CUs: not the end but not far off? (and some battleships)

If the TUV lost heavily the CU’s were practically no better. The party which ruled Northern Ireland from its inception until the fall of Stormont; the party which as recently as 1997 held 10 seats is now reduced to none. Bob Balls has his thoughts over on Open Unionism but I thought a few other things might be worth mentioning.

At a very fundamental level some in the UUP still do not seem to understand that it is no longer the lead party within unionism. Some seem to think that the electorate will wake up some day soon and realise that they (predominantly the fairly big house unionists) are clearly the natural leaders of Northern Ireland and will duly scurry off and vote in such a fashion. In the past they often failed to do the hard work on the ground and although they have to an extent improved on this there is still the perception that the DUP are the party to get something done for you.

One problem which cannot be escaped has been Reg Empey’s leadership. Reg Empey is no doubt a civil and pleasant individual: however, he is no charismatic orator nor an inspiring, visionary leader. In many ways he seemed to try to be a successor to Jim Molyneaux and be calm, placid and yet cunningly lead his party to success after success. The problem is that Molyneaux was a man of overwhelming political intelligence and cunning; a good manager of people and a man who created a broad church party. Reg Empey lacked the personal political talent and in addition had too little of other people’s political talent within the party to manage Molyneaux’s trick of creating a party which could envelop the DUP and gradually devour it. Whilst Molyneaux sat at the centre of the spider’s web of different opinions as its undisputed leader; Reg when he tried the same thing seemed vacillating and to be flip flopping between one faction and another within his party. Also with Molyneaux until the very end no one would have dared suggest challenging his leadership: with Reg it seemed there were a nearly endless list of potential replacements always lurking in the wings.

In 2007 Empey played second fiddle to Margaret Ricthie as the star attraction at the UUP conference. The fact that a member of another party and one with diametrically opposed views on the union upstaged him was ludicrous and in many ways it was actually an attempt to create a distraction to stop people from what might have become an attempt on his leadership.

A year later, however, Reg set the course which more than any other has defined his leadership: the Conservative link up. In some ways recreating the link with the Conservatives sundered in the early 1970s made sense: it appeared to out flank the DUP and offer a new inclusive unionism. One could even see how it could be used to make the new civic unionism both more moderate and more hard line than the DUP. However, it was a politico’s dream rather than an idea grounded in reality; especially when it came to opposing P&J devolution whilst the Tories supported it.

In addition the assumption that the majority of unionists are Conservative with a big C was one which never seemed convincing. In the first place those with longer political memories will remember which party porouged Stormont, introduced Sunningdale, the Anglo Irish Agreement and the Downing Street Declaration. Not only are there the problems of history but in some ways Northern Ireland is not really natural Tory territory: many unionists are pretty non conformist in politics as well of course as in religious denomination. These people are not especially well disposed to vote for their social betters to rule over them. David Cameron and his cadre of largely Eton and Oxbridge educated sons (and at times daughters) of privilege are not necessarily regarded as the natural rules of the people of Ulster. The Tories may have attracted a certain brand of UUP members longing for the halcyon days of the sainted Viscount from Colebrooke Park but the lustre of such people has long since vanished in the surprisingly egalitarian or maybe at times somewhat invertedly snobbish world view of Northern Ireland unionism. It was the same sort of foolishness which made David Trimble rely on the affable, well bred, charming and utterly useless Steven King. Here in the Dreary steeples (viscount or no viscount), amongst the dour Presbyterians of Antrim and Down, the orangemen of Londonderry and Armagh, the light of Cameronism seems more a silly light trick than the shinning vision of an inciting future: a dangerous fool with a laser pointer threatening planes’ safety rather than the landing lights of a welcome airfield.

Although most unionists are probably far from socialist there is little enough evidence that they are in actual fact very right wing in their political / economic philosophy and as such for everyone who was enthused by the Tory link there may well have been others turned off by it. Furthermore although often economically to the left of the Tories the average unionist voter is probably more socially conservative than the shiny new Conservative Party of Cameron: again a consideration no one within the UUP seems to have considered until Adrian Watson was vetoed for holding unacceptable views remarkably close to Chris Grayling’s perfectly acceptable ones.

A further disaster was the candidate choices: it was almost comically bad. Trevor Ringland a decent liberal unionist was not the man to take votes off the DUP especially not as Naomi Long was there to gobble them up much more effectively and with a track record of hard constituency work overcoming her general irritatingness. Other choices were simply bizarre. The idea that a liberal like Lesley Macaulay could take East Londonderry was utter folly. More than anything such decisions show how out of touch with the thinking of mainstream unionists many in the CU leadership had become. The fact that some CU commentators on this site suggested that she might take East Londonderry shows how out of touch they are: that said I am in little position to carp I thought Willie Ross would beat her. Instead both fell helplessly before Gregory Campbell. Similar decisions led to Harry Hamilton being run against David Simpson whilst Danny Kennedy was wasted in Newry and Armagh: the only seat in Northern Ireland where the UUP out polled the DUP. Had Danny Kennedy moved to Upper Bann there would very likely have been some blue on the BBC’s map of Northern Ireland. In Strangford there was further proof that new political blood even of the star quality was no match for the DUP: Mike Nesbitt’s star had, however, waned so much before the election that his defeat passed almost unmarked. As mentioned above Adrian Watson’s demise forced Reg Empey into bat as the candidate for South Antrim. In the past I have likened politicians to battleships: in this instance Reg played HMS Royal Oak; torpedoed at anchor in Scapa Flow at the beginning of the war.

Of course the greatest disaster (even bigger than Reg’s failure) which encapsulates all these problems was the fact that the UUP’s one popular, clearly civic non tribal non sectarian politician was removed (after endless procrastination) from the party. The removal of Lady Sylvia resulted in the final end of the debacle: To run Ian Parsley the Alliance defector against her was simply idiocy; it summed up all the foolishness of the Empey run UUP and their complete disconnect from Northern Irish society. They could not understand even North Down which is actually more British than Finchley. Sylvia Hermon was the one UUP politician who might reasonably have been expected to attract those fantasy creatures of CU mythology: the unicorns of garden centre Prods and Catholic Unionists, yet the shiny new post sectarian completely British CUs threw her away.

Where the CUs go from here is genuinely difficult to see: they have almost the divergence of opinions which the served the old UUP of Jim Molyneaux so well. They have that divergence with almost none of the political talent, organisation, common vision or the glue of success to hold them together. The aims of most of their members and their remaining voters are not dissimilar to those of the DUP but some in the party seem wedded to the Tory pact which seems to have cost them a significant number of votes. In addition there is often very significant animosity between the DUP and UUP which will make cooperation let alone unity difficult. It is also difficult to see what the UUP can really bring to the table to attract the DUP which they could not expect to gain anyway by their slow gradual destruction of the UUP over the past two decades. Having left the TUV dead in the water the DUP’s 15” guns will no doubt if necessary turn back on the CUs with renewed ferocity.

There are a few lights in this almost overpowering vision of blackness. The UUP does have a few decent politicians: Danny Kennedy, David McNarry and Tom Elliott. Elliott especially has the right credentials and being from well west of the Bann might have some understanding of the issues affecting those areas outside the Pale (as would Kennedy to be fair). As mentioned above Kennedy did gain more votes than his DUP rival and reversed the positions of the unionist parties as compared to last time. Had Tom Elliott run in FST many suspect he might have achieved something similar which against the might of HMS Warspite would have been stunning (remember before anyone says I am insulting Arlene: the most elegant and of course brutally effective British battleship of the First or Second World War). In addition the UUP do have a bit of talent at lower levels: not only amongst councillors but also more minor party members and a few young unionists do seem to have a grasp of politics. However, any road back will be an enormously long journey and one of the first things they must realise is that their Tory pact achieved precisely less than nothing. The NI Tories or even the mainland ones may want to gobble them up: unless that is resisted they UUP has no future.

A year ago I suggested that the European election was a “Dead Cat Bounce” for the CUs: I have been correct about little enough in this election; on that one I was exactly right (I also foresaw Rodney Connor’s agonising end all to easily). It was the ogres of the TUV which handed the CU’s their victory last year: now the ogres have been slain and the unicorns never came to the rescue.

  • smcgiff

    Intriguing post as always.

  • Driftwood

    That’s a fair enough analysis Turgon, though you left out the secularism and Socialist AND Tory sentiment that runs through certain segments of society here.
    Sylvia Hermon was able to tap all those areas. David Cameron is unlikely to fish these barren waters in future. That means further detachment. The DUP ‘Ulster’ nationialism and calls for more money leave us slightly more isolated.
    McGuinness was fond of Paisley’s comment ‘we can rule ourselves’, but we cannot finance ourselves. Leave us alone but leave the wallet containing 10 £Billion a year…What if our fiscal addiction pillow to the (non profit making) English taxpayer is pulled from under us?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Not far wrong, except maybe the McNarry bit and Reg polled better than Adrian ever would have. The UUP is up shit creek here. I said it at the time but losing Sylvia for the CU link up was a massive mistake and not worth it. The link is dead and buried and a new broom will have to take over at UUP HQ. The problem is the lack of a decent replacement and one who can convincingly turn over a new leaf in an obvious and powerfully symbolic way in the probably short time before another GE. Politics is as much about symbolism as reality and the new leader has to look like a totally new start free from the CU link up for it to have any chance of taking. Personally I think people should eat their humble pie tell Sylvia she was right and invite her(and Alan) back into the fold to run for the leadership. It would be the best way to draw a firm line under the CU link, she is the best UUP person for the job, she has clear and strong personal vote and would get back some representation at Westminster. I just hope people can put aside the petty crap and do what would be best for keeping the UUP alive politically in time for the soon to come GE and next year’s Assembly run.

  • Sylvia’s already said she’s not coming back – she was asked several times on the radio this morning, and specifically said she was elected as an independent unionist and was staying that way.

    Mike Nesbitt probably had the best hope of all the UCUNF candidates of actually being elected yesterday because of the Iris effect – ultimately, though, he was sunk by the fact that Jim Shannon has been serving the folks of the Peninsula since time began, and as a result got a massive personal vote.

    Trevor might have had a hope in East Belfast if Naomi hadn’t stood – but the other fifteen were wastes of space, and could be as easily discounted as the Conservative Party of Northern Ireland’s candidates.

  • Alias

    The best option for unionism would be for the UUP to merge with the DUP and to form a new ‘broad church’ unionist party. If it is progressive then there won’t be any conditions that allow a party to emerge to their right of them. What would any Paisley-type figure have to scaremonger about now that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom is no longer disputed?

    There is now no reason why a single unionist party cannot operate comfortably effectively, serving the interests of all of the community on economic and social policies, etc. Allister might have fancied himself as a Paisley-type figure but I think it’s fairly clear that unionists don’t see any need for him now.

    With the leadership of the UUP and the DUP in some doubt, now might be a good time for both parties to talk to each other, with the new party to elect a new leader. If nothing else, it could be a legacy from both of the soon-to-be dearly departed leaders.

  • pia_lugum

    I came across a 25 yr-old from N Antrim who thought that J Allister of TUV was a person who was plucky and stood up for himself in the TV debates, etc. He resolved to go and vote for him.
    But when he arrived at the polling station he was ‘accosted’ by two men pushing IPJ’s literature in his face. He was ‘warned’ to vote only for IPJ.
    With no other alternative party ‘advice’ at that point he went in and voted for IPJ against his willl, not realising that at the point of voting he could vote for whoever he liked in secret. He now knows and bitterly regrets his action – and apparently other friends of this chap found the same experience at other N. Antrim polling stations.
    I suspect that many people who set out to vote for the CU’s were also intimidated by aggressive party workers to vote against their will.
    Has anybody similar experience….?

  • RJM

    I would hardly describe Danny Kennedy as a “waste of space”; indeed, his constituency was the only one where the UUP outpolled the DUP. A very creditable result which went almost unnoticed in the maelstrom.

    Before the election I felt that the UUP had to probably gain at least one seat to enable themselves to be taken seriously in the merger/realignment talks with the DUP which will inevitably follow. Instead they’ve been wiped out, and the DUP know they only have to pick the edible bits from the carcass in order to further consign them to the wilderness.

    The UUP are finished, and by and large it’s their own fault. What sort of party selects Daphne Trimble as a candidate?

  • Red Kangaroo

    I have no doubt the Conservative link cost not only the UUP but Unionism genrally. I know of a number of SDLP voters in FST who detest S/F actually voting S/F not out of any tribal view but because they didn’t want the Tories to get another seat. Though try telling that to any of the Shinners. They think the total drop in SDLP support was due to tribal outrage.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Has there been a less succesfull coming together merger or whatever the feck it is/was ever in the history of politics?

    One little note of optimism for the UCUNF is that electoral reform probably guarantee a few Westminster seats for the sad feckers-in Ulster and in Scotland where it would boost the Tories and ironically cost the LibDems. As the noted urban philospher, ‘arry Redknapp, oft remarks “It’s a funny old game”.

  • RJM

    That was Jimmy Greaves, was it not?

  • Bungditin

    Maybe he should’ve taken his mammy with him

  • June 76

    Yes, that’s right. I heard that the Grand Wizard of the local Orange Lodge also voted for S/F because he really really really hates the tories! LOL

  • Red Kangaroo

    I doubt it but I understand protestant turn out was down a bit in FST, perhaps left wing protestants not wanting to vote for a Tory? Whos knows, somebody should do some research. Does it ever enter any Shinners head that some people worry about things other than tribal and constitutional issues?

  • Red Kangaroo

    Don’t be harsh he is only 25 sure he can’t be expected to know what to do.. Is it another case of “we was robbed”??

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    The pairing of the Yamaha V12 with the Gary Anderson designed Jordan J192 chassis in 1992 I would deem less successful with Stefano Modena only grabbing a point in the last race of the season in Australia after 15 fruitless previous attempts, including not even making it to the start line on 4 occasions. I was consigned to the rubbish bin of history and I will let you draw your own conclusions as to my thoughts on UCUNF

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    “It” not “I was consigned…” – deeper meaning ? Probably

  • The CUs polled 100k votes here so there is clearly a demand for real centre-right politics. The “I’m not a Tory” brigade that manifested itself in Hermon is a bit of an oddity in a UK that generally floats between right and left as we see fit. Are we really as dyed-in-the-wool ref as certain valleys in Wales? Or just scared shitless at the thought of public sector cuts, our own coalmine?

    invertedly snobbish world view of Northern Ireland unionism

    I’d say that’s more it, although would extend that to NI society in general. The peace dividend, despite it’s description, is not a perpetual annual cashflow. Frankly freeloaders (who likely don’t see themselves as such) here need to wake up.

  • Driftwood

    Harold Wilson summed us up correctly in 1 word.

    The sense of ‘entitlement’ many here have but with no accompanying sense of obligation to the hand that feeds us can be called many things, but I think Wilson just said what everyone deep down knows.

  • “I doubt it but I understand protestant turn out was down a bit in FST, perhaps left wing protestants not wanting to vote for a Tory”

    More likely, a protest at having a “communalist” candidate foisted upon them. There’s a lesson to be learnt from Gildernew’s victory, I seriously doubt the dinosaurs are listening though.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The word ‘entitlement’ was used by the Libdems to describe the Tory attitude to getting into office – an attiitude that surely contributed to their failure to win a majority in spite of the most favourable circumstances they could wish for.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s not feasible to talk about the future of the UUP without understanding what distinction the party is offering from the DUP on one side, and Alliance on the other.

    st etienne:

    The CUs polled 100k votes here so there is clearly a demand for real centre-right politics.

    If you are planning on building the UUP into something electable, you better start by throwing away the self-delusion. Your vote share fell by nearly 3 percentage points. You achieved this result against the backdrop of a spectacularly bad year for the DUP, probably the worst in that party’s history. The DUP are, no doubt, right now cleaning house; unencumbered by the need to stand up to the TUV, they’ll pummel the UUP so hard it won’t know what has hit it.

    That election was a bloody disaster for the UUP.

    As an Alliance supporter, I’ll start getting worried if :
    – you start being nice to Catholics;
    – you actually do some constituency work rather than putting silly celebrities up and expecting people to vote for them out of starstruck wonder;
    – you throw yourself fully behind the powersharing institutions
    – you actually elect a leader with clue. Hint – not Basil McCrea. Hint 2 – Not David McNarry;

    Until then, it’s bye bye UUP.

  • Seosamh913

    Surely we should be celebrating the fragmentation of this party in the hope that it does fold its tent up. It has never sufficiently (indeed at all, with the exception of Trimble’s cold house speech, at best an indirect acknowledgement of the party’s contribution to ‘the problem’) apologised for the appalling way in which it presided over the north since the inception of the state, overseeing the exploitation of the protestant working class as well as working strenuously to ensure the effective exclusion of northern catholics and nationalists from any sense of investment in, still less loyalty to, the northern state.

    They’re not gone yet but we’re part way towards a deliverance from this now almost meaningless party and its unedifying past and we should be happy about that.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    here’s a betting update me old mucker, I also bet on a hung parliament (1/2) and on the Very Reverend Mc Madfellah to win in SA and on Michelle to win in FST (both 2/1) , though I lost far more heavily on the Heineken cup exit of Munster.

    Any details on the differential turnout between fenians and prods?

  • You misunderstand my perspective – I’m not a UUPer, In every election I’ve voted in it’s been a Tory vote. It might be different had I a choice of potential governing parties to choose from but that’s a hypothetical issue.

    The UUP did alright on their own in the Euros so I’d put down the loss in vote largely to the Conservative link up. Personalities like Macauley etc have no need to be told how to be nice to Catholics from the high-horse token outraged.

    Furthermore the message of economic action needed to be pounded home a lot more. We live in a bubble here protected from reality by politicians who refuse to act with responsibility. Powersharing is just another Ulster aberration that institutionalises tribalism and the associated costs. Funnily enough it also institutionalises the need for Alliance…

    And so to Alliance. They are no constituency wunderkind – one hard working personality does not make a party. Although I agree everyone should take a leaf out of Long’s book. There is also the issue of Alliance polling much much worse than the CUs in orange v green ‘battleground’ constituencies. I’m no fan of them either but to ignore the fact Alliance is a nice diversion when people don’t feel threatened from ‘themmuns’ is an inescapable truth.

    Standing for nothing is not standing for something.

  • the same deliverance that gives you the DUP?

    Nothing has changed yet the same old dinosaurs and donkeys try to shine the turd. Remarkable for it’s apparent unfettered blinkers.

  • Quincey

    Just on Danny Kennedy- Danny is a genuinelly personable man and a ‘nice’ fella. Id agree that if he had been standing in Upper Bann he definetly would have given Simpson a major fight. But Id urge restraint at predicting any swing from the UUP to the DUP in teh Newsry and Armagh area (the only area that the UUP beat DUP). The bottom line is that since becoming Deputy Leader of the UUP, Danny has had a national profile in the media. Im not sure that Willie Irwin (Armagh DUP candidate) has ever been on TV or Radio!! Its that incresed profile that pipped the DUP, not a party line.

    Is it a fair enough assumption to say that Reg Empey would probably have taken East Belfast if he had ran?? An East man suggested it to me that Michael Copeland would have taken it by virtue of his presence on the ground.

    Im not sure if i would had cast aside Adrian Watson in South Antrim either.

  • Comrade Stalin

    st etienne:

    The UUP did alright on their own in the Euros so I’d put down the loss in vote largely to the Conservative link up.

    Eh ? Nicholson ran on a UCUNF ticket. Vote was roughly stable.

    Personalities like Macauley etc have no need to be told how to be nice to Catholics from the high-horse token outraged.

    Anyone who joins an anti-Catholic party clearly needs to be reminded of this simple fact. The UUP is anti-Catholic and monocultural.

    And so to Alliance. They are no constituency wunderkind – one hard working personality does not make a party.

    The only seats Alliance hold at any level are ones where it works visibly in the constituency. Policy isn’t enough to win, and the DUP did not knock the UUP of their perch over policy (although that’s not to say policy didn’t play a role). And Naomi is by no means the only candidate who practices this philosophy. David Ford, Sean Neeson and so on all practice it as well. If they didn’t, they’d be gone.

    This is all consistent with how Alliance thinks that politics here should work. It’s no good talking about how people should vote for bread and butter politics without actually doing bread and butter constituency work, and that would be an inconsistency that the electorate would see through immediately.

    I’m no fan of them either but to ignore the fact Alliance is a nice diversion when people don’t feel threatened from ‘themmuns’ is an inescapable truth.

    What part of that doesn’t apply to the Tories ?

  • Not having a great grasp of history I had to Google what the word was…

    Yeah. And we’ve (of whatever hue) just cemented that reputation 36 years later. But with our (new generation!) politicians content to sing psalms or whatever on the polling stage, a sizeable majority of people here seem content not to care.

  • oneill

    Sammy McNally etc

    Congratulations on the bets, I’ll be sticking on the football ones for the foreseeable future…

    “Any details on the differential turnout between fenians and prods”

    That I can’t give you; one of the ethno-nat number-crunchers (eg The Horseman at Doomed) can probably oblige. What I can say is that the total pro-Union vote as a proportion of the overall votes cast dropped by 2% on the 2005 figures. So, not only did the communal candidate fail to win the seat, more importantly for the long-term, it resulted in a switch off in the total number of previous pro-Union voters- classic lose-lose.

  • CatinHat

    At some point you simply have to let that go. At some point you become a dinosaur, doing the equivalent of criticising David Cameron because of his parties prior opposition to votes for women.

    The average person in Northern Ireland is too young to remember any boundary being gerrymandered, but old enough to remember IRA murders.

    Press a unionist on gerrymandering or discrimination and they will at most downplay it and say it was overblown, but they won’t support it. Sinn Fein have never apologised for murdering people, or indeed apologised for supporting a policy of forcing NI into a united Ireland without consent, though they have abandoned those things in fact. Both of those things are graver injustices than the gerrymandering or discrimination in Northern Ireland, as well as being far more recent.

    The greater cognitive dissonance would have to be with republicans rather than unionists. You may ask me to apologise for immoral things I do not support, that happened before I was born, while in contrast Sinn Fein holds commemorative marches in celebration of past immoral things, that all but schoolchildren can remember, while to be fair signing up to not repeating them in future. Sorry, even a non IRA involved Sinn Feiner like Michelle Gildernew bears much more responsibility for past wrongs than does, say, Harry Hamilton, both qualitatively and quantitively.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Talking of football bets – Leeds United did it for me this years- I had them as bulding blocks in most of my bets for the whole betting season- what a collpase after beating Man U.

    …there was quite a fall off in Nat turn out this time round and I have long criticised Horesman’s analysis in the past for not taking the higher Nat turnout into account when analysing elections. I had the ‘feeling’ that at least in certain areas Unionist turnout was higher or at least did not fall as much as the Nat turnoutt fell compared to last time.

  • The UUP of today is not an anti-Catholic party. Granted they have a big issue with representation but to jump from that to ‘anti-Catholic’ is a joke. And how anyone can assume pro-UK to equal monoculture is a warp of reality I’m sure is unique to N political participants.

    So you admit in a long winded way that Alliance doesn’t have a broad reach. I’m only echoing that. At the end of the day the Tories beat the Alliance in most constituencies – constituencies where they had a chance to vote tribal DUP if they so wished. I know actually getting an MP elected no doubt is a novelty you haven’t experienced in a long while but to attempt to brow-beat based on that single success is shaky ground.

  • DoctorWho

    I wonder if without the Tory name attached to the UUP, would they have performed better.
    Gerry Adams hit the nail on the head when he said “there is no reason anyone in (NI) need to vote Tory”. I would suspect that Ringland or Sir Reg would´ve been elected in East Belfast without the Tory baggage. A massive own goal by Reg Empey.
    I also don´t see how the DUP can justify lending support to a minority Tory govt. after the NI electorate have overwhelmingly rejected the Tories.

  • CatinHat

    Per Labour Force Surveys the 16+ population (and by proxy the electorate) should have become 1% less Protestant and 1% more Catholic in those five years.

    The electorate right now is 52% : 48% per last Labour Force Survey where it was 53% : 47% in 2005. Other years show a similar rate of change, though LFS can be about 1% out in a given year the overall trend line is a drop of about 1% in 5 years.

    In 2005 we had
    Total Unionist vote = 51.4%
    Total Nationalist vote = 41.8%
    Alliance = 3.9%
    Others = 2.9% (mostly Kieran Deeny)

    In 2010 we had (including Herman and Connor as unionist)
    Total Unionist vote = 50.4%
    Total Nationalist vote = 42.0%
    Alliance = 6.3%
    Others = 1.3%

    Given all the above it’s not really clear that Prod turnout dropped. It may well have increased slightly but more than usual voted Alliance (East Belfast being an obvious place to look for that).

    Demographics alone should have increased the total nationalist vote by about 1% in those five years. Instead it went up by only 0.2%. Arguably since about 2/3rds of Kieran Deeny’s 1.7% of the vote in 2005 was “naturally nationalist” the total nationalist vote actually fell by about 0.9% in 2010 compared to 2005 once you factor that out. This could be due to Catholic turnout or it could be to do with Alliance taking votes from the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

  • Reader

    DoctorWho: I also don´t see how the DUP can justify lending support to a minority Tory govt. after the NI electorate have overwhelmingly rejected the Tories.
    Not that the Labour party’s sister party got a great endorsement either.

  • “The UUP did alright on their own in the Euros so I’d put down the loss in vote largely to the Conservative link up.”

    Not so; Nicholson ran as a UCUNF candidate. And in another bad year for the DUP, he increased his vote by less than half a percent.

    I totally agree that the Tory linkup was a crashing failure, but I think more because voters did not understand it than because they actively disliked it.

  • Keysie3

    From the piece

    “These people are not especially well disposed to vote for their social betters to rule over them. David Cameron and his cadre of largely Eton and Oxbridge educated sons (and at times daughters) of privilege are not necessarily regarded as the natural rules of the people of Ulster. ”

    As a northern irish student at Oxford can I just say how ridiculous this is- I certainly don’t believe i am anybody’s social better, and just because of the university I am at does not mean I come from “privilege”- and this applies across the board to the vast majority of oxford students i’ve come across.

    I appreciate that it is a genuine stereotypical view that people do hold, and I probably held before I came here, but don’t present it as if it is fact, i have no problem with it being presented as a stereotype which has an influence on how people view the university, but don’t present it as fact or as a way that people at the university view themselves

  • Comrade Stalin

    The UUP of today is not an anti-Catholic party.

    Yes, it is. It still votes along purely sectarian lines in places like Newtownabbey council. It still doesn’t have any Catholic supporters, and the Catholic potential candidates who were initially fooled by the UCUNF mood music all ran for cover when they got a glimpse of the wolf under the sheep’s clothing.

    And how anyone can assume pro-UK to equal monoculture is a warp of reality I’m sure is unique to N political participants.

    It’s the fact that they have no other policies of note other than being pro-UK that makes them monocultural. Indeed, one of their members on here is complaining that they lost in East Belfast because the UCUNF thing lost because they distracted too much from the pro-UK part.

    I know actually getting an MP elected no doubt is a novelty you haven’t experienced in a long while but to attempt to brow-beat based on that single success is shaky ground.

    I was preparing for Naomi to narrowly lose and not a single word I have written above would be any different if she had.

  • pinni

    What???????? What country are you in?

  • Alias

    oneill, It’s an ongoing error for sections of unionism to view elections in NI as a poll on its constitutional status.

    What you are seeing is the emergence of a new confident unionism that is more aware that the constitutional status of NI is guaranteed, and is accordingly less fixated on that particular issue to the detriment of others. That is best demonstrated by the success of a fence-sitter like Long in a unionist heartland like East Belfast.

    How long does it take slow-learners on the other side to recognise that they won? A large part of the reason why the Irish state agreed to give up its claim to Northern Ireland was to allow the unionists to get off the issue and to defeat unionist scaremongers who sought to gain support by such means. The rejection of the TUV shows that the message is slowly but surely permeating the unionist community and those other issues can be dealt with without that poison prism discolouring them.

  • Alias

    Some very salient points there, CatinHat, and very well made.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    it must be relatvely easy to analyse the turnout by constituency at least, is the data at ward level? From a quick look the Nat. constituencies appear to have the biggest falls e.g. West Belfast -13% East Belfast -0.3. It must be some time since East Belfast % turnout was higher than West Belfast?

  • but I think more because voters did not understand it than because they actively disliked it.

    Fair point – but the alarmist headlines telling everyone the Tories were coming to slash and burn the province no doubt played a part in that misunderstanding. In response the CU candidates largely failed to point out the obvious elephant in a room full of economic belligerents.

    I note IPJ today discussing the oncoming cutbacks – note the change from ‘maintenance’ of the block grant to a defence against it’s reduction. The reality that he, nor any other of the 17, have no realistic grasp of the budgetary problems the UK faces is obviously lost on the electorate.

  • there is no reason anyone in (NI) need to vote Tory

    That depends on whether you’re sick of watching a country that has lived beyond it’s means for at least 2 decades now.

    The MP of West Belfast has cemented a perennial begging bowl culture in his own constituency. I wouldn’t have expected him to say any different because frankly his record in giving people a hand up not a hand out is utterly, utterly woeful.

  • Sorry but the DUP are the ultimate unionist scaremongers.

    That is one of the most convoluted analyses I’ve read on the subject.

  • Alias

    On the contrary, the DUP are quite adamant that they have secured the union with St Andrews. Nowhere do they claim that the constitutional status of NI is disputed.

    The practitioner of their old spiel, the TUV, have seen their rejectionist message and scaremongering about the future of the union roundly rejected by the unionist electorate.

    The unionist electorate are slowly but surely accepting that the union is indeed secure, and they are therefore rejecting parties that exist solely to defend something that is not under any threat, allowing the focus to shit to internal ‘bread and butter’ issues.

    This is confirmed in a unionist heartland like East Belfast where a candidate who professes to be neutral on the constitutional status on NI can be elected in preference to overtly pro-union alternatives.

    So that is the emergence of a new confident unionism from the grassroots up that is no longer overtly concerned about a settled issue. It is not yet reflected among the political hacks, however, who, unlike the voters, continue to see each election as a poll on the constitutional status of NI.

    You can also see the rejection of the Tories as the rejection of a comfort blanket by the more secure child who doesn’t need the parent to clutch it to its bosom and tell it how important and central it is to its live…

  • Alias

    Damn… dropping an ‘f’ can have an unwelome impact!

  • So by the same measure the SDLP is an anti-Protestant party?

    I’ve never heard such high-handed rubbish. The moderate parties look after their own support – all of them are guilty of that. Similarly the Alliance has built up it’s own little fiefdom on the fence. But an insinuation that their policies are actively against ‘themmuns’ is just plain cack.

    I’m interested in how you know the religious make up of CU supporters, and while the CU candidates left eventually, it was over the pact with the DUP in FST. That hardly points to a rotten core of the UUP as you’d like it to be – FST is not the UUP and neither are the donkeys who wish for a headcount where ever they go.

    They take the Tory whip and as such espouse the same broad UK manifesto – the policies of social responsibility, the rebellion against broken Britain, real fiscal prudence, etc, etc these are the CU policies that made me go out and vote. Just because I took the time to look into these things doesn’t for a second mean I think everyone else did too – and it was this inability to transfer the message of common sense that failed. Similarly though ask the voters what Alliance policies on the economy etc are and at a conservative estimate probably 100% of the time you’ll get a blank look so again to attempt to rubbish the CUs on policy coming from an Alliance perspective is well, just plain old rubbish itself…

    On your advice in general if it’s not the lesson of Naomi Long getting herself elected on hard graft then I don’t know what your point is, especially when I look at the CU v Alliance vote.

    Maybe it is time the UUP discontinued, but I’d suggest it more for the simple reason that it is now a party with 3 different ideals: The united unionists who will vote (or encourage a vote) for any donkey provided they’re wearing a union jack, the progressive forces who acknowledge there is a long term requirement for the Tory message in NI (just as elsewhere in the UK) and the left leaning working class traditionalists centred mainly in the working class areas of Belfast.

    To get the CU message out the two other competing ideals should be left behind.

  • CatinHat

    OK here was the change in turnouts by constituency, ordered by largest drop first.

    Constituency, 2010, 2005, difference

    Tyrone West 61.0% 72.1% -11.1%
    Belfast West 54.0% 64.2% -10.2%
    Newry and Armagh 60.4% 70.0% -9.6%
    Ulster Mid 63.2% 72.5% -9.3%
    Foyle 57.5% 65.9% -8.4%
    Upper Bann 55.4% 61.4% -6.0%
    Down South 60.2% 65.4% -5.2%
    Londonderry East 55.3% 60.3% -5.0%
    Lagan Valley 56.0% 60.2% -4.2%
    Antrim North 57.8% 61.7% -3.9%
    Antrim East 50.7% 54.5% -3.8%
    Fermanagh and South Tyrone 68.9% 72.6% -3.7%
    Belfast South 57.4% 60.8% -3.4%
    Antrim South 53.9% 56.7% -2.8%
    Belfast North 56.5% 57.8% -1.3%
    Strangford 53.7% 53.6% +0.1%
    Belfast East 58.4% 58.0% +0.4%
    Down North 55.2% 54.0% +1.2%

    There is an obvious unionist / nationalist differential coming out there.

  • union mack

    this has to be the end of UCUNF. I lent them my vote because I felt their step towards attracting new, more pluralist candidates into politics was preferable, not the Cameron stuff. But the electorate have rejected it, and I think it shows that pacts don’t work. Two separate parties, they couldn’t agree on even a logo for the ballots. Empey has to go, the old men in suits have to go, and those party strategists who were hoping for an Allister victory in N.Antrim to piss off the Paisleys need to get a grip of themselves. The DUP surged ahead as much on their constituency work, and the UUP’s lack thereof. If the UUP wants to survive, it needs to be a more socially liberal, progressive and pluralist party, dedicated to hard work and not fixated by the constitutional question – which is dead. Lady Hermon and Naomi Long fit these criteria, and look how well they have done at the expense of the UUP. Unionist unity as a concept has to be jettisoned. Particularly if PR is brought in for Westminster, it removes the ghost of SF gains in split unionist constituencies, and the loss of votes cast tactically for the SDLP. But a single unionist party is a retrograde step – mainly because young, socially liberal and non-religious unionists will not vote for a party that includes the homophobia and sectarianism of many in the DUP, and some in the UUP. It’s 2010. The Dublin Rule prophesied since 1969 still ain’t happening, and won’t. Political unionism needs to mature, open up, and attract people from all backgrounds. A single, DUP dominated party certainly won’t do that

  • Comrade Stalin

    mainly because young, socially liberal and non-religious unionists will not vote for a party that includes the homophobia and sectarianism

    When I was at the count all the TUV supporters were folks in their late teens or 20s. Sad. Still, at least they’ve had a suitably rude awakening.

  • union mack

    there are bitter, bigoted youths who are politically active. Many pluralist, open minded and liberal young unionists tend not to get involved in politics, and even less so want to go out and vote for some bitterite from any party. TBH Alliance and the SDLP are more likely to get support than any of the three (soon to be two?) unionist parties

  • On the contrary the St Andrews agreement gave the DUPes yet another scare tactic to their arsenal – that of an SF first minister.

    The irony at the use of Shinner language ‘rejectionist’ etc is likely lost on you no doubt.

    Seeing as St Andrews didn’t make any constitutional amendments (beyond allowing SF to go for the top job in the yokel elections) to the already agreed framework I fail to swallow any of your codswallop, particularly that the Long vote is one on ‘bread and butter’ issues. A vote for a non-descript is a vote for a non-descript. That’s a failure of unionism in general not just the DUP mind. But I expect similar ignorance of the electorate from DUPes – and unionist ‘unity’ dinosaurs – elsewhere in future.

    Your closing comment regarding the more secure child is probably the single most idiotic line I’ve read on here.

    The real comfort blanket is the budget. And you’re living on a different planet if you think any of the local spongers elected this time out are really interested in removing that particular life support.

    The fact you’d miss such a salient point probably surmises in a nutshell the complete detachment NI has from the real and responsible system of government. At least Stormont acts as a honey trap to keep the really bad lunatics away from the national view.

  • Framer


    Good article although heavily suffused with your poor boy anti Fermanagh big-house sentiment. Tom Elliott does not live in Colebrooke while any UUP gathering I have attended has had no discernible aristocratic remnants. Sadly they are mostly anti-unionist today, being globalistas or uber-rich or both.

    As a unionist, I have come to the conclusion it does not matter who or what type of person is elected to Westminster only that they are a unionist (Cecil Walker MP, in his early dotage, said he wanted a united Ireland which made things tricky for Trimble but the electorate hardly noticed.)

    For that reason Sylvia Hermon’s election is no problem even if she supports the asylum seeker in 10 Downing Street. She certainly won’t be back in the UUP (dream on Duncan) doing instead what every other Westminster Unionist MP ultimately does – their own thing.

    They are there to be unionists, after that they can follow their own desires and preferences. You only need a party and its tiresome members to get the selection.

    UCUNF turned out an electoral disaster, probably as it was inspired by Trimble and the younger UUP officer class. The choice of candidates was nearly insane as was Reg’s failure to pick a seat for himself early.

    Despite your remarks (and mine above) the biggest vote-winner for the party was none other than Fxxxh Hxxxy* who polled over ten thousand. Quite an achievement.

    However it was the refusal to go for single candidates that most threatened and threatens unionism, and the north Belfast result tells us that this must now be addressed by a single party.

    Naomi Long may have worked hard but so do dozens of other unionist MLAs and councillors. What is true to say is that Stormont drains the life, energy and common sense out of unionist politicians (e.g. Basil McCrea and David McNarry) becoming instead a career path for middle and lower rankers who exist in overpaid jobs to twiddle their thumbs in underused constituency offices and Parliament Buildings, when they should be employed to register the reluctant and get them postal votes.

    The electoral defenestration of the three leaders is a perfect opportunity for some sort of coming together even if it is one party with several autonomous sub-parties. The DUP will now be less of a family dynasty/cult while the UUP folk memory of DUP dastardy is and will diminish. The TUV has good members who could be absorbed so long as they are not required to endorse terrorists in government – the sub-party route would permit this.

    *Harold Hamilton (Upper Bann), aka Flash Harry, a celebrity candidate with a common touch who managed 10,639 votes under the UCUNF label.

  • Turgon

    Thank you and I agree with a lot of it. Can I correct you on a couple of points. I was not saying Tom Elliott was from Colebrooke. Had you followed the links the viscount from Colebrooke was actually Viscount Brookeborough. I agree I am considerably less wealthy than him. However, it is a little unfair to say I am a poor boy anti big house Fermanagh type. I regard myself as very far from poor and my house is really quite big. In addition my relatives are the assorted quite big house unionists. That term is a reference to a blog I did years ago about how Stormont tended to help the relatively wealthy to be honest like myself. I am in no way aristocracy but I invented the term Quite Big House Unionists to describe people like myself.

    The reality is that one of the considerations in me not standing for election was that I could not afford the large salary drop as I would not have been willing to fiddle my expenses to make up for it even if it were still possible. Of course it seems clear that I would have been electorally annihilated so that would not have been a valid concern.

    I say the above about money in no way showing off just that it illustrates that criticising me for attacking Tom Elliott for being rich is wrong because I was not attacking Tom and because although I know nothing about his wealth mine is more than adequate for my needs and wants.

    Your other comments I accept and are well made.


  • Framer


    I know Tom Elliott does not live in Colebrooke but you wrote “Some seem to think that the electorate will wake up some day soon and realise that they (predominantly the fairly big house unionists) are clearly the natural leaders of Northern Ireland and will duly scurry off and vote in such a fashion.”

    I was trying to point out Tom is not one of ‘them’ in the UUP, not that he was rich.

    ‘They’ have long gone from the party – the Brookeboroughs, Abercorns, Londonderrys, Charlemonts, Donegalls and Westminsters not to mention lesser aristocrats and gentry like the O’Neills and Clarks.

    By ‘fairly big’ I presume you mean families such as the Coopers, but like it or not Fermanagh unionists are the paymasters of the UUP and their leaders keep it that way through effort and their fundraising. Just too sad that a handful of votes separated Rodney Connor and his workers from success. It certainly proves one vote counts.

    UCUNF had no luck, being subject also to heavy duty media scorn, and naterati hatred on these pages. See also the rubbishing given to Mike Nesbitt in the press compared to the unsullied affection for Dr McDonnell, the man whose Westminster website has been ‘under construction’ for two years despite his enormous salaries and expenses.

    Adding to my point about sub-parties within a party, given there is PR for Stormont and the councils, candidates could be selected by the sub-party and just appear under one label on the ballot paper (because the jobsworths of the Electoral Commission so demand). A bit like UCUNF without the PC part.

    BTW Molyneaux was not that effective. Never compromising like Trimble – right or wrong – he was never tested.

  • Quincey

    Yes the UUP CON was a massive failure. But i dont think enough weight is being given to the fact that the candidate were broadly speaking abysmal.

    There was the frankly ridiculous situation in place that the UUP was expecting the electorate to put a large number straight into the oldestpolitical institution in the world with literally no political experience!!!

    7 had NO political experience whatsoever!!!!
    4 were MLAS

    The rest either had brief council experience or work in politics related business (basically UUP employees).

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    or perhpas it is just the plain simple truth as repeated by the DUP that you simply cannot trust the British with the union as evidenced by the fact that the Irish government will always have far more influence on the British policy on Ireland, of both the Tory party and the Labour party than a few Unionists.

  • bill manwaring


    I would have to take issue with your comment that the UUP is an anti-catholic party.

    As a member, candidate and Party Officer I feel that you not only defame the party but you are also defaming me.

    Whilst I understand that you have your own opinions on these matters I would comment that, in my opinion, such reckless and groundless generalisations do nothing to further either the discussion or position of politics in Northern Ireland.

  • bob wilson

    Three factual inaccuracies:
    Hermon was not ‘thrown away’ she chose to oppose the idea that NI should play a full part in UK politics.
    Adrian Watson was not vetoed (unanimously btw) by the Joint Committee for his views on homosexuality
    The absence of a logo was not due to any disagreement between the 2 parties (they had an agreed logo for Euros). Unfortunately the law allows a Joint candidate to use a logo for European elections but it does not currently do so for Westminster elections

  • John East Belfast


    I always find your threads challenging but without picking holes you intend to include assertive statements of matters of fact on issues that you could not have any knolwedge off. eg on the assumption I was there and you werent Sir Reg was not upstaged by Margaret Ritchie at our own conference – that is just nonsense.
    Also Jim Molyneaux’s reign of managed decline for unionism is not generally regarded as a success. The UUP scored highly under Trimble immediately post GFA and lets face it if PIRA had decisively disarmed two years earlier we would be looking at a very different political landscape today.

    Anyhow that is history and we need to move on….

    The major issue you left out was that the Ulster Unionist Party and its brand of unionism (even with a UK Tory link) consistently commands around 100,000 votes.
    The belief that those votes can go to the DUP or the Aliance Party is simply not realistic.
    In any system of PR elections in NI the UUP will have a high number of elected representatives including a Stormont cabinet post.

    The real question is for all unionism now is how do we go forward from here.
    My initial thoughts will always revolve around what is best for protecting NI’s position within the Union

    There is undoubtledly a growing sense of a need to move closer together – the continual falling behind SF by nationalists and the rejection of the opportunity to engage in national UK politics by unionists along with the rejection of the TUV message will deal a blow to both the moderate and extreme wings of unionism. It wont be a killer blow but it will cause both to look (but not move) to the left and right accordingly.

    My instincts are against a mega unionist party which I believe will cause a whole that is less than the sum of the parts.
    Unionism is broad church – religious to secular, left to right and also very distinct geographical spreads. It has its own spectrum ranging TUV – DUP – UUP – PUP – NI Tories
    There is no one party that could represent it – I really cant see it. Many unionists can barely be in the same room together let alone the same party and there are many UUPs who have never voted DUP (myself included) and visa versa

    However my view is we should look for an umbrella organisation that will co-ordinate strategy on matters that protect & promote the Union – on that we can find common ground.
    We need to co-ordinate our efforts at promoting & financing “arguments for the Union” at home and abroad. Exposing the Union’s enemies and opposing their propaganda. We need to establish a joint Unionist think tank and an economic strategy that is Pro Union in nature and not one that just says lets take the ROI CT rate.

    And yes we need to co-ordinate electoral strategy – whether in FPTP or advising on transfers in order to maximise the unionist representation in any election

    Yes we can promote our own brands of unionism for First Preferences or where there is no threat to a unionist candidate.

    I think the Union is secure but it is not safe. Both SF and the SDLP confirmed within their election manifestos their total commitment to Irish Separatism and the Dissidents have taken up the baton of militant Irish Republicanism. Against this back drop unionism needs to be alert and proactive.

    I think the next 10 to 15 years are going to see a re-run of the early part of the 20th century with the Border Polls being the 21st Century equivalent of the Home Rule movement.

    I hope this particular election will have been a watershed for unionism where in future the competing ideals of what unionism offers will be channelled and co-ordinated.

    That will involve a role for a party representing the 100,000 UUP voters and hence the UUP will re-group and re-build and start over. However it will likely stop seeing other unionists as the enemy.

    I very much hope there is a role for the NI Tories but I dont think it is in an aliance with the UUP – each needs to paddle its own canoe but there are opportunities for co-operation as suggested above

    This is a pick yourself up and dust yourself down time along with one for considered debate.

    Such co-operation wont be easy – there are very real scars from past scraps but all unionists need to focus on our core objectives.

  • RJM

    Sounds like pretty effective canvassing to me.

  • John East Belfast,
    Well you were there and saw that Reg was not upstaged by Margaret Ritchie. However, everyone else saw the TV and the big story on the TV was Ritchie not your leaders much more important speech. Spin all you like the perception of the general population is what matters: them being the voters.

    As to Molyneaux’s leadership well let us see. Molyneaux may not have been that dynamic but let us look at election results and use local elections since the Westminster ones are skewed by the DUP not standing everywhere:

    1981 local (the first after Molyneaux takes power) UUP 26.4% DUP 26.6%.

    1993 local (the last under Molyneaux) UUP 29% DUP 17%.

    If one wants to use Westminster seats 1979 UUP 5 DUP 3.

    Now I accept the total number of seats in NI rose from 11 to 17 but 1992 UUP 9 DUP 3.

    Even using european elections where the Paisley factor was so dominant.

    1979 UUP 11.8% DUP 29.8%
    1994 UUP 23.8% DUP 29.2%

    Whereas I agree Trimble’s leadership was so much more impressive:

    1997 32% 10MPs
    2005 17.1% 1 MP

    As to if the IRA had disarmed. Well had Trimble kept to any of lines in the sand he drew rather than gracelessly yet meekly surrendering them who knows then he might have done better. He might have been a decent leader had that been the case.

    Still try the UUP revisionist rewrite of history by all means. I was also there for much of it and we both know you are talking utter nonsense.

  • John East Belfast


    LOL – see we cant even agree on the past let alone the future.

    The real issue for any unionist leader is whether they made the Union safer or not.

    I will take the GFA, abolition of the ROI claim and the ultimate disarming of militant of Provisional Irish Republicanism anyday over the Ango Irish Agreement.

    I am not going to run the Pro and Anti Agreement argument with you again – that was done to death on Slugger years ago and was decisively decided by the unionist electorate when the TUV was trounced this week

    As for Margaret Ritchie the story there was a constitutional nationalist addressing an Ulster Unionist Conference.

    Try and see the bigger picture

  • John,
    Try not telling lies about the past. Then you might see some future.

  • John East Belfast


    It is a pity you calling me a liar over my interpretation of Unionist achievement the past 30 years being different from yours.

  • No John I am calling you a lair when you said that Jim Molyneaux presided over a “reign of managed decline.”

    I pointed out that that was nonsense and you failed to accept your error but continued propagating nonsense. That in my book is a lie. Now you may not like your facts being shown to be wrong but that is the way it is. Telling untruths about facts is generally considered lying.

  • John East Belfast


    Ok – European Elections 1979 – the UUP vote from the figures I am looking at were 21.7% not 11.8%. There was also a maverick independent unionist standing that year who got another 7%.
    ie no real change

    I dont have the inclination to go through all your other stats but I suggest a whole range of other factors such as not standing in every constituency came into play.

    You cant look at polling % in isolation – there are many people who can top the poll and achieve absolutely nothing.
    There are others who can bring real change and ultimately probably pay the electoral price for it. Most successful political careers ultimately end in tears because somewhere along the line individuals took risks to really make a difference.

    I am also not disrespecting Jim Molyneaux – I meant no offence – I was simply saying you cannot judge recent UUP leaders by looking at cold statistics of others who led in very different circumstances.

    Also please forgive me if I am wrong – but from my knowledge of who you are – did you even live here during the period we are talking about anyhow ?

  • John East Belfast,
    I was born here and have lived all my life here. I was away for one year four years ago and subsequently came home but worked away for two years. If you know me you know that is the case so stop trying to make things up. If you do not know me stop trying to make things up.

    Moving on from dodgy use of statistics to back up your fallacious argument to essentially saying “Don’t listen to him: he did not live here at that time” is simply man playing and additional lying.

  • PaddyReilly

    It is not libellous to ask a ask a question, Turgon. Neither is it lying.

  • John East Belfast


    I apologise I have mistaken you for somebody else.

    I really think you are being unnecessarily prickly.

    As for dodgy statistics – I didnt introduce the statistics. But are you still saying the UUP share of the 1979 European vote was 11.8% then ?

  • Keysie3,
    Thank you for your comment I missed it in replying to some of the others. I think you misunderstand what I was getting at. It is not the fact that Cameron went to Oxford. Indeed Nigel Dodds went I think and Nelson McCausland to Cambridge. I know many normal local people and knew many in mainland GB when I worked there who went to Oxbridge.

    The issue is the group of predominantly young men who go to very upmarket public school (not just normal private English schools but the very elite ones) and then go to Oxbridge and seem to assume they have an entitlement to run the country.

    In actual fact some probably should be involved in running the country but the preponderance of them in the current Tory shadow cabinet is, I believe, a significant turn off in both GB and here.

    Incidentally my knowledge of the Eton / Oxbridge types is mainly second hand from two very close friends who went to Cambridge and were highly unimpressed by them and also from a number of family members who went.

    In no way am I disrespecting you or your choice of university: congratulations. I know this will raise a few hackles but as a QUB graduate (a pretty undistinguished one) I am well aware that my university would struggle to be second rate: yours is effortlessly first rate. Enjoy

  • Turgon

    John East Belfast,
    Okay I was too sharp and I unreservedly apologise. I called you a lair and that was untrue. You took a different point of view: that is not a lie.

    As to the statistics: my point was mainly on the council elections and it was that during Molyneaux’s leadership the DUP’s position was steadily undermined vis a vis the UUP. You claimed that his leadership was “managed decline” and that initially Trimble did well and had things been better he might have won.

    That is the revisionist UUP analysis which let us be honest is a myth.

    Molyneaux was not a perfect leader but he managed to stabilise and strengthen the UUP. He created a broad church and out righted and out lefted the DUP. I agree he may not have done much other than hold the ship together. However, when Trimble took over he rapidly destroyed the UUP with a combination of sell outs and personal unpopularity. Yes he had the DUP snapping at his heels but so did Molyneaux. I agree Trimble had different times to face and the challenge of Blair etc. Molyneaux might have done no better; he might even have done worse though looking at what Trimble achieved it is difficult to see how.

    I do think that this myth that the UUP under Trimble was successful is one of the contributory factors to the debacle which last week represented for the UUP. Trimble was a major advocate of the CU link up: they even ran his wife in Lagan Valley; a decision of epic stupidity.

    The UUP can claim that the St Andrews Agreement is little different from the Belfast Agreement and on that I would largely agree, However, the DUP did negotiate better and achieve more especially the degree of decommissioning they got. In addition the optics were better.

    Actually I think it was unfair the way the DUP carped at and destroyed Trimble and then achieved only an incremental advance. However, politics is not fair and until the UUP realise the narrative that Trimble was a disaster which is the most accepted analysis from ordinary unionists they will not achieve anything.

    In the same manner New Labour had to accept that Old Labour had been too close to the unions and had had odd economic policies (again that was not completely fair but Blair accepted it and moved on). Just as Cameron and co said the Tories had to move on from being “the nasty party” again it was not a fair characterisation but that is the way they were viewed.

    It goes back to what I said in the initial blog: some in the UUP seem to think that the electorate will wake up one day and realise that they (the UUP) are the rightful leaders of unionism and will scuttle off and vote for them.

    However, the objective of this comment was to apologise so again my apologies.

  • John East Belfast


    No problem.

    A couple of things.

    I dont know anyone in the UUP who think they are the “rightful leaders of unionism” – that is for the electorate to decide.

    As for revisionism and myth – it may be to you but it is not for Pro Agreement unionists – this is how we see it.

    It does see that the relative peace and prosperity that NI has today was due on the unionist side to Trimble’s initiative.
    If we hadnt done what we did then unemployment in NI would be in double figures today and there would be more people in the grave yard. Where we are today would have been delayed several years – but it would have come.

    Listening to the DUP election broad casts last week was the same message we were giving years ago.

    Yes decommissioning was delivered on the DUP watch – but to us it was always a sequential process and we run out of time. It wouldnt have been feasable to expect SF to deliver immediate decommissioning as that among their supporters would have been outright surrender.

    That they should have done sooner yes and also we should have got more support from Blair – but events and individuals conspired (deliberately) against us.

    However we did the heavy lifting. – that is simply how we will always see it.

    As for the St Andrews Agreement the fundamental flaw is it is going to deliver a SF First Minister. The reason it will do that is because the DUP became deluded it would represent all of unionism as opposed to the very real fact that unionism will always be fragmented into several pieces whereas nationalism seems to be able to hold together behind SF.

    Anyhow my original post was not about the past but on unionist alliances going forward. Your exchange with me here only proves just how difficult if not impossible that will be.

    However the Ulster Unionists – despite all our cock ups – still represent a core of 100,000 unionist voters and also represents the only chance of capturing the “unicorn” unionists you refer to above – and which will be essential to securing NI’s place within the UK.

    Therefore if the moderate core within the UUP is finished then I am very much afraid so is the Union

  • Comrade Stalin

    John EB,

    I am glad that you are defending the Agreement and the work that David Trimble and the UUP did back then. Let’s not beat about the bush here – the UUP only did the deal because they were forced to by HMG. But they should still be allowed part of the credit for the peace.

    What the UUP lack is good political acumen and that is still the case. They failed to see what was going on between 1995 and 2005, namely that the DUP was machinating to undermine them using agents within the UUP itself. The party leadership failed to be decisive and make the necessary constitutional changes to stop this. I attribute this to the organization not being entirely wedded to the GFA.

    Therefore if the moderate core within the UUP is finished then I am very much afraid so is the Union

    These scare tactics aren’t going to work. The union will only be over when people vote against it in a referendum, and it’s supreme arrogance to believe that this can or will happen if the UUP are not there to watch over it.

    However the Ulster Unionists – despite all our cock ups – still represent a core of 100,000 unionist voters and also represents the only chance of capturing the “unicorn” unionists you refer to above – and which will be essential to securing NI’s place within the UK.

    You’re being squeezed on both sides there, John. I imagine a proportion of your membership, councillors and MLAs will switch to the DUP in the coming weeks and the DUP will campaign from the vantage point of being the largest and most coherent unionist party. Alliance will come for the people who are under the common misconception that the UUP is somehow moderate. Alliance and the DUP will both be campaigning on the shamefully bad record UUP MLAs and councillors have when it comes to local campaigning and representation. That’s the real secret of the successes both the DUP and Alliance have had lately. I can’t see what hope you have against a squeeze on two fronts.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Comrade Stalin,

    ” the UUP only did the deal because they were forced to by HMG”

    How refreshing to see these words in print from you after you being in denial about it for so long. Goodonya.

  • John East Belfast


    “Let’s not beat about the bush here – the UUP only did the deal because they were forced to by HMG”

    Now that is a revisionist myth.
    The UUP did the deal because they thought it was in the best interests of NI and the Union – that is simple

    “They failed to see what was going on between 1995 and 2005, namely that the DUP was machinating to undermine them using agents within the UUP itself. The party leadership failed to be decisive and make the necessary constitutional changes to stop this. I attribute this to the organization not being entirely wedded to the GFA”

    Of course it new it was going on.
    As for the “organisation” not being wedded to the GFA – wise up.
    The Party and Leadership had to act within its Constitution at the time.
    The easiest thing to do would have been to collapse everything and walk away

    – Are you saying that was what the Alliance Party was asking the UUP to do at the time ? – of course it wasnt it was calling for the UUP to face down the No people and stick by the Agreement at all costs – have some integrity about the situation for goodness sake

    “The union will only be over when people vote against it in a referendum, and it’s supreme arrogance to believe that this can or will happen if the UUP are not there to watch over it.”

    We arent going to waken up some morning to a Referendum – there is going to be a build up to it and a campaign to maximise the unionist vote – that will require a broad unionist church – the DUP will not attract that church – it needs a moderate unionist party

    “Alliance will come for the people who are under the common misconception that the UUP is somehow moderate.”

    Please stop patronising our voters – they know exactly what they are voting for.

    Some of that 100,000 will go to the DUP – but if any go to the Alliance then the AP will have to move towards the Unionist position – are you up for that ? – If not stop kidding yourself that you can pick up any Pro Union Vote – especially when you clearly hold the unionist mindset with such contempt.

    Have you not recognised that in every constituency where there is a Unionist – nationalist battle that the AP is wiped the floor with ?

    Are you that deceived that you think the unionist electorate will fall behind the AP in anything other than a protest vote in safe unionist seat ?

    Incidentally I am glad you have confirmed it is really the moderate unionist vote you are after ? How is your non tribal politics drive doing in nationalist constituencies ?

  • Granni Trixie

    How many times do I have to say it: Alliance is truely a party of diversity – both its strength and something which challenges. So every (nonviolent) person s welcome to find a home with us, including your good self JEB.

  • Granni Trixie

    BTW,think of how much farther along the road we might have been now had Trimble really given NI job his full attention. My view is informed ofcouse by QUB Rick Wilfords research showing Trimble preferred to hang about Westminster more of the time than in NI,hence decisions slowdown, consistent with the imporession I had from reading between the lines of Jonathan :Powells account.

  • Sammy Morse

    Indeed, Nicholas, but in another hallmark of the self-delusion that has characterised UCUNF from the beginning, they convinced themselves that they ‘beat’ the DUP (even though Diane Dodds polled more 1st preferences than Jim Nicholson) and TUV candidates would salami-slice the DUP’s vote to ribbons in a Westminster election allowing them to come through the middle.

    You can’t impose political parties from outside or above – they emerge from the cleavages that already exist in society. That’s how the first political parties started, and that’s how new ones emerge. The most electorally successful political parties manage to reach across many cleavages; smaller ones fit neatly between them but can be more successful in actually delivering their agenda if they are smart.

    I’m not sure if UCUNF, or indeed the UUP alone in a post-settlement era, actually knows what niche it wants to fill. Is there a need for it? The bulk of the UUP would actually be very happy in a united Unionist Party, and this would not necessarily be bad for NI. The genuinely liberal minority should be happy enough in Alliance. The small number of genuine right-wingers would achieve far more trying to build a niche right-wing party that might actually have the potential to attract cross-community support, win a few Assembly seats in Greater Belfast and shake the broadly social-democratic consensus here up a bit.

    Robinson’s defeat hides how well the DUP held its vote together despite a pretty horrid year – in many ways a deservedly horrid year. And that was in part because for the first time ever, a Unionist party in a power-sharing government actually backed itself and sold its achievements instead of trying to run away from them. I couldn’t work out whether or not UCUNF actually wanted things to work here – lots of talk about transforming politics, followed by accusing the DUP of lundy snowmanism on policing and parades. The failure of the TUV was actually great news for Northern Ireland. All of a sudden, it’s hard to see what the next big threat to power-sharing is, and that ought to ensure usuns in the political class to focus on delivery, which seemed to me to be what the electorate was telling us to do.

    SDLP MPs – and I’m far from uncritical of the SDLP – actually spend considerable time trying to address the concerns of Protestant constituents. Any time I meet Mark Durkan or Alasdair McDonnell outside Stormont, it seems to be at some (Protestant) church function or other. And that’s why many unionists seem happy to vote for them come Westminster election time – while there is a tactical element in South Down and Foyle, both McDonnell and Anna Lo seemed to benefit from significant Unionist votes in South Belfast without any tactical reasons. Perhaps not surprising and a very healthy development in one of the least tribalised constituencies in Northern Ireland. But I can’t think of any Unionist politician who makes an effort to engage with Catholic or nationalist institutions in the same way, even in the period when several UUP MPs were transparently dependent on tactical voting from nationalists. Ever see a Unionist politician at a do at your local Catholic church? Your local GAA club? Nope, thought not. It’s one thing to proclaim your non-tribalism from the rooftops, but actions speak louder than words.

  • Sammy Morse

    I’m sure the good Comrade meant no ill-will towards you, Bill. Your own commitment to ending tribal politics is unimpeachable, even if I think you’re barking up the wrong tree in the vehicle you choose to pursue it with.

    But just look at Newtownabbey Borough Council – 53 years, zero Catholics in the top civic position, good people like Jim Rooney and Tommy McTeague fobbed off with a freemanship after decades of being frozen out on the council, good people like Billy Webb and Noreen McClelland still being frozen out now. I think, collectively, Northern Ireland politics has made huge steps towards ending people’s religious views as a part of politics – look at how even TUV fought shy of a hint of a specifically anti-Catholic reference. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still issues, and that some of them aren’t in your party.

  • sjames

    I wouldn’t agreed they were all “wastes of space”. Bill Manwaring managed to sell the Conservative message to working class West Belfast and increase the UUP vote there for example.

  • kevin

    David timble done himself harm by not getting on with the job he was pad to do he prefered to behave like the grand old Duke off York and march his men up and down the hill if he did not get things his own way Nor did he face down old papa doc and his merry men the U.U.P. is uilt on arrogance off many years that there is some kind off god given birth rihgt to govern and that is the way it is going to be .