Friday, November 21, 2008

Ulster Unionists & Conservatives Join Forces

The news that the Ulster Unionists and the Conservatives have come to an agreement to stand under a joint ticket in future elections must surely be welcomed by everyone. I blogged about the initiative HERE in July...
Slowly but surely Northern Ireland politics is emerging from their sectarian past. The Tory/UUP deal may even encourage a few Tory minded Catholics to transfer their allegiances. It may not happen overnight, but this move will be seen by many as not only David Cameron, but the UUP opening up a bigger tent.
The official statement put out by Owen Paterson, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland puts it succinctly...
The Northern Ireland Conservatives have agreed unanimously and the Ulster Unionist Executive with virtual unanimity to back this agreement. I very much hope this new force will reach out to all voters, particularly those who feel they have been alienated by the current political landscape in Northern Ireland and want to influence national Government, putting sectarian divisions behind them.”
It remains slightly unclear as to what banner candidates will stand. Apparently there are a few difficulties with the electoral authorities over this. I would have thought Ulster Conservatives was as good a compromise as any. After all, we have the Scottish and Welsh Conservatives.

But this agreement is about far more than party politics. It is a sign that the Good Friday Agreement is succeeding and a further sign that sectarian politics is on the wane. I really hope that the LibDems and Labour Parties follow suit with the Alliance and the SDLP respectively. If they do, the sectarian interests which dominate Sinn Fein and the DUP will, over time, diminish in importance. They are certainly still there at the moment.

If Northern Ireland is to succeed it needs to attract the very best people into politics - the kind of people who, for the last twenty or thirty years wouldn't have given a political career a second thought. This move will encourage them to do so.

Well done to Owen Paterson for his tenacity and dedication in pulling this off. It's a real achievement to be proud of.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

So are these UU OK about Gays Iain, or do they recommend the Edward the Second solution?

Ann said...

Iain, agreed. I believe things are moving forward. I believe that a lot of people are still cling to the past, why not , it worked for a lot of people. They gained political careers and money out of sectarianism. I think people here are tired of that, and are thirsting for something more, something different. I certainly hope FF will come on the scene in a big way also.

Hopefully it signals a new dawn. One can only hope. :)

Cranmer said...

'Ulster Conservatives' would open up a can of very offensive (or very offended) worms.

Ulster is not a synonym for Northern Ireland. The voters of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan would be - to say the least - somewhat confused by the term 'Ulster Conservatives'.

Stephen Glenn said...

I'm sure our Northern Ireland Branch would welcome a more formal agreement with my Alliance bretheren, it really would be an end of sectarian politics once things like the current politics in Northern Ireland is devided by bread and butter policy issues rather that quasi religious allegiences.

Desperate Dan said...

No I don't welcome it. I've always preferred the Republicans. They're better looking; have better songs and jokes and literature; they're not so shouty; they have better graffiti; they've historically been unfairly discriminated against; I can't stand Rangers supporters; I don't think they were involved with the Kinkora Boys Home; Unionists aren't much fun.

Manfarang said...

The NI Conservatives are a fringe group and it is the Ulster Unionist Party(UUP) that is on the wane.I doubt whether this agreement will change its fortunes.
There are,as Owen Paterson rightly says,those who are alienated who want to influence national Government-the one in Dublin.

Jimmy Sands said...

I'm not sure how this addresses the obvious lack of correlation. A unionist is not necessarily a conservative (the late Harold McCusker springs to mind, not to mention the sole current MP Sylvia Hermon who has voted regularly with the government). The Labour/SDLP analogy is even more flawed as it proceeds on the premise that nationaist will identify with a UK party. If SDLP merges it will almost certainly be with Fianna Fail. The UUP no doubt gets some spurious sense of relevance out of this but I don't see the upside for the tories. One extra MP at the expense of an almost unlimited potential for embarassment and I suspect a substantial loss in terms of mainland Irish voters.

Anonymous said...

This agreement would appear little different from the same agreement that existed before 1972.

It also reinforces the image of the UUP being weak and getting weaker.

As for the SDLP they're a nationalist party so there's little liklihood of them joining a UK party. The talk has actually been about them allying or becoming part of Fianna Fail.

Blackacre said...

Does that mean Lord Trimble will now rejoin the UUP?

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Anonymous: The UUP has had many LGBT members, including some quite prominent ones, and were spitting blood over Iris Robison's bigotry.

This is a good move in general but don't expect an SDLP/Labour link-up. The SDLP has long had divisions over whether it's a social democratic or nationalist party and to a large extent it's chosen the latter course despite still being members of Socialist International and taking the Labour whip. Virtually all the talk of them joining up with a party in the Republic has been about Fianna Fail, not (Irish) Labour, and most of the would-be (UK) Labour activists in the province tend to be pro Union.

iain, ni said...

The Good Friday Agreement isnt working. Its a farce.

That said, I welcome the link, though I hope to God its not the same tired old faces of the UUP who will be standing as candidates here under a UUP/Conservative banner. Half-hearted measures will see the electorate shun the new set-up. We need the full force of the Conservative Party to make it effective....in all areas of politics too.
Assembly, local, Westminster and Europe. No ifs, no buts...do it right this time.

Old Dominion Tory said...

If Cranmer's right, and Ulster Conservatives will cause a ruckus, then, how about calling them Irish Conservatives and making it a cross-border effort? It just might help reshape the tired, chummy politics in the Republic as it reforms the sectarian politics of Northern Ireland.

Terry Heath said...

"Ulster Conservatives was as good a compromise as any. After all, we have the Scottish and Welsh Conservatives."

Does this mean they might also create English Conservatives? Or are we just going to be taken for granted, as per?

Anonymous said...

Yeah .High time England had a Conservative party instead of always being taken for granted and gathered up in this British stuff

Cranmer said...

If Cranmer's right...

Gosh.

There is doubt?

It is not often His Grace sees his name preceded by the conditional conjunction.

Jonathan M. Scott said...

Re attracting the best people. What happens when London starts parachuting A-listers into Ulster seats?

Stephen Glenn said...

As a Northern Irish born Scottish Liberal Democrat with an English University Education with Donegal roots on three grandparental lines, may I just reiterate what Cranmer says it would have to be Northern Irish Conservatives of Conservative Party of Northern Ireland and not use the term Ulster in the title. Or it would be a backward step.

Although those of my anticendents who signed the Ulster Covenant in Donegal would probably be more een on the idea than I.

Anonymous said...

For those who say they are a fringe group and on the wane I would point out that the Ni Tories negotiated this deal after approaches to them by UU members.
The Joint Committee will have 4 UUs and 4 NORTHERN IRELAND Conservatives
As for the lack of correlation - the party vote virtually unanimously to do a deal with the Conservatives.
I hope that the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats do the decent thing and organise in NI and provide a home for them

Anonymous said...

There goes the west lothian and English question then?

Anonymous said...

Well Desperate dan ,do you know what anniversry comes around now.
The 1974 Birmingham bombs ,when 21
young people were butchered .(Don't
know if any were Rangers!,but i'm sure the bombers wern't).
Republicans better looking !,i
think Adams and Mcguiness would struggle to qualify for Mr,
Neanderthal world.

Anonymous said...

Talking of Adams and Mcguiness, why are people hounding BNP members when terrorists can take seats at Westminster?

Raedwald said...

Uhm, given the demographic projections for a Catholic voting majority within the next few decades in the province, shouldn't the Ulster Unionists be debating whether they'd prefer to join with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael?

Anonymous said...

Why the Tory fetish with the UUP? A broken party whose sectarian rule over 50 years largely contributed to the outbreak of the Troubles in the first place. They are not even major players in Ulster politics now and no one in England save a few loons cares about NI so where is the benefit?

Anonymous said...

the SDLP is a socialist and irish nationalist party not a UK nationalist party.

If it links with Labour it becomes a unionist party and will have sold out on its irishness -any fool, regardless of agreemnt or disagreemet with the irish project, can see that

FF will only be interested in the SDLP to stop Sinn Fein if SF beocme an issue in the South again

SDLP leadership is courted and treated with respect by FF if it is incorporated within FF they will be no more important than Offlay FF.

So not being a UK entity and SDLP egos with a weak SF in the South
means the SDLP does not joing FF but remains as it is at the mercy, like any party, of the electoral winds

britologywatch said...

From a Northern Irish perspective, this may or may not seem a hopeful prospect. But from an English perspective, it just looks like the Tories replacing the West Lothian Question with the Ulster Question: attempting to create or inflate a UK-parliamentary majority that will be used to push through England-only bills that non-English MPs have no business voting about. It'll be used to demonstrate that the Tories are not an England-only party by at least giving them some representation from N. Ireland to offset their likely electoral annihilation in Scotland and possibly Wales.

Why don't we just call the combined party 'the Conservative (England) and Unionist (Northern Ireland) Party': English unionists shoring up the defences as Scotland and Wales desert the cause.