#SluggerSoapbox: An electoral pact may be pointless but it’s all political Unionism has left…

Our support for the DUP in East Belfast should ensure an additional pro-Union MP for the City of Belfast in the next mandate.

Mike Nesbitt

I am calling on all unionists to unite behind these agreed candidates and maximise the pro-union voice in the House of Commons.

Peter Robinson

What’s the point of the latest electoral pact between the DUP and UUP?

If the two party leaders are to be taken at their word then it is to get as many orange bums as possible on the green benches of Westminster but does that really matter?

What would happen if there were no Unionists returned to Westminster in 2015 from here?

Imagine waking up on the 8th May to discover that not only had no Unionist candidate made it over the line but in fact in all 18 constituencies Sinn Fein had achieved an outright majority.

Does anyone really think for one second that would result in a united Ireland?

Even if by some electoral fluke having 18 seats made Sinn Fein king makers at Westminster and they were able to make any demand they wanted from the future Westminster government they still wouldn’t be able to change the constitutional position of Northern Ireland one iota.

The only thing that can change that is a majority vote by the people of Northern Ireland; in fact it’s doubtful if 18 sitting MPs would even be able to convince the new Secretary of State to call a referendum.

Nesbitt and Robinson are suggesting that the border is not only the most important issue at this election but in fact that it is the only issue that matters. They are saying that they are willing to put aside their party’s differences in order to defend the union and we all must do the same. 

This all sounds very noble and terribly statesmanlike. It reminds me of Cameron, Miliband and Clegg coming together on the eve of the Scottish Independence vote to put country before party and unite to save the Union.

The problem is that in this case the Union is not under threat.  In actual fact a candidate’s position on the border is one of the last things that should affect who you vote for in this election as it is an issue that the successful candidates will have zero power to influence.

So if not the border then what is the purpose of the pact? Is it perhaps to maximise Ulster’s voice in Westminster rather than Unionism’s voice? While Sinn Fein maintain a policy of abstention, Northern Ireland’s voice in the chamber is weaker.

Decisions are made by those who show up, so every seat won by Sinn Fein simply cedes more power to the central government and lessens the chamber’s ability to hold them to account.

So the DUP and UUP are uniting for the good of all of us, to ensure that we are represented in the hallowed chamber of Westminster — why then include East Belfast?

Not only is Naomi Long pro-union she voted in 50.81% of votes on this parliament which is more than Gregory Campbell’s 31.76%, Jeffrey Donaldson’s 40.15%, Nigel Dodd’s 48.29%, William McCrea’s 46.17%, Ian Paisley Jr’s 34.28%, David Simpson 46.74%, Sammy Wilson 32.57%. 

So with the exception of Jim Shannon 62.21% Naomi has a higher voter record than any DUP MP in the last parliament. (source http://www.theyworkforyou.com)

I would have included data for the other party but due to the success of their previous electoral pact there is none available for any UUP MPs.

The inclusion of East Belfast in this pact can be seen as nothing other than an attempt to satisfy Mr Robinson’s bruised ego. Or perhaps others in the party believe that if they can win East Belfast Peter will finally resign, pretending to have won back some dignity.

According to University of Edinburgh research 45% of people in NI are planning not to vote.  I would suggest that there is very little either party leader could do to change that. Both parties have used fear as a motivator for years, not to reach new voters but to ensure turn out. 

Themmuns are coming to take our flag, our culture and our very right to exist.  It is all or nothing if we give up one inch (in this case one seat) we get closer and closer to the inevitable Westminster sell out and Dublin rule.

The problem is that most unionists no longer fear a Catholic majority as they know the majority of Catholics support the union (at present).  This leaves Mike and Peter with an ever decreasing pool of people willing to vote ‘for the union’ that is increasingly split with UKIP, PUP and TUV.

The DUP have recently tried to motivate support through fear of secularism. If you don’t vote for us, Themmuns (in this case the lesbian, atheist, baby killer Nazis) will use their Trojan horse of equality to outlaw our bibles, prosecute us for our beliefs and give our kids the ‘gay disease’.

Young voters however are by and large turned off by this rhetoric. 

There are some notable exceptions but generally the younger a person is (unionist, nationalist or couldn’tgiveatossist) the more likely they are to either support or be indifferent to same sex marriage and abortion while being much less likely to support any form of conscience clause.

More and more unionists are in the position that Belfast Barman eloquently summed up, they might not be ready to vote Sinn Fein but they are unwilling to vote for someone who rejects science and reason in favour of fundamentalist religious dogma.

The electoral pact may be pointless but it is all they have left. 

They know that they cannot survive long term without reaching outside the traditional unionist voter base but doing so would enrage and alienate their existing supporters, sending them into the arms of the TUV et al.

The only option left is to try desperately to maximise turnout by those foolish enough to believe they are voting for the union and their own share of that vote. 

Unfortunately this will come at the expense of any future electoral growth for unionism as a whole, as they well know.

Both men lead parties that tore down and destroyed the legacy of previous leaders because they reached out to ‘the enemy’ or simply shared the odd joke with them and they would rather go down with the ship than be forced to walk the plank.

As for the pro-union voice in the House of Commons, support for the UK is the one issue that has united the other 632 MPs (minus the SNP) in the previous parliament, so I think they will be OK without the wee Ulster accent in the back shouting never never never.