Why Danny Kinahan MP Should Take the Conservative Whip

There were only three interesting stories emerging from the local election results following Thursday’s general election. One was the toppling of the Sinn Fein majority in Fermanagh South Tyrone (the result of a sectarian Unionist pact). The second was the toppling of Naomi Long in East Belfast (the result of a sectarian Unionist pact).

The third was a much more gratifying outcome – the UUP’s toppling of the gospel-singing Reverend William McCrea in South Antrim. This victory was all the sweeter given that the victor was the socially liberal Danny Kinahan.  Indeed the new MP was the only Ulster Unionist to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.  I’d encourage readers to watch this video.  In reaction I’d say, “Well said Mr Kinahan.”

A little over five years ago, when I was still involved in the Conservative Party, Danny Kinahan was one of the most vocal advocates for the partnership between the UUP and the Conservative Party. In the early days of the negotiations, Danny was involved in the so-called ‘working party’ that was put in place to investigate how some type of merger might work. The Conservative Party locally was left in no doubt that Danny was campaigning for change within the UUP – and that he fully understood and advocated the need for Northern Ireland having a voice in the mainstream political debates of the United Kingdom.

Yesterday morning I was asked to take part in the post-election Good Morning Ulster programme on Radio Ulster. On air I made the point that it would be especially gratifying if the newly elected Danny Kinahan might take the Conservative whip in the House of Commons.  But I wanted to elaborate on why I think he should.

First of all, if local MPs want to have influence they can only achieve it within the governing party. The Conservative Party has a slim majority.  Danny could enhance that majority. That puts him in a position of strength. That would reflect well on him and his constituency.

Second, if Mr Kinahan were to take his seat on the Conservative benches, there is a real prospect that he could, ultimately, take a seat in government as a junior Minister at the NIO, or, ultimately, as Secretary of State. This could give him the option to be seen as the chief arbitrator on stalled government initiatives – such as welfare reform – stuck in the decision-bereft Stormont machine.  In effect, he could flex his government muscle to insist on change. If necessary, he could bypass policy stalemates at Stormont by initiating emergency legislation at Westminster.

This would allow local politicians to be able to wash their hands of legislation or policy positions being foisted upon them from Westminster. (The SNP is able to do this by simply blaming the Conservatives and being untainted in the process).

Yesterday I made the point, on air, to Simon Hamilton – the Finance Minister at Stormont – that he needed to be able to, in effect, let Sinn Fein “off the hook” on welfare reform to unblock stalemate. He needed to make clear that the welfare reforms needed to move forward without Sinn Fein approval – given the UK-wide policy requirement of the Treasury. But, given the cross-community arrangements at the Executive, it’s clear he has no ability to get things moving without NIO involvement.

My view is that Danny Kinahan would be well qualified to provide this bridge between the government and the Executive to make things happen and to get things done – despite the clear deficiencies of devolution here. He could also take a lead role in ensuring that the Northern Ireland version of Devo-Max has built-in structures for removal of policy road-blocks.

Danny Kinahan will be an asset to Westminster and to Northern Ireland. His victory in South Antrim was a noble one.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s a compelling picture, Jeff, but those very characteristics that make Danny so ideal a person to fill such a role would probably inhibit him from changing his party. He’s been elected as UUP, that’s what people voting for him saw him as. I may be wrong but I think he’d see any move away from this in a rather old fashioned way, as something dishonourable. He would have stood openly as a Conservative if he wished to sit as a Conservative. Rather he is attempting to revitalise the UUP by instilling what some see as a genuinely British and modern character into the party. Good luck to him. I would hope that he successfully argues the case for a role of closer co-operation between the UUP and the Conservatives, for, as you say, it is only as an insider (in some form) within a party actually holding power that our local representatives will ever hope to deploy influence that is not poisoned by that element of blackmail that has now become almost habitual in any dealings between our people and any Westminster administration.

    Danny is certainly, as you point out, one of the best placed men to broker this place to the outer world, to England in general and to a Conservative administration in particular, and I have no trouble at all in seeing him as an excellent Secretary of State for NI, (oh, if only). But he is one of the few people on local political scene of whom that almost forgotten concept “honour” may be applied in all seriousness.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Excellent points.

  • Andrew Gallagher

    All valid points, except one. The SDLP has been taking the Labour whip since forever, and it has never been an issue.

  • Janos Bingham

    Danny Kinahan was elected as a UUP candidate. He is too much of a gentleman (although a member in good standing of party that was part of a so-called “sectarian Unionist pact) to play such a shabby trick as taking another party’s whip on arrival at Westminster.

    As an MLA he has always shown respect for the electorate. He is not going to stop doing so just because he has been elected to the Commons.

    It is unsurprising that the suggestion that Danny Kinahan should turncoat comes from a Conservative. Not a party renowned for playing with a straight bat.

    Don’t expect an invitation to Castle Upton anytime soon. 🙂

  • Janos Bingham

    ……except, the SDLP take the Labour Whip as a Party.

    Here the suggestion is that Kinahan alone jumps (as there is no mention of the other UUP MP, Tom Elliot).

  • Ernekid

    Maybe Mr Kinahan should care more about what the people of South Antrim want rather than what the Tories want?

  • Zig70

    A sectarian pact that the conservatives took part in. I think the whip is already there.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Jeff, I feel yours are also. I’ve had enough contact with Danny to get a good measure of the man, and to recognise his soundness and decency.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    If I were Cameron, Danny is the only Unionist at Westminister I’d even talk to.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    God loves a trier.

    In 2010 the UUP in the constituency ran their party leader on the platform of taking the Tory whip, and they lost.

    In 2015 the UUP abandoned the Tory whip and, without the benefit of the Tory financial support and Reg Empey’s profile, they won.

    I think in general there is a slow return of DUP voters back to the UUP so it would be mischevious to blame all of Empey’s 2010 loss on this. But the fact is that candidates on Tory whips in Northern Ireland lose elections. You cannot then try to ignore this fact and begin taking the whip.

    Secondly, there is absolutely no prospect of Kinehan even being offered the whip. Cabinet posts will be reserved for up and coming Tories who served the party and its leadership well, and who intend to move onto greater things. The best thing for Danny to do is to stay were he is, and when the Tories come knocking for help in a vote to have a shopping list ready.

    Finally, can we please nail this talk of there ever being a Secretary of State appointed from a Northern Ireland mandate. Apart from the idea that this job would somehow be desirable for a Northern Ireland MP (everyone knows it is one of the worst, unrewarding and most difficult jobs in the cabinet) it would throw a spanner into the works of the British government’s notional neutrality. Northern Ireland is not a regular region of the UK and the Secretary of State retains substantial powers over, for example, parades – the appointing of the Parades Commission, the powers to overrule the Commission’s decisions and so on.

    In the event of a collapse of the assembly, something which is not very likely but possible, it becomes even more complicated as the SoS and NIO junior ministers would then have executive authority in Northern Ireland, as well as legislative authority in the form of the Order in Council.

    Let’s put to bed this daft nonsense that a Tory can ever win an election in Northern Ireland or that an MP elected within Northern Ireland can ever be appointed Secretary of State. Neither of those things will ever happen; and nobody involved in politics even wants those things to happen.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    The SDLP has an informal arrangement – mostly voting with Labour. But they don’t take the whip as such because that would make the SDLP MPs subject to Labour Party whip’s office. That is not and never has been the arrangement. Indeed the SDLP has voted against Labour and/or failed to support Labour amendments to government legislation. The acceptance of the whip essentially means joining a parliamentary party. I’m suggesting that Kinahan takes a formal Conservative whip – although he’d obviously have freedom to vote freely in free votes. The upside is that he would have a very privileged position in relation to policy implementation in Northern Ireland. And, indeed, he could hold government office. I should point out that Lord Trimble sits with the Conservatives in the Lords. And Lord Alderdice is a LibDem Lord. Both take the whips in the upper house.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    SDLP only have an informal arrangement – they are NOT subject to Labour whip’s office.

  • Cavignac

    The notion that Kinahan would be appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is one of the highest flights of fancy seen anywhere in the campaign.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Just to be clear I’m not suggesting at all that he becomes a “turncoat”. I’m simply suggesting he join the government benches. If David Trimble can take the Conservative whip in the upper house why should Danny not do the same in the Commons?

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Oh and Tom Elliott is not a Conservative as far as I can gather. The UUP is essentially a single issue pressure group so it has members with all sorts of socio-economic positions. I’m not sure Elliott would feel at all comfortable in the parliamentary Conservative Party.

  • Dan

    ” the result of a sectarian Unionist pact ”

    And on and on they continue with the sectarian nonsense.

  • banana man

    exactly, there is nothing sectarian about either believing that this country would be economically and socially better off in a UI or the UK. it’s 2015, its time we move past this, I mean how many people even bother with religion these days.

  • Turgon

    Danny Kinihan was elected with 11,942 votes defeating amongst others the Conservative candidate who got 415 (last place).

    Had the voters of South Antrim wanted a Conservative MP they had the opportunity to elect one.

    They did not want one. If Mr. Kinahan switched to the Tories he would be an opportunist and a hypocrite.

    Moving on to you own position Mr. Peel. You are not by chance the same Jeff Peel who stated on this very website three days ago:

    “Before the last general election I was summarily fired by the Party as Area Vice Chairman here, largely because of my public criticism of the ill-fated relationship with the hapless UUP.”

    Yet now you advocate Mr. Kinahan doing what you publicly reaffirmed your opposition to, in most florid terms, a scant three days ago.

    Unlike Mr. Kinahan: you are sir an opportunist and a hypocrite.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Exactly, it’s positive (as well as refreshing) to see a gentleman in NI politics. I’d speak to him too.

  • tmitch57

    There is nothing sectarian when such an advocacy is based upon a careful analysis of economics, but how many people can truthfully claim to use such an analysis as the basis of their constitutional positions? For the vast majority the belief begins and ends with their own ethno-religious membership.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I don’t deny my opportunism. But there is no hypocrisy here. I’m simply stating that Danny should take the Conservative whip – just as your former leader does in the House of Lords. The UUP didn’t win a government majority – the Conservative Party did. You should be thanking me for a splendid idea for getting some power and influence. And if Danny had lived in England he would, I’d imagine, have stood as a Conservative.

    But perhaps, “Turgon”, I suppose the last thing you’d want is that your elected representatives help govern the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    While unionist pacts are not inherently sectarian it’s a reflection of our atavistic nature that they’re called that. F&ST election victory could be seen as an anti-abstentionist pact and many of the electorate there have considered this.
    You’re very right to use the word belief, tmitch. It transcends ethno-religious belonging and adopts the characterisitcs of a belief system where orthodoxy supercedes orthopraxy.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Glad, Ben, that someone still finds decency refreshing. But, alas, I’m only too aware myself of just how much of a brake on any political career being seen as “a gentleman” can actually be in the wee six. My own accent is rather more “Brian Sewell” than Danny’s and find I get a lot of aggression here in everyday life myself.

    The clip of Danny’s speech above is interesting, in that he also calls for a general decency in political debate here. Courtious behaviour extended to those one utterly disagrees with and open minded tolerance are certainly not the preserve of any one class, here or elsewhere, and there are others just as trustworthy as Danny to be found here in other parties and from all backgrounds, but while anywhere else a man of Danny’s talents and character would be a shoe in for the leadership of his party, I feel the pervasive inverse snobbery has ensured that the UUP has felt that it required “someone just like everyone else” to lead it, to the exclusion of any real talent to date. While this may be an honestly inspired attempt to escape from the imprint of the old “Fermanagh Mafia” style of leadership, such generalised policy serves also to exclude talented people of a very different stamp. I see the presence of Danny and others such as Jeff Dudgeon in the UUP as a most hopeful sign for a really meaningful transformation of our political life in future years to something that may even begin to normalise politics here. Something very long overdue.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    ‘Unionist’ in the context of pacts is a euphemism for Protestant. ‘Nationalist’ is a euphemism for Catholic. Such pacts pander to people who define themselves in such manners – even though, statistically, the number in our society who do so is shrinking. Based on the last census data about 16% of the NI electorate does not define itself in these tribal ways. The trouble is that no left/right political structures seem to be emerging to replace these shrinking religious based constituencies. But I’m sure it will happen.

  • Ernekid

    If the people of South Antrim wanted a Conservative MP they would have voted for the Conservative candidate Alan Dunlop. As Dunlop only received 415 votes it’s clear there’s no appetite for a Conservative in the constituency.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Peel,
    If Mr. Kinahan switched to the Conservatives he would be a hypocrite and an opportunist: not a man of principle. Furthermore if by chance he did as you recommend it would be most unlikely that he would hold his seat next time. So he would also be a fool.

    That you propose this shows not merely your own hypocrisy and opportunism (mainly by proxy) but also your extremely limited understanding of politics. The fact that someone who proposes as daft an idea as you have just done was Vice Chairman of the NI Conservatives speaks vey eloquently to what a hapless (to borrow your word) lot they are and how wise people here have been not to vote for them.

    Finally your decision to support Mr. Kinahan so strongly seems centrally due to his views on homosexual marriage: you give it pride of place at the top of the blog. Then you describe the UUP as a single issue pressure group. As I said last time: vast heap of coal calling kettle black.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    That’s not really the point. I voted Conservative because I live in Lagan Valley. Had I lived in South Antrim I would certainly have voted for Danny. The Conservative Party here is discredited for many reasons – not least of which is the fact that it’s seen to be an English party. The fact that the Conservatives in NI imported paper candidates from outside of NI didn’t do it any favours here on Thursday. In my view the Conservative Party will never do well here. But that’s not to say that the local electorate won’t elect people who – anywhere else in the UK – would be Conservatives. I think most people who voted for Danny would be delighted if he joined the Conservative benches.

  • Turgon

    Taking your logic for a moment re the euphemisms.
    You think that political parties should base their message around attracting 16% of the electorate. That is appealing primarily to a base of 1 in 6 of voters.

    You really do not understand the concept of elections, majorities and politics do you.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Surely we can keep the comments gentlemanly – as Danny would expect. Why be abusive? I respect Danny because of his views on same sex marriage and because I had the pleasure to meet him during my time with the Conservatives here. I think he would be great asset for Northern Ireland on the government benches. Had I lived in South Antrim I’d almost certainly have voted for him. What I’m suggesting is political pragmatism. I think most of the voters in South Antrim would agree with that and would applaud Mr Kinahan for it.

  • Turgon

    No it is the whole and complete point.

    The electorate were presented in South Antrim with several chooices. They overwhelmingly rejected the Conservatives and selected by a narrow margin the UUP over DUP. For the UUP victor then to join the Conservatives, the party which had just been rejected by 98.9% of the population would be unbelievably dishonest and stupid by Kinahan.

    Your argument is opportunist, hypocritical but more than anything just silly.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I’m saying that the electorate has no choice other than a religion-defined discourse. The growing number of non-believers is growing and younger people, in particular, are very disengaged from a political dialogue that rarely gets beyond the level of primordial swamp. Northern Ireland can do better than this. I’m suggesting that unless our society moves beyond this we will continue to be side-lined and ignored.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Yep. The entire idea is rooted in the concept that Northern Ireland politics can somehow be made like GB politics, which was surely tested to destruction both in the 1990s and in 2005.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    David Trimble left the UUP to take the Conservative whip!

  • Jeffrey Peel

    But they voted, I’m pretty sure, for a Conservative. I’m suggesting, only, that he should take the Conservative whip. But, at this point, I’ll have to bow out of the discussion, I’m afraid. (Pity, by the way, Turgon, that you behind a cloak of anonymity. Doesn’t really make for an appropriate exchange and allows you to adopt a somewhat nasty tone).

  • Turgon

    “Surely we can keep the comments gentlemanly”

    From the man who said:

    “Before the last general election I was summarily fired by the Party as Area Vice Chairman here, largely because of my public criticism of the ill-fated relationship with the hapless UUP.”

    Hardly a “gentlemanly” description of the UUP and by extension of their supporters.

    Then moving on: Insulting those of us who are unionists and nationalists by telling us that we cannot really tell the difference between politics and religion is hardly “gentlemanly.”
    I, and I suspect most here can understand the difference between disagreements on religion (you know salvation by grace alone, transubstantiation etc.) and political views. You also insult the largeish number of nationalists and unionists who are atheists or agnostics.

    That you throw around all those insults to all and sundry and then demand that “we can keep the comments gentlemanly” shows not merely your hypocrisy but stupidity in demanding others treat you and your views in a wholly different manner to how you treat them and their views.
    As I said the fact that you managed to become Vice Chairman of the NI Conservatives tells us a great deal about that party.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Trimble left the UUP before taking the Conservative whip. Alderdice took the Lib Dem whip originally with the reservation that it would not apply to him in respect of Northern Ireland. But he in turn resigned from Alliance in 2004 and then took the Lib Dem whip in full, serving as Convenor of the Lib Dem peers from 2010 to 2014.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Peel,

    That attack is man playing and a red herring.

    My views stand and fall on their merits. I have reasons for using a pseudonym but so frequent and prolonged have been my comments on this and other websites that my views on politics carry more weight as “Turgon” than they would as “John Smith”

    By your logic the views of George Orwell, George Elliot, Joseph Conrad and Voltaire to name but a few had lesser value.

    By all means, however, run away using the cloak of objecting to anonymity. Your views have been exposed as hypocritical, opportunistic but most of all politically daft.Retreat is probbaly your best strategy at this point.

    To add: the fact that your attack on me for using a pseudonym has so far been up voted by two people who use …er… pseudonyms says a great deal.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Ah so you’re up there with George Orwell (Eric Blair) and George Elliott (Mary Ann Evans) are you? Hmm. We’ll leave the readers to decide. Bye…

  • Turgon

    Quit man playing. The principle is identical. You attacked not my views but who I am on this website. You are as I said before a hypocrite and utterly opporunistic. How exactly would knowing my real name advance this discussion. If you actually wanted it the email is real and you could ask for it.

    Instead after losing the argument you have degenerated to passive aggressive man playing. Keep going though the hole you are digging gets bigger by the sentence.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    That’s incorrect. The idea is that Northern Ireland politics can somehow be made more like, well, politics.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    “Unionist” in the context of pacts is no euphemism for anything. In fact unionist pacts are a clear and unequivocal demonstration that preserving the union (from what I wonder?) outweighs more immediate issues and party differences. The goal is increased representation of those who are prepared to sacrifice some differences and pursue greater leverage. But ultimately unionism/nationalism is about being a believer and not about church attendance.

  • Janos Bingham

    “Oh and Tom Elliot is not a Conservative as far as I can gather.”

    Neither is Danny Kinahan. He, like Tom Elliot, is a member of the UUP.

  • Janos Bingham

    Perhaps as a private citizen I would make the same choice.

    Unfortunately as the PM David Cameron is obliged to talk with all sorts of people. Something I’m sure he does with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    That’s where I’m afraid we differ. Northern Ireland politics is politics. It may not be the kind of politics you like, but the voters have chosen to go a different way.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    It has nothing to do with voter choice.It’s because the mainstream political parties of our United Kingdom refused to seek mandates here. The Unionist Party was created – as Carson pointed out – as result of political expediency and a reaction to Irish nationalism. It’s a relic of an emergency and it’s well past its sell-by date.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    When the Conservatives and Liberals have sought mandates in Northern Ireland, they have been generally squelched by the voters.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    The Conservatives have never really sought a mandate here – except in 2010 with the UUP which was a shambolic mess tainted by sectarianism. Libs? Libs haven’t been able to achieve a mandate even in GB for decades – I missed their attempt in NI. When was that? Labour, of course, have never tried. A left/right system needs left and right parties.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Talk, Janos, certainly, but as luck will have it just this time, he not be compelled to obey the bullying of some eight of our representatives to purchase their votes!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Jeffrey, you are perhaps forgetting the old NI Labour Party, a sister party of the British Labour Party admittedly. My grandfather’s old friend Jack Beatie ( they met cooperating to find work for unemployed ex-service men from both religious backgrounds during the 1920s) was a very active Labour member who represented east Belfast at Stormont in the 1920s alongside two other Labour Party members. He was later elected to represent Belfast West at Westminster in the last two years of WWII. I remember the NI Labour Party from the years of Tom and Billy Boyd, Vivian Simpson and David Bleakley in the early 1960s when I was still a child and an uncle of mine was flirting with Socialism. It steadily declined after that date until in 1987 it merged with several other groups.

    But from the inception of the Stormont Government until 1987, they certainly tried, and tried, and tried…….

  • Zeno

    “The second was the toppling of Naomi Long in East Belfast (the result of a sectarian Unionist pact).”

    You could call it a lot of things but do Naomi and Robinson not belong to the same sect?

  • Chingford Man

    Lots of people post anonymously for good reasons and it doesn’t invalidate an argument. You shouldn’t be making anything of it. Moderators can deal with any incivility.

  • Chingford Man

    What is the advantage of taking the Tory whip if you are a backbencher elected on behalf of a different political party? Jim Molyneaux took the Tory whip for the first 4 years as MP for South Antrim and said later it was a depressing experience being told how to vote each week without ever being told why.

    Any association with the Tories, as UCUNF proved, wouldn’t do the UUP any good and possibly some harm. Even if an offer of the whip was made to Kinahan, it would be ridiculous for Elliott not to get it as well. (As an aside, I suspect Rodney Connor’s unofficial Tory links in 2010 wasn’t a good idea in a seat once represented by Bobby Sands.)

    Furthermore, even if Kinahan did get the whip, it seems unlikely that Cameron would appoint him to any position in the NIO as it suits the government not to have anyone representing an Ulster seat in that position.

    Finally, the DUP would just love to tie Kinahan to a Conservative majority government that is likely to get unpopular very fast. As the DUP comfortably outpolls the UUP in South Antrim Assembly elections, it probably regards the Westminster seat as out on loan.

  • Sharon Robinson

    Sectarian pacts, if you think Tom Elliott got elected solely on Unionist votes you’re more deluded and silly than you come across.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    The tone of voice of anonymous comments is often inappropriate. It’s also not a meeting of equals. I do not engage in personal insults. I do not call people stupid or silly for good reason. It’s much easier to use this type of language when hiding. That’s not to say that I won’t insult political parties or ideas. That is different. But it’s never personal.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Indeed but it shows that local parliamentarians CAN be real and effective politicians when they want influence. There seems to me to be no logic to local politicians aligning themselves to parochial designations just because they happen to reside here. When they live in England they can become successful politicians aligned to the mainstream political debate. When they are elected here they must separate themselves from any potential for real influence. Our 10 Unionist MPs will trundle off to Westminster, collect their salary and expenses, vote in the odd division when they can be bothered and, mostly, be ignored. They represent constituencies, yes, but they have no prospect of ever aspiring to government or high political office – making them utterly, utterly pointless. And the same argument could also be made for Nationalists of various hues. Even the hordes of Scots Nats will be irrelevant – they’ll hold no positions of power, no offices of state.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Well, the reason is quite simple: it is that the voters have rejected local politicians who did promise to link up with the Westminster parties. You may have noticed that the UUP won no seats at all in 2010, when allied with the Conservatives; competing with and distinct from the Conservatives, they won two on Thursday.

    If voters actually wanted Northern Irish MPs to go to Westminster and sit with the main UK parties, they would elect people who promise to do so!

  • Sharon Robinson

    You’re hardly wooing Tom by claiming he was involved in a sectarian pact, a nonsense statement from a person who is a load of nonsense.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I think the Conservatives thought they were seeking a mandate in 1992. I think they thought the same with the UCUNF arrangement in 2010. The electorate rejected them both times.

    The Ulster Liberal Party had an MP in Stormont through most of the 1960s. They ran a candidate in the 1979 European election, fully integrated into the national Liberal Party campaign, and he came dead last.

    Here’s a question for you. Back in 1966, more than three quarters of the votes cast in the Westminster election in Northern Ireland went to candidates who were fully integrated into the major Westminster parties’ campaigns – 62% for the Unionists/Conservatives, 12% for Labour and 5% for the Liberals. Is that the sort of arrangement that you would like to see restored? If so, do you agree that it failed to work in the 1960s?

  • Sharon Robinson

    Thanks Seaan for that, progressive statement as usual from a Slugger contributor.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I don’t need to know the reasons, they are self evident. The fact that none of our local political parties actually aspires to have any influence at Westminster I have found perplexing for my entire adult life. When I was a Conservative Councillor in SW Hertfordshire I had more influence on the government than most NI MPs.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Sharon personal insult doesn’t enhance your argument. Attack the argument, not the man.

    I don’t want to woo Tom because I don’t think he is a Conservative.

  • Sharon Robinson

    You stood in SA and were wiped off the board, what more do you want? Your nonsense about “sectarian pacts” shows you for what you are.

  • Joanne Johnston

    I sat next to Danny at a UCUNF dinner at the Hilton Hotel where Tim Collins was speaking regarding his activities in Iraq. Mark Cosgrove, Neil Johnston, then Conservative Party Chair, and the then UUP Chair (name escapes me). The UCUNF Project was suggested by members of the UUP to Neil (I am wife with very good memory). That evening I asked Danny why he hadn’t defected to the Conservatives like his very good friend Jamie Leslie had already. Danny replied that if he were in England he would be a Conservative. Danny went to school at Stowe in Bucks, an area I personally know well. James Leslie went to Eton – another gentleman. I was elected a Conservative Cllr in Buckinghamshire – we had a lot to chat about.
    Like Jeff, I found the UCUNF PROJECT distasteful due to the blatant sectarianism of some members of the UUP. The Conservative and Unionist Party had put forward some Catholic candidates who were insulted by the UUP. A big part of the reason the project failed was that the UUP insisted on selecting their election candidates too late – Reg Empey was only put forward in South Antrim a few weeks prior to the election date. Sylvia, Lady Hermon (let’s get her title right) chose to leave the UUP as she did not like the Conservative tie-up.
    Conservative and Unionist members in Norther’n Ireland dislike and disapprove of the way ‘politics’ in Northern Ireland is inextricably linked with religious faith. How many Roman Catholic members of the UUP are there?

    I guess the final decision will be Danny’s and Danny’s alone. The Conservatives here have a very good relationship with CCHQ in London, our Chairman is a member of the ruling Board.It was rather noticeable on the TV coverage that Northern Irish MPs fell into the grey ‘other’. category. The SDLP will probably take the Labour whip. I would suggest that DUP/UUP take the Conservative one. The DUP wanted to feel important in the event of a hung Parliament – in the event, not so.
    It is very sad, and the DUP/UUP should be embarrassed that it took a ‘pact’ to get Tom Elliott elected and Naomi Long ousted by Gavin Robinson.
    If McCrea had not been exposed as a stayaway MP would Danny have been elected? I would say not, but 40-50% of people in Northern Ireland don’t vote anyway. Do you ever wonder why?

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I am not a Conservative Party spokesperson – I’m not even a member of the Party. I don’t expect the Conservative Party to do well here. What I’m suggesting is that the new MP for South Antrim should use this tactic to gain influence in the new government. The alternative is no influence.

  • Sharon Robinson

    With a majority of 12, Dave will need the 10 NI Unionists sooner or later and with that will come the influence.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Joanne, well said. A ray of light at last.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Ah the old “let’s wait for a crisis” to become important argument.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    “Thought they were seeking a mandate”. UCUNF clearly was not the Conservative Party. It was a pact with a Protestant party. That’s why I resigned from it. My intention, as a Conservative officer at the time, was to have the UUP removed permanently from the ballot paper. One less sectarian party would have been a good outcome.

    The Ulster Liberal Party was a local party – the Liberal Party (or Lib Dems) have never sought a mandate here. And when Alliance (the modern manifestation of the local libs) achieved an MP (Naomi Long) she refused to take the Lib Dem whip.

    Local variants of the Labour Party were not the UK Labour Party. The UK Labour Party has never contested elections here.

    Your analysis of the situation in the 1960s is spurious. The Unionist Party locally was sectarian and aligned to the Conservative Party in London. The Labour you refer to was a local variant of Labour. And the whole system failed to work because it was a rigged and gerrymandered system.

    What I want is Northern Ireland to have a political system that is based on more than tribal head-counting.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s simply another of my “verbal cartoons”, Sharon. I had along career in film once, with quite a few credits in significant animation projects, and the old habits of a cartoonist die hard. But there is a serious edge just under the humour. Ever since Paisley decided that the UUP, and the Conservative party lurking just behind them, were actually “enemies of Ulster”, those following on his particular lead have treated the House of Commons as something of an enemy camp.

    Now, I’m not looking at the DUP as a complete outsider. My brother is a suporter of some long standing and, more pointedly, a very old friend of mine was one of the founding members in 1971 of what would become the DUP and an early candidate for election. I’m not describing what I understand of their attitudes on heresay or from what I read in the press, but from some long term aquantance with people actually involved in the party. I’m aware that from too close a study of what has seemingly worked for SF, the DUP have evolved a their own habit of resorting to “political blackmail” as a first resort, to my mind. Danny Kinahan, on the other hand, has learnt from his time in the army that while you may disagree with another person, looking for where you both meet (if only as social human beings) and building something on that foundation, is far more productive an approach than treating them as enemies and huxtering your every vote. Coming from very different life experiences to the DUP representatives, Danny has that kind of empathic understanding of how senior Conservatives actually think and work that allows him to negotiate subtily rather than simply to hector them. This is the actual meat of what I’m trying to say in a single “verbal cartoon.” He is far more likely to hold something of the union in place than those who diverge from everything that constitutes the spirit of modern “Britishness” in all but their demand that they describe themselves as “British”. This is why Naomi, too, clearly fitted into the ethos of the House of Commons in a manner that Gavin probably never will.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Apparently not. Pro-Union no longer means Unionist. #cosanostra

  • Chingford Man

    Perhaps the biggest problems for the NI Conservatives are too much dogmatism and too little pragmatism. I understand the objection to what they call sectarian politics, but where does that leave them? Importing candidates from London and the shires who knew little about their would-be constituencies? Do the NI Tories have a strategy to win seats at any level? I get the feeling that many of them would rather sit back and settle for tiny vote shares, rather than muddy themselves with engagement in local politics.

    The alternative would be to do what the UUP has done in this election and tried to do in 2010 unsuccessfully: pragmatic co-operation with another party for mutual advantage. The Catholic Tories (forget their names) who walked away from UCUNF after the Hatfield House talks between the UUP and the DUP in early 2010 were incredibly naive about the jockeying for position that is part of politics.

    Your comment that the UUP should feel embarrassed for getting Elliott elected thanks to a pact is telling. If a party is serious about getting people elected it will cut deals to do so.

    That pragmatism is why the UUP is back in Westminster and enjoying its healthiest position since Trimble wrecked it, whilst the NI Tories are still nowhere. Even UKIP has several elected councillors and, on Thursday figures, Assembly prospects in Strangford, South Down and East Antrim.

  • Joanne Johnston

    I think everyone is making the mistake that Jeff is saying Danny should defect to the Conservatives; no, he’s saying take the CONSERVATIVE WHIP.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You seem to be labouring under the belief that having a headquarters in London somehow makes a party more legitimate and more appealing to voters.

    The problem with this idea is that there is no evidence whatsoever that supports the it, while significant circumstantial evidence exists suggesting that it is wrong. As Exhibit A I give you the utterly dire performance of the Conservative Party here a few days ago.

    I have no idea why you persist doggedly in the belief that a party which has to parachute candidates in because it cannot even recruit them from within its local associations here would possess any likelihood of doing well in an election here. Time and time again the experience of the NI Conservatives has illustrated that you can’t win elections without the grassroots support and organization to do it.

    Like you I hate the tribal politics and the stupid nonsense that drives the electoral process here but trying to bypass reality with clever trickery isn’t going to work. We have to figure out a way to persuade the electorate that their voting decisions are causing them harm.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    No, Jeffrey thinks that being called “Labour” and having Labour policies is insufficient. Possessing a HQ in London confers magical properties upon parties that allows them to win elections without grassroots support.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The SDLP will probably take the Labour whip. I would suggest that DUP/UUP take the Conservative one.

    Why ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    All too true, Catcher in the Rye! I visit London and go to parties in Chelsea, and if I’ve accidently forgotten that “real people live in London”, I’m soon put right.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    It’s not about the London location it’s about people from here having power and influence. They can’t do that if they join or vote for local political parties that don’t aspire to govern. Participation without representation is pointless.

    I agree that parachuting in candidates from GB is a silly and failed policy on the part of the local Conservatives. But I’m no longer involved in the Conservatives here. Although that might change. I haven’t decided yet.

    I do my bit convincing voter that the status quo isn’t working. As to the solution I think it’s about establishing real participative democracy here. It’s about the politics of left and right.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    that preserving the union (from what I wonder?) outweighs more immediate issues and party differences.

    Electing a Unionist cannot materially preserve the union or assist it in any way whatsoever.

    What outweighs more immediate issues and party differences is making sure we have more seats than the fenians. When unionist leaders talk about “maximising the unionist representation at Westminster” that is what they mean. In this sense Jeff is absolutely correct.

    I would add that, if anything, pacts actually weaken the union in the long term. If you want to strengthen the union you want to persuade Catholics that your vision for the union is one which includes them. Is a pact designed to disenfranchise them in the long term the right way to do that ? I don’t think so.