Tories and the UUP go their separate ways…

Acrrmoniously, according to Ken Reid. The Tories, at last, are to properly organise in Northern Ireland and run against the UUP… The BelTel points out the obvious problem for them:

…there is an obvious difficulty for the Tories before they have even organised strongly here. By promoting themselves, first and foremost, as a pro-union party – which should be an unsaid given – they will undoubtedly divorce themselves for a sizeable minority of the population.

That begs the question of where the new party hopes to draw its support from. The obvious answer is the diminishing UUP electorate. The DUP is currently riding on the crest of a wave and its supporters are very unlikely to defect. Even those hardline unionists who still rankle at being in government with Sinn Fein see little common ground with the Conservatives. Instead the Tories will be competing for the traditional UUP vote.

For all the difficulty besetting the Ulster Unionists, at least they have a sufficiency of voters who actually still see them as a viable choice (if only to express decent from the new DUP ascendancy)…

The Tories will have to apply themselves to the good old v=fashioned democratic problem of winning seats in a territory little understood by London… We can only wish them the very best, but point out it that it will take a great deal more than noble talk to walk the electoral walk…

Northern Ireland’s STV system privileges hard work on the parish ground fair above grand ideas about building a post sectarian society… The trick is to accomplish both at the same time; which is not as easy as it looks or sounds…

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  • Red Rob

    I’m no fan of the Ulster Unionists or the NI Tories but surely the sensible political course for both would have been to align under a new banner as a right of centre, pro Union party.

    The Ulster Unionists are a spent force in many areas, particularly in our two main cities, and it is difficult to see them making any significant progress under the current leadership. Rather than try to steal the DUP’s clothes, they should take a more liberal course under someone like Mike Nesbitt or John McAllister. A properly organised and packaged link up with the party of Government in the UK could only be beneficial in the long term.

    I gather that one of the difficulties with all of this has been the behaviour of some local Tories in trying to force Tom Elliott’s hand.

  • I’ve never quite understood the full nature of the relationship between the Unionist Party and the Tories. The formal title of the latter is The Conservative and Unionist Party. Where did the Unionist part come from?

  • tuatha

    Methinks they’ll do as well as they do in Scotland.

  • Mick Fealty

    You need to get hold of a history book Joe… The title is a result of a formal merger between the Liberal Unionists (the anti Gladstonian Whiggish wing) and the Tory party in 1912:

    The Liberal Unionists as a political party pre-date the Ulster Unionists by some 20 years. In fact by the time the UUP was formed, in 1905, the Liberal Unionist Party was nearing the end of its life. What we think of as Tory is often Whiggery in disguise.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Your analysis is spot on Mick, but to put it less diplomatically, they haven’t a hope on their own.

    I’m still hopeful that something can be salvaged at some stage. One would assume that the discourse that the UUP apparently sought is either ongoing or collapsed. On the latter event one would imagine that the next electoral disaster may be enough to persuade London that they’ve been talked into this lunacy by a group of people utterly unable to get anyone elected (unless riding on the back of UUP support).

  • Thanks for the history lesson, Mick, and the link.

  • aquifer

    Could there be room here for a local out and out capitalist party like the Progressive Democrats? Both the Nationalist Parties profess to be Socialist, but there are numbers of Nationalist who believe strongly in getting ahead and making money. Should they all have to go to England or Dublin to make it?

  • Skinner

    Someone from the UUP needs to explain where its policy diverges from that of the Tories, as I for one do not know.

  • Drumlins Rock

    tuatha, the Tories in Scotland still manage a credible vote, in NI it is negliable, 0.2% in local government, although they only stood in a very small number of areas where they have operated for years and still were far far away from any seats, the NI tories are a non-party, a nothing a zilch, and throwing money at them will make no difference. Whatever story they have spun Feldman he seems to have bougth it for now, we shall see how the relationship works out!
    As for the supposed “offer” it was never an offer we know that, it is a bit like the US telling Canada join us or we send Sarah Palin in to take over.

  • ugh DR; perish the thought that the woman who can see Russia from her upstairs window would come anywhere near us.

  • Drumlins Rock

    joe, the NI Conservatives have about the same level of credibility here as she would have in Canada.

  • OneNI

    Tom Elliott never liked the link up with the Tories and has insulted the Prime Minister so much that Cameron clearly told Feldman to cut any link as quickly and definitively as possible. After all its not as if they have any MPs
    Begs the question – what will those in the NI who bought intot the vision of national politics and a break from the past do now?
    Thought it was interesting that Elliott didnt outline any alternative vision whatsoever

  • Mick, the history is a bit more complicated than that. The UUP is a name of recent title, it was the Unionist Party until the late 60’s/early 70s at which point it became the ‘Official’ Unionist Party to distinguish it from all the others that suddenly emerged. Think the UUP only emerged after the UUUC (someone will correct that if wrong. The Ulster Unionist Council was formed, only later becoming a Party, and until into the 1920s there were still candidates standing as ‘Irish Unionists’ which of course they were prior to partition. The UUC was more of a coalition than of unionist interests rather than a political party with its various sections from across society. Orange Order interests in political Unionism were formalised at the outset of the UUC but had previously been the cause of schism and the creation of the Independent Orange Order. The UUC grew to embrace all the Loyal Orders, Unionist Clubs, Ulster Liberal Unionist Association, Labour Unionist Association and Women’s Council among others. At some point (possibly in the early 1920s at the merger point Mick notes) it became a component part of the volunteer element of the Conservative Party (the National Union) and took the Conservative Whip in Westminister, though largely shadowed legislative and social policy of all national governments. While the whip was lost in the early 1970s during the Heath period, representatives to the National Union were still appointed by the Party from the UUC into the mid 1980s. If recall is correct it was the Anglo-Irish Agreement that finally severed the formal inter-Party ties. A very short note and probably capable of being much improved with dates and detail.

  • Sorry, late.Should read: “a coalition of unionist interests rather than a political party” formed of course in 1905.

  • It is rather obvious that the Conservatives dont see the UUP as having much of a future on their own without them.

    However, I also agree with DR that neither the Conservatives, as a national party, nor any new regional party formed out of its Northern Ireland branch stands any chance of developing into a political force in Norther Ireland. So why would the Conservatives go down this apparently hopeless path?

    It does not actually suit CCHQ to have a small branch in Northern Ireland because there are too many conflicts of interest. My hunch is that CCHQ are attracted to the idea of allowing a new party to be launched out of the Northern Irish branch in order to be rid of it.

    It might be considered a nothing-to-lose-can-only-win strategy for CCHQ. They can support the new party to begin with. In the very unlikely chance of success, they will continue to support it. Alternatively, once it has had a couple of rounds of failure, they can then disown it and make an alliance with the DUP. By that time, the latter will have moved that much further towards non-sectarianism and moderation.

  • Glory Glory Arsene Wenger

    Some of the comments seems to suggest the Conservative HQ has bought a pup pushed on them by the locals. That’s nonsense as you know. After consistently condemning the local Conservatives as ineffectual you then grant them surprising powers of control and persuasion over David Cameron.

    In fact, why does everyone want to look at this from the perspective of NI only? Local Conservatives know only too well the problems they have and the problems that lie ahead. As does HQ. From the perspective of the whole of the UK, David Cameron has long said he wants to be the leader of a UK party, not a “part of the UK” party. The shortcut was a deal with the UUP but that’s now dead. So its go it alone time.

    As background to the decision, the UUP agreed to the joint project for the last election and then didn’t actually agree anything after that. They ignored time lines again and again, took the money – lots and lots of it – didn’t / couldn’t understand the concept of a joint platform, ran their own campaign and announced candidates without actually telling the Conservatives….it was a joke. Shambles doesn’t begin to cover it. The UUP leadership couldn’t even bring themselves to be straight up with their own members who weren’t told what was happening or what the long term aim might be. The UUP allowed themselves to think the Conservatives would be perfectly happy for them to take out a Conservative franchise. That was never on offer. If that was their aim, they certainly did nothing to attract the local Tories to the idea, except insult them. Given the overall status of their party electoral position, the arrogance and even complacency of their position was staggering. Its surprising another offer was even made but I suspect it was done with the sole intention of very publicly and definitely drawing a line under the whole thing. If so, it worked and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. Perhaps the UUP brought this situation about all by themselves.

    Some UUP guys feel better about having an external enemy to vilify and attack in times of difficulty – it’s easier after all that addressing their own problems and perhaps they should focus on those and let the Conservatives worry about theirs. But lets look on the positive side – now the UUP can show us what they can do free from the shackles of those nasty, horrible Tories. Good luck guys!

  • Glory Glory Arsene Wenger

    Oh Seymour, what piffle.

    Things have moved on a bit since the the local Conservatives started.

    Conflicts of interest? DUP?? Give me strength.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The local Tories would get their proverbial buttocks handed to them on a plate if they were to stand again here, even UKIP would beat them. The Conservatives don’t understand Northern Ireland and frankly they offer nothing.

    Making money, the likes of Cameron and co only made money by being born into it. The likes of Clarke who did are peripheral figures.

  • BluesJazz

    make an alliance with the DUP. By that time, the latter will have moved that much further towards non-sectarianism and moderation.


    The UK’s little Kaliningrad has no party that represents modern day GB. The DUP are like Lord Summerisle in ‘The Wicker Man’. They don’t want abortion or civil rights or immigration. And the hopeless fantasy of becoming a little evangelical Bob Jones ‘University’ style fortress is their last delusion against the tide coming in.
    But the next decade of pretending can keep the delusion alive in their core vote. Enough to keep snouts in the trough for a few more seasons.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The DUP do like Civil Rights, they bang on about their rights so much they even go left at times. 😉

  • cynic2

    “The Conservatives don’t understand Northern Ireland and frankly they offer nothing.”

    ….except money. They were bankrolling the UUP which is dead on its feet outside Fermanagh

    I have been pondering this strange set of moves by the Conservatives and can only conclude that they wanted a formal divorce from the UUP hulk. Furthermore, despite the rapid advances in geriatric medicine, the numbers of current UUP members likely to be alive at the next election is falling at an alarming rate.

    No doubt some in the UUP “leadership” (don’t laugh – I was using it figuratively) were keen to string out the relationship with the Tories to bleed every last penny they could but now it is time to move on.

  • john

    At last!!!
    All the letters and replys between the parties in the newspapers was becoming a soap opera. As noted earlier it was all a means for the Tories to formally and publically split from the UUP and fair play to them they played their hand well. The only problem for the Tory party now is that at the next election they will face the reality of getting 0.2% of the vote province wide – so why bother! Its been an interesting distraction for the UUP members who have still a little time to decide if they will be DUP, Alliance or join up with those who want a new centre right party which would probably also bomb at election time.

  • Framer

    It is all fairly irrelevant because the Conservatives could only be true to themselves if they had kept clear of the communal parties and offered a UK alternative. That they did not do largely because they were devolutionist as per London’s long-standing Gladstonian policy (for Tories since 1921) while their local members were integrationist.

    The UUP, as before and since, was split between devolution and integration with some like Trimble trying to appear to have it both ways. That wasn’t to be – he was actually devolutionist like Ken Maginness, McNarry, McGimpsey and Empey who all prospered.

  • GoldenFleece

    Great, I have someone to actaully vote for this time round!!

  • OneNI

    Really quite bizarre how some folk are getting their knickers in a twist over this. Some try to pretend the Conservatives in NI are somehow different from Conservatives in GB. There is no evidence to substantiate this – indeed all Conservatives are singing from the same hymn sheet.
    Others try to dismiss the NI Conservatives as insignificant and try to pretend that there continues to be some relationship with ‘senior’ Conservatives in London. Lord Feldman is pretty senior and he is apparently acting with Cameron’s blessing so that’s nonsense.
    Others try to suggest that the latest developments are due to some malign influence and power that the (insignificant) local Tories have over Feldmand and Cameron!
    Yet others claim that the UUP want to pursue centre right UK politics (Tom Elliott said he wanted the UUP to be ‘pan UK’) but wont accept they have just firmly shut that door on themselves.

    Some people including Tom Elliott seem to hold all of the views above even though some of them are contradictory!

  • alan56

    UUP could be sleepwalking into a trap. Watch out for a formalising of relations between DUP and Conservatives. Co-operation at Westminister is already good and Nigel Dodds motion in praise of Cameron went down well with Tories.

  • emanonon

    I am sure this has not been done without a lot of thinking and background data so I wouldn’t write off the the Conservatives here, they will offer a route to policies that other local parties can only dream of. They may be many things but they are not fools and their Secretary of State has been here long enough to understand the local scene and he obviously supports the project and Cameron and their Chairman are now openly and publicly committed as well.

    It should be understood that they have not, in the last 20 years, had a serious attempt at getting people here elected apart from the debacle of UCU-NF. They didn’t even run in the last Assembly, so the size of their vote historically is totally irrelevant to what they can potentially achieve.

    With professional organisation, which is already becoming evident, and money which the Conservatives have aplenty, I would think the Alliance and UUP, and to a lesser extend the SDLP, are privately very worried as they could lose a part of their vote and in NI politics that can be crucial when the last seats are counted.

    I would think somewhere between 5% and 10% initially is not beyond the realms of possibility for a professionally run and well funded campaign and that would dramatically change the landscape here. I just don”t believe that all parties here haven’t thought about this and its out workings, and the DUP and SF will see obvious benefits for them.

    We are in for an interesting 2 or 3 years.

  • john

    emanonan – I would get yourself to the bookies if you believe they will get 10% of the vote as the odds will be huge. Dont forget the UUP managed 13% at the last election so I cant see the Tories anywhere near that figure.

  • OneNI

    Emanonon – I suspect their target is to entice the rapidly increasing number of non voters out to vote as much as it is to steal existing parties votes!

    John – I know the historcial precedent suggests nothing will ever change but something it just might!?

  • emanonon

    John, so you would be happy at 5% then?

    As I said it will be interesting to watch.

    OneNI, they have a lot of votes to go for in the non voters. 10% would give them 50000+ votes.

  • To put this in context, could someone remind me how many Unionists and Conservatives got elected at the last general election?

  • In N.I. that is.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The Tories claiming they will get 10% of the vote is laughable, almost as much as UKIP’s claim on two seats.

    I’d back the DUP to win that Finchley seat with an Andrew Hunter candidate before ever a Conservative member gets elected here again.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Also I shudder every day to think that fool in charge of the science portfolio, I would envy having Ruairi Quinn and thank goodness Steven Farry, Arlene Foster and John O’Dowd at least mitigates some of the damage to intelligent development coming out from London.

  • OneNI

    Conservative and Unionist candidates running on a Conservative manifesto, Conservative branding and Cameron firmly in the front polled over 100,000 votes in 2010 GE. If elements in UUP hadnt messed things up they surely would have polled better.
    Of course some will say these were all ‘borrowed’ votes from UUP but I think that is to insult the electorate.

  • Drumlins Rock

    The UUP polled over 100,000 votes in the council election, without any Conservative help and competing against them in several areas. It appears the UUP must have “borrowed” a few Conservative vote back, or else they were always UUP to begin.

  • GoldenFleece

    DR, didn’t the UUP also drop votes in 2011 compared to U&C in 2010?

    And your council elections results were awful, you only have a handful of councillors in Belfast, you are a culchie party now.

  • FuturePhysicist

    DR, didn’t the UUP also drop votes in 2011 compared to U&C in 2010?

    And your council elections results were awful, you only have a handful of councillors in Belfast, you are a culchie party now.

    And erm the Tories stood separately in 8 elections to councils, I don’t think they did anywhere in Belfast, Garry Crosbie in the Victoria ward.

  • orly

    What we need is a “Unionist Party”. Singular. One.