Naomi for First Minister, seriously

Unionist-leaning historian Henry Patterson is among many who expect pressures for  united unionism to grow.

Yet Peter Robinson’s spectacular defeat has profound implications for the future of his party and for that of unionist politics as a whole.

This may not presage the return to the laager that a previous drive for unionist unity involved, when it snuffed out the flickers of power sharing 37 years ago. But it could have baleful consequences. Unionist unity might well prompt a parallel move for a united nationalism and squeeze the SDLP. That would be a tragedy just when the party has polished up its cross community credentials by refusing to play a sectarian game in the election. The risk paid off or at least did no major damage.  The Ulster Unionists’ initiative of an alliance with the Conservatives was notably less successful and poorly handled but may have been ahead of its time.

In Naomi Long’s stunning victory and Sylvia Hermon’s more predictable one, Liam Clarke detects ” the rise of centrist forces.” While Liam is close to the ground and I’m very far from it, I wonder how robust they are.  While traces of working class unionist progressivism can be identified (they always existed, as Patterson’s work among others recounts), history shows they were always buried in the next sectarian stand-off, real or contrived. Nor have they effectively crossed the divide since the NILP in the early sixties. The next stand-off may be over the erectile symbol of the First Ministership. It cannot be ignored but it is hard to imagine a less creative cause.

What character would united unionist adopt? The old Tory deference is long dead, but Ulster nationalism is too narrow a political ground for stability. In the election the  centre held, just.  But “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Can the green shoots of working class Alliance prosper further?  Politics could  be nudged in a more contructive direction by exploiting the precedent of a third party candidate and a notable victory.

  How about Naomi as the cross community candidate for First Minister and the end of the Assembly designations, combined?


  • Erm, Naomi has spent the last few days explaining that she’s quitting the Assembly to concentrate on Westminster. Still, nice thought!

  • johnno

    Anyone see Alaistar McDonnell on the Politics Show? Comedy gold.

  • Michaelhenry

    do not waken the old codger up, naomis leaving the assembly so how can she be first minister.

  • Granni Trixie

    EB are fortunate in that they have more at home like Naomi. Dont know who is to be her successor as MLA but the another local Councillor, Judith Cochrane seems a likely condidate. Just heard Naomi rule out her husband Michael another, very talented Councillor who started off in politics with her (he is sticking with being a dentist she says).

  • Outsider

    Unionist unity is going to be a reality very soon, and about time.

  • johnno

    Outsider, excellent news. It bolsters the SF vote every time. Bring it on.

  • cynic47

    First time I have seen big John ruffled

  • Comrade Stalin

    Actually, I thought John O’Dowd knew exactly what he was doing and intentionally wound McDonnell up. McDonnell swallowed the bait.

  • aquifer

    Yep no point in Unionists going door to door separately as they have nothing to offer, and with women like Naomi about, it would be safer to huddle together and hide.

  • slug

    It was a rather sad spectacle.

  • slug

    I am hoping that the growth of Alliance vote is a sign of something new in our politics in Northern Ireland.

    Alliance have a Minister and an MP.

    If they get much larger they could start to challenge the old stereotypes in NI politics – a point made by Prof Vernon Bogdanor.

  • Outsider

    Alliance offer nothing but indecision and their hold on the East Belfast Westminster seat will be short.

  • Michaelhenry

    what, four years short, is robinson jnr going to replace his fallen father.

  • No matter how short it is, it will always be infinitely longer than Reg’s tenure as MP…

  • YelloSmurf

    I think it’s just as well that Michael’s out, it would have looked too much like nepotism. I know that he is a talented politician, but who his wife is would have meant he couldn’t have progressed in order to prove that he wasn’t just progressing because of who his wife is (and I’ll be very surprised if anyone could follow that sentence from start to finish). To my mind Judith is a possibility. She’s not keen, but then she wasn’t keen on standing for council or even becoming involved in politics so she could possibly be persuaded. The other names that spring to mind are Máire Hendron and Naomi’s assembly assistant Chris Lyttle. I’d suggest that it will probably be Judith or Máire and, if pushed, I’d say Juduth.

  • Outsider


    I agree however I am not a supporter of Sir Reg.

  • aquifer

    Poor Reg, with friends like the Orange Order who needs enemies.

  • Brian Walker

    There’s more at stake than double jobbing here. Let’s look beyond the micro politics. If Naomi were to become an agreed candidate to overcome a crisis over FM after the next Stormont election perhaps for a fixed term, politics overall would be the gainer. It could be the breakthrough that makes the end of designations viable. I look forward to other ideas to halt the drift to a new train wreck.

  • “In the election the centre held, just. But “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?””

    Crikey, Brian, that’s Tip Top Political Porn. What do you know of Angels and the Party of the Erotic Left….. for the Pleasures and Treasures of the Finest of Prime Assets, Nicaraguan Native Style.

    It is a truly volatile and virulent political playspace which you might like to consider is now Internet rather than Media Controlled and Hosted.

    And that introduces Virtual Remote Control for Intangible Non State Actors and Treasured Rogue Assets.

  • Brian Walker

    amanfromMars. Sorry to overload I thought familiar, from Yeat’s “The Second Coming”

    “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
    Mere anachy is loosed upon the world….

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity… “

  • argosjohn

    Gee. I was called a troll for making this very point on a separate thread a few days ago. This just proves that Unionism is a fascist ideology. It can tolerate no real dissent as that shows its feet of clay. The six counties is a gerrymander. It cal only be saved by further gerrymanders.
    Unlike yesteryear, more parts of Belfast as well as all the areas bordering the Liberated Zone are lost to Unionism forever.
    The other thread, essentially asking the SDLP and Alliance to toe the DUP line at Westminster is the same old Unionist ein reich ein volk refrain.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    This election was also a battle between those pretending to be moderate Unionists and those who actually are moderate Unionists and although UCUNF are still easily the larger party Naomi’s victory may be an indication that the tide is turning in favour of Alliance.

  • argosjohn

    Alliance, by the way, is Unionism lite. Nationalists prefer not to drink from the poisoned chalice, no matter how diluted it may appear to be. The Orange state is a failed state. Time for it to go.

  • DC

    Part of the problem with progressing politics in Northern Ireland (throughout the ages) rests with too much literary being applied and nowhere near enough theory.

    You were caught on this Brian unfort, Naomi answered directly that she wouldn’t carry on standing as MLA, she could even hand over her MLA post to someone else in-term like others have done.

    I’m thinking the unelected Conall McDevitt and such likes.

  • cynic47

    The unelected appointee’s in the Assembly should only be allowed to speak in debate but have no voting rights. I thought that the very foundation of democracy was to seek and receive a mandate from the people not a party mate. Jimmy Spratt’s offer to Ms Bradshaw of his Assembly seat was bizarre and made a mockery of democracy. This sort of think would have happened in Russia years ago! That said Ms Bradshaw might have been better taking his offer!!

  • Bulmer

    Dear me it must be a bit cold and dark down the bunker these days. A failed state would be paralysed like Greece currently is. Don’t see many signs of failure. In fact the utter failure of TUV and success of SF point to the complete opposite. The orange state ceased to exist a long time ago and its remnants were buried last week.


    Judith would be outstanding.

  • SDLP Man

    DC, you’ve made this point before about Conall McDevitt. Did you make similar points when, for example, Billy Leonard took over from Francie Brolly, and there have been other examples? No, I don’t think so.

    On the original post from Brian Walker, I think it’s a daft idea. The ballot box rules and Alliance, though they did well, especially Naomi, don’t have the votes. It reminds me of the proposal made by some self-regarding old gits (the late Barry Cowan was one of them) to the Opsahl Commission than the NI government be administered by wise and eminent elders which, er, turned out to be none other than themselves.

    Similarly, the late Women’s Coalition wanted a third of Council seats here reserved for unelected/unelectable women, meaning themselves of course.

  • madraj55

    ‘the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity’

    Sums up NI politics [especially Paisley legacy in the latter part]. First time I heard this Yeats quote was on a Lou Reed live album [Take no Prisoners 1979] where he started his gig with this very quote, adding ‘now you figure out whereabouts I am’

  • madraj55

    ‘the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity’

    Sums up NI politics [especially Paisley legacy in the latter part. First time I heard this Yeats quote was on a Lou Reed live album [Take no Prisoners 1979] where he started his gig with this very quote, adding ‘now you figure out whereabouts I am’

  • John East Belfast

    “Unionist unity might well prompt a parallel move for a united nationalism and squeeze the SDLP. That would be a tragedy just when the party has polished up its cross community credentials by refusing to play a sectarian game in the election.”

    Not necessarily – the SDLP would only have to fear South Belfast.
    In exchange I see no reason why Unionists have to stand in seats that are clearly Nationalist and the choice is SF or SDLP.

    In other words I would not stand any unionist candidate in those constituencies and instead encourage unionists to support the SDLP in its battle against SF.
    ie bring the SDLP into the project.

    Such a strategy would show nationalists there was a winnable alternative to SF and possibly cause some nationalists to shift allegiance back to the SDLP if they started believing it was a winnable seat again
    That would stop the SF Westminster juggernaut in its tracks.

    Any unionist unity project could then not be described as a sectarian headcount because it would also be invoking unionists to vote for non unionist candidates in its opposition to a Westminster abstentionist party

    Unionists could slug it out in those constituencies where there is no chance of anyone other than a unionist getting elected and then have agreed candidates where there is a clear unionist majority but a split unionist vote could let a non unionist in

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Are you saying that it would be beneficial if Alliance were foisted upon another ministry because Unionism isnt politically mature enough to deal with democracy or abide by the agreements they not only made but authored. Its about time exceptions stopped being made for northern irish politicians of all hues. Hopefully, this economic crisis will see the apron strings cut and politicial and economic level so that they will have to work together to survuve. If this election has taught us one thing, esp in light of DUP cries to protect the block grant, its that Ulster Unionism is Ulster Nationalism. Once unionists accept this, they will realise that Ulster Nationalism is a non-starter unless the other 45% of the population are on board and compromise accordingly.

  • madraj55

    John, east belfast The problem for unionists with the abstenionist strategy you outline, to boost the SDLP at expense of SF, is this would increase the nationalist turnout across the board and hasten the flipover to nats majority of vote share. The siege mentality in Unionism won’t allow that option.

  • John East Belfast


    Possibly for some.

    However the scalp of Pat Doherty and Connor Murphy would make it a lot easier to swallow

  • abucs

    It’s quite a good strategy on paper but the essence of politics is that there is a choice for governance.

    If the unity unionists are all returned in the unionist electorates and the SDLP (beholden to unionist politicians) are retuned in nationalist seats then really there is no effective countering of the main party with this setup.

    Democracy being what it is, the vacuum will likely be filled by former SDLP votes switching to Sinn Fein and lead to the destruction of the SDLP.

    Still, in the short term you’d probably enjoy it for a while. 😮

  • CatinHat

    Giving the largest party First Minister will not give Sinn Fein any extra power if they get it. However the knock on effect of the change will be that four parties will lose power (e.g. less ministerial positions and less seats than without the change). Those parties are the UUP, the TUV, the SDLP and Alliance.

    The parties who gain from this change are the DUP and Sinn Fein.

    The only real points for unionist unity are,
    A) FPTP elections, i.e. Westminster.
    B) Who gets First Minister.

    A) may very well become defunct depending on what comes out of current discussions in London.

    B) in my opinion should be reverted to the GFA position. It is just a cynical SInn Fein / DUP ploy against the electorate itself, twisting their arm to vote for them with a first preference rather than putting their 1 against the actual party who really is their first preference. It’s just an attempt to undermine the preferential voting system, and I think that nationalist voters should concede on this and revert back to the GFA system since getting a useless title is hardly worth undermining voter choice for everyone and turning every election into more of a sectarian headcount than it may already be.

  • DC

    I haven’t made that point before about Conall on Slugger.

    I was just reinforcing the point on giving up MLA post when in term.

  • Ciaran FST

    Firstly I cant understand why you have not argued for Long to be appointed as deputy First Minister as the First Minister position is in no way superior to deputy First Minister.

    Long will leave her position as an MLA shortly in line with alliance policy on double jobbing.

    Although Long done very well to take Robbo’s seat this is why she could not be in OFMdFM had she remained in the assembly.

    wikipedia on election of OFMdFM:
    This diarchy was created to enable the leaders of the main unionist and nationalist parties to work together as a team jointly representing both communities.

    Following the St Andrews Agreement, this was changed so that the Leader of the largest party nominated the First Minister, and the leader of the next largest party that is in the opposite designation nominated the deputy First Minister.

    So if Long was “chosen” as either FM or dFM that leave’s the other open to either SF”(McGuinness) or DUP(Robinson?) leaving either out of the picture. Long could only be in a position to get this post if the alliance had either the most or second most seats.

    I think you are confusing the assemly with the election of a US President.

  • pinni

    Let me see, Naomi is now an MP, an MLA, a city councillor, Lord Mayor (?), and now we want her to be first minister as well?

    I thought double jobbing was bad, bad, bad and should be brought to an end!