Robinson seeds a slow merger for the UUP?

Consider this. A reorganisation of Belfast such that in the next Assembly election, The SDLP vote is squeezed until the pips squeak, and the Ulster Unionists colleagues in what they still imagine to be the middle of politics, lose their last two MLAs in SE and SW.

If current trends hold, there will not even be one seat between the two Michaels, who have been abandoning the liberal Unionist strong holds that only a few short years ago delivered votes at scale. In such circumstances, perhaps Mr Robinson’s urbane over tures might have a certain attraction?

  • OneNI

    What next Robbo to ask the conservatives, Labour and Liberals to merge into the DUP to save Scotland?
    Whatever Robinson and this ‘unionist unity’ lobby might think what they represent is not ‘unionism’ but tribalism.

  • cynic2

    The Fermanagh Unionist Party will never trust a man who does not know the standard dimensions f an EU poultry cage.

    IN any case, Robbo hardly needs a merger. Most of the UUP wont be here in 7 years time,

  • It would seem to be a no-brainer. Despite the backwoods men, mostly men, the DUP has slowly slid towards the middle, now occupying the ground where the old UUP used to stand.

  • Michael Shilliday

    I want absolutely nothing to do with these people:

    http://www.tyronetimes.co.uk/news/local/disgust_as_dup_fail_to_mark_sf_councillor_s_bereavement_1_3425858

    So if the UUP decides it’s better to be linked with the party that refuses to sympathise with the recently bereaved than with the Conservative Party, I will have nothing to do with the UUP either. Recently I thought this madness was off the table again, but Banquo has resurfaced and we all get to dream about how good it would be if it was all Prods together. Or at least some of us do.

  • Rory Carr

    The trouble with Michael Shilliday’s dream of “how good it would be if it was all Prods together” is that he forgets what is was like during that time when it was indeed “all Prods together”.

    That was the time of the Unionist pyramid with the working class and lumpen-proletariat at its base tapering right up through the small shopkeepers and white-collar workers, through professionals and medium farmers to industrialists and landed gentry at the top and “nary a Catholic about the place” was the promise, the Covenant that held it all together.

    The days of protestant political unity are over, it could only ever remain cohesive if premised on the lowest common denominator of enmity towards Catholics and, as Michael has demonstrated in his repugnance at the quite incredibly crass actions of Cookstown DUP councillors,, not all Prods are happy to join hands with troglodyte religious sectarians in order to effect political unity.

    At least so it must be hoped.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Quite how you have managed to misunderstand what I said so fundamentally will never be fully apparent to me. Your reply Rory, is a truly heroic misrepresentation of my position.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Rory, how could you miss the irony in Micheal’s statement? your a bit slow on it today. But the point you raise is valid, the Unionist Unity of the Covenant era was necessary but should have ended when the immediate crisis did, one party rule is not good for anyone but the few at the top, and that includes any sort of Permanent Coalition, such as we would have here. There are times when the UUP will work with the DUP, and other times with the SDLP, and even the AP, on rare occasions maybe it will even require siding with SF (very rare to date). But any idea of a merger with the DUP would get even shorter shrift than the Tory one.

  • emanonon

    Why do I get the impression the vultures are circling around the UUP?

    The Tories have never been slow to spot a weakness and Robinson is not far behind, even the Belfast Telegraph showed Elliot shooting himself in the foot.

    The leadership of the party over the last few years has been inept and it still remains in place, and no capable replacements are obvious. I suspect the UUP’s days are numbered as an independent party the only question is will it be the DUP or the Tories or even a bit to both.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t understand why Mick interprets Robinson’s comments as a desire to merge with the UUP rather than defeat them.

    Joe:

    It would seem to be a no-brainer. Despite the backwoods men, mostly men, the DUP has slowly slid towards the middle, now occupying the ground where the old UUP used to stand.

    The notion that the UUP are, or were, moderate is a myth.

    Tom Elliott was being quoted in a News Letter front page headline the other day as saying that Alex Salmond is more of a threat than the IRA. That ain’t moderate.

  • Comrade Stalin

    eamonon, there won’t be a merger, at least in the formal sense; it will be a slow death, elected reps will lose their seats, activists will either lose interest or switch to the DUP (note that UUP activists and elected reps have been trickling to the DUP for the past 15 years, most famously people like Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson).

    What I can’t fathom is this bizarre notion the Tories have. Despite getting utterly destroyed in 2010, unable to capitalize on the DUP’s weakest moment, they still seem to think that they can somehow magically make some sort of impact – not only that, but they believe that they can do it by somehow hijacking sections of the UUP. It’s weird.

  • Comrade,

    I did not mean to imply that they were moderate. Perhaps I would have been more precise if I had said sliding towards the unionist middle ground.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Tom Elliott was being quoted in a News Letter front page headline the other day as saying that Alex Salmond is more of a threat than the IRA. That ain’t moderate.

    Err, that’s Unionist. It’s just a unionist perspective. You are confusing believing in something with being an extremist again.

  • andnowwhat

    Can one buy shares in the Alliance Party?

  • Comrade Stalin

    If you say so, Michael.

  • cynic2

    “Can one buy shares in the Alliance Party?”

    If so, can one short them?

  • dwatch

    Under the present d’hondt system of government Tom Elliott is correct. If there was a single Unionist party at Stormont at present there would be no guarantee Unionists would hold 50% of the ministerial seats

    “One unionist party ‘not stronger'”
    A single unionist party may not necessarily increase unionism’s political power, Tom Elliott has said.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/one-unionist-party-not-stronger-16105427.html#ixzz1jqcWs1Ys

  • Barry the Blender

    I really am baffled. Why is Robinson,credited as the DUP’s greatest ever tactician, touting a prospect which could never possibly happen?

  • A better headline would be: DUP Evangelical in Shock Euthanasia Volte-Face.

  • The trouble with Michael Shilliday’s dream of “how good it would be if it was all Prods together”

    Rory, be fair and reread Michael’s post. He was clearly being sarcastic.

    Defending Michael Shilliday on the internet … that’s the third thing I’ve had to do this week that I never thought I’d do in a lifetime!

  • FuturePhysicist

    Alliance would lose a ministry to block unionism on this.

  • The Raven

    So there are 1.2m eligible votes out there. 674,000 turned out. Which means about 45 percent of people didn’t vote. That’s 526,000 votes going begging. Let’s say half of those are *broadly speaking* of a unionist mind. And half again would love to turn out but don’t know who to vote for, the other half being so despondent, they don’t vote for any of them.

    So despite the death knells being rung variously for the UUP, 100,000 – and I’m being very simplistic here – didn’t bother to turnout and switch their support to the DUP.

    My point? That even with a merger, alliance, whatever you want to call it, many thousands of people will never countenance a vote for Peter’s Party. I’m one of them. I’m Protestant, but only a green unionist. But I don’t forget that at their core, and still variously evident in every council chamber across the land, the DUP machine **hates** “themmuns”, even when it is politically expedient to do deals that seal their grip on power.

    Red card me for that if you like. But I’ve seen it, up close and personal. The DUP may feel that they’ve successfully occupied that so-called middle ground. If the DUP is fully representative of the middle ground in this lump of land, we truly are in more trouble than we thought. And I think many thousands feel likewise. We’re of long memory, and all the short-haircutted, nicely-suited-and-booted foot soldiers of the DUP will never change that.

    Rory’s post may misrepresent Michael’s, but he’s got one thing right: “not all Prods are happy to join hands with troglodyte religious sectarians in order to effect political unity.” Thus will it be when there’s a partyless border poll with only a yes/no option, and no candidates to vote for. Let’s see what the turnout is like then.

    I’ve no doubt it’s the same “on the other side”. At least, I live in hope. But as I have written before, all great empires must pass. I can’t wait to see the day that the sun sets on this one.

  • john

    I posted this on the BT site and didnt get great feedback but I believe I am correct in saying one Unionist party will be a big mistake for Unionism. The only positive is one unionist candidate may take a couple of extra seats at Westminster – East Belfast which the DUP would probably retake on their own anyway and South Belfast which with continuing demographic change would probably remain SDLP even with a unioinist unity candidate. The Unity candidate would also make North Belfast, Upper Bann and East Londonderry safer for longer but other than that what is the point! The downside is many Unionist voters will be pushed towards the Alliance party or not even bother to vote together with the lack of a party to tranfer to in STV elections you will find the Unionists will lose a large number of seats in Stormont. They may well have the single largest party but doing so they will hand SF and the SDLP a number of seats on a plate. To put it another way DUP, UUP,TUV, PUP and the Tory party will gain more votes and seats than one united unionist party and the argument is exactly the same for nationalism!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Alliance would lose a ministry to block unionism on this.

    I don’t see how Alliance could justify anything on the basis of an attempted unionist party merger, not that it is ever going to happen.

  • john

    Good post Raven although tell me whats a green unionist?

  • Rory Carr

    My (belated) apologies to Michael Shilliday for failing to spot the irony in his original post.

    I can only plead that my senses were dulled from reading so much commentary where irony fears to tread.

  • RyanAdams

    John,

    Under boundary proposals, North Belfast gains the remaining Shankill wards, probably putting it permenantly beyond SF/Kelly’s reach. Likewise with Upper Bann, about 1500 nationalist voters moving out to Lagan Valley and a similar amount of unionists being moved in from Newry & Armagh, so there is not a threat to either Simpson or Dodds. East Derry goes nearly completly anyway.

    Mick,

    I think the UUP have a shot at North Belfast under the new seats. Another few thousand unionist votes may put a squeeze on the third nationalist seat, probably Alban’s.

  • john

    Ryan
    Fair point about the boundary changes (making unity candidates all the more useless) although I have a sneaky suspicion they wont happen certainly not by 2015!

  • andnowwhat

    The Raven

    Fantastic post.

  • andnowwhat

    Simple questions to unionists:

    There’s got to be enough of you that think like Raven. Why don’t you start a party or movement of non religious, non “fenian hating”, non tory supporting unionists?

  • New Blue

    andnowwhat, the creation of a ‘real’ Labour Party in Northern Ireland could indeed generate a level of support that any proposed centre-right Conservative movement would have to work very hard to equal. Makes you wonder why those with that “left-of-centre” non-sectarian political position have not done more to build something.

    One Unionist party simply makes the walls that keep pro-union Catholics out of local politics higher.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Raven

    That is all true. I can’t vote DUP either for the same reasons. But if their political DNA isn’t the same as mine, they are starting to wear the right clothes. They also appear competent and united. In contrast, the UUP now have no ‘big idea’ or narrative. In fact its old political narrative was that ‘we are pragmatic, a ‘big’ church, and not the wreckers of the DUP’-this is now irrelevant. The UUP infighting is of a level only practised by political hobbyists. There is a dearth of real political ability. Their political communications is a joke – from ‘Decent people vote ulster unionist’ to the ‘scum of sinn fein’. They don’t know what to say and they don’t know who they are talking to.

    If they want any chance of survival (and there is a place for a second unionist party to provide a real alternative) then they need to set blue water between themselves and the DUP. Leaving the executive and actually building a brand as an alternative, of hitting the DUP weak spots from outside the tent, might be the only way forward. It might fail. It could be a death ride into oblivion; but currently they are slowly dissolving into obscurity.

  • IJP

    Drumlins Rock

    In fact, the UUP membership has consistently re-elected David Campbell as Party Chairman – a man who openly supports Unionist Unity.

    It elected Tom Elliott as its Leader, immediately after he had done his deal in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

    Therefore the idea that the idea of Unionist Unity would get “short shrift” from UUP members lacks any evidence whatsoever.

    In fact, the evidence suggests there is now unstoppable momentum towards a full “Unionist Unity” slate of candidates at the 2015 General Election.

  • PaulT

    “The SDLP vote is squeezed until the pips squeak”

    More squeezing to come.

    A couple of weeks after their leader calls for a pay rise two Donegal SF TDs’ publish their personal accounts in detail.

    http://www.pearsedoherty.ie/wordpress/about/

    http://www.donegaldaily.com/2012/01/19/statement-on-my-oireachtas-wages-and-expenses-padraig-mac-lochlainn-td%E2%80%A8/

  • orly

    andnowwhat (profile)

    Simple questions to unionists:

    There’s got to be enough of you that think like Raven. Why don’t you start a party or movement of non religious, non “fenian hating”, non tory supporting unionists?

    Why would we need to? The “union” is not the issue. It’s perfectly safe and secure for another century.

    People should be interested in the economy, jobs, education etc.

  • The Raven

    Orly, you have perhaps nailed what I should have added. It’s not a case of “the union” being the issue. I am comfortable in that particular skin.

    And in answer to “john” above – what’s a green unionist? Put it this way – I won’t be leaving the country should the border ever disappear. It’s a non-issue either way for me.

    We’ve mentioned a third way here…”people should be interested in the economy, jobs, education etc”…let’s look for a party of “non religious, non “fenian hating”, non tory supporting unionists”, and so on.

    Isn’t that – *in the main* – what the Alliance Party is for…?

  • Drumlins Rock

    “In fact, the evidence suggests there is now unstoppable momentum towards a full “Unionist Unity” slate of candidates at the 2015 General Election.”

    IJP, if I was a betting man would put a wager on that not being the case, but will have to settle for keeping it as a quote to remind you off when the time comes. Btw the chairman is now appointed by the Party Leader, only the vice-chair and Leader driectly elected I believe, similar to the Conservative system? The example of FST was proof that Unionist Unity dosn’t work, but trust me on this, the pressure from voters was such to not have did a deal in that one instance would have caused enormous damage locally. With the new boundaries there is no hope in FST and probably the only situation where it might possibly come into play is Glenshane (East Londonderry). North Belfast & Upper Bann have been made safer and South Belfast is gone. Why would there be any advantage in doing a deal for Westminister? and certainly none whatsoever in any STV election which would almost certainly cost Unionist seats.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was going to say the same thing Raven, I wish people who say that they would like to see a decontaminated and defanged version of the UUP would explain exactly would differentiate it from Alliance. There must be something ? And when they’ve got done explaining that, to explain exactly how that entity will attract DUP votes. Because that’s where most of the old UUP votes went.

    Or is the problem really that people don’t understand what exactly wins votes in this country, and think that new voting patterns will come about through a clever device that involves little more than giving an existing party a lick of paint ?

  • ayeYerMa

    Michael Shilliday, in what workplace is it normal to have a minute’s silence, not for the death of a colleague, but for a RELATIVE of one of your colleagues – someone most taking part will never even have heard of?

    This story smacks of Sinn Fein playing silly games and inventing rituals just to make Unionists be seen to “show respect” to the Provo Mafia family.

  • dwatch

    Looks like David Trimble is very annoyed with Tom Elliott’s decision not to accept the Tory party offer for a merger with the UUP. Lord Trimble has called Elliott “YOU WERE STUPID TOM” in last week’s BT article by Liam Clarke “TRIMBLE ROUNDS ON UUP LEADER FOR REJECTING TORY MERGER” Wonder if former UUP leader Lord Empey and UUP chairman David Campbell agrees with Lord Trimble or do they support their leader Tom Elliott?

  • Comrade Stalin

    ayeYerMa, I think that does cross a line there. The IRA disbanded some time ago now and we are talking about the death of someone’s mother. A bit of basic humanity wouldn’t hurt.