UUP Conference 2010 – Shared Future Panel

At the annual Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) conference at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast, I attended a panel discussion on shared future policy. The event was facilitated by Councillor Ross Hussey. Panellists were Duncan Morrow, Bill Manwaring, Lesley Macaulay, Kenny Donaldson.

The session began with an introductory presentation by Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council:

Mr Morrow described the opportunities that shared future policy presents, including attracting inward investment, encouraging young people to stay and make their livelihoods here, and that a shared society is where we have to go — reflected in all public policies. He repeatedly said that the draft Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) policy needs to be at the core of a welcoming society.

Far from community relations being a soft and mushy issue for contented middle classes, he said that those who suffer most from segregation are the poorest.

He described success as being when people are free to be who they are, in an open way and without fear.

From the perspective of the Community Relations Council, the opportunities that the CSI consultation process represents must not be squandered; politicians from all parties must commit themselves to a vision of a shared future.

A 40-minute Question & Answer session followed, with the facilitator feeling compelled to provide his own responses to most of the questions from the audience:

Questions included:

  • Ensuring sincere and genuine interest by community leaders and civil society representatives
  • Defining a shared future in one sentence (to which Duncan Morrow replied, “Building our future WITH each other”)
  • Do we have a too strict equality regime?
  • What are the biggest challenges we face in realising a shared future?
  • How do we get from A to B?

On the last question, Mr Morrow proposed that the way forward was to get a shared future “built into the way we think about things — move into it, get used to it, then take the next step”.

Overall, the session was successful in that the format encouraged participation from every panellist. However, as I also attended the SDLP’s conference panel discussion on the same topic, what was different here was a lack of excitement or enthusiasm. I would have liked to have heard more about how UUP members and representatives are working themselves to realise a shared future. To be fair, there were references to such work during the Q&A session, particularly by Lesley Macaulay, but not in a galvanising way.

There is no doubting the UUP’s desire for a shared future. But my suggestion is for it — and all other parties — is to further articulate its own strategy for realising this vision.

There needs to be more connection between the valuable work that ordinary party members and others do in communities with the party’s own vision for a shared and better future for all.


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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im frankly not a big fan of this new panel format. Im basically an old dinosaur.
    It takes the politics out of politics.
    But here again is Duncan Morrow doing what Duncan Morrow does.
    Now Im a big fan of Duncan…..worthy son of a great father……and he has 469 friends on Facebook…..which is more than me (well who in their right mind would add me?)
    His likes include Anna Lo and Margaret Ritchie and all the usual “good stuff” that a man like Duncan should have as “likes”. (the UUP is not among his FB “likes”…yet)
    But its getting to the stage where Duncan is a one man political party of sorts or the “leader” of the non-political “Civic Society” party.
    And you guessed it….Im not a big fan of “civic society”.
    Essentially people who proclaim that our politicians of any kind are rogues and vagabonds……but paradoxically get to meet and influence political parties (and get to taste the vol au vents) much more than the ordinary voter or the ordinary rank and file party member.
    Is this actually a help to Democracy?
    Or does it hinder it?

    But in a sense the SDLP last month and UUP this month (and Aliance Party next month???) are paying a kinda homage to Duncan and civic society. Perhaps political parties are just slightly too respectful. It might just be a good idea if they balanced the laudable notion of “outreach” with just making decisions.
    Dont run after civic society.
    Make civic society run after you.

  • Framer

    Kenny Donaldson spoke well. He is someone to watch.

    Duncan Morrow goes on so long you lose interest and can hardly remember a word of what he was saying.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I take Mr Framers point about Mr Morrow.
    But if he missed any of the speech he can probably hear it all again at the Dunadry in January.

  • Drumlins Rock

    did Duncan speak? oops think I dropped off at that point lol well it was quite warm in there….

  • My View

    Hussey, Macaulay, Manwaring and Donaldson all sound very moderate and forward thinking, and they were obviously selected for that reason, but going through the list of candidates it does seem that the UUP have selected at least 50% of them from a younger, more middle ground grouping. There are some very good potential MLA’s, who seem to have backgrounds different to the ‘normal’ political types offered by unionist parties.

    If this grouping are happy to stand for the party, maybe the ‘high profile’ defections are more sour grapes than principles.

  • PACE Parent

    Your comments are spot on. Not only should civic society run after us but the politicians should develop their own form of plain speaking instead of their favoured double-speak…. err double jobbing, multiple identity approach.
    Lord Kilclooney’s letter to the Belfast Telegraph today http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/letters/lord-kilclooney-urges-caution-on-company-tax-15022536.html is a case in point.

  • Down South


    With regards to the Shared Society conversation, it is much less about about individual parties taking their own position than a broad section of parties AND Civic Society sitting down together to agree a response. The problem is the individualistic thinking that is prolonging the issue way beyond what is needed. It cannot be sorted out on any one parties or sections terms, that is the central paradox of this. I have yet to hear of a meeting where all sections impacted by the Shared Society agenda have been in the same room at the same time.

    As for Duncan Morrow representing Civic Society – he represents a large swathe of people who understand politics in Northern Ireland to be a straight jacket of conformity to the party position. It is much more attractive to be a la carte political consumer than to sign up to a whole range of positions you disagree with just to support one ideal you agree with. In that regard Civic Society will only grow in influence and noise as the world and its citizens get ever more sophisticated in how they deal with power and their personal association with it. It is not easy to be part of Civic Society and it is not without effort, intelligence and diligence that you get to negotiate your way into positions such as Duncan Morrow has done. There are a few others like him in other areas of interest (e.g. Inez McCormack) and plenty from the private sector.

    Politics is ugly, conformist, reactionary, and ultimately based on patronage but ultimately necessary. It is not the be all and end all of how a functioning society is run but one cog in the wheel.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Down South,
    My comment was intended to be a little provocative as I have tremendous respect for (among others) Duncan Morrow.
    There is a difference between political parties “listening” and “pussyfooting” around. Or indeed vice versa.

    Across the political spectrum there are enough political parties to accomodate any or most pressure group or campaign group.
    We have not so much a real conversation as a very polite and stilted conversation where neither side can (yet???) really say what it thinks.
    If we take for example a group campigning as “Pro Choice” they will have members who vote across the political spectrum but their leadership would find that the Alliance Party might be the party that has most empathy with that position…at least in terms of bringing “British legislation” here.
    Likewise a “Pro Life” Group will have membership drawn from the community at large but might find that the DUP is the one most sympathetic to their cause (in the leaderships view).
    Likewise people involved in (particuarly) public sector trade unions represent a membership that votes for five parties but the leadership within them might find that the SDLP is more naturally sympathetic to them.
    UUP and SF are perhaps favoured by some groups more than others….say Law and Order (UUP) or Irish Cultural groups (SF).
    Now I hope this does not turn into a partisan discussion that “my partys record on pro choice is better than……” etc.
    I am making a broader point in connexion with 150 Human Rights groups in the HR Consortium, or charities and pressure groups in the hundreds.

    So we have these rather bizarre photo opportunities at Stormont (accompanied by vol au vents) where pressure groups mingle with MLAs in the full knowledge that only one party is the “go to Party” on that issue.
    But theres a mutual understanding that the membership of pressure group must at least get the idea that every party was approached or showed sympathy.
    I actually spoke to a campaigner recently who found it all very silly…its a charade to suit our local situation.

    I am not a regular on the “vol au vent” circuit but thru a series of accidents and choices have had more than my fair share of vol au vents recently, including two Stormont events. Indeed if I had been a regular on the vol au vent circuit, I would not have been so observant of so many elephants in one room.
    Was I the only person in a room who actually noticed that I was being welcomed to a tribute for workers injured at work….by a person who had actually shot a person at his work?
    But the movers and shakers invited to Stormont didnt seem to notice.

    And yet recent events (SDLP Conference) or Slugger O’Toole show this even more clearly. The same faces from civic society. The same people who denounce the politicians but share a vol au vent.
    And yet many in civic society tell us they will not vote for any of these politicians.The perceived mendacity of our local politicians is a recurring theme with the Overclass who perceive themselves more intelligent than voters, party members and politicians.

    They complain about politicians expenses and the Overclass gets more than their fair share of accessability.
    I want every vol au vent accounted for.

  • Down South

    FJH – I hear you. It’s obvious that the people on the circuit are playing the game because there is no choice. I recognise fully that the Civic Society reps or many of them know the reality and still go along with it. I used to run a not for profit and quickly got sick of the charade of attending workshops and stakeholder forums and seminars where you almost had to be seen just for the sake of being seen, and after which you could complain bitterly about the lack of real intent to listen or engage in the session.

    I left that world to go to the private sector where you had to justify your engagements because your time is your money. It certainly clarifies thinking.

    Saying that the game was played because there is no real alternative. People are hoping to create or attach to something which will become a popular movement and if you aren’t out and about attending a hundred crap events in the hope of finding one that will stick then you risk forever being stuck in an ivory tower. I’d imagine the return on investment of coming to the party conferences is very poor, likewise the wee sessions in the Long Gallery or various libraries.

    People would love a different way of engaging and I recognise the difficulty of having legitimacy and representativeness when not popularly elected. As I say its the lack of alternative because many of these groups do indeed have legitimate stuff to research, write up and communicate. Many are useless.

    But that is the eternal negotiation between society and its governance as to which is going to gain credibility and get legs. That or good marketing (which the aged sector are brilliant at).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well yes but to some extent Civic Society is a very closed shop.
    When I went to a Civic Society group on retirement to “do my bit” there was an amusing questionaire whre a nice lady ticked the boxes for me.
    “Would you like to go and advise young people?”
    “No….I hate young people..they scare me”
    “Would you like to befriend old people?”
    “Christ no..they are worse than young people”
    “And how would you sum up yourself?”
    “Well……Im a people person”

    I actually wanted to work in a particular field in a specific geographic area (not my own but where I was born and raised) and in a second civic society group the Lady in that area was a bit territorial …the message being you dont live here anymore. You have no connexion to here. She had a point of course…..but she was er German.
    But I bet shes on the vol au vent circuit.

  • PACE Parent

    Who do you think pays for all those vol au vents? I do not accept that those on the free adult meals and drinks circuit deserve any pandering to. I spent some time with these people trying to get to the bottom of the education debacle but withdrew when it became clear that it was determinedly in the best interests of the vol au vent crowd to persist with their sectoral and parochial cheer-leading. I hope they choke on or become ill on the tasteless morsels. Not even the good marketing of the aged sector would convince me to take another bite of their poisonous fare.
    BTW who do you think is the “go to” party on education?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As I am long out of having interest in the “Education” debate, I dont really care very much about the subject.
    But Id say that Education is one of those issues where a person is actually spolied for choice.
    If you take University fees as a starting point….then the SDLP oppose an increase and SF want them abolished (optimistically).
    But certainly Pat Ramsey, Conall McDevitt and Dolores Kelly made an impact there. Clare McGill and Sue Ramsey less so and Chris Lyttle of AP was ineffective.
    UUP and DUP basically opposed it.
    Obviously another dimension in education is selection ….again spoiled for choice on whether a person believes in selection or not.
    Again its perfectly feasible that parents across the board are against selection in which case the SDLP and SF are sympathetic.
    And there are parents across the board who are pro-selection in which case UUP and DUP are the the go to people.
    Of course you may wish to see more education thru the medium of Irish…….in which case you are with SF and SDLP again.
    Or you may be vociferously anti religion…..in which case a parent sits around fantasing that they dont live in Norn Iron.
    Or you may passionately believe in faith schools which of course brings you back to another party.

    But without looking at your own profile (I rarely do that) Im guessing that PACE is “Protestant and Catholic Education” ……integrated education……in which case Alliance Party is the brand leader as its a favourite topic of discussion in North Down. Indeed many AP figures have made an entire career out of Lagan College support.

    On the other hand if a person believes in selection and integrated education and Irish language in a cricket playing school……there just is not yet a “go to” party.

  • YelloSmurf

    FJH, I have to point out that Alliance does not have a position on abortion, we have pro-life and pro-choice members at all levels, including at the Assembly and I think that there would be a huge backlash if the “party machine (as it were)” tried to enforce one view or the other. I think you want the PUP.

    More generally, “There is no doubting the UUP’s desire for a shared future.” I beg to differ. Any party which lets both David McNarry and David Burnside speak for them has issues in committing to a shared future. For that matter, any party where membership of the Orange Order, an organisation committed to perpetuating sectarian divisions is a de facto requirement for the leader has issues with committing to a shared future.

    I think that as the DUP steamroller their way onto the centre ground of unionism, the UUP will try to differentiate themselves by placing a greater focus on “traditional” (with a small t) unionism and less on “inclusive” unionism.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think I said that Alliance merely wanted to adopt British laws here. Idont think I implied that they were pro choice or pro abortion, merely that it was the Party which would be most sympathetic.
    Back in 1983 I found myself as part ofa captive audience subjected to lecture on abortion by “pro life” activists.
    It made me slightly uncomfortable.
    Back then the Republics Abortion referendum was about to go into full swing and David Alton (Liberal MP) was about to campaign for rolling back abortion laws.
    Abortion was highly politicised….and totemic of being both Christian and “liberal”. make your mind up time for a lot of people.

    At the end of the lecture, the pro life people reminded us (all comparatively newly married people) that we should consider our votes on the single issue of abortion.
    It was put to us that SDLP, UUP, DUP and the new SF were anti abortion and therefore worth our vote while the alliance party favoured the current British law extending here.
    Frankly I dont know if this was the alliance position in 1983.
    But I do know it was represented to me as APs position that night.
    It struck me then as hard on AP.
    If pro life means anything then it means not shooting a UDR man driving a tractor (which had happened that same week) or believing in capital punishment (UUP and DUP policy). Nor did it mean Cruise missiles supported by the likes of Tories john stokes, John Bigg Davison etc who were anti abortion.
    Nor does pro life mean destroying the lives of miners in Yorkshire.
    There was selectivity about “pro life”.
    And yet it seemed hard on Alliance because for all their many faults……they dont actually kill people.
    As I said I do not want this thread to be “my party believes in…….” whatever.
    My broader point is taht on any issue there are parties more sympathetic to some causes than others.

  • mister moderate

    This style of panel event is a real step forward for the UUP. In fact the whole conference was a massive move in the right direction.

    The constant attacking by ex-UUP members and other political commentators of the UUP makes me wonder what party they are looking at.

    Going through the candidate list for the Assembly shows probably the most moderate (maybe even the most liberal) line up that the UUP have ever put forward.

    The three panel members are certainly not ‘traditional’ Unionists. Add to these three Rodney McCune, Danny Kinahan , Mark Finlay, Tim Lemon, Mike Nesbitt, John McCallister, Mark Hill, Basil McCrea, Jo-Anne Dobson and David Harding and you have 13 of 29 candidates who are just as moderate as Trevor Ringland, Paula Bradshaw or Harry Hamilton.

    With almost half of the assembly candidates from the ‘liberal’ side of the party, how can serious commentators declare with any authority that Elliott is taking the UUP to the right?

    Watching the panel video, and listening to Elliott’s speech gives me confidence that the UUP are getting their act together and intend on campaigning on moderate ground.

    What I find most interesting is that, for the first time, the UUP are starting to emphasise their successes, from the Good Friday Agreement to the excellent work they have achieved for the PMS savers. They are also, finally, highlighting the ministerial successes that show that they are serious about making th eExecutive work.

    I think that over coming months the ‘professional slaggers’ will find it much harder to lay a blow on the UUP.

    But then some people don’t let the truth get in the way of a sly dig.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well of course not all of the 30 (Foyle to be chosen) candidates will be actually elected.
    A little lees or more than half will be elected. Lets say 14 to 20 (as its far to early for serious analysis) and that means in proportionate terms 6 to 8 “liberals”.
    The question then is who gets the one or two Executive seats available and the plum roles in Committees.
    Not to mention any rancour at a bad result.
    And suspensions, sackings and defections.

  • mister moderate

    FJH The point I am making is how can a party that is supposed to be such a cold house for moderate or Liberal Unionists select such a strong slate of very moderate candidates?

    It seems that most here, and many in the MSM are too far down the road of ‘beat up the UUP’ to even attempt to realistically analyse the situation.

    Listening to the Nolan show yesterday, even Alex Kane, who is no UUP flag waver, was complimentary about the party. In the same show Harry Hamilton made it very clear that his issue was with the local association and not with the direction or leadership of the party.

    Ringland talked himself into a corner that he did not intend to (again, on the Nolan show) and Bradshaw, well, I still don’t see a selfless reason for her departure.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mister Moderate,
    Oh I think youre entirely right about Ms Bradshaw.
    And I dont think its entirely about beating up the UUP. I like Tom Elliott. He comes across as a patently decent man and not as opportunistic or even devious as his detractors. To some extent he is figurehead for a type of unionism……and even decency ……that is despised in many places such as suburban Belfast.

    There is of course a certain “car crash” fascination involved.
    But I have no admiration for the angst ridden had wringing “will I? wont I?” indecision of potential defectors……nor the angst of those who have left. And the involvement/non involvement of the Alliance Party.

    Especially as it is all so well choreographed. Well actually its very badly choreographed……….thru leaks, blogs, the Nolan Show (Hell will freeze over before I listen to that show) and journalists waving their little lists.
    Its not the UUP with which I am unimpressed.
    Nor is it the Alliance Party (for whom I have too much respect to see these careerists join)

    Rather I have total contempt for the way the angst ridden people on the list have behaved. They have behaved badly (they would claim that they havent …….and maybe on occasions with justification within UUP) and I see no reason to believe that they would behave any better in any other Party. They are too addicted to their careers and their own self image……as well as conspiracy itself.
    With few exceptions I dont see them as an asset anywhere.

    Necessarily I understand the need of loyal UUP people to
    emphasise their faults. I do it from a completely different perspective. The notion thar many Sluggerites have “this is exactly the kinda person we need in politics” (probably part of the choreography) is not one I share…..and I se no pressing need to make their angst ridden path fro disloyal UUP member to disloyal AP member a smoth one.

  • john greene

    Pte Elliott:
    “To put it bluntly: I would rather be judged for my honesty and integrity than be judged on my willingness to win applause (votes?)”

  • mister moderate

    Joen Greene

    If Elliott means this, then I think he puts himself above his counterparts in other parties.

    One of the stranger failings of the UUP is that it has traditionally been honest and straightforward.

    The problem is that the public take all politicians to be the same (full of spin and s*%t) and don’t believe that the UUP could possibly mean what they say.

    Under Tom, and the moderate slate of candidates, there is a chance to prove that the UUP are not the ‘bogeyman’ that so many would make them out to be.

    But a party that set itself up for destruction by committing to the Good Friday Agreement, tried to move how we do politics forward by partnering with the Conservatives has shown that it honestly has the desire to make life better for Northern Ireland.

    It is sad that instead of being hailed as forward looking trailblazers, the UUP is berated and heckled by those who shamelessly then steal their clothes.