Billy Hutchinson and the Development of the PUP

Sophie Long is a PhD candidate in the School of Politics at Queens University. Writing for Slugger she shares her research about Billy Hutchinson and the development of the Progressive Unionist Party

When political commentators discuss the Progressive Unionist Party in positive terms, it is often David Ervine, or Dawn Purvis, whose names are put forward by means of substantiating the Party’s progressive credentials. Ervine, who now possesses almost mythical status in Northern Ireland, and beyond, was described in The Independent as, “an advocate of peace and politics”, “an articulate spokesman for working-class Belfast loyalism”, and as someone who “preached dialogue and an end to Protestant negativity” (McKittrick 2007).

By contrast, however, less praise is heaped onto the current Party leader, Billy Hutchinson. Such attitudes reveal a limited knowledge of the internal workings of the Party, and indeed, the partnership between Ervine and Hutchinson. Both men worked for the good of their communities. Both espoused the same politics. Both believed politics was a route toward progress, particularly for young people. Whilst Ervine captivated the regional media, Hutchinson worked, mostly in the background, in tandem with the then-leader. This has led to assertions, by some, that the PUP were at their zenith when led by Ervine.

Some of my recent research has investigated the perceptions of those on the political left, towards the PUP and their social-democratic brand of politics. One of the recurring themes, across almost all interviewees, has been the assertion that Hutchinson has moved the Party backwards, and is not the correct candidate to espouse progressive politics to ordinary Protestants.

Those within the Party, and indeed those who are close to the PUP, argue the opposite. In order to unpack some of these claims, it is helpful to look at the policy positions adopted by the Party under Hutchinson’s reign, and assess whether these represent a progressive, or a regressive turn, in the context of the PUP’s lifespan.

Most notably, the Party voted to enshrine support for Marriage Equality into policy, at their 2013 conference. This makes the PUP the only Unionist Party who have a pro-same sex marriage policy, something which Hutchinson believes, reinforces the Party’s “tradition of promoting and encouraging equality, diversity and respect in the context of the union”.

At the same conference, a policy supporting an Armed Forces Covenant for Northern Ireland was passed. This is, “A Covenant that will guarantee better treatment for those who have suffered serious injury during service, of those who continue to suffer post-conflict mental trauma because of their service, and to ensure better overall access to health care, housing and help into further employment.”

The PUP often describe themselves as “socially liberal and economically social-democratic”. This blend of politics recognises the need to improve the material conditions of the working classes, whilst also respecting the traditions which they enjoy.

These assertions are substantiated by one of Hutchinson’s first actions as Party Leader. His predecessor, Brian Ervine, had supported the lowering of Corporation Tax to 12.5%. This is broadly in line with the other, Unionist Parties’ policies. However, Hutchinson reversed this policy, and the Party now oppose the lowering of CT, believing that a focus on growing the local economy through investment and education remains a priority.

In 2014, several, progressive policies and positions were adopted, under Hutchinson’s leadership. The Party support the abolishment of zero-hours contracts, arguing that they do not present young people, nor other citizens, with the stable employment which underpins a meaningful life.

In addition, the PUP have fought, alongside Trade Unions, and others progressive parties, to exclude the NHS from TTIP agreements. It is, and always has been, Party policy to oppose privatisation to health services.

Further, 2014 saw the Party support the implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s Section 1325 resolution, which advocates for the rights of women to participate, as equals, at all levels of peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

This Resolution, which seeks to empower women, is a natural policy of a Party which has seen women take leading roles in shaping policy and engaging in debate. Further, under Hutchinson’s guidance, women’s political participation has flourished. At a party council meeting which runs six months prior to conference, 40% of attendees were women.

Whilst many have suggested that, post-Ervine and Purvis, the PUP have become the ‘party of flags and parades’, there is little truth to this. With regard to the Belfast City Hall flag debate, the Party changed its flag policy to reflect community opinion in October 2012, 2 months prior to the Council vote which changed the policy.

From 1998 until 2012, the PUP supported a ‘designated days’ policy. However, at the 2012 Party Conference, the position was changed. The policy was now to support the flying of the Union flag 365 days a year from Belfast City Hall. This happened in response to Sinn Fein’s malevolent politicking, and a belief that rather than promoting tolerance, some parties were instead reacting to a divided society.

Those who criticise Hutchinson for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the flags protesters might consider this, from Richard Reed:

In this sense, the party’s involvement in the flag protests from 2012 under new leader Billy Hutchinson hasn’t so much been an abandonment of these [socio-economic] principles, but rather an evolution, as it has tried to align itself to the current interests and grievances of the Protestant working class (2015:131).

Some might contend that the Protestant working class’ most pressing need is reform of an education system which is routinely failing many of their young males. Under Hutchinson’s watch, a report was launched in June 2015 which critiqued the elitist system of academic selection, and offered an alternative- pupil profiling over a period of three years- which would allow teachers to assess children holistically, and broaden our understandings of what it means to ‘achieve’.

Other party positions and policies have focused on Human Trafficking. A proactive piece of research conducted by the Party, supported by their leader, outlines the need to use a human rights-based approach to identify and prevent human trafficking, which disproportionately affects women. Copies of this policy are available upon request, and given the depth of the analysis and breadth of the recommendations, reading is highly recommended.

Finally, it might be suggested, that given the above, Hutchinson has led the PUP in a direction which their constituents do not wish to follow.

Again, a cursory look at the statistics undermines this claim. Not only did the Party stand in 25 areas for the first time in last year’s Council elections, but they doubled their Council seats from 2, to 4.

This reflects the work undertaken at a grassroots level by Party members, but also the maturity of the Party leader, who recognises that young people are best served by politics, and indeed, by a Party who empowers those people to question their circumstances, and work together to transform their communities. This is Hutchinson’s primary objective; continuing the project which he and Ervine began all those years ago, to politicise young people, particularly those who believed politics was ‘not for them’. He has already broken new ground with these aims with a surge in membership. All young people, including many young women, who have found a home in Hutchinson’s Party, and who work daily to transform their communities.

We should never forget David Ervine. His memory serves to remind us of what can be achieved by ordinary people, who care. But nor should we allow that to crowd out the achievements, aims and principles of the PUP which today is flourishing, under the leadership of Billy Hutchinson.

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  • Turgon

    This essay is essentially of the “Well Mussolini made the trains run on time” school of thought or (and I know about Godwin’s Law) The 1933 German Animal Protection Act was the sign of an enlightened government being in power.

    The fundamental problem for the PUP is that no matter what policies they come up with they are inextricably linked to the UVF. Furthermore their other views seem of scant relevance to them as compared to supporting UVF members and loyalist paramilitaries in general each and every time they (the paramilitaries) need the PUP.

    The idea that the PUP has a “tradition of promoting and encouraging equality, diversity and respect in the context of the union.” is not laughable only because they are the mouth pieces of loyalist terrorists. They are there protesting when loyalist terrorists are arrested. They provide political cover to a group of people (the UVF) who deal drugs, run prostitution and protection rackets, intimidate assorted people in “their” areas and meet out punishment beatings and periodically murder.

    The UVF are one of the major causes of adding to social deprivation in working class unionist areas. This is the central reason why the PUP have half a handful of councillors.

    This latest piece is I am afraid a case of someone not failing to see the wood for the trees but rather someone in the Amazon refusing to acknowledge they are in a forrest at all.

    The PUP are a classic socialist party provided one adds a prefix to the word socialist: that prefix is national.

    That assorted academics fail to see this has always bemused me. Working class unionists seem almost uniformly able to see what these assorted PhD possessing individuals miss: the PUP are the mouth pieces of their (working class unionists) oppressors. In classical Marxist terminology they are the Lumpen Proletariat.

    The author suggests we never forget David Ervine. Well we should remember “Returning the serve” aka murdering random Catholics for their perceived religious / political views. We should also remember that he claimed with pride not to have forgotten how to make bombs. Apart from that he should be completely forgotten: as should Gusty Spence and Billy Hutchinson.

    If the author wants to remember names let me give her five:

    Michael Loughran
    Edward Morgan
    Matilda Gould
    John Scullion
    Peter Ward

    When she has googled them or looked them up in Lost Lives she can come back and justify her hagiography of Messers Hutchinson, Ervine et al.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Good Post ! But a big effort is required by the PUP and more importantly its activists and supporters to get them votes in the back streets out of the Woodstock/Newton – (East) – Woodvale/TBay (North) – Shankill/Springmartin (West) – Sandy Row/D’Pass (South). I think PUP will take 6th seat in East Belfast, Will take North Belfast last seat to the wire, Could surprise everyone for the last seat in West and should be able to consolidate a vote base in South for a future Councillor.

  • Mirrorballman

    Is Sophie a member of the PUP?

  • Mirrorballman

    “With regard to the Belfast City Hall flag debate, the Party changed its flag policy to reflect community opinion in October 2012, 2 months prior to the Council vote which changed the policy”

    Then she states…

    “Finally, it might be suggested, that given the above, Hutchinson has led the PUP in a direction which their constituents do not wish to follow.”

    In what way has Hutchinson led his constituents in a direction they didn’t want to take? It seems from the statement above it was the other way around.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Sophie, you’re making a huge number of mostly unsubstantiated and sometimes, sorry for saying it, rather breathless sounding claims. Some of it reads like the output of the DPRK Press Office reporting on the activities of the Dear Leader. Such as :

    “… [Ervine]now possesses almost mythical status in Northern Ireland …”

    No he doesn’t. He possesses mythical status among PUP members and the groups of academics who think that men who used to carry guns, but now promise that they don’t anymore, have an important role to play in conflict transformation. Most of the rest of us see him as a thug who smoked a pipe and swallowed a dictionary, with a deputy who has no regrets for murdering two civilians believing that it was necessary to prevent a united Ireland.

    “… Both men [Hutch and Ervine]worked for the good of their communities.”

    What sort of work did they do ? Got any examples ? Exactly what work did Hutch do after he lost his seat ?

    ” Whilst Ervine captivated the regional media .. ”

    .. setting hearts aflutter with his dreamy piercing brown eyes and his roguish smile ..

    This reflects the work undertaken at a grassroots level by Party members, but also the maturity of the Party leader, who recognises that young people are best served by politics, and indeed, by a Party who empowers those people to question their circumstances, and work together to transform their communities

    What “work” ? What “empowering” ? In what way are their communities being transformed (for the better) ? This is a bunch of peace processing Newspeak.

    “tradition of promoting and encouraging equality, diversity and respect in the context of the union”

    At this point you just blithely repeating what Hutchinson says about himself and are not at all interested in challenging it. Do you have any plans, as part of your research, to do any actual critical analysis of what the PUP have supposedly accomplished ? For example, are you going to ask what the PUP have ever actually done to promote or encourage equality and diversity ? Are you going to even try to address the small matter of the party being led by a person who believes his role in murdering two people was a successful action to resist political change ?

    This is a party which thinks that flying a tricolour is a breach of the peace and a police matter, while defending flying union flags in places where the local residents don’t want them is a matter of tolerance. Have you asked them if they are even interested in canvassing the non-Protestant part of the electorate ? Do they canvass the working class areas that are seen to be under the influence of the UDA ?

    Whilst many have suggested that, post-Ervine and Purvis, the PUP have become the ‘party of flags and parades’, there is little truth to this.

    The PUP did a signature policy u-turn on flags. In its recent “report” on education in working class Protestant areas the prologue opened up with a mention of the flags protests and what a massive event this was for politicising WC loyalists.

    The PUP have a huge banner at the Twaddell protest camp. Their senior member in the Woodvale is closely involved with the camp. A PUP representative, usually JA Corr-Johnson or Winston Irvine, is a regular fixture standing at or beside the microphone following the weekly parades which take place at the camp.

    I am sure you believe that what the PUP mostly cares about is LGBT rights, unicorns and rainbows for the workers, “clause 4”, and some UN resolution about women that nobody has ever heard of.

    But this is to simply ignore the fact that the vast proportion of PUP appearances in the media in the past six months have been to complain about republicans, flags, the Parades Commission, “heavy handed policing”, the conviction of people for violating parading determinations, or above all the failure of people to allow a march past the Ardoyne shops.

    Leafing through the list of PUP press statements (here) I can find very little that is positive. Out of the ten statements on this page, that cover an approximately one month period, seven of them relate to flags or parades. The other two are about education, and one is about abuse on social media.

    If you go to the next page, four press statements relate to parades and two of them are complaints about to pursuing people accused of terrorism, the other four are about miscellaneous domestic issues.

    Face it. The PUP believe that they can win votes and gain political strength by appealing to the worst kind of reactionary loyalist thinking. They are the party of parades, flags, and complaining about them ‘uns.

    We should never forget David Ervine. His memory serves to remind us of what can be achieved by ordinary people, who care.

    What exactly did David Ervine achieve in his political career ? When he died he’d just manoeuvred himself into the Ulster Unionist assembly group.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I don’t know but it sure sounds like it.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    TE – the problem is that the PUP don’t have anyone in East, unless John Kyle gives up his GP practice.

    There is no longer a unionist seat in West. Unionists there would be best advised to transfer to the PLP candidate.

    The PUP in Tiger’s Bay – are you having a laugh ?

  • mjh

    The PUP appear to be on a charm offensive – at least here on Slugger. However Turgon has raised very serious questions in a highly effective way.

    On previous threads the PUP have dealt with criticisms by simply ignoring them or brushing them off.

    Frankly until they answer Turgon point for point in an equally reasoned manner they are on a hiding to nothing.

  • Turgon

    mjh,
    Thank you. I do not know how long you have been reading slugger but at the time of Dawn Purvis’s leadership of the party they had a similar (as you so accurately put it) charm offensive on slugger. To be honest my remarks now are simply the same as they were then.

    On that occasion there was no answer apart from personal attacks against me: I suspect we will get nothing more substantial or reasoned than that this time.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I think the PUP will take their chances “on a hiding to nothing” in the back streets of Belfast and its People ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Rebuild a party on loyalist tribal lines in a city that is heading towards being majority Catholic. Great plan.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Like I said let the People of them back streets of Belfast decide and cast their vote !

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Sophie has form here: http://eamonnmallie.com/2015/06/in-defence-of-jamie-and-others-like-him-by-sophie-long/
    Any critical thinking aired about the PUP/loyalism/Jamie Bryson etc is an attempt to stifle/silence/attack PUP/loyalism/Jamie Bryson etc. When do we become part of the media conspiracy Sophie? Have all the posters above been gulled by the BBC?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Catcher – Fair Points you say above but I would still run Micky Mouse and Donald Duck both in East and North Belfast with a 3K Base Vote ! (They might get a penalty kick in the last minute like Celtic) ?

  • Granni Trixie

    Looks like it is Sohie Long who has bought into the myth. Whatever happened to ‘following the evidence where it exists’ school of research?

  • Ozzy

    Now cue everyone jumping to stick the boot into the PUP just because they are linked to the UVF. Interesting piece Sophie. I feel a bit sorry for Billy. While Ervine was the eloquent, media-friendly frontman I think Hutchinson was happier working in the background and had the necessary providence to obtain the support of the hardline elements during peace negotiations. Now he has found himself the natural successor to the leadership but under the constant shadow of Ervine. I’m a PUP voter but feel by switching flag policy the party have fell into the trap of all the other unionist parties and allowed their direction to be dictated by Sinn Fein. Their subsequent electoral success followed as a result of this switch as we all know short term gains can be made by feeding the insatiable appetite of the extremes. Unfortunately this is unsustainable in the long term. Ervine suggested leadership is about taking people where they need to go rather than telling them what they want to hear however I feel that working class unionism is inherently unrepresentable. There are no votes in trying to advance it’s best interests, only by participating in a race to the bottom. Here lies the curse of the unionist party

  • tmitch57

    Sophie, thank you for a very detailed and well-argued presentation on the PUP. I think the problem is not with the identity or the personality of the leader. Even under David Ervine the PUP was struggling after its initial successes in the Forum and Good Friday elections in the 1990s. The party has three basic problems. First, it is a paramilitary party with a broad electorate–the unionist electorate–that opposes paramilitary groups as both being terrorists and being linked to republicans. To overcome this it must break its ties to the UVF immediately. Second, its ideology is alien to mainstream unionism and again seen as similar to that of nationalists. Third, it has no connection with a preexisting unionist ideology that could legitimize its other aspects. In the West paramilitary parties have only been electorally successful in three places: in Northern Ireland (Sinn Fein), in the Republic of Ireland, and in Israel. In Israel the Herut Party (the forerunner of and main component for decades in the Likud) successfully combined the existing conservative nationalist ideology of Revisionist Zionism with the myth that it was the Irgun Zvai Leumi that was responsible for driving the British out of Palestine and achieving an independent Israel. The republican parties of the ROI could make similar claims. In NI the Sinn Fein use obfuscation to make a similar claim–that they forced London to concede power sharing. In Northern Ireland the loyalist paramilitaries cannot credibly make a similar claim. So I would argue that the PUP will remain on the fringes of unionist politics.

  • sk

    In 1974 Billy Hutchinson got in a car with his accomplice and toured Belfast looking for a couple of Catholics to murder. He found two, and they were shot in cold blood on the way to work.

    Now that was a long time ago, and there are plenty of people on both sides of the sectarian divide who have made political careers on the backs of their murderous paramilitary exploits.

    But in 2014, Hutchinson sullied the memory of those two innocent people by implying that he had “intelligence” on them and that murdering them had helped to prevent a united Ireland. This, of course, is nonsense. The ramblings of a psychopath who needs desperately to rationalise his actions to himself. If you murder two people, and then further compound the agony you have inflicted on their family by attempting to murder their memory too, then I don’t think you get to call yourself a progressive. I don’t care what your view is on tax or gay marriage if that’s the kind of man you are.

    And he has form. In June of 2010, he (progressively) picketed ASDA because they sacked a convicted loyalist killer who shouted sectarian abuse at customers. Only last week, he was indignant because a PUP member got some stick on twitter after expressing love for the Miami Showband murderers. I again found myself questioning his “progressive” bona fides.

    That’s to say nothing of the blatant bandwagon-jumping that he engaged in during the flegger debacle. He supported designated days until designated days was put into action. Very progressive.

    He feeds the same victim narrative that big house unionists have used for decades now to exploit the loyalist people. “Themmuns are getting everything, you’re getting nothing” is the current loyalist zeitgeist, and the leader of the PUP couldn’t care less that it is demonstrably, empirically untrue.

    Sophie, I hope your PhD dissertation is written with a clearer eye than this PR piece dressed up as “research”. It’ll be an awkward viva otherwise.

  • sk

    “I feel a bit sorry for Billy.”

    I watch videos like this and I feel a bit sorry for Billy too. The great loyalist leader isn’t a loyalist apparently.

    Incidentally, his interviews could make for a great drinking game. Take a swig whenever he uses the phrase “now let’s be clear” and you’ll be on your back before the end of the segment.

    Loyalism needs another Ervine, but this man certainly isn’t it.

  • The Firemen

    “Research”? Really?

  • Chingford Man

    “Ervine, who now possesses almost mythical status in Northern Ireland, and beyond…”

    Probably not in Turgon’s household.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    She certainly has an axe to grind.

  • tl;dr

  • ranger1640

    Great article, why should anyone fear a working class political party
    that expresses the views of the working class Unionist community. A
    community that has historically been ignored and marginalized. It is
    going to be difficult to break the link with the established Unionist
    parties however, if they can reach the younger voter who traditionally
    the established Unionist parties have not reached out to they have a
    good base on which to build. The selection and election of Julie-Anne Corr
    Johnston is testament to their reaching out to areas of Unionism that
    were never sought by mainstream Unionist parties.

    In my opinion education should be the main focus of their efforts, as Sinn Fein who have held the education portfolio in every Stormont assembly since 1999. Have shown little advancement in improving the educational attainment in working class Unionist areas.

    A voice for working class Unionists can only be a good thing they are the majority of Unionist after all.

  • mjh

    That is incontestable – the PUP will live with the electoral consequences whatever they are.

    There are only two motives for a political party to launching a charm offensive – to defend its existing vote if it believes that its opponents have found an effective line of attack, or to gain new votes by reassuring potential supporters.

    If it’s the latter they are making an elementary PR error in not having worked out how to respond to the main criticisms the charm offensive is likely to draw out. It leaves them looking like they have no answers. Or put another way that the criticisms are too true to be challenged.

    The PUP may well succeed in holding on to the voters who they had already won. They might even add a few more. But a charm offensive which only succeeds in highlighting and reinforcing the principal criticisms against them will not help deliver the sort of breakthrough they would need to implement any of those progressive policies.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Fair criticism mjh but to leave 20% of the Unionist Vote in Belfast without any form of political representation in government is not good in any democratic political society !

  • Sliothar

    From Murderer to MOPEr.
    That’s progress??

    Long’s whole hagiographical article reminds me of the old Groucho Marx quote:
    ‘Who are you going to believe, me or the evidence of your own eyes’?

  • David Brown

    How come it works so will for SF to be inextricably linked to a paramilitary group and they are one of the biggest if not the biggest party in the country. It appears th CNR communities have no problems electing terrorists and murderers and their apologists into government

  • mjh

    If the only option for 20% of the unionist vote in Belfast is a political party that is either unable or unwilling to deal with the criticism that the key motivation of its leadership is to provide political covering fire for the UVF then their futures are being offered up to a group which has no realistic prospect of progressing much beyond the 2% support it achieved in NI as a whole.

    That means no role in government, little influence on the local council and effective political irrelevance.

    Putting it very crudely that would be consigning those people to the political dustbin.

    Definitely not good in any democratic society.

  • Séamus

    Who knows, but she’s definitely an apologist and a fellow traveller.

  • ted hagan

    The unionist people will never; ever, in any great numbers, support parties that espouse terrorist violence. They will, however, support parties that support State violence, some of which they prefer to turn a blind eye to

  • mjh

    All of that makes perfect sense.

    What does not make any sense is to undermine this political project by accepting a leadership which is perceived to place a higher priority on keeping in with the UVF than in advancing the social and educational opportunities of its voters.

    Those who want to change the life chances of marginalised communities will need to gain the maximum number of votes and political leverage to achieve that. A perceived UVF link puts a lower ceiling on the number of votes which can be won and reduces the chances of achieving any change.

  • Turgon

    I may not be terribly keen on the second part of your contribution but it has a point: the first part even more so.

    You are also maybe overanalysing though. There is an even more profoundly simple set of reasons unionists do not vote for the PUP. The simple reality is that being bound so closely to the UVF means that they have bound themselves closely to one of the major oppressors of the urban unionist working class population. Quite simply people do not vote for those who represent the group which makes their lives worse on a day to day basis with the protection and prostitution rackets, drug dealing etc.

    The next problem is that when working class unionists decide not to vote for the PUP, the PUP, rather than try to analyse what is wrong with their pitch (to be fair they know and yet as everyone keeps rightly observing their loyalty to the UVF is vastly greater than any loyalty to working class unionists) the PUP instead simply blame working class unionists for being hoodwinked or too politically stupid to see. Insulting your electorate after having supported their oppressors is a double whammy of electoral stupidity.

    Finally the PUP have failed to note what anyone who drives around NI notes: namely that there are working class unionists in rural areas / small towns and villages as well. This unsurprising revelation seems not to have dawned on the PUP who make no attempt to reach out beyond Belfast (apart weirdly for a council seat in Coleraine – though that is likely to be voters having moved from Belfast). Maybe the 4x4s the UVF drug dealers – sorry community representatives- drive are unable to get into the countryside. Certainly I believe BMW X5s are much less good country vehicles than the assorted land rovers my relatives drive.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    1. I don’t think anyone fears the PUP, as they’ve shown no signs that they are able to mount much of an electoral threat. A handful of council seats is a good start, but winning assembly seats requires an appeal to a much wider base – and they ran away from the opportunity to talk to the electorate in the last Westminster elections.

    2. The PUP don’t express the views of the working class Unionist community, as most of them vote for the DUP.

    3. “reaching out to young people” is just another tired old cliche. No evidence that the PUP attract the youth vote any better than the DUP do.

    4. Julie Ann Corr-Johnston’s election came at the expense of the DUP. The PUP are not reaching new voters, they are taking ex-DUP votes.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Now cue everyone jumping to stick the boot into the PUP just because they are linked to the UVF.

    All the PUP need to do is pass a motion at their party conference ending their relationship with the UVF and calling upon the UVF and all other paramilitary groups to disband. That they won’t do this tells a story of its own.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    This clip is pretty symptomatic of how the PUP approach the media at the moment. When they are faced with a difficult question they start attacking the interviewer or the people around them.

    “The problem in this society is that there are more loyalist leaders than leaders of the Communist Party of China” – what on earth does that even mean ?

  • Mirrorballman

    They did! Less than 4months ago! The PUP bottled it…

  • John Collins

    Well the loyalist people had no problem electing Paisley and as far back as the sixties police reports said he had links to the UVF

  • submariner

    They wont do it as the PUP are by and large the UVF minus the balaclavas

  • Catcher in the Rye

    hmm, I think this is a simplification. There are a number of different facets to the PUP.

    It’s a sort of a shotgun marriage between shadowy figures/”community representatives” who are obviously close to the UVF, and a set of younger political ideologues who are given more or less free reign to establish policy as long as they don’t do anything that goes against the UVF’s interests. I think that this younger element are naive about the UVF’s true intentions, and this is reflected in Sophie’s article here.

    That is why Dawn Purvis’ leadership became untenable. It’s not likely that anyone will ever know about what conversations she had with the UVF prior to her resignation, but it seems clear that the UVF asserted its control over the party and told her to back off.

  • William Carr

    “Great article, why should anyone fear a working class political party
    that expresses the views of the working class Unionist community.”

    well it is led by a unrepentant sectarian murderer, linked to a terror group which is deeply involved in criminality.
    It also has a long history of being led by the nose by the mainstream unionist parties (who love to act superior to those nasty loyalists but use them when they need street muscle),

    If you are a catholic or a rival criminal gang (or anybody they disaprove off) then fearing the PUP is the sensible thing to do!

  • William Carr

    “Now cue everyone jumping to stick the boot into the PUP just because they are linked to the UVF.”
    Indeed why should anybody have a problem with links to murder gangs, some people are so unreasonable, after all when Billy murdered those two young Catholics i am sure he had all our best interests at heart.

  • William Carr

    The Pup will never become a viable political party as long as it has links to the UVF and lets itself be the muscle for the other unionist parties.
    It is amusing how some unionists loudly condemn the pup for its past but don’t have a problem making deals with them!
    It most shameful actions lately was letting the DUP/UUP exploit the loyalist community during the flegs thing, how many young loyalist ended up with criminal records to get the DUP elected in East Belfast.
    Billy did not lead his people he followed the mob!

  • “..the achievements, aims and principles of the PUP which today is flourishing, under the leadership of Billy Hutchinson.”

    3,858 first preference votes (0.6% of total votes) in the 2011 northern local election, 12,753 fpv. (2%) in the 2014 northern local election, and no PUP candidates participating the following year in the 2015 UK general election.

    In this light, it’s somewhat of an overstatement to say that the PUP are “flourishing”.

  • tmitch57

    There have been two types of paramilitary parties involved in electoral politics in the West: continuity parties and political-wing parties. The former consist of parties in which the leadership consists of the leadership of the paramilitary group, which has since gone out of business/ceased to exist or has at least publicly broken with it. Examples of this include the Ahdut ha’Avoda party (1954-68) in Israel, which was the continuation of the Palmakh, the standing portion of the prestate Hagana militia in Israel; the Herut Party, which was the continuation of the Irgun Zvai Leumi under Menahem Begin, also in Israel; Fine Gael, which was the continuation of the pro-treaty IRA in the Irish Free State; and Fianna Fail, which was the continuation of the anti-treaty portion of the IRA in the Free State. The Palmakh was abolished by Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion in October 1948, the Irgun was suppressed by the IDF in September 1948, and both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail made clear their separation from the IRA and Sinn Fein, as did subsequent parties such as Sean McBride’s Poblachta Party in the 1940s-50s, and the Democratic Party in the 1990s.

    Examples of the latter type–all in Northern Ireland–include the Ulster Democratic Party, the PUP, and Sinn Fein. The UDP went out of existence after poor results in successive elections failed to win it any Assembly seats and only a handful of council seats. The PUP is now in a similar position to the UDP as the time of its demise. Sinn Fein is now attempting to make the transition from political wing party to continuity party by pretending that the Provisional IRA no longer exists and by condemning the dissident republican paramilitaries. It is clear from this list that the key to survival and success as a paramilitary party after the conflict is over is to go the continuity party path rather than remain as the political wing of an active paramilitary group.

  • William Carr

    the problem here is ,why vote for the PUP! the DUP/UUP and TUV all use the PUP/UPRG as muscle when they need them and the PUP/UPRG seem happy enough to let them (see my comment on the loyalists who ended up with criminal records to get the east Belfast seat back for the DUP.
    This was done with the support of the PUP, why on earth would you vote for the monkey when the organ grinder is standing?

  • William Carr

    What is your opinion on the links between the PUP and the TUV/UUP/DUP! surely supporting a party with terrorist and criminal links is no different than being a member of that party.
    what (as i asked above) is the difference between the organ grinder than the monkey?

  • Gaygael

    I think they missed a trick by not running at Westminster. The official line is that they didn’t have the money to run campaigns, and needed to wait for assembly. The target seats would have been east and North belfast, where they have historically had assembly representation. They also probably would have had a run in west and south Belfast. At £500 per candidacy, that’s already £2k before the considered any other areas. So I will focus on belfast despite that surprise Cllr in causeway.
    Do you think unionist pacts dissuaded them from running, particularly east and North which became key to the pacts. Hmm…..

    So they didn’t give new found pup voters in those 2 key constituencies candidates to vote for. There were around 2.5k – 3k in each from council 2014.
    Those scores are a solid punt at an assembly seat. As the UUP also did not stand in either North or East Belfast, also, PUP chances at assembly seats can rest on staying ahead of a UUP single candidate, and being competitive with the third DUP.
    Going to be interesting. I think it has slightly more chance in North than East.
    West is not realistic, but it could be interesting to see if they can challenge the DUP for 1st place. But it’s about consolidating what should have got them 2 council seats in court, rather than poor balancing which let TUV in. I think that Hutschonsons score was more of a surprise than they expected.
    South is about growing a vote, but council scores were not promising.

  • William Carr

    A quick review of the history of all the unionist parties shows their links to terrorists and the PUL community had no problem electing them into government!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I think they got squeezed and got caught in a position where having made a decent comeback into the poltical arena in 2014 Council Elections they could have faced a Unionist Voter Backlash in 2016 (Wipeout ! ) if they had been accused of losing the 2 Unionist Westminster Seats of Belfast in 2015. They also had to listen to their core vote base who wished Naomi removed from East over the flags issue and No Gerry Kelly in North. This years results proved that such concerns would have not been unfounded.
    East Belfast : Gavin Robinson (DUP) 19,096 Naomi Long 16,978 Difference 2,118. Difinately the PUP 3K Base vote in East Belfast could have been the difference here ! A lot of other people also had done calculations regarding the figures and this is why the PUP took so much criticism from Alliance and its allies for not running because Naomi could never attract that Working Class Loyalist Vote but needed somebody to attract it to stop it going to Gavin.
    North Belfast : Nigel Doods (DUP) 19,096 Gerry Kelly 13,770. Here the PUP Base Vote of 3K would not have been the deciding factor, however what is interesting in the North Belfast Constituency and confirmed by the DUP was the number of new electors from the Loyalist Working Class Districts Registering to Vote. PUP Activists used the Sinn Fein policy of a Sectarian Head Count in North Belfast to rally supporters to get themselves onto Electoral Registers to Vote. A bit of forward thinking maybe on their behalf to get them votes in 2016 !
    I don’t buy into the arguement that the PUP did not have the money to run Westminster Election Campaigns ! I have previously seen them run Westminster Election Campaigns on “Buttons” paying the deposit and getting election leaflets printed with its activists hitting the doors in the streets.
    So in relation to your question “I think they missed a trick by not running at Westminster” I disagree “I think they missed being obliterated of the political arena” by not running in Westminster Elections this year. The general feedback in the working class loyalist areas regarding this strategy seems to be positive. Not only does the PUP require a decent base vote to knock out other political opponents in PR Assembly Elections it also needs transfers. I think they will have increased this aspect of voting patterns from this constituency. Still feel East Belfast offers best opportunity for the 6th Assembly Seat. North will be close ! West is not as far out as you think. They need to top the Unionist Vote and get the transfers !. Agree that South Belfast Council scores were not promising. A bit of work is needed here for an improvement in 2018. (However I believe they now have a carrot to get chewing on in this DEA with Developers trying to squeeze the last Working Class Unionists out of the southern side of the city centre).
    Hope I have given a fair and honest response to your question Gaygael and thanks for the debate and discussion.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    One can only hope William that no more young loyalists end up with criminal records for such sad circumstance. I would like to see these young guys get themselves involved in politics. Always the best option !

  • William Carr

    TE, still the fact remains that the DUP/UUP manipulated the situation and the famous leaflet kicked it off and the fact remains that the PUP followed the mob instead of leading it.
    If Billy had stood up and said to the DUP/UUP “fight your own battles “(note that no members of the DUP/UUP went to prison) then they would have served their people better.
    How can a party claim to be representing the loyalist working class when it helps right wing parties to gain seats and does nothing to stop young working class prods going to prison?

  • Adam Murray

    “This happened in response to Sinn Fein’s malevolent politicking”

    This is not a summary presentation of academic research, this is a clearly biased opinion piece,

    Which is fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but don’t wrap it up under the guise of phD research and academia.