More on shortcut to unionist unity

I’ve been consulting oracles about whether a short cut to unionist unity could be achieved without a full blown merger of the DUP and UUP. The aim is to discover whether it would be possible to prevent the appointment of a Sinn Fein First Minister by creating something like a united unionist coalition/council grouping that would be recognised as a party for the purpose of appointing and electing ministers.  I leave the politics of this entirely aside, whether it would be good for politics generally or not.  Sinn Fein and nationalism generally would be unlikely to take it lying down and it would hardly delight the Conservatives.

The lawyer and legal commentator Austen Morgan who has advised David Trimble in his time suggests it probably comes down to the meaning of political party in the NIA 1998 as amended

You go on to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, where political parties are registered under section 23.

 The quick answer is that if it is registered in NI under the 2000 Act, it is a political party under the NI Act 1998. Now, what gets you registered? The answer is related to standing for elections.

 If the DUP and the UUP register themselves as a joint entity for standing in elections, they could be home and dry. Are joint candidates possible without a full merger? Let the debate continue.

  • Fearglic

    Would that give the Nationalists extra ministerial portfolios? Just curious.

  • Drumlin Rock

    an equally divided Unionist block might allow that, be good if someone would run the the numbers through D’Hont using existing members, and with P&J seat in the mix after 2012 the first choice is also important.
    The reality is the DUP has moved so much to the centre it certainly overlaps the UUP in many areas, however some of the “traditional” DUP remains and a section of the UUP is now much more liberal, a full merger could not possibly fit both elements so far as I can see, but the common ground means co-operation or even “coalition” could be looked at whilst remaining seperate parties.
    As we can see this has happened at Westminister, why not in Stormont? Cobbling together an Umbrella Party might do the trick this once, but it creates a bit of a mess for the future.

  • Mustler

    On current figures fearglic:

    Combined DUP + UUP : 36+18 =54
    SF: 28
    SDLP: 16

    Ministry One : Combined Unionist

    Ministry 2: (Combined Unionist divided by no. of ministries +1 = 54/2 =27) Ministry goes to Sinn Fein

    Ministry 3: Combined U 27, SF (28/(1+1)=14, SDLP 16
    Ministry to combined U

    Ministry 4: CombU :54/(2+1)=18 , SF 14, SDLP 16
    Ministry to Combined U

    Ministry 5: CombU 54/(3+1)=13.5, SF 14, SDLP 16
    Ministry to SDLP

    Ministry 6: CombU 13.5, SF 14, SDLP 16/(1+1)=8
    Ministry to Sinn Fein

    Ministry 7: Comb U 13.5, SF 28/(2+1) =9.33, SDLP =8
    Ministry to Combined U

    Ministry 8: Combined U 54/(4+1)= 10.8, SF 9.33 SDLP 8
    Ministry to Combined U

    Ministry 9: Combined U 54/(5+1)=9 SF 9.33, SDLP 8
    Ministry to Sinn Fein

    Ministry 10: Combined U 9, Sinn Fein 28/(3+1)=7, SDLP 8
    Ministry to combined U.

    If there was a 11th department:
    ComU 54/(6+1)=7.71, Sinn Fein 7, SDLP 8
    Would go to SDLP

    Based on last assembly’s figures: order of ministries would be: U, SF, U, U, SDLP, SF, U, U, SF, U (SDLP)

    Absolutely no change before nationalists need excited.

    Factor in boundary changes: SDLP lose a seat in NAnt. SF lose seat in Lagan Valley (both to unionists of one kind or another, although if TUV are about that wouldn’t be to a combined unionist’s advantage).
    Unionists lose a seat in South Down

    And based on the numbers nationalists wouldn’t pick up a seat in EAnt or Strangford and would lose a seat to unionists in SAnt.

  • Mustler

    NB I suppose Unionists would lose a seat to Alliance in EB

  • Drumlin Rock

    So it is no advantage when it comes to executive seats, and purely comes down to a matter of first and second choice of portfolio and the FM/DFM post, and even then if the split was 29 DUP-25 UUP (requiring the UUP to win 7 DUP seats) it still wouldn’t make any difference really, what is the fuss about again?

  • Drumlin Rock

    I would doubt it Mustler, they will be minus their big hitter if Naomi gives up double jobbing, her vote was as much anti Peter as Pro Alliance and remember Dawn will be back in the mix then too.
    But we shouldnt try guessing the assembly elections yet!

  • Pete Baker


    Your “oracles” appear to have neglected to mention a previous Assembly ruling which directly affects such considerations.

    When the UUP proposed an Assembly pact with the PUP, the then Speaker ruled

    The characteristics of a political party under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 can be summarised as: a short, suitable name; a headquarters, or at least an address for the purpose of communication; officers of the party, including at least a leader, a treasurer and a contact person, called a “nominating officer”, for the purpose of liaising with the Electoral Commission and others; a constitution; a scheme for financial support of the party; and an intention to contest elections.

    In making a decision about any future list for publication, I shall require a party to have all those characteristics. From the information available, I do not consider that the Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Group (UUPAG) has yet demonstrated all those characteristics. I trust that Members will find this clear and helpful.

    A ruling which was welcomed, at the time, by the DUP’s Peter Robinson…

  • Mack

    Is Unionist Unity only about stopping a SF First Minister? If they introduce the AV system in the UK would that obviate the need for unity candidates?

  • TheHorse

    Why dont Unionists instead of going to lawyers and legal commentators go to Shrinks and Psychologists and ask them for help and advice as to how they could be treated to accept the laws of democracy. Why they feel it necessary to believe they must at all costs retain the delusion that the first minister position has any more power than deputy first minister. How long do they believe Nationalism should/would accept Unionism’s comfort blanket, their feelings of delusions of grandeur, of moral superiority. Unionism must accept that Nationalism makes up almost half the population here, do they believe they can circumvent democracy for ever to stop a Sinn Fein or Nationalist MLA from becoming First Minister.

  • Neil

    do they believe they can circumvent democracy for ever to stop a Sinn Fein or Nationalist MLA from becoming First Minister

    I doubt they believe that, however this tactic – throwing all your assets into one shared pot – is the last available move open to Unionism. Personally as a Republican I would welcome Unionist unity for two reasons: the first being, as you rightly point out the FM/DFM roles are different in name only. If Unionism has problems swallowing the bitter pill that is a Republican FM, Nationlism has proven already it has no such problem, as there’s no difference in the role over and above the job title. Secondly, the fact that this is now considered necessary to prevent a SF first minister is symptomatic of the narrowing gap between the two populations.

    If Unionism thinks that a unity candidate will prevent a SF FM, many will realise that it’s the equivalent of the dutch boy with his finger in the dam. It’s a temporary measure, and actually provides Nationalism with the final hurdle on the journey to a United Ireland, for if SF or Republicanism in any form, can beat the combined Unionist parties, then at that point we will be confident that the end is near for NI.

    It also plays itself out to show the world, again, that Unionism in NI really cannot countenance the outcome of democracy if them fenians might win. Better to bin any principles that led to there being two parties in the first place in a last ditch attempt to prevent Nationalism/Republicanism taking the different-in-title-only job. Bring it on I say.

  • Granni Trixie

    Brian if you are looking for an oracle,you are barking up the wrong tree. Advisor to Trimble is no recommendation.

    Drumlins Rock: point of information: as is in the public domain and as appeared in posts on Slugger, Naomi intends to give up her other jobs as soon as there is a process of selection for her replacement.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Is Unionist Unity only about stopping a SF First Minister?’

    In theory no -in practice yes . They have to have something to ‘unify’ over and as they can do bugger all about the economy and are stuck with mandatory power sharing that’s about all that’s left for them ,apart from maybe haggling over the number of district councils

    The fact that ‘unionist ‘ unity would be about as useful as an igloo in the Sahara and will only prompt an equal reaction from th’other side has not yet dawned . And neither will it ;(!