Conservatives considering their options in Northern Ireland?

Interesting news from Jeff Peel on status of the Conservative party staffers in Northern Ireland. Slugger cannot confirm whether it is true or not, but we understand the Conservatives did indeed expend a great deal of time, money and energy on trying to help get Ulster Unionist (as well as their own) candidates elected in the latest general election.

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  • Oul Micky Hoot

    I think this is a pity…..the UUP / Tory link up had a lot of merit.

    When will Unionism realise that its’ interests are not best represented by Ulster Nationalists??

  • HarryJ

    jsut what did the UUP sell to the Tories – did they honestly believe they were going to get seats?

  • slug

    This is a long term project – the Conservatives are growing in their NI membership.

    The relationship between UUP and Conservative will develop and mature and learn from both successes and failures.

  • The Conservative candidate in North Antrim was almost invisible.

  • HarryJ

    This is a long term project – the Conservatives are growing in their NI membership……….

    really , cos their vote fell

  • Mick Fealty

    The Conservative vote went up from 0.5% in the 2007 Assembly elections. And if you take account of FST, the overall vote probably didn’t budge one way or the other.

    Which is one reason talk of ‘disaster’ ought to consumed with the usual bag of salt. There was a failure to choose candidates on time, and to mobilise party activists across the board. And Reg failed to get a seat that should by rights have fallen into his lap.

    But that failure was funded by an over tolerant (IMHO) Conservative Party.

  • John East Belfast

    The big problem with UCUNF is that the Tories are trying to fast track 100,000 votes and the UUP had their own agenda.

    In terms of voters the fringes were either attracted or repelled but the vast bulk in the middle either didnt notice or didnt care (possibly because they were Tories in the first place).

    However this alliance IMHO is going nowhere and each party needs to decide one way or another what it is and paddle their own canoes

  • Cynic

    I think you are right Mick.

    Jeff Peels blog since the election is a litany of bile and demonstrations how this is not the way to do it and (in effect) how all his dire predictions have come true. I always think that when you leave a party to do th9s from the sidelines the question must be asked on why you didn’t stay in and try to shape things.

    There are some in the NI Conservatives who undoubtedly think like Jeff and wouldn’t have the UUP about them. Ditto for the UUP with the numbers increasing exponentially as you move away from Belfast.In the case of the Conservatives they are a small but vocal minority.

    The fundamental problem is that for years the Conservatives here were a small and quite insular group. Since Owen Paterson arrived there has been a real drive to open the party up and broaden its electoral base. The Hillsborough drinks party circuit isn’t enough to get Conservatives into power anywhere in the UK, never mind NI. That probably needs a 10 year drive starting with getting more young people interested and involved and broadening the social base of the party too.

    How that plays out will also depend on how unionism and particularly the UUP develops and who their leader is. No doubt the DUP will continue to do its best to urge merger while quietly making it impossible to deliver that. The DUP also has its own internal problems and its a question of how long before the men in suits pay a visit to Peter to explain that he’s damaging the brand and perhaps he should go.

    Until all that’s resolved and new leaders in place the way forward will be as clear as a bath full of mud – but where one knows there are many intriguing possibilities under the surface.

    Its going to be an interesting 6 months.

  • plainly speaking

    To say the Con/UUP campaign was lacklustre is an understatement. From the gawd-awful party political broadcasts to a largely uninspiring group of candidates and the utter failure of UUP talking heads to appear remotely articulate in numerous TV discussions, left me stone cold towards any further co-operation between them and the Conservatives.

    The smart thing for the Conservatives now would be to disengage from UCUNF (although letting the UUP do the de-coupling for them) and position the party where it can begin to build a proper long-term political base – centrist, non-sectarian and pro-union.

    And if they manage the miracle of making progress on rebalancing Northern Ireland’s economy, they will at least get the electorates attention on 7th May 2015.

  • Paddy Matthews

    To be fair, it doesn’t seem as if the Northern Ireland Tories are being singled out:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/18/hugh-muirs-diary-tory-central-office

  • Paddy Matthews

    The problem for the Northern Ireland Tories is that Northern Ireland isn’t Surrey (as the North Down result demonstrates) and that even the Unionist community show absolutely no enthusiasm for integration (as the rest of UCUNF’s results demonstrate).

    The Northern Ireland Tories and their sympathisers in the UUP may be convinced of the rightness of their cause. They may talk a good talk in the blogosphere.

    But exactly the same can be said about the SWP or the various brands of dissident Republicanism. The trouble is that the world outside just isn’t interested.

  • Greenflag

    paddy matthews ,

    ‘The trouble is that the world outside just isn’t interested.’

    Ouch -too true paddy m and doesn’t it hurt 😉

  • Tomagaddy

    Mind you the Northern Ireland Tories can now rank amongst their number the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for NI which represents influence a tad beyond the SWP, diissidents or even the DUP!

  • Is part of the issue here one of compatability (a bit like software and operating systems)?
    The underlying premise is simply that the current UUP constituency is a Tory one and that a joint project would energise those who have become disillusioned with politics etc. Thus, the current core UUP + Con vote in NI would follow, with growth from the re-involvement of those who are apathetic to help create a genuine centre of gravity around which pro-union and pro-Tory sentiment could begin to orbit. (The reason why I included pro-union there, rather than the hypothetical re- branded version, is that it simply wasn’t evidenced by the run-up whether it was a genuinely held concept from the outset or not has been rendered irrelevant.)
    The UUP seem to have sold the Tories the idea that their voters are still the Conservative constituency they once were. The relatively apathetic response suggests that, from a Tory point of view, they could re-deploy their financial clout into Conservative candidates next year and let the UUP fight it’s own battle. Having no clear idea where it stands on many things, the UUP might struggle as the Tories try and displace them, particularly since the Tories have greater resources. Even better, as Tomagaddy points out – they will have the SoS and PM on their side, a policy base of their own and obvious pro-union credentials. The UUP have no MPs and an uncertain position regarding the Assembly and Executive. While a re-positioning may happen amongst unionists, is it entirely clear that the Conservatives are commited to being part of that? Or, may the lessons of the election be enough to impel the local unionists to re-cluster around a DUP core with the Conservatives as competition?

  • Neil

    The Conservative vote went up from 0.5% in the 2007 Assembly elections. And if you take account of FST, the overall vote probably didn’t budge one way or the other.

    How many candidates did they have in both years I wonder? Genuinely curious and I can’t find it online, the vote just over tripled from 0.5% to 1.7%, but could that be explained by their standing in three times as many constituencies? Or was it straightforward growth.

    In the latter option, it’s not really comparing like with like, talking about the Tories in isolation when the UCUNF project was ongoing and their candidates were the likes of Parsley who already had a profile as an Alliance candidate. However even at that 0.5% to 1.7% is significant growth.

    Which is one reason talk of ‘disaster’ ought to consumed with the usual bag of salt. There was a failure to choose candidates on time, and to mobilise party activists across the board. And Reg failed to get a seat that should by rights have fallen into his lap.

    Reg is the main problem IMO. Why should SA have ‘by rights’ fallen into his lap? Because he’d never been there before and was parachuted in at the last minute cause he fancied his chances? And even that he called 100% wrong. Reg is not a man with his finger on the pulse. I’d be surprised if he had one myself.

    Now, the conversation gets confusing as some people are talking about the Tories in isolation, some are talking about the UCUNF and you Mick are talking about both in one paragraph. While telling Harry that their vote grew (as I assume Harry was talking about the UUs – who’s vote has fallen consistently, and IMO would have fallen much further had the Tories not linked up with them) you’re referring specifically to the Tory Party NI, then you move seamlessly onto Reg’s electoral failure which is regarding the UUs – that which you corrected Harry for mentioning in the first place. So now we’re onto the overall (UCUNF) project, which was a disaster and no mistake.

    I do believe that the blame for that falls with Reg, he’s unstable. He wants to form a pact with whomsoever he can get his mitts on, starting with Irvine. And to me that comes across as cynical, the attempts to increase the vote through gimmicking.

    The lateness of all of the above is not something unique to the UUs. It was a late election, and everyone had the same problems. The DUP also had a number of scandals to contend with and I think it’s very telling that the UCUNF couldn’t make political capital out of the DUP at their weakest in a number of years, the DUP is the primary target for the UUs in terms of votes – after all it was the old UU voters who the DUP wooed in the first place.

    But that failure was funded by an over tolerant (IMHO) Conservative Party.

    Maybe, and yet I find it strange to say the least that an economy which derives so much in public sector pay should be told that a potential 600m in cuts was coming our way literally just before the election, yet now Dave can soften his stance post election and say that NI will be protected til year end and even then the executive will be given the power to soften the blow. It kind of seems as though the UUs suffered because of that blunder by Cameron.

    Finally I’d point out that all evidence available so far suggests Dave has said anything and everything to get into power, but none if it means a thing now. The Labour ‘tax on jobs’ is now to be introduced by the Tories (as an example) after all the wind produced by the Tories, including lists of businessmen who didn’t want to pay more tax (the shock of it).

    On the flipside you have the UUs who engineered the system were in and bitch about it now their not getting votes. Who haven’t really decided whether they’re pro or anti agreement, and who have basically acted contrarily to the DUP for the sake of acting contrarily to the DUP. People notice the hypocrisy of the position and by and large they don’t particularly like it. IMO both the Tories and the UUs ran piss poor campaigns. The Tories squandered a huge lead and scraped over the line just. As for the UUs, well, they had nothing, and they reduced it. Pretty good going.