Without an anti Brexit pact United Unionism will win this election

The move towards a DUP-UUP pact for the Westminster has already begun and, depending on how far the two parties are willing to go and the absence of any other pacts this could be a good election for unionism in terms of the total number of MPs returned.

A successful unionist pact could deliver as many as 11 out of the 18 seats, their best joint return in 20 years. It could also see the return of 3 Unionist MPs in Belfast for the first time since Nigel Dodds, Peter Robinson and Martin Smyth topped their respective polls in 2001.

As the DUP election leaflets already indicate they intend to make this election about ‘the Union’ and stopping Sinn Féin. What the number one issue for the Remain parties should be is Brexit and the need for Special Status for the north. This is the Brexit election in the same way that the genesis of the Assembly poll was RHI and Arlene Foster.

All of Sinn Féin’s current seats are safe by a country mile. All of the SDLP’s 3 MPs are precarious by comparison, especially in South Belfast.

The SDLP need a pact much more than Sinn Féin do and Colum Eastwood has wisely chosen not to shoot down the prospect of entering an anti-Brexit arrangement with other parties.

If the Unionist parties agree to run a single candidate in South Belfast, potentially Mike Nesbitt, they will romp home in a crowded field. To defeat a united unionist challenger the SDLP will need both Sinn Féin and the Greens to stand aside in a constituency in which both parties have seen significant growth in recent years. A big enough ask.

That is not outside the realms of possibility. Nor is a magnanimous gesture from all 3 parties in deciding to sit out East Belfast this time round in what is for all intents and purposes a two horse race between the DUP and Alliance.

The joint leaders of the Green Party’s sister party in England were straight out of the traps in calling for a pragmatic approach to the snap election. In a letter to Labour and the Lib Dems they said :

“We’d like to meet to explore the best options for beating the Tories in June. We understand that, in the immediate run up to an election, signalling a willingness to work with other parties might be difficult but we hope you’ll agree that the times we are living in require leaders to be courageous and visionary, to actively build a more positive politics,”

So what Steven Agnew has done this week is no different than what Caroline Lucas has been calling for across the pond. Whether anything of substance emerges from these engagements is anyone’s guess. And if the SDLP, Alliance and Sinn Féin were to benefit from a smaller field in South Belfast, East Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone respectively whats in it for the Greens? As it stands, with the withdrawal of the UUP, Nigel Dodds is home in a boat in North Belfast. Might the Greens insist on having a strong input into the choosing of an Independent candidate to put in a serious challenge to Dodds? Might the other parties see this as more than they are entitled to given their lower support levels?

What all the parties should remember is this. The DUP will use a United Unionist victory in this election to inject momentum and confidence into their party again and help them towards a post-RHI recovery. For those who can clearly see the impact that Brexit will have on the north it is a time for pragmatism not selfish party politics.

This post is mostly speculative. However a majority victory for the Brexiteers here in the north is fast becoming a reality unless the other parties make some tough decisions.

, ,

  • the Moor

    I can’t share your optimism about Foyle. Depends on the candidates but SF are in the ascendency in the constituency and the catholic electors at large, nationalist and republican, want a united front, an aspiration with which the SDLP’s schismatic mentality is causing misfavour. The percentage of middle class catholics willing to support SF is growing steadily and that trend won’t be reversed by SDLP chagrin.

  • Skibo

    Granni why would Papa Doc drop out? When I was talking about a party questioning dropping out I was talking about SF. This election will have no consequence an any future election as the constituency will be revised completely.

  • Granni Trixie

    Alliance are 100 per cent for trying to make the Assembly work. There is no evidence whatsoever of them trying to destabilise.

  • Granni Trixie

    Is the LIb Dem proposal for a second referendum not a referendum on the content of Mays proposal for a deal? Have I got this wrong?

  • Peggy kelly

    This election offers the SDLP an excellent opportunity. Under the cover of “Brexit concerns”, the party can test the veracity of claims that Nationalists would punish the party if it in any way accommodated agreement with Sinn Féin. This election could be used to test the waters whilst at the same time saving its three seats.

  • Gaygael

    Our leader is from Ballybeen. Our deputy leader from Clonard. I was born in the new lodge.

    You should meet some greens before falling for the middle class cliche!

  • Redstar

    Had to laugh at them on Sunday politics saying they never do pacts or stand aside……..they have of course

    Yet again their holier than thou stance is exposed

  • the Moor

    Your own and your leader’ and deputy-leader’s credentials aren’t the issue. The NI party’s appeal, as psephological data shows, is to progressive fractions of the professional class, with a few proletarian antisectarian refuseniks at the edges. The latter, I applaud, incidentially, but overall, the relevance of the NI Greens in my view is very much of tertiary, side-order significance to the meat and potatoes of the NI polity.

  • Granni Trixie

    i misunderstood sorry. There is still the general point though that the Doc is one of the people in the SDLP who would have difficulty agreeing to a pact with Sf even if it benfits him.

  • Deeman

    Travers does not represent nationalist or sdlp opinion. Victims say all sorts of things as one would expect due to their pain and suffering.

  • Deeman

    Is she pro Irish language and narrow water bridge?

  • Deeman

    SF will take south down, just. Unionists will not vote Ritchie in this time for fear of lodging vote for a united irelander. Also sdlp are under attack from alliance and SF. If SF put one of the local very popular mla , Ennis or hazard then they have a great shout.

  • Redstar

    Whilst not a Green supporter it’s generally accepted up at the toytown parliament that Mr Agnew is absolutely no mug

  • Gaygael

    I don’t think you have access to the tally data that I have. I think you might be surprised where our votes come from. Our appeal is surprisingly diverse. We just need to keep growing it by knocking doors and helping with issues.

    Policy wise we are in the vanguard of progressive social issues. Where we lead, others soon follow.

    We are indeed outside the big five but do not lose any seats at the last election despite dire predictions of what reduction to five would do to us.

    As for the meat and potato of much of ni politics, it’s often a distracting sideshow of sectarian squabbling. I’m quite happy on the fringe of that trying to introduce new conversations and ideas.

  • Redstar

    Ritchie has said she’s very confident of winning and is probably the most vociferous in their party against any pact

  • the Moor

    Sorry, no, that’s a blah, blah, blah answer. Your significance as a party is peripheral: as vehicle for middle class abstinence from the sectarian blocs. While that’s a phenomena, I applaud, the NI Greens’ significance is ancillary, at best. The sectarian squabbling you refer to as a ‘distraction’ is in fact a reflection, or an analogue, of the realpolitik. Wishing it not be so isn’t going to make it otherwise and that unfortunate truth isn’t about to change until the matter of the constitutional status of NI is resolved. The bigger question for the future of the island, for the NI Greens, is whether or not you’re willing to contribute to a social and politically progressive resolution of an historically divided polity and society. The internalist disposition of your politics suggests you’re content with partition. That, in the interim, or the end, isn’t an acceptable stance for a self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ party.

  • Redstar

    Jesus and you called HIS a blah blah answer!!!!

  • Reader

    Anon Anon: The contrast Nationalism should be looking to draw is between a vibrant democracy with open debate and the closed circled wagons of Unionism.
    So if there is a nationalist pact, nationalism will have failed to show that contrast?

  • johnny lately

    Dont get that one Skibo, anyhoos I’ll take that as a “that will never happen” Could you give me a logical reason why Republicans should not be statnding shoulder to shoulder with the SNP demanding separate border polls or Brexit conditions that would benefit all of the Irish people. This is once in a lifetime opportunity a unique time when we have two parts of the union demanding border polls, Irish numbers don’t matter in Westminister but aligned with others of likewise mindset, those numbers could decide the fate of the union.

  • Mark Petticrew

    My centrist reference is in relation to what I see as the cultural spectrum of northern politics; two forms of nationalism – Irish and British – at either end, with the least nationalistic of northerners placed at the centre of it.

    Given the zero-sum nature of the constitutional question, however, the nuances of this spectrum would be overridden in a future border poll; it ultimately boiling down to a binary choice.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Is your faulure to provide any evidence for this claim related to the fact that you just made it up?

  • Timothyhound

    So in the likely event of a unionist pact with no nationalist equivalent the SDLP lose SB. They may hold Foyle and SD. FST stays with UU. A majority of NI MP’s then support Brexit. And no assembly. So no anti Brexit voice worth noting. Seems like SDLP doomed to eventual irrelevance. Or maybe not?

  • mickfealty

    It’s of no relevancy to Brexit or not anti Brexit tallies. I have suggested another motive above.

  • the keep

    Which leaders of unionism covered up child abuse?

  • the Moor

    There surely is a substantial body of activity, opinions, experience and beliefs in local society in the north of Ireland not captured by or reducible to or even described by the ethnicist logics of the sectarian blocs – orange and green, partitionist and antipartitionist. This thick-margin, comprising as much as 30% if Social Trends data is to be believed, no doubt experiences the ding-dong of sectarian politics on a continuum from quietism, frustration, alienation through to apathy or outright dejection. This ensemble of disparite interests, moreover, is not represented by the either/or structures of the GFA arrangement, nor by the tertiary, inferiorizing category of miscellaneous ‘other’. Indeed, unwittingly, an effect of the power sharing consensus, it seems to me, is to rigidify the authority of the sectarian binary of prodtaigery obstructing the emrgence of pluralist alternatives. In truth, though, ‘normal’ left-right/ socioeconomic modern politics are occluded in Ireland as long as the historic rupture of partition remains at the core of our politics. The SDLP may yet have a role to play in promoting in the period ahead a third option in a future border poll: namely joint sovereignty, this third model feasibly reflecting something closer to the thoroughly hybrid both/and realities of everyday lived experience outside of existentially limiting either/or.

  • Skibo

    Tell me which party was running the North during Kincora? Which party was running the North during the time of the Magdelele laundries in the North. Thes set-ups were not limited to the South and were part of the Government’s response to a problem for society. They would all have been inspected and approved. Who was in official power?

  • Skibo

    While the Doc would not officially agree with it, I would believe privately he would welcome it like Snow at Christmas. Here today and hopefully gone tomorrow.

  • Gopher

    Alliances solution is special status is it not?

  • Skibo

    That is simple, while the SNP strive for independence, they accept the fact that Westminster is the home of power for Scotland.
    SF does not accept it. While they will operate Stormont, they would look at it as Irish people operating power over part of Ireland. May seem a contradiction but the fact that SF rejected their seats in Westminster in 1918 will always act as precedent.

  • Skibo

    If you read the letter from the Executive to Theresa May http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37610633
    you will notice what Arlene is looking for too is the equivalent of special status.

  • Skibo

    Do pro remain/ special region status allow the fact of a running Stormont allow their message to be dulled down by ardent Brexiters in DUP?
    Will a working Assembly help or hinder that message?

  • Mark Petticrew

    I personally have my doubts about the argument that through doing away with partition, an economistic left-right political spectrum would soon follow in the north; a key component of this argument being that unionism post-partition would simply enmesh itself into the new 32 county political landscape.

    Instead, I see unionism continuing to operate as an independent political force; effectively a British nationalist bloc in the north of the island championing the minority interest of Ireland’s unionist tradition.

  • Skibo

    What I would expect to happen is those within the Unionist diaspora who remain staunchly Unionist and Loyalist will reject the ballot box completely similar to the hard line republican elements within the North do now. The rest who are interested in politics will realise that as the constitutional question is settled that day to day politics becomes more important.

  • Skibo

    I would be concerned if Richie said anything else prior to negotiations.
    My only concern on the SF vote in South Down is will it think the Westminster election has enough importance to go out and vote again.

  • Skibo

    That is the way I read it too Granni.

  • Skibo

    What’s the betting they have Rory McIlroy out next to say he will never vote SDLP again either!

  • the Moor

    Nothing is for certain of course. Any which way, differences of terminology and timeframe notwithstanding, a century on from the trauma of partition, the historical forces favouring unification of the island loom evermore irresistible.

  • Skibo

    Well I believe she was one of the people who voted against this election. She also voted against the bill to give TM’s a dictatorship on negotiations for Brexit.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think so (though not entirely sure) but it makes sense to me to make the case to Europe that as a divided society coming out of conflict in which the EU has heavily invested financially in supporting the peace process, we ask for special consideration to the impact of a hard border etc.
    If you don’t like this because it makes us different to other regions of the Uk you are in denial – we are different, would that we weren’t.
    In the aftermath of a civil war I agree that the last thing we need is instability but Brexit is here and instability is the name of the game.

  • AntrimGael

    Wasn’t William McGrath involved with TARA, a shadowy Unionist/British Intelligence grouping?

  • AntrimGael

    Unionist pacts in 2017 are like the engineers and below deck men on the Titanic. Frantically rushing about trying to plug all the gaps but knowing in their heart of hearts that they have struck the iceberg of Irish Unity and are doomed to the inevitable. Orange/Loyalist marches/parades are the orchestra equivalent on this ship; beating drums and tunes of defiance but sinking below the waves rapidly.

  • Pete

    This whole issue is very confusing.

    Apparently:

    Anti-Brexit pact: Progressive and good
    Pro-union pact: Evil and sectarian

    Spot the double standards…

  • Skibo

    I have repeated the opposite before, Unionist pact natural politics, Nationalist pact sectarian.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Perhaps they’ll now agree to play Abide with Me when passing a church.

  • AntrimGael

    Should we take our caps off in respect at such fine fellows accepting their fate?

  • the keep

    He never was a leader of mainstream unionism whilst Adams is clearly the leader of a major party

  • Anon Anon

    It’s not binary, but they’ll have passed up a great way to do it. It remains to be seen how they campaign elsewhere.

    It’s an understandable reaction but I’ve never liked pacts.

  • Gopher

    Which means she has to be clear on whether or not she supports Special Status

  • Gopher

    Well if she supports “Special Status” I hope the UUP and DUP run a joint candidate against her.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I have had a thought about TV Mike being parachuted into South Belfast and like you say with new boundaries coming into play next time making it South-West Belfast constituency it is difficult to see past a SF safe seat forever however if TV Mike done 5 years as a South Belfast MP and helped the constituency then if nothing else he could be seen as a credible alternative for the Middle Class of South West Belfast having an attending MP rather than an abstentionist SF one ? If nothing else if it went down to a two horse race it would give SF a little bit of a scrap for the seat ? Not a bad strategy ?

  • Gopher

    The day after the election support for “Special Status” will be interepted anyway SF see fit, just like they did with the referendum. I value the UK more than the EU and if the result demonstrates the majority of people value the UK over the EU will you accept that result?

  • Croiteir

    It would be madness for the Alliance to agree any pact – simply because the SDLP need it to survive.

    Let us look at it this way.

    If the SDLP have no pact and the unionists do, the SDLP will lose SB. They may even lose SD, but less likely. It is just a nail in the coffin of the SDLP, Which is a gain for Alliance.

    If the SDLP do not have a pact they will get the blame if SF lose FST again, they will lose support.

    If the SDLP do have a pact they will lose SD, Unionists will not give Ritchie support in that scenario.

    If they do have a pact they will hold SB, lose SD and also risk the passing of more support to SF in FST for the longer term.

    SF and Alliance would be mad to go into the pact, in terms of the mid to long term. A pact keeps the SLP afloat.

    SDLP are damned if they do and damned if they don’t,

    There is no easy way out for the SDLP.

    Every election is now one on the border. No one is fooled by this Brexit stuff. And as the demographics grind on the border will become more and more prevalent. I believe that the tribes will start to unify behind there strongest man, it is really a DUP/SF fight – decided only by submission. And the great news for nationalism? There is only one party that has the capacity to submit.

    As an aside I do not think that the SDLP will just up tents and leave, I mean the SDLP will cease to be a party of any consequence. They will just wither away until they have a few old stalwart councillors, and when those councillors fade away so too would the SDLP.

  • Croiteir

    If I were SF I would unilaterally pull out of SB to put moral pressure on them in FST and cause long term harm there is they do not give SF a clear run in return – but then again why bother? Who cares about unionists in Westminster.

  • Fear Éireannach

    There is no double standard. The purpose of the union is sectarian, the EU is not sectarian in purpose.

  • Fear Éireannach

    It may well come to being only about the border soon enough, as the unionists have basically withdrawn from any notion of consensus. It is regrettable though that the other parties cannot make some collective defence of the GFA but are more interested in jobs for the boys.

  • Sean79

    The SDLP’s concern here should be that Nationalists will punish them for NOT agreeing an anti-btexit pact. Sinn Féin cant really lose here I suspect Eastwood knows this.

  • Katyusha

    She doesn’t share the same manifesto as SF. She shares the wish to insulate Northern Ireland from the effects of Brexit (that is one item, not a manifesto) with a substantial contingent of the population, and may or may not support broadly similar measure to SF in that respect.

    Is it really necessary for Unionism to define itself as the “anti-SF” at every turn? If SF affirm that grass is green must the unionist parties insist its blue instead?

  • Katyusha

    I think, Croiteir, in FST it ultimately doesn’t matter if the SDLP stand aside, as if SF unilaterally pull out of SB the vote in FST will rally around SF anyway. An SDLP refusal to reciprocate does harm to their image in the constituency. Well, that’s how it flew in 2010 anyway.

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter, as SF won’t take their seats and we’ll have to put up with Tom Elliot on the airwaves either way.

  • Gaygael

    It’s not a blah blah answer. Other parties will also have similar tally data and would be able to confirm that your perception bias leads you to a wrong conclusion.

    The settlement on the constitutional status was agreed by an overwhelming majority in 1998. That is what we support including implementation of the outstanding elements of the people’s agreement. That you define that position as not progressive more likely gives lie to your own preference.

    We are still peripheral yes, but that does not mean we haven’t moved the agenda forward on a range of social justice issues, despite the background noise of what you call the ‘realpolitik’.

  • Katyusha

    I fail to understand why SDLP voters would bother to turn out for an abstentionist candidate having for years voted in vain for a candidate who would have represented them at Westminster.

    You fail to understand FST, really. I say this coming from a clan of SDLP-turned-SF voters.
    Who honestly noticed the SDLP ever representing anyone at Westminster? Did they ever have any power? Did they ever have any influence? People voted SDLP because it was the go-to vote for Catholic nationalists, especially those totally repulsed by the Provos, their ideology and the ruthlessness ad immorality of the armed campaign.

    Now the IRA are gone, SF have moved onto the SDLP’s old social-democratic territory, the nationalist vote has consolidated and SF are provinding the nationalist electorate with a strong voice. What need is there for the SDLP? What do they offer?

  • Croiteir

    I think that was the general thrust of the post, and I bet if the dulcet tones of Mr Elliot carouse the gentle people of FST as a result of SDLP enabling it will aid the further electorial pursuits of the SDLP.

  • the Moor

    Among the ‘others’ peopling the margin of local politics, I wish the NI Greens well. I applaud your positions on social matters, notably on women’s reproductive rights and the extension of the 1967 Act. This in itself is worth a strong preference in PR elections.

    If I may, by way of closure, a couple of points of clarification in response to your doubtful statements. First, let us be clear, by ‘settlement’ you demonstrably mean: the NI Greens defer to take-up a public position on the constitution, in effect thus endorsing things as they are. In this way yours is a defacto ‘internalist’, or in other words, a wee-six, partitionist discourse. Second, you demonstrate again an inverse understanding of the true relations of magnitude and perspective, characterising the dissensual, zero-sum character of politics in the north of Ireland as ‘background noise’! This wrong-end-of-the-telescope way of seeing puts me in mind of the famous Father Ted scene, where Ted tries vainly to explain to Dougal the copernican basis of the relationship as between relative size and distance: ‘Small. Far away.’ Thanks for the memory.

  • Paul Hagan

    She voted ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum is that what you mean? – Has she confirmed she’s standing in the general election?

  • grumpy oul man

    what is this stabilty ticket you keep going on about, what does it mean.
    I have asked you this before and no answer,define your terms please.

  • grumpy oul man

    So if i decide to leave Freeman’s catalogue, will i have to engage in two years on negations, perhaps change the legal status of many people who moves here and set up a new customs regime (among other things) not a bit of wonder they hang onto their customers.

  • grumpy oul man

    So let me get this right, if the majority of voters,vote for nationalist candidates you will accept it as a border poll!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Amazing how the Brexit narrative is being seamlessly woven into nationalist narratives, as if the two are the same cause.

  • grumpy oul man

    You mean wanting to decide our own fate instead of the English deciding for us,
    And isn’t it wonderful how leaving​ the EU is being seamlessly woven into Unionist narratives as if they were the same cause.

  • grumpy oul man

    Stable means, keeping things the same and not changing things,
    How in the name of God is Brexit keeping things the same and not changing things.
    It’s going to change a awful lot.