservative-Unionist alliance or  the DUP.

  • Garza

    Reports are looking good for Lib Dems. Labour to come third this election – couldn’t have happened to a nicer party.

  • The CUs are Conservative Walker take the blinkers off.

  • Unionism or more appropriately Protestantism, is split over ‘a modern sophisticated society’

    Hence two parties – the Tories who unlike yourself understand this notion of modernity and the nationalists in the DUP who likely see the world through your narrow lens where everything is about a land grab for the tribe.

    Thankfully some of us are more sophisticated than that. Your constant bleating to the contrary is ridiculous.

  • Driftwood

    The term ‘protestant’ is applied less to Unionism now we are moving in to a more secular era. Among younger people atheism is becoming more prominent.
    UK Unionism I hope will replace ‘Ulster’ Unionism

    Re: a party and its views on homosexuality, karma can be a bitch:

  • Neil

    Saw that, lends further credence, if it were needed that these Christian folks on occasion protest too much, no mean?

    In the context of NI which party do you reckon complains, for want of a better word, about homosexuality? And which party has the greatest number of closet homosexuals do you think? Cause in my mind the answer to both questions is the same.

  • Greenflag

    Never mind what they (the clergy/politicians /bankers/ corporate execs etc ) say -just watch what they do . And don’t be too upset if what they do bears little no relation to what they say .
    It was always so -it’s just now getting more publicity these days .

  • Driftwood

    Indeed greenflag. While I want a Tory victory, I would happily vote for Evan Harris on his personal record, as recorded here:

  • madraj55

    driftwood… Unionists have a poor track record of learning lessons. Their ‘victory’ over nationalists in May 1974 looks a bit hollow now, having to share with Shinners thirty five years after refusing to do so with Fitt led SDLP.
    and Sunny Jim is getting to be a broken record. nothing to say about the economy, health, education etc.

  • Greenflag

    Evan Harris should hold his seat and may even increase his majority of almost 8,000 imo. He’d get my vote too .

    Alas what you want I sense you may not get i.e a Tory victory but if you do get it -anything is possible – I trust it’ll be without encumbrances . That would not be good for NI as it would only increase the already too great sense of ‘entitlement’ which the parties there seem to thrive on . For the UK longer term electoral reform would be better and that will not happen under either a Labour only or Tory only government. They’ve had 65 years since the end of the war to return Britain to greatness;) or at least effectively manage a civilised and slow decline . Some Governments over that period succeeded more than others but overall it’s been muddling through and perhaps that’s about all that can be expected . The election of a large cohort of Lib Dems and some form of PR should help shake out some of the cobwebs out of the system . A century ago or so the Labour party began it’s climb to overtake the Liberals as the second party and now it’s deja vu and about face or so it might seem .

    We’ll know later tonight eh. A psephologist’s gala evening is in store.

  • Driftwood

    I see on another thread, predicting the demise of Robinson. Like it to be true, but unlikely. However quite a number of East belfast voters in my office and all voting tactically for Ringland, including a few alliance stalwarts. Purely anecdotal, and of course it could go the other way in some parts. Be a shame if they cancel each other out and let the rogue back in.
    I don’t want any parochial or nationialist party holding the balance of power at Westminster. it will stir English resentment and be bad for the UK.
    PR will be a huge jolt to the adversarial system in London. But that has downsides, BNP etc. The present system is fit for purpose.

  • Granni Trixie

    Pull the other one. “A few Alliance stalwards voting for Riingland”? I would be amazed as this just does not make sense. Alliance core voters are solidly behind Naomi.

    If they are stalwards, can you name names?.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Driftwood, I’ve tried not to rabbit on about East Belfast too much, but you’re being far too silly. Long is one of Alliance’s strongest cards at the moment. Even setting that aside, she has two obvious advantages over Ringland : (1) experience and profile, and (2) not being a Tory.

  • how many comrades is there in the East Mr Stalin?

  • Greenflag

    Trevor Ringland will do well and should secure a good base for an Assembly seat next year . He should at least secure the ‘rugby ‘ vote . But Peter Robinson will regain his seat with a reduced majority I’d guess .

    I don’t btw agree the present system is fit for purpose for the future direction of the economy . Several generations of extreme left being replaced by extreme right and now moderate left perhaps being replaced by supposedly moderate right . IMO Britons should be looking back at the real achievements of the Labour Government and should understand that most of the current economic downturn has emanated from Wall St . Not that the present and previous governments are ‘blame free ‘ There isn’t a government in the western world that should’nt hang it’s collective head in shame at their naivety in the face of the international banking and financial services -masters of economic destruction over a period of more than a decade at least.

    The ‘fall ‘ of the financial sector which was to be the flagship of cool Britannia may have exercised thinking minds as to the possible options for Britain’ economic future . Those ‘thinking ‘ minds may not opt for a rerun of the failed Thatcher model even if in moderated form . Not that Gordon Brown’s million new job promise is credible either . Britons need to ask why Germany still has a strong manufacturing and engineering base whereas the UK’s was decimated in the 1979 to 2000 period ?

    I hear that women under 40 may be the ‘kingmakers’ in this election and they appear to favour the Lib Dems and Labour over the Tories .

    In Ireland and in Northern Ireland -exposure to ‘democracy’ from within the Dail or Assembly seems to have the effect of moderating the ‘extremists’ . I have no doubt that the effect of Westminster on fringe elements would be similar . The issues that some of these elements raise are very real for their voters and these issues have been ignored by the mainstream parties .

  • Driftwood

    Obviously I cannot name names. i’m only talking about a few people. But at least 1 has voted Alliance all her life. We’re talking about people wnting rid of the incumbent here, and they did say they were not entirely happy about it.

  • Driftwood

    Not disagreeing CS, but that’s what i heard, dare say maybe some others different. But despite what you say about Naomi, i’m guessing you know Ringland is a good bloke, oh and he has the advantage of being a Unionist.
    A not insignificant factor. Sadly it will be a battle for 2nd place, unless you know David Vance better than me (which is very little)

  • Driftwood

    Greenflag, agree on the overdependence on Finance, in the same way RoI was overdependent on construction.
    Re: Engineering. The Germans make things people want to buy, like Volkwagens. Their education system values this. The British (and Irish) university system throw out thousands of media studies graduates.
    I’ll leave you to surmise who will be better equipped for the future.

  • dundonald voter

    green flag i wouldnt be to sure about robinson getting in aagain. i think hes gone

  • dundonald voter

    even the loyal dupes at the polls are saying they are confident but the majority will be down. dup coded speech for were in the shit here!! very downbeat and crestfallen at the polls for the loyal dupes

  • slug

    Exports up in the latest data for UK out this week.

  • Greenflag

    The Germans are not without their problems in education or in manufacturing /engineering areas either but they did avoid the wholesale decimation that the UK unnecessarily (IMO) was put through in the 1980’s and probably a bit earlier .

    I believe coming to grips with this new world economy is not going to be the simplistic race to the competitive bottom that seems to be the mantra of the neo con right nor will economic salvation be found via ‘innovation ‘ alone . While reducing corporate taxes will help some with inward investment the fact is that with interest rates as low as they’ve ever been one would expect businesses to be borrowing for expansion .

    Confidence is missing and I don’t mean just in NI or ROI or the UK . Today’s ‘dive’ on Wall St is just a reminder that the so called ‘no new jobs recovery’ is still problematic.

    ‘The British (and Irish) university system throw out thousands of media studies graduates.’

    Murdoch will have his choicest pick then -the rest can flip hamburgers ;( With newspapers dying daily around the world one and TV being edged out by the web ?? The fallacy of composition yet again .

    The world will be very different ‘economically’ by the time this recession is over and that may not be for another 5 years (not in the technical sense ) but in the sense of getting back to at least 2005 levels of debt percentages and deficit spending .

  • Greenflag

    I ‘ll be shocked if that were an outcome . I expect his majority will be down but he can afford that at least on this occassion.

  • Greenflag

    Not a good result for the UK . Prepare for markets to dive again tomorrow 🙁

  • Greenflag

    Oops the exit poll may have underestimated Conservative seats based on the two Sunderland actual results . Cameron may yet sneak it

  • Greenflag

    It looks like I’ll be shocked .