Tory candidate wants left wing politics: Trevor Ringland’s volte face

Trevor Ringland was one of the shiny new non sectarian, politically right of centre, civic unionist, UCUNF members who was going to take the Tory whip when elected to Westminster. Then unfortunately the story went a bit wrong. Instead he was humiliatingly defeated, managing to take the UUP from second to third, loosing them over 2,000 votes and 10% of the electorate in the process.

After his humiliation Ringland memorably demanded the new UUP leader Tom Elliott make a political volte face and go to GAA matches (incidentally Ringland seemed to feel that he, Ringland had a god given right to seats for GAA finals). Then he threatened to resign from the party unless Tom do as he wished. When Tom Elliott met him (and I understand told him to stop grandstanding), Ringland made a bit of a song and dance before resigning: complete with resignation interview on Talkback.

One might expect Ringland to be quiet after this but of course that would be incorrect. Having tried and failed to make Tom Elliott do a political volte face, Trevor Ringland seems to be in the process of performing one himself. He has given an interview to the Belfast Telegraph. In the course of the interview Ringland claims to be “taking time to reflect.” Unfortunately this reflection seems both very rapid and all over the place.

The ex right of centre UUP / Tory hopeful now within a few weeks hopes to see the emergence of “left of centre politics” within working class unionist areas. It is of course possible for working class people to vote Tory and be right of centre (many are). However, it seems odd that a man who a scant few months ago was trying to get working class unionists (and nationalists) to vote for a right of centre party is now hoping for the emergence of a left of centre party. I do not remember him campaigning on a “Do not vote for me if you are working class” nor on a “Vote for me I want left wing politics” platform.

Furthermore Ringland has expressed considerable admiration for Dawn Purvis who was the mouth piece in chief for loyalist murderers for about two dozen murders before leaving after one more. Ringland stated:

“Dawn has a very key role to play, I think. Loyalists and unionist working class areas need a voice and Dawn has very strong attributes. I would certainly give her any help she needed.
“I hope that left of centre politics emerges in working class areas, as well as in nationalist and republican areas.
“We can’t keep ignoring the social and economic problems that face our society. It’s crucial that this politics does emerge in future,”

After all that he still suggested of Tom Elliott and the UUP:

“That’s not to say our relationship cannot be healed in the future.”

There is an alternative reading of all this: Ringland, a successful solicitor, rugby player and minor celebrity seems to have a vastly overinflated opinion of himself and his own importance. At a time it seemed a fun wheeze to stand for Westminster. Now he is thrashing about politically direction-less, looking for a mechanism to remain in the limelight and possibly keep his dream of a career in politics alive.

Unfortunately for Mr. Ringland the UUP and Conservatives are unlikely to fall for his bluff and charm a second time: Alliance are also likely to be most wary as indeed are the community sector he once involved himself with. Indeed Dawn Purvis may be the only one who will give him any help. The rank hypocrisy of the civic unionist, cross community, right of centre wannabe MP helping an, until a few months ago, loyalist cheerleader with strong left wing credentials is pretty breathtaking. That Ringland was willing to give this interview shows not only his self importance and political naïvety but also a complete lack of sense of irony. Still I suppose he has his solicitor’s career to fall back on. Hopefully he has more integrity in a professional capacity.

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  • White Horse

    Sinn Fein have learned their politics from studying books primarily designed to establish popularity. They are a propaganda party in essence.

    The reality of Sinn Fein is that they are heavily indebted to businessmen who supported them and the IRA during the Troubles, to the right of the Catholic community in rural western areas, and to Irish America.

    You’ll find that their left of centredness will melt just as quickly as their absolutist approach to the solution to the political situation.

  • Progressive Unionist

    “No I have not met Ringland.”

    You should meet him and get to talk with the guy before you criticise him on a personal level.

    Trevor’s the sort of guy who would happily meet his severest critic for a chat – the whole reason he got into politics was to build bridges between different traditions (i.e. the One Small Step campaign against sectarianism)

    Honestly Turgon, anyone who’s even the remotest acquaintance with Trevor Ringland, would know he’s in politics for all the right reasons.

    Seriously Turgon, before you slam him online, you should at least do him the courtesy of meeting and talking with him – this guy is head and shoulders over 95%+ of Unionist politicians I’ve ever met.

  • Hopping The Border

    Off topic slightly but does anyone know why Vance’s new website has been suspended?

  • Stephen Blacker

    Hopping The Border,

    Mr. Vance has said on Twitter that it is just a technical problem.

  • Turgon

    You see you say that and no doubt mean it; even more so after meeting him. I look at the public pronouncements and the public actions and see a shameless opportunist who tried to bully the new party leader into taking a position opposite to Elliott’s stated one on a hobby horse issue for Ringland. Then when Elliott called his bluff and indeed told him to behave, Ringland threw a hissy fit and stomped off but only after getting himself on Talkback (something Paula Bradshaw did not do).

    Now I see a man who has completed a political volte face and supports the opposite in left right terms to what he supported a few months ago (and remember the left right issues are what precluded Lady Hermon and Norman Baxter being CU candidates).

    You may see a man of principle: I see a gross political opportunist. You may feel having met him that he is a great man of principle. All I can suggest is that for an otherwise sensible type like you to hold that position makes me think that he is an even greater charlatan and cad (great old fashioned term) than I would otherwise.

    I know we are not going to agree on this. Now if I met Ringland maybe I would be taken in by him. I am not so arrogant as to think that I would be immune to his charm. All I can say is that a number of other politicos with whom I have private discussions are far from taken in. Who knows?

  • Hopping The Border

    Many thanks stephen.

  • Pete Baker


    Your disregard for the man/ball rule in both many of your comments here, and your original post, notwithstanding, you’ve made a major logical error in your initial assumption.

    There is no “volte-face” involved here.

    For right of centre politics to flourish here there must also be an equally strong left of centre politics in contrast to the current tribalism.

    If you don’t understand that, then there’s little hope for any meaningful analysis to be found in your future posts.

  • IJP

    It is frustrating that Trevor Ringland makes a comment and that, rather than analyse the comment, people choose to comment on his supposed motivation for making it. I submit that it is just about possible that a well-off man who has already recorded world-class achievements in various arenas just wants to make Northern Ireland a better place…!

    Progressive Unionist

    There seems to be a clash between Trevor Ringland’s apparent view (actually most clearly put forward by Tony Gallagher on my blog a month or so ago) that anti-sectarian politics needs a ‘left-right’ split in order to grow, and the contrary view that it needs to avoid one in order to grow.

    The former argument is that without a ‘left-right’ debate within anti-sectarian politics, anti-sectarian politics itself will continue to define itself solely on the sectarian spectrum (even though it supposedly wishes to overcome that spectrum). At heart, I guess my own decision of a year or so ago is best explained along the lines that I had hoped that UCUNF (albeit after changing its ludicrous name) would become the anti-sectarian centre-right, pushing the Alliance Party to become the anti-sectarian centre-left – a long shot, I knew even at the time, but nevertheless we get nowhere in this life without taking risks. I must say I had also once wondered if in fact this would occur the other way around, with the Greens coming to occupy the Socialist-Left and Alliance drifting to the Liberal-Right.

    (We should be clear that there is no reason NI’s left-right spectrum should develop the same way England’s did – the idea of a Conservative/LibDem/Labour divide in NI is somewhat fanciful, as it has never been natural here.)

    However, I have to say all the electoral evidence points to your view that anti-sectarian politics still needs a single, coherent bloc to give it voice. I remain a little unclear when it is supposed to ‘self-split’, however, and how it is supposed to handle the inevitable reality that there will be Conservative Alliance voters, Liberal Alliance voters and Leftist Alliance voters.

    Ultimately, this is all theoretical – I suspect Naomi proved more popular than Trevor was not because people necessarily agreed more with where she was on the left-right spectrum (though it is quite possible they did), but because she had a (deserved) reputation for hard work in and with the local community.

    So the current challenge for those of us who believe in anti-sectarian politics (and in the objective of a political future not based on communal identity) is to determine which route is preferable and then stick to it; but it’s also to get out there and make a difference in the communities we hope to serve. Which is probably why I shouldn’t be on here typing at nearly 1am in the morning…!

  • Progressive Unionist

    The fact that the New UUP leader has to rely wholly on the votes of his own constituency association and his immediate swing to Uber Protestant Loyalist Cabal Dominated Politics with private armies worries me.
    A growing number of the UUP moderate members feel the same and the penny is rapidly dropping that we are not wanted in the party.

    Well said!

    The moderate, mainstream pro-Union voters will have their voice next May and in their tens of thousands they will give their verdict on Elliott’s retreat to back-to-the-50s sectarianist unionism.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Ah Rev Dr Parsley, worry not about about posting at 1am+, I too am a devotee of the Hunter S. Thompson school of political debate… 😉

    At heart, I guess my own decision of a year or so ago is best explained along the lines that I had hoped that UCUNF (albeit after changing its ludicrous name) would become the anti-sectarian centre-right, pushing the Alliance Party to become the anti-sectarian centre-left…

    Okay that’s really great (and it chimes with what others whom I know and who, despite the Tory thing, I muchly respect), who were both very anti-sectarian and pro-Ucunf – but I do doubt that AP could ever be centre left though (their electoral base way too well-off middle-class)
    – we need the working-class unionists on board for a viable moderate pro-union centre-left.

    However, I have to say all the electoral evidence points to your view that anti-sectarian politics still needs a single, coherent bloc to give it voice. I remain a little unclear when it is supposed to ‘self-split’, however

    Ummm… yeah I’m a little unclear about when it’ll happen too (!) but the best answer I have is that, while we have our left-centre-right economic differences, these are secondary to the primary need to build a shared society…

    after that we’ve got the luxury of economic debate and ‘self-splitting’ and glorious colourful “normal politics” and all that what-not…

    Ian – where I think you’re right on the money, and where I’m not at all sure myself is in your last para – the current challenge for those of us who believe in anti-sectarian politics … is to determine which route is preferable and then stick to it.

    For years I’ve thought that the UUP was the best route for progressive pro-Union people, but Tom’s destroying the UUP and driving it back to the 1950s and forcing out all the best people like Trevor Ringland and Paula Bradshaw.

    So what’s the alternative for pro-Union moderates? I don’t think it’s Alliance (who arent pro-Union – but I’d vote for them over Tom’s UUP any day) – but there’s surely got to be a stable pro-Shared Society pro-Union force to engage with nationalism….

    Well anyways Rev Dr Parsley, methinks we’re nearing Baker and the bats are manifesting themselves in their multitudes…

    Farmer Tom’s UUP seems fooked…

    time for a new political party?

  • Progressive Unionist

    I mean, a Shared Ulster, a Shared Ireland, a Shared Islands…

    It’s not rocket science.

    On the nationalist side I think they’re up for it – though Robinson has bowled them an admirably tough one on the shared education front.

    On the pro-Union side we’re still all over the place – we’ve got TUV who don’t accept the basics of the peace process, we’ve got the DUP who are working the existing institutions as best they can (but the logic of that is a “shared-out/divided” society not a shared one) and we’ve got Tom Elliott’s back-to-the-50s UUP….

    (plus, more marginally, the NI Tories who at least seem very committed to a shared future…. but Labour aren’t committed here yet despite Andy Burnham’s calls (come on Ed Miliband)… and as for the Liberals APNI are still determinedly (and quite understandably from their POV) not a pro-Union party)…

    Most pro-Union progressives I know are in the UUP and they split over the UCUNF thing over left-right lines and, now that Ucunf is dead, they’re only now coming together, only to find that the UUP is lurching to the Orange-right back to the 50s……

    Believers in a progressive shared-future (within the Union) whether left right or centre need to work together – that’s the only way forward.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Fundamentally, if a unionist left wing party is to emerge it has to emerge from the districts it will represent.

    Deprived unionist and loyalist heartlands.

    After that, the liberal pinko champagne socialists (northern versions of myself 🙂 ) can jump on board. And hopefully in time, co-operation CDU/CSU style with a nationalist party can offer a non-sectarian left-of-centre alternative.

    I suspect a top down liberal-socialist or Labour agenda will not be attractive enough. The Labour party of 2010 is not the Labour party of 1900 or 1912 and I suspect that is reflected in the membership rolls.

    Yet without that core of support in “labour”ing districts a left-of-centre alternative will probably be stillborn.

    But right now, my (limited) experience of such districts suggests that faith and allegiance is trumping economics.

    For all the issues surrounding the PUP and Purvis, to this observer they still appear to have the most authentic claim on such a bottom-up role.

  • Rory Carr


    I tried to post the link to this yesterday but repeatedly failed, Garibaldy has kindly advised me that this may because the link serves to have the post treated as spam, so here is the piece copied:

    Lose vs Loose

    A lot of people are mixing up lose and loose. In particular, a lot of people are writing loose when they really mean lose. Here are the definitions of the two words from my Penguin dictionary:

    loose [lOOs] adj not fastened or pre-packed; not tied up or confined; able to move freely; not tight, not firmly fixed; not close-fitting; careless, inaccurate, vague; dissolute, immoral; not closely woven; flabby; (of bowels) inclined to diarrhoea; l. box stable or van in which an animal can move about; at a l. end uncertain what to do next; unoccupied ~ loose adv in a loose way; play fast and l. behave rashly or unscupulously ~ loose n release; on the l. free from restraint; on a spree; ~ loose v/t untie, undo; release from confinement or constraint, set free; detatch; fire (gun); shoot (arrow); (eccles) absolve.

    lose (p/t and p/part lost) [lOOz] v/t and i no longer have; be deprived of by accident or misfortune; mislay, fail to find; fail to get or win; be too late for; be bereaved of; waste; be defeated or beaten; suffer loss, become worse off; fail to hear, see or understand; cause or allow to perish; (of clock or watch) go too slowly; (refl) miss the right path; become absorbed in; l. one’s head become flustered, panic; l. one’s temper grow angry; l. one’s way fail to find the right path; l. out (US) be defeated after a struggle.


    This knot is too loose.
    Please do not lose my book.
    I had better not lose that file.

    One way to remember the difference between the two words is to think that “lose” has lost an “o”.

    I trust that you find this helpful but, as you have said yourself, you are an Ulster Presbyterian and, worse, a Unionist to boot so I don’t really hold out much hope for you. 🙂

  • Rory,
    Thanks. I had some bizarre notion that sometimes one lose needed to o’s but still meant the same. if it does not that makes life a lot easier.


  • Comrade Stalin

    Surprisingly enough I have some sympathy with the idea that people who might have turned over a new leaf should be given some kind of fresh start, as a general principle. I’m sure that’s in the bible somewhere. In Knight’s case it’s less clear given that he was up in court for an assault.

    I doubt that Collins would have extended the same sympathy to Knight if he was a republican. Which is where the rub lies; a significant proportion believe that there is an extend to which loyalist paramilitarism is a justified reaction.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I love that story. And I’m a big Attlee fan as well.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Damn shame the SDLP chose to promote them, isn’t it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So what’s the alternative for pro-Union moderates? I don’t think it’s Alliance (who arent pro-Union – but I’d vote for them over Tom’s UUP any day)

    If people don’t stop regarding the constitutional question as a deal-breaker, then we have not succeeded in ending sectarian politics.

    Sectarian politics – sectarian party politics at least – will only end when people realize that political parties have no means of influencing whether the union will stand or fall. The time to stand up and be counted over the constitutional position is on referendum day.

    In the meantime we’ve plenty to be getting on with.

  • Jj

    Just a technical problem? Pity.. 🙁

  • cynic47

    ‘Tom’ s destroying the UUP and driving it back to the 1950’s”

    He must be some pup to have managed that in three weeks!
    Don’t forget as well that he was the choice of a huge majority of the party.

    How did Tom actually drive Ms Bradshaw out of the party? I seem to remember reading a very complimentary letter about his election in the press from Ms Bradshaw. Did she not leave because she didn’t get a nomination to fight the assembly Election in South Belfast?

  • plainly speaking

    I’m alarmed by the notion that working class unionist communities should be expected (maybe cajoled) to gravitate towards the left, even in pursuit of the lofty ideal of non-sectarian politics. Nothing will consign these communities to persistent low attainment, cultural paucity and perpetual economic under-achievement than left wing ideology … a virtual Garvaghy Road to serfdom.
    If the Tories were not at least attempting to embed their small beleaguered band of adherents into the mainstream of NI and national political life, there would be a crying need for a home grown party that was non-sectarian, pro-union and centre-right. As far as I can see, the UUP, AP, TUV and PUP fail on one or more of these essentials.

  • Manfarang

    Labour candidates. What a waste of time.

  • Peter Brown

    I don’t think he can be blamed for forcing out Trevor either…surely he resigned and if anything he was trying to force out Tom ignoring the democratically expressed wishes of the Party (including the majority of those not from Fermanagh despite PU’s attempts to portray it as the Fermanagah tail wagging the UUP dog)?

  • Bob wilson

    Turgon I think you are very much making something out of nothing here. Trevor voiced the need for a left of centre pro Union party in NI, he didnt say he wanted to join or support it.
    He applauds the existence of the Conservatives in NI and their efforts with the Centre for Social Justice to look closely at social and other problems in NI. He wishes the centre left had such a vehicle that is all.

    BTW Dawn Purvis in my opinion should apply to join the Labour Party – with a membership form signed by Andy Burnham and Alan Johnson (two strong supporters of Labour organising in NI)

  • Jj

    More proof that virtually everyone in the TUV is, how can I put it: slightly odd?

  • USA

    Don’t waste your breath on Turgon.
    Trevor Ringland seems like a decent guy and he did the right thing.

  • Ian,

    You’re not the first person to confuse me with Prof Anthony Gallagher – back when I worked in QUB I used to get the occasional email intended for him.