An alternative (economic) Future

Conservative Future (the youth movement of the UK Conservative Party) is presently the largest political organisation on British campuses.

Ben Howlett, as a candidate for the post of the organisation’s chairmanship, last year created a major political kerfuffle (OK, make that a kerfuffle within right-of-centre student political circles!)  by answering the question posed during the campaign:

“Which politician do you most relate to and respect in Northern Ireland?” with a crisp “Gerry Adams”.  

Surprisingly enough, considering the raw hurt still felt in the party with regards to the IRA’s attempted massacre in Brighton 1984, he still won proving… the independence of thought of the junior Tories or an outbreak of collective amnesia, you take your pick.

Anyway… Howlett today heads an organisation which is now present in England, Wales and N.Ireland (the Scottish Conservatives, as appears to be their wont nowadays, have their own autonomous organisation) and next Thursday (29th September) the Northern Ireland branch will be hosting an event to discuss the social and political future of Northern Ireland and the place of Conservative and centre-right politics in that future. It’s open to anyone 30 or under, whether they’re a Conservative member, or just interested in the party and centre-right politics and will take place at the office of the Northern Ireland Conservatives,84 High Street Bangor, starting at 7:30pm. 

Whilst I would describe the junior wings of the DUP, UUP, TUV, Sinn Fein and (to a lesser extent) the SDLP as “right-wing” in terms of “identity” politics; on economic issues they are all singing basically from the same marxist/socialist/social democrat “we are N.Ireland, we are entitled” hymn-book. Conservative Future may not push the same right-wing button too heavily on the old Orange/Green debate but they are least offering an alternative to the stale economic mantras offered up by the other youth politicos- for that fact alone, their increasing presence on the local scene has to be welcomed

  • OneNI

    Will the Conservatives meeting come up with as detailed policies as the following gem from the UUP Programme for Govt
    ‘Invest £Xm in a programme of measures to bring about modal shift to moresustainable modes of travel and to achieve an annual average of 77 millionpassenger journeys by public transport’

    Notice also it lists a series of road programmes they want – which does not include the A5! Is there something you want to tell us Danny?

  • Ben Howlett won on indifference, to the whole process. How many votes were cast in the election?

  • Dec

    ‘How many votes were cast in the election?’

    173

  • Correction: Conservative Future (the youth movement of the UK Conservative Party) [claims it] is presently the largest political organisation on British campuses.

    As I recall, there are going-on two-and-a-half million students in higher education across the UK &NI. CF says it has more than 15,000 members. That’s 0.6% of the student population.

    CF does throw exceedingly good parties— especially as a “loss-leader” to con unwary freshers, which also lubricates wiser, cannier socialists— as trumpeted by Wednesday’s post on its web-site: The UWE fresher’s fair went with a good spirit throughout the day.

  • DC

    It’s not because the DUP, UUP, TUV, Sinn Fein and SDLP are ‘marxist/socialist/social democrat’ it is because they draw a lot of votes from the public sector because there is a lot of public sector workers and voters in NI. Therefore there is a reliance on pandering to the preservation of the these public sector voters simply because it is in those parties interest.

    Whereas the tories don’t need the votes of the public sector to stay in power because southern England has a well developed private sector, taxed to death some would argue and thus those ‘some’ tend to vote in the tories to protect their own take-home pay.

    If the above parties where as you describe them they would be offering an intellectual critique off finance capital and shitty corporate governance which brought about the credit crash. I’ve yet to see such parties provide such an analysis.

    People often marvel at how the Tories remain in power, there’s nothing to marvel at really, in times of a recession the private sector electorate elect in a Tory government to make sure they are not taxed any higher to subsidise the ‘sub-nations’ throughout the UK. Call it a political insurance policy for the private sector and the wealthy.

  • Delete that previous post: I’d overlooked the small detail that a Tory’s “youth” extends to the age of 30.

    Any “youth” is automatically a member of the Tory club for swapping bodily fluids until early middle-age.

  • The conservatives are wasting their time trying to build their own party here.

    Their best way of influencing centre right politics is to train agents to join the DUP and form a secret party within a party. Then a genuine centre right party has a chance of emerging.

  • Entryism now, Seymour? I think your frustration is starting to show…

  • DC

    Then a genuine centre right party has a chance of emerging.

    And then what happens?

    Re the other parties here, trouble is they don’t have any emotional or intellectual connection with public services other than to preserve them to preserve their own political careers, when was the last time any of the parties had a big idea on public services?

    It’s a support base just to keep up the ‘right wing’ identity battle which is what passes for politics here.

    So it isn’t about social democracy and more collective control of public organisations or marxist leanings on the economy and motions of capitalism or anything as thought out as that – because the parties here have other priorities and principles and the “we are N.Ireland, we are entitled” is just part of the futile rhetoric, which conceals a lack of thinking around a much-needed bigger debate. Redesigning and rethinking public services – and of course regenerating the private sector.

    You know, we used to build things here in Belfast and do a bit of trade once upon a time.

  • That’s this week’s solution then Seymour. I look forward to your next ‘big idea’.

  • Tut! Tut! I fear you are too harsh on, too dismissive of Seymour Major @ 4:26 pm.

    What I thought he was proposing is “centre-rightists” in NI belong in the DUP. That’s a bit partial — heaven knows we have more than enough “right-of-centre” affiliations to go round. But it does mean — in the spirit of “localism” — they would be involving themselves in what is happening here, rather than being mere appendages of an increasingly-Anglocentric and alien Tory Party.

  • Dissenter and Dec,

    Updated:

    proving… the independence of thought of the junior Tories, an outbreak of collective amnesia or widespread apathy…you take your pick

  • FuturePhysicist

    All Conservative wings in Northern Ireland are Orange when it comes to identity politics. The Alliance are Orange and Green, but never have been a “neither” party. The myth of post-identity politics will never end.

    I don’t think that the left as you say have removed “identity” politics any better than the right have.
    The classic example was Tito, trying to impose Yugoslavic identity on Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, Slovenes, Kosovars, Macedonians, Herzegovinans, Montenegrins and so many other identities would be considered “rightwing” in the eyes of the left. The direct democracy, joined up identity politics of Switzerland would also be called “rightwing” by the same critics.

    These leftwing groups would support Tibet and Palestine, yet oppose identity politics … where do they go from there?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Also in terms of the “stale economic mantras” the alternative you seem to produce, rather than an example of what Conservative Future are really selling is their admiration for Adams. I remember Malacy Curran speaking about David Trimble’s admiration for Mandella, but alas that isn’t an economic argument.

    So basically a local party youth person who has studied economic theory, who is engrained with who’ve probably got a serious logistical plan is spoilt because of their party’s identity, but any Conservative kid is great because they think Gerry Adams is cool.

    The local Tories who amongst other things gave their blessing to a sectarian pact in Fermanagh South Tyrone, who ran away from the people’s verdict faster than a Fianna Fáil candidate, who lacked the courage to defend their candidature of a Catholic in West Belfast. They’ve been a rambling group of people who have sacrificed their few principles for the sake of electoral success, who’ve attacked sectarian nationalist politics and use nationalism to win an AV poll which is in their interests.

    Someone should hold a mirror up to these guys face so they can see the wrinkles of hypocracy from their head veins.

  • I’m trying — honest! — to see any relevance of SFR Yugoslavia (with six regional republics and two autonomous regions) to contemporary NI.

    If any “trying to impose Yugoslavic identity” was necessary, it was done pre-WW2 by Aleksandar I Karađorđević. Now I could, just about, see parallels between Karađorđević and James Craig — not least in ethnic policies.

  • Future Physicist,

    You’ve also confused me here:-

    So basically a local party youth person who has studied economic theory, who is engrained with who’ve probably got a serious logistical plan is spoilt because of their party’s identity, but any Conservative kid is great because they think Gerry Adams is cool.

    I most certainly do not think Howlett is “cool” for his fawning over Adams. Perhaps he provided an example of someone not prepared to follow the easy stereotype but that’s about the only mitigating point in his favour.

    Re the coherent economic policies of the youth wings of our local parties; if you can found evidence of any then…congratulations.

    And the use of “nationalism” to win the AV referendum??!!

  • FuturePhysicist

    And the use of “nationalism” to win the AV referendum??!!

    “AV is not British” slogan… in my opinion is a nationalistic argument, no more different than Tiofaidh ar Lá or No Surrender. It’s a rallying call for all the chickens to go to roost rather than an attempt to talk sensibly about the issue.

    I’m totally not impressed by a party youth wing who praises Adams is going to win votes or recruits in the Bogside simply because they have done so, well except maybe Ógra Sinn Féin of course. If a Sinn Feiner were to praise let’s say David Ervine that of course wouldn’t surprise me, as people often don’t fall to stereotype.

    As for coherent economic plans from the rest, frankly you didn’t even describe what these Tory Future’s are offering, Why?

    Because they are confined to a lone QUB Society.

    That’s right, stop the clocks Northern Ireland’s youth … a small group of twenty or thirty undergraduates somehow have a “coherent policy” to save the rest of us from years of unemployment and deprivation we are enduring now.

    The UUCUNF had a plan involving the lowering of corperation tax and the creation of enterprise zones, neither of which are looking to be feasible, but oh no these right wing kids have the solution to rid the “entitlement psyche” from the North that their senior party members and allies didn’t.

    I am not impressed.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I’m trying — honest! — to see any relevance of SFR Yugoslavia (with six regional republics and two autonomous regions) to contemporary NI.

    If any “trying to impose Yugoslavic identity” was necessary, it was done pre-WW2 by Aleksandar I Karađorđević. Now I could, just about, see parallels between Karađorđević and James Craig — not least in ethnic policies.

    Pardon my ignorance on this matter, obviously Tito maintained the ethnic identity inherited by the former King, though to be honest he managed better at keeping the peace than the previous king did.

  • FuturePhysicist

    — they would be involving themselves in what is happening here, rather than being mere appendages of an increasingly-Anglocentric and alien Tory Party.

    It’s like the Tories “get” Northern Ireland here, when the reality is after so many of their local party walked out over the fact that the Tories backed a controversial candidate in FST, backed down from putting a popular candidate in West Belfast and struggled to put a candidate up in South Antrim … The Tories don’t get the majority of local NI Tory party or their UUP allies.

  • Greenflag

    @ DC ,

    ‘And then what happens?’

    Given thcentre e political culture that exists they are born (PD’s in Ireland , FDP in Germany , UKIP in the UK , TUV in NI and then they die off -in essence asphixiated by the main ‘conservative ‘ party .

    ‘when was the last time any of the parties had a big idea on public services?’

    They never have any ideas unless a hospital is being closed down or a cutback is going to affect their particular constituency . Beyond that they tend to leave the juggernaut of the public sector alone for reasons more to do with self political survival in the short term than anything else.

    ‘the “we are N.Ireland, we are entitled” is just part of the futile rhetoric, which conceals a lack of thinking around a much-needed bigger debate. Redesigning and rethinking public services – and of course regenerating the private sector.’

    Well said DC but the ‘idea ‘ well is not just dry in Northern Ireland . The growth of financial capitalism in the period 1980 to the present and it’s embracing of and being embraced by the politicians of the established left and right in the UK and elsewhere has led to a situation where the ‘politicians ‘ are excused from interfering in the economy on the grounds that the markets know best . And we’ve seen how that works .

    So its not just the ‘right ‘ thats politically bankrupt but also the established left .

    ‘You know, we used to build things here in Belfast and do a bit of trade once upon a time’

    Of course but that was in the day when Brittania ruled the waves and waived the rules whenever necessary so that trade could follow the flag or vice versa . Being competitive in a unipolar world when your banking sector controls the world’s credit and thus it’s purchasing decisions is a whole lot easier than when trying to be competitive in a world when 3 billion people in emerging countries are prepared to work for a lot longer and a lot less than any westerner .

    But back to your point and then what happens ?

    Well we saw what happened under Thatcher’s de-industrialisation and refocusing on the services i.e financial services economy and the same is now being played out in the USA and elsewhere . When more money can be made by transferring capital around the world and back at the speed of light and gambling on changing currency values and interest rates becomes the most lucrative business then capital ‘flees ‘ the real economy for the ‘casinos’ . And eventually of course the casinos bust .

    But such is the hold that the financial services sector has on the politicians that it can demand to be refinanced by the taxpayers so it can have another go at playing two armed banditry with the worlds economies .

    Bigger debate ? I’m not at all upset by the young Tories lack of depth in their ‘correcting ‘ analysis after all they are only following in the footsteps of an earlier generation . But alas they also seem to have learnt nothing from the de-industrialisation of the UK and it’s fiscally disastrous policy of embracing financial capitalism to the exclusion of all else ..

    The Germans of course did’nt take that course which is why they have more of a future in Europe and the world than the UK would have outside the EU .

    The Tories don’t have any new solutions bar the old ones which did’nt work except for a minority around the South East and London . And Labour’s solution was to pump up the public sector by 600,000 new government jobs which the Tories are now determined to remove .

    In terms of ‘ideas ‘ it’s like the 1970’s all over again with nothing learnt by the right or left except in these times the whole morass is covered up by the complexified global economy which does it s own thing anyway with no more than a cursory look backwards at the failing politicians -all of them.

    So given that what should one expect from the under 30 Tories ? I think its a case of collective amnesia or an unusually early onset of Alzheimers .

  • Greenflag

    typos above

    ‘Given thcentre e political culture that exists’

    should read

    ‘Given the political culture that exists ‘

    apols

  • There was an element of ‘tongue in cheek’ in my last comment except for the part about the Conservatives wasting their time.

    Chekov, you’re the only one not wasting your time but that’s only because you get paid!

  • I’m glad to hear that it was tongue in cheek, although I don’t think that we’re ‘wasting our time’ and I’m sure that you’ve expressed a very similar opinion re. the DUP before. It’s just that it followed the NI, centre-right, ‘neutral on the Union’ idea, the notion of teaming up with Fine Gael etc etc.

    I’d much rather attempt to build centre-right politics, from the grass-roots up, as part of a national party, than continually cast around for the latest gimmicky idea. How conservative!

  • Chekov @ 11:19 am:

    That second paragraph may be a pious wish — even if I hoped the centre-left would get there first.

    Then, is there not an irony that Enda Kenny’s government — with apparent popular support — has clearly concluded Home Rule is no longer Rome Rule, even to the breaking of diplomatic relations? While, in NI Unionism. religious extremism is de rigueur.