Conservatives winding up the UUP?

If you tilt your head towards East Belfast, hold your breath and listen carefully, you’ll be able to hear the sound of chuckling from UUP HQ.

Jeff Peel has blogged this morning about an audacious, bold, and unlikely-to-be-considered offer from the Conservative Party to the UUP.

I was today forwarded a letter that has been sent to all members of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland. The letter suggests that the Conservative Party chairman, Lord Feldman of Elstree, has addressed a letter to the Ulster Unionist leader, Tom Elliott, outlining an offer to “move Conservatism forward in Northern Ireland.”

The letter continues, “This offer will involve the dissolution of the UUP early next year and the formation of a new Conservative led party, under the constitution of the national Conservative party, which will operate along the lines of the parties in Scotland and Wales.

“This offer is being made with the express approval of the Prime Minister, the Board of the Conservative Party, as well as the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party, Irwin Armstrong.

“It proposes a Northern Ireland Conservative party which can reach out to everyone in Northern Ireland, irrespective of background and tradition, unencumbered by the conflict and divisions which mark our past.”

Jeff suggests that “the move almost certainly means that a large cohort of UUP members has broken ranks with the UUP leadership and now wants to do business with the Conservative Party – while building a new local, non-sectarian identity”.

While the Secretary of State dropped into the recent UUP party conference in Armagh, there was no suggestion from the leadership that the ongoing talks with the Conservative Party were going to lead to a formalised link-up … or folding.

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  • Drumlins Rock – I didn’t go far in the discussions. I attended 2 meetings of the joint committee before resigning and throughout the process I expressed my concerns repeatedly to Owen Paterson and others on the Executive. I found the UUP leadership disagreeable throughout the entire process and that’s why I resigned. Remember that I was being told by the entire CCHQ machine that the entire initiative was to get rid of the UUP. When it became clear this was not the plan I resigned – but all of this was in the public domain at the time.

    Remember, I was the only senior member of the Conservative Party to resign form the process.

    However, unlike most of you I have work to do so I’m afraid this is my last word on the subject.

  • OneNI

    Has anybody noticed how close Langdales comments are to Alex Kanes in today’s News Letter?
    Alex is clearly not just back on the payroll writing speeches but as apologist in chief for the UUP.

    His arguments in the paper and on slugger are so riddled with inconsistencies and errors – some of them huge that it is hard to know were to start.
    So I wont

    Best just to stand back and watch alex be proved wrong by events – again

  • dwatch

    Jeff Peel: “Remember, I was the only senior member of the Conservative Party to resign form the process.”

    Alex Kane was a senior member of the UUP who also resigned from the same UCUNF committee you both served on. This is what he says about the the party you both also once belonged to:

    “ALEX KANE: NI Tories now dead in the water”

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/community/columnists/alex_kane_ni_tories_now_dead_in_the_water_1_3245073

  • doaghlad

    Did Alex write Tom Elliotts conference speech ,if so then perhaps he has a vested interest in the UUP position!

  • Alex’s analysis has some merit but he is not correct that the Conservative brand is toxic here. Poll after poll confirms that if the British political parties organised here the Conservatives would get a good vote. The trouble is that the Conservative Party has never contested elections here as the Conservative Party with full leadership endorsement. There has always been something cock-eyed about the brand. Like German Chardonnay it just doesn’t sound right. At the 2010 General Election we had UCUNF. Not quite The Conservative Party. Certainly not when the candidates were mostly the same old UUP middle-aged, grey, male, Protestant dead-wood. The electorate will vote Conservative but only when the candidates are like the Conservative candidates in other parts of the UK – well spoken, mostly quite worldly, well educated. Instead we have the earnest, dour, Sash-wearing brethren of the UUP. It’s just not anything like a modern, pluralist and largely secular Conservative Party.

    But the Conservative Party had every chance to select such candidates last year, but blew it. Several Conservative candidates withdrew from the process, disgusted by the dead-wood dominated joint committee. And I’m not sure that any new hybrid party will be much different – or if it is, I’m not sure how much talent it will contain if it’s mostly composed of UUP lifers.

    I’m verging on being past caring. But I suspect Peter Robinson may start picking up some of the gauntlets to detoxifying his own Party and turning it into something that approximates to modern pluralist and secular party. That would be a good legacy. However, I’m not holding my breath. But if he does he might become – like the SNP – by far the biggest Party in Northern Ireland.

    He could also illustrate his ability to make good, sound common-sense political decisions by swallowing the bitter pill of a 2% reduction in the block grant to win the prize of a reduction in corporation tax to the same rate as Ireland’s.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Show me a poll that says this Jeff.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Jeff, did you miss the last election? the DUP if anything is lurching to the right, most of their council candidates are Free Presbyterian or of a similar viewpoint, Sammy & Peter are the only old “secular DUP” members left and the rest of the “moderates” are the UUP anti-agreement defectors. I don’t see young professionals coming up through outside of the traditonal route, and one small fundamentalist denomination still retains control of our largest party. Flawed as the UUP is there is a much wider variety of membership.

  • IJP

    Michael

    On the contrary, I was directly on the subject – if the candidates’ departure was purely personal and had nothing to do with the direction the party was going in, it seems strange that around 10,000 voters (i.e. one in ten of UCUNF voters in 2010) came with them!

    The focus on personalities at the expense of actual voters explains, in large part, the UUP’s ongoing decline.

    Like I say, we are otherwise in agreement on this thread!

  • IJP

    FuturePhysicist

    What few surveys I have seen on the subject suggest Jeff is in fact right, although they are not statistically significant.

    I suspect brand isn’t really all that significant, but insofar as it is, it seems to me that it is not the “Conservative” name, but rather the apparent “Englishness” of it, that is at issue.

  • Skint Taxpayer

    With the last Election pact between them and the Cons, then their existing pact with Circus Castlereagh DUP..the UUP ain’t great strategists. I think if the best of UUP and DUP merged (not many I admit) there would be a sound nucleus to build on.

  • Drumlins Rock – yes point taken. And believe me I have no doubts about the degree of detoxification that is required. But from the little dealings I had with the UUP I found it to be little different. Orangeism pervades the organisation and fundamentalist “Christianity”. Last night the leader of the UUP was essentially gagged by the Orange Order for defending himself on a BBC Spotlight programme – for having attended the funeral of a murdered PSNI officer. That is the degree of abject bigotry that pervades our political discourse and party political system here. It’s depressing in the extreme. And that’s why I hope that Lord Feldman, if he is genuine about creating a new political Party here, doesn’t allow the “Unionist” word within a mile of it – because Unionism has lost all sense of what it stands for.