Progressive Unionist Party launch manifesto with titanic pledges

Front cover of PUP Manifesto 2011The Progressive Unionist Party launched its manifesto this morning. The party is now led by Brian Ervine who is standing for the Assembly in East Belfast while another eight candidates are running for seats on councils in Antrim, Belfast, Castlereagh, Derry, Larne and Newtownabbey. (I posted an interview with Brian Ervine back in March.)

Speaking at the launch, Brian Ervine had an upbeat message.

The PUP has emerged stronger and more resilient as a consequence of the crisis of 2010. The party that negotiated the Good Friday Agreement and showed the way forward in Northern Ireland is still alive and kicking.

Later in the speech he referenced author Mark Twain who had disappeared for a few days and after his obituary was published in the New York Journal commented ‘the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’. Brian Ervine suggested:

Many people have written this party off. Some have written it’s obituary. I can only echo Mark Twain. Reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.

He claimed that “the fears and needs of working class unionism have been shamefully neglected by the main parties and they have not benefited from the comparative peace that Northern Ireland has enjoyed for the past decade. We will strive to improve the health, education and quality of life for all in a shared Northern Ireland.

In his speech he reinstated the five core principles of Progressive Unionism …

  • Respect for Northern Ireland’s place in the UK
  • The material and spiritual wellbeing of the Northern Irish people
  • The right to peaceful opposition and protest
  • Civil, religious and cultural liberty for all
  • Equal access to education

… and set out the party’s position on a variety of topics including health, the elderly, education and the economy.

Photo from PUP 2011 Manifesto launch - supplied by PUP

The party’s leftist politics are clearly on show throughout (at least the economic aspects) their manifesto. While I couldn’t find mention of the PUP pro-choice policy (which Brian disagrees with), there are a range of ideas that I haven’t found in other parties’ proposals. For such a small party, it’s an impressive brain storm of content. While some of the notions may not stand up to prolonged scrutiny, at least the PUP are injecting some fresh ideas into the political system. Perhaps the best will be pinched by ministers and committees in the coming months.

Certainly if Brian Ervine (unexpectedly) wins an East Belfast seat, there could be a slew of interesting private members bills!

  • A more balanced economy where the less well-off share in the benefits of wealth during the good times and don’t suffer the majority of the pain when times get tough.
  • Greater access to integrated education across Northern Ireland. Educating out children together is vital to creating a society where fear, bitterness and hatred are replaced with friendship and trust.
  • Greater powers for credit unions … The PUP will lobby for credit unions to expand their range of products to also include mortgages, credit cards and competitive current accounts. [When is a bank not a bank?]
  • A new, nominal text message tax to generate revenue to be spent on Northern Ireland’s public services. Almost £25 million could be raised locally with a 1p charge on each text message. This fee would be levied on the mobile phone network operators and they would have the choice on whether or not to recoup it from their customers.
  • The creation and promotion of a ‘Presidential trail’ across Ulster. With over one-third of US Presidents having family ties to Northern Ireland we have a unique selling point to attract American visitors.
  • Building a full size replica of the Titanic to remain docked in Belfast harbour … feature hundreds of hotel suites, restaurants and bars, a museum and conference facilities … Who could turn down the opportunity to stay overnight on board the world’s most famous ship in the very harbour where it was originally built? [Last time I looked, the nearby Odyssey entertainment complex wasn’t so busy or financially stable.]
  • A successful resolution to the City Airport planning dispute … The PUP will do everything we can to reach a compromise that reduces noise pollution for neighbouring residents whilst allowing the people of east Belfast to benefit from any potential jobs boost.
  • Encouraging Northern Ireland’s Nationalists that they are better off in the UK. As the Republic of Ireland faces decades of economic struggles, emigration and unemployment, it’s fair to ask what benefit Irish unity would be to the people of NI.
  • Harsher penalties for anyone convicted of sectarian attacks in NI. Religiously motivate crimes are an ongoing problem for NI society. Orange halls, Protestant churches, GAA clubs and homes on either side of interfaces are regular targets for sectarian attacks.
  • Joint British/Irish cultural events. Northern Ireland is luck to have two rich cultures currently flourishing in the country … The recent joint parade with the Orange Order and Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians Group is testament to what can be achieved when forward thinking people cross the divide.
  • With a rising number of suicides – especially among those in deprived communities – it is essential greater investment is given towards the detection and prevention of stress, depression and other serious mental illness.
  • The return of matron to Northern Ireland’s hospital wards.
  • Changes to prescription packaging and charges to generate much needed funds for frontline services. Enforcing plain packaging for all prescription medication in NI and a £2 levy per prescription for those who are waged. (Those chronically ill or on benefits would be exempt.)
  • The creation of new neighbourhood watch schemes. “One recent survey found that 75% of pensioners feel afraid in their own homes. We believe in tougher penalties for those who offend against the elderly.”
  • Financial incentives for parents to enrol their children into integrated schools.
  • The expansion of the Dickson plan currently being used in Armagh … We want to see selection changed to age 14 across Northern Ireland … In reality, this will need a gradual transition from the current system.
  • Means testing for university grants … Free university education for all is not realistic in the current economic climate but we should be giving financial assistance to those who cannot afford to fund four or five years of study themselves.
  • Access to further and higher education for mature people in working class areas in local libraries. With the closure and threat of closure of dozens of libraries we need to broaden the range of services offered to increase their usage. Evening classes for mature students and the unemployed would make better use of these vital public buildings.
  • A pay rise for frontline troops … Continued recognition for the hard work and sacrifice of our young men in the British armed forces … Better post-conflict support and treatment [for soldiers].
  • The PUP propose a ‘three strike’ rule where tenants in social housing causing a nuisance are given a written warning for a first offence, a final warning for a second offence, and if anti-social behaviour persists the third offence will result in them being removed from their home and having to rent privately.
  • Funding and support to improve adult numeracy and literacy.
  • It is vital that NI has the best infrastructure in place to help manage the cross-over from petrol and diesel [to electric powerd vehicles] … We believe the thirteen ministerial cars should be replaced with electric vehicles when the current fleet needs renewed.
  • Greater respect between the two main cultures within Northern Ireland … We look forward to a time when Unionists feel at east taking part in St Patricks Day celebrations and Nationalists feel equally at home watching the Orangefest celebrations every July.
  • The retention of 108 MLAs in the Assembly … A mandatory coalition … Compulsory voting … Sanctions against abstentionist MPs.

Ideas may not be enough to ensure electoral success. In East Belfast’s Assembly seat, as well as the council races wider afield, perceptions about the PUP’s ideology and its continued relationship with the UVF – I can’t see a single mention of the UVF in the manifesto, though the organisation is in the news again – may prove a bigger swing factor than raw ideas. But it would be a shame if having launched such a distinctive collection of proposals the manifesto sank without any of the ideas being rescued.

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  • iluvni

    Its certainly a better idea than that monstrosity they are currently building

  • Red Rob

    Good to see the PUP still on the political scene, albeit with very few candidates. Loyalist working class areas need a voice and I think the party manifesto contains some excellent policyn proposals.

    Ervine will poll respectably in East Belfast but I don’t think he can retain the party’s seat. With Dawn Purvis also in the field I think they could damage each other in terms of first preference votes and being able to saty in the race long enough to benefit from transfers.

    I think the two sitting Belfast councillors will retain their seats and they can possibly pick up additional seats in Newtownabbey and Antrim. Philip Hamilton has a fighting chance in the University Ward of Newtownabbey. The PUP previously had a seat here so there is a core vote and Hamilton has been very active in the area.

  • john

    I must admit ive often thought that we could cash in on the US president links and the titanic a lot more than we do.
    As a whole it was certainly one of the more interesting manifesto Ive read this time round. Good luck to them

  • separatesix

    Using the word “Titanic” to launch a manifesto is asking for trouble. I wonder what Turgon thinks of the Progressive Unionist manifesto, I gather he’s not a fan.

  • granni trixie

    Many of the ideas in the manifesto are grounded in working class experience. Such a shame about the elephant in the room. (and the image above is pathetic).

  • I’ve always been very impressed with the PUP, if I wasn’t a Republican I would vote for them.

    That being said, I just cannot for the life of me understand how their relationship with the UVF and support for a monarchy works in with the rest of their, reasonable, socialist policies.

  • Nunoftheabove

    I can’t be the only one who just doesn’t ‘get’ the whole Titantic thing and could fairly effortlessly resist the temptation to spend a night on some replica. Ghastly idea.

    Likewise, I don’t really ‘get’ what’s particlarly socialist about the PUP either, even leaving aside their rather vulgar form of slavish monarchist nationalism. What’s socialist about the rest of it in the true sense ?

    Re. integrated education, why be so limited as to only seek to provide greater access to it ? Why not make it compulsory and have done with it ? Address the issue of choice head on. ‘Greater access’ is a purely demagogic feel-good inclusion, much like “A more balanced economy where the less well-off share in the benefits of wealth during the good times and don’t suffer the majority of the pain when times get tough”. What on earth in real terms is that actually supposed to mean ?

    “detection and prevention of stress, depression and other serious mental illness”. I’m no doctor but I do know that stress isn’t a mental illness.

    The Presidential trail bit has potential merit in the right hands but it’s hardly a fresh idea, let’s be fair. Keeping the Nelson McCauslands on this world well away from the proposal would be an important principle too if it was to have any historical interest or integrity whatsoever.

  • scrabopower

    Some notable exclusions from their manifesto this time out compated to their last one. No mention (as far as I can see) of: equality/human rights, the role of women, conflict transformation, and supporting community development.

    Maybe due to change in leadership and the fact that candidates are all male?

  • separatesix

    It’s natural that the PUP support the monarchy I don’t really believe it’s possible to be British and not support the Royal Family.

  • separatesix

    I think Brian Ervine is opposed to abortion and homosexuality so mentioning human rights in the manifesto is pointless. As leader he has every right to be against abortion, Dawn Purvis had her views and Brian Ervine has his.

  • Nunoftheabove

    separatesix

    Your definition of Britishness is really that narrow and servile ? You can’t conceive of any sense of it outside of support for an over-moneyed mediocre bunch of indulged toffs ? I’m guessing that you’ve not met many British people, that being the case.

  • Jo

    “their relationship with the UVF and support for a monarchy works in with the rest of their, reasonable, socialist policies.”

    I do recall an early PUP election flyer which had a totally credible socialist agenda on one side, wich had me nodding at every bullet-point. Then I turned the flyer over to read the most outrageously gung-ho Loyalist God Queen and Country rhetoric. This was back in Davey’s time and I guess he saw it as the mirror of the SF ballot box and armalite strategy. Riding 2 horses is never easy, but the new (ish) dispensation means that hopefully, the wilder horses have been sent out to grass now.

  • separatesix

    I take your point Nunoftheabove.

  • JAH

    Are there any street parties in East Belfast…

  • Darkwing

    Scrabo,

    The exclusion of female candidates is probably more to do with the fact the number of women in the PUP rapidly declined during Dawn Purvis’ leadership. Some of those past female members (and many more new ones) have since came back into the fold but it would be a bit strange to expect them to fight an election mere months after rejoining the Progressive Unionist Party.

    Female candidates should be chosen because they are ready, willing and capable – not because they are female.

    As for the lack of conflict transformation content – I have the manifesto in front of me and it mentions numerous Troubles related topics including ex-prisoners and historical enquiries.

    Did you not read it???

  • JAH – street parties were being promoted by local councils. Castlereagh and Belfast City Council should be able to tell you where and when the parties they’re supporting (financially) are happening.

  • separatesix

    Stick to the topic please Alan!

  • scrabopower

    Darkwing yes I did read it, and the 2007 one!

    re: conflict transformation – its all very well mentioning those elements separately but the 07 section on this was far more comprehensive and strategic.

    It seems regressive rather than progressive compared to the last manifesto.

    You’re absolutely right re: candidates being ready, willing and able. But if women’s membership declined during Dawn’s time and this is no longer the case then why not highlight it as a strength in the manifesto.

  • Wasted Ballot

    I consider myself british but in no manner does that mean I support a monarchy. For me, a truely democratic state allows a citizen to reach the highest position in the nation.

    Sadly as I wasn’t born into a rather.. strange family such as the royals it will never happen

  • Joe Bloggs

    scrabopower – it’s 2011. Conflict transformation isn’t really as relevant as it was in 2007.

    A few things I thought were interesting from the manifesto:

    – Orange quarter in Belfast
    – Electric cars for Stormont’s ministers
    – One-to-one literacy and numeracy coaching for adults
    – Half of all Irish rugby internationals played at Ravenhill
    – Titanic entertainment complex in Belfast harbour
    – Stiffer sentences for those convicted of sectarian attacks
    – Same rights for Southern protestants as Northern catholics
    – Re-introduction of prescription charges
    – 1p text message tax
    – Compulsory voting

    When you compare it to the manifestos of the other smaller parties it’s definitely a lot more detailed.

  • Jack2

    “A more balanced economy where the less well-off share in the benefits of wealth during the good times and don’t suffer the majority of the pain when times get tough.”

    More pie in the sky socialist nonsense aimed at people who havent worked a day in their lives.
    – Community worker , outreach supervisor , prisoner liason are not proper jobs!

    Tax at 40%+ National Insurance, VAT at 20% , Fuel duty at record levels + Rates bills have just arrived.
    Family credit & family allowance withdrawn to middle earners.

    “Meanwhile, little-publicised tax credit cuts will push the marginal rates of 175,000 working parents up above 70%”
    The same article in the Guardian mentions its possible the marginal rate could hit 83%.
    You simply cannot tax people any higher.

    There is no more money in the pot, you cannot take out any more. So where does the money come from to cushion the cant work/wont work crowd?

  • scrabopower

    Joe

    the sanctioning of a public execution on the Shankill last year suggests conflict transformation might just be relevant in 2011

  • kilaloo

    Really impressed with the manifesto, unfortunately no candidate standing in North Belfast, however i have just moved here recently and was able to vote in West Belfast from my old address. I hope and trust they can show politics is the only way forward.
    Agreed with the health strategy and watched a good friend vote both MLA, and councillor for the pup, a person who has never voted pup before and works for the health service who also was impressed with the pup strategy.