Friday, April 9, 2010

FST- the "resolve" finally cracks

The DUP and Ulster Conservatives and Unionists (UCU) have agreed on running a joint unionist candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Rodney Connor, a former chief executive of Fermanagh District Council, will stand as an independent.

Mr Connor said that he is prepared to accept the Conservative whip, but, on matters concerning Northern Ireland, he will vote on basis of what he believes is in the best interests of his constituents.
So, does that make him a Conservative and Unionist candidate? Technically no; he's an independent and despite numerous past assertions to the contrary, there won't now be a Conservative and Unionist running in FST.

I think it's a wrong decision by the C&Us:

1. It undermines, possibly fatally, the main publicised selling-point behind the UUP and Conservative link-up. Election pacts such as this can not deliver the new pro-Union politics promised here.
2. It sets a precedent which is uniquely Northern Irish, ie joint "agreed" candidates won't be taking on nationalists in Scotland and Wales. Once again we are being cut adrift from mainstream UK politics.
3. It passes the initiative back to the DUP, both in terms of the South Belfast question and the overall fight for the soul of Unionism in Northern Ireland.
4. Election pacts, by their nature, are undemocratic- provide the widest possible options for the electorate and let them not the party managers choose their representatives.
5. It displays a disturbing lack of confidence in the pro-Union message, can it only be sold on a narrow communal basis?
6. "We will run Conservative candidates in every seat in the United Kingdom". Pledge not fulfilled, makes it more difficult to convince the electorate of your sincerity in the future obviously


It's a pity; there are very good candidates standing in most of the constituencies for the C&Us, candidates who exemplify clearly the "change" promised originally by this link-up. Ironically enough, I also think Connor epitomises what should have been the message of the C&Us more than the originally chosen candidate Tom Elliott. But arriving on the ballot paper in this manner is not a good example of "post-communal" Unionism.

25 comments:

aprni99 said...

I understand all the points that you raise and would be the last to want to see democracy limited in any way. I vote, not along party lines but, for the person I think will do the work on behalf of the people. As a voter in FST I am fed up with the fact that I have not been represented at Westminster for the last nine years.

I credit Michelle Gildernew with good work for the people of FST but regardless of what she says she is limited if she does not attend and vote on my behalf. In the past been happy to give her a vote in Assembly elections where I think she does a good job.

I am undecided in who I will vote for or if I will vote but at least there is the opportunity that the people of FST will be fully represented in parliament.

Those who live in constituencies where the MP actually fulfils their mandate are in a fortunate position and should be loathed to criticise those in constituencies where this is not the case. Hence my annoyance at Naomi Long on Talkback. Alliance are fielding a candidate in FST who (with no racial overtones at all) was born in Mumbai, who I think might live in Belfast and who appears to have no connection whatsoever with FST. A realistic local candidate is surely what is called for.

Given all this I cannot discount Mr Connor.

Chekov said...

I agree that Connor is probably a far better cross community, Conservative candidate than Elliott would ever have been. This is a Conservative and Unionist in all but name. His political heroes are Hague and Churchill! However it is a climbdown and I still agree with each of the points you make against a 'unity' candidate.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a republican from Mid-Ulster, but I'll say this anyway. I have a strange understanding of why the whole ucunf thing is admirable, in that it seeks to bring a 'detached' region of the UK into the mainstream as it were. The unionists in FST will however be no better off whatsoever for having Rodney Connor than Michelle Gildernew. The UCUNF project, while admirable in theory, is sunk by the reality that the UUP is a sectarian party. People like you and Alex Kane may cringe at this, but in reality you know it is true. 'Normal' politics in NI can only occur when partitiion is ended. Simply because, until that point comes, unionists number one priority will be obsessing over its existence, and heeding like sheep the ridiculous assertion that someone the union is safer because a unionist represents a nationalist majority constituency. Real civic/conservative unionism cannot exist here. I sympathise with you, but it proves UCUNF now is a total joke.

Anonymous said...

Rejoice. UCUNF was not a takeover by the Tories but an alliance of a NI unionist party with a GB one.

It could never hope to "deliver the new pro-Union politics" by pretending not to be unionist or actually preferring that a nationalist wins a seat to keep its image unsullied.

Pro-union politics, when the union is the issue, have to be anti-nationalist (without being sectarian).

tony said...

So is the consensus that unionist parties will always fall back on zero sum politics premised on essentially bigotted politics?

of course the easy (and lazy)reply to the above is recourse to sophistry about Unionism vs nationalism and how that itself is not bigotry. You are better and more honest than that though Oneil. The UUP desperately need a new leader, I have been impressed by McGimp. Surely it is obvious that only the DUP will win out of this kind of politics. You guys can see that.......right?!?!

Incidently my view is that neither the SDLP or SF should follow this biggoted agenda and sully themselves so.

What about the labour scalp in Moray eh? Anti-Catholic songs and foul mouthed abuse, not to mention the unforgiveable Frankie Boyle patter a la slave labour and banana's.

jonston said...

This is a Conservative and Unionist in all but name...........


except he wont take the tory whip on matters relating to Northern Ireland, which is pretty much everything - the budget, defense, social security, national security, europe.

The DUP have played a blinder and once again the Tories are shown as a party unable to keep its word and be trusted

Anonymous said...

Moderate Unionist says..

oneill, jolly well said. This will damage Cameron's standing and credibility on Northeren Ireland and of course confirm the historic Nationalist mistrust of the Tories. David of course will know this but perhaps feared a fracture in UUCNF before the election.

He will also have gambled that this issue will not resonate back 'home' on the mainland (and he is probably right about that) but it does not sit terribly well with his other cast iron committment on a Euro Referendum - scoring political own goals happens from time to time but rarely does a player knock in a few before he is power and the game has actually started.

Urban_Underclass said...

This election is a sideshow. Please abstain from either voting or discussing it.

Rory

O'Neill said...

OK, thanks for the comments.

Rather than answer each person individually, I have tried to deal with the most important points:

“I agree that Connor is probably a far better cross community, Conservative candidate than Elliott would ever have been.

Makes you wonder why he wasn’t approached in the first place, other point is that FST hasn’t suddenly popped up out of nowhere, its facts where known when the” every seat will be fought” promise was made

“Those who live in constituencies where the MP actually fulfils their mandate are in a fortunate position and should be loathed to criticise those in constituencies where this is not the case”

Regular readers here will know I’m no Sinn Fein apologist; the fact is though they stand before the electorate as abstentionist candidates, they don’t hide the fact. If they win, then they win because the other parties across the board haven’t done a good enough persuading job. Also look at the attendance records of the NI MPs, how many of them who theoretically are non-abstentionist actually "fulfill their mandate"?

“Surely it is obvious that only the DUP will win out of this kind of politics. You guys can see that.......right?!?!

The DUP have played a blinder and once again the Tories are shown as a party unable to keep its word and be trusted”


Yes. The DUP is at their best as a political machine when their back is up against the wall, they are no good at leading positively from the front. In this election, they are fighting a rear-guard action due to a whole host of reasons (and potential scenarios)- hence the runner from North Down and now this. When the DUP vote naturally drops, there’s 2 reasons already.

Their vote will drop but they may well have succeeded (aided by typical “shotgun aimed at own foot” tactics from the UUP) in neutralising the Cus.

O'Neill said...

“Incidently my view is that neither the SDLP or SF should follow this biggoted agenda and sully themselves so.”

Part of me (to prove a point) hoped that the SDLP would withdraw; the fact that they didn’t is an honourable decision and one Unionism could learn from.

“It could never hope to "deliver the new pro-Union politics" by pretending not to be unionist or actually preferring that a nationalist wins a seat to keep its image unsullied”

Do the Unionist parties in Scotland and Wales form alliances to keep out the SNP or PC? Why not?
What makes us different then? If the “image had remained unsullied”, the seat may have been lost, but pro-Union politics would have been the winner in the long-term. The definition of long-term being winning the next border poll, not, as it is at the moment, getting a favourable editorial in tomorrow’s issue of The Newsletter.

“The UCUNF project, while admirable in theory, is sunk by the reality that the UUP is a sectarian party.”

Check out the candidates standing for us, how many would you label as sectarian?

“except he wont take the tory whip on matters relating to Northern Ireland, which is pretty much everything - the budget, defense, social security, national security, europe.”

Confused with this one. Matters relating to NI dealt with at Westminster are naturally limited due to devolution; on the UK budget, defence, social security, national security, Europe, matters of social conscience etc, he’ll be taking the Conservative whip which (think back to “42 days”) may well bring him into conflict with the DUP MPs. It’s not the point that he’s nominally an independent or that he’ll be too pro-DUP which bother me here.

”This will damage Cameron's standing and credibility on Northeren Ireland and of course confirm the historic Nationalist mistrust of the Tories”

He could have played a completely straight bat on this and that nationalist mistrust would have remained, that’s not his main problem...it’s more the fact that someone like me, someone on the same side, can see the contradiction between statements and actions!

PS if you’re the Moderate Unionist from Slugger, if Mr Connor wins, I’m not regarding it as a Conservative and Unionist victory with respect to our little wager;)

Anonymous said...

(“The UCUNF project, while admirable in theory, is sunk by the reality that the UUP is a sectarian party.”

Check out the candidates standing for us, how many would you label as sectarian?)

Thanks for reading my comment O'Neill. As an agnostic Irish Republican I couldn't care less about any candidate's religion. Some new UCUNF selections like Ringland are undoubtedly impressive in that they represent unionists comfortable with their pluralist identity. However, I stand by my statement about the sectarianism inherent in the UUP. My local MLA, Billy Armstrong, has a picture of a 12th July parade on his homepage. How does that attract Catholics to transfer to him next year? If Reg Empey was truly serious about non-sectarian unionism, he would not be foolishly led into bed by the DUP. All for the sake of potentially one more hand going up for Cameron? He has compromised the entire project fatally.

O'Neill said...

However, I stand by my statement about the sectarianism inherent in the UUP.

With the exception of Danny Kennedy and Fred Cobain, the candidate line-up a very different one from any previous Ulster Unionist campaign; a party which was inherently sectarian wouldn't made those selections.

He has compromised the entire project fatally.

In my own post, I put that as "possibly"; if a *deal* is done on South Belfast, then it's a "definitely"

Anonymous said...

oneill,

I am the same 'moderate unionist' from slugger-me-tool and I will be demanding arbitration on that bet if it depends on FST.

tony said...

>>Part of me (to prove a point) hoped that the SDLP would withdraw; the fact that they didn’t is an honourable decision and one Unionism could learn from.<<

This obvious largesse extends to SF also.

Do you feel as if you have been misled by the whole UUCNF thing Oneil, and are you now considering withdrawing your support? or does sectarian unity candidates still fall within the parrameters of the Unionist "broad church" that you are forever going on about?

O'Neill said...

"This obvious largesse extends to SF also."

It was more the fact that is the SDLP had withdrawn then it would have become a straight sectarian fight...and, well...would we then have criticised the SDLP for leaving the electorate with that choice? (BTW Gildernew has fully exploited the situation, so she has lost any possible moral high ground.)

Do you feel as if you have been misled by the whole UUCNF thing Oneil, and are you now considering withdrawing your support?

You're probably not the best person to admit this to, but at this moment, I seriously don't know. The vast majority of the CU candidates deserve the maximum support as individual candidates yet if a deal on South Belfast is done then the whole thing is knackered as far as I'm concerned.

tony said...

Ach c'mon Oneil! Surely you aren't just another 'smash SF' punter? SF could also have taken the decision to withdraw and leave the fight to the SDLP. Unlikely I know but still.

>>You're probably not the best person to admit this to....<<

Don't worry just put cream on it...........;¬) Ach I'm yir pal who happens to want to steer you onto a better path.

>>...if a deal on South Belfast is done then the whole thing is knackered as far as I'm concerned.<<

Don't worry if this is done I'm sure you will come up with another excuse.

Unionism is sectarian to the core, pretending it aint won't make it so. Pointing to certain aspects that patently aren't overtly bigotted does not cover up the scandalous part that is. I can honestly say I could not offer support to such a party if I were in your shoes. However *shrugs shooders* tis up to you.

kensei said...

At the heart of the CUMBLA nonsense is the same thing. Get SF. You see it here, you see it on 3000 Versts, you see it on Open Unionism. I have often marveled at how that party seems to drive otherwise sensible people absolutely mad. I'm not going to debate whether or not that is "sectarian", but it certainly has little to do with the let's hold-hands-and-worry-about-our-kids as advertised.

Basically, CUMBLA had a choice as to what they were about. They've chosen. I am spectacularly unsurprised. Fortunately however, you can rely on the stupidity of the SDLP. Talking big picture, moral high ground excetera is irrelevant. This is a classic Prisoner's Dilemma. If the opposition does not cooperate, then neither should you. I don't like it, I think a single voice is bad for whatever political opinion you espouse, but well, Unionism started it.

Two things are highly likely. One, Unionism wins the seat. Two, SDLP lose a shedload of votes and some won't come back. That would be true in the event of them not standing but this way they are going to piss a lot of SF voters off whose transfer they'd like in forthcoming elections. Plus a left-leaning Nationalist seat is left with a Unionist Tory.

I ponder the long term impact. Demographics will still push the Nationalist vote up in FST for another election or two, probably. It's maybe not electorally a long term thing. But it's going to affect CUMBLA and the SDLP for longer, I think.

O'Neill said...

"I can honestly say I could not offer support to such a party if I were in your shoes"

Do you feel 100% comfortable with everything the SNP or even certain members of Sinn Fein have done? Where do you draw the line?

tony said...

From what I know of you Oneil you are a better man than the party you profess to support.

I wouldn't say I was a big supporter of SF at all. As for the SNP I am grateful that I have the opportunity to vote for that party, a party that is upright, full of integrity and miles.......light years away from anything currently offered across the unionist and British loyalist spectrum.

Whataboutery won't cut it really ma man, there has been a questioned asked, answer it.

Also why did my post on your pals Chekov's meltdown not get published?

O'Neill said...

Kensei

"At the heart of the CUMBLA nonsense is the same thing. Get SF. You see it here, you see it on 3000 Versts, you see it on Open Unionism."

If SF disappeared tomorrow, we'd still have a job to do, to sell the Union. I detest SF for a whole host of reasons but I do realise that what I think of them matters f-all whilst their own core electorate, no matter what's revealed, remains loyal. Doesn't mean I have to agree with either their morality or policies.

Two things are highly likely. One, Unionism wins the seat. Two, SDLP lose a shedload of votes and some won't come back.

Part of me, seriously, hopes that first point isn't true...we (Unionism) needs a kick where it hurts and if there is a lesson learnt from it, then it probably would be worth it. Re the SDLP, again, morally, they made the right decision. Long-term (like the UUP) they need to think what's their USP- if there isn't one they may as well pack up and join the bigger brother.

O'Neill said...

"As for the SNP I am grateful that I have the opportunity to vote for that party, a party that is upright, full of integrity and miles.......light years away from anything currently offered across the unionist and British loyalist spectrum.

Whataboutery won't cut it really ma man, there has been a questioned asked, answer it."

My point would be there, Salmond is a monarchist, you must certainly are not. So, where do you draw the line?

"Also why did my post on your pals Chekov's meltdown not get published?"

Here? I had problems before with another comment (technical not censorship) afaik everything else has been pumped up here.

O'Neill said...

Moderate Unionist,

"I am the same 'moderate unionist' from slugger-me-tool and I will be demanding arbitration on that bet if it depends on FST."

Don't worry:

A) He's not an official CU candidate so even if he wins, I'm not claiming it.
B) It won't depend on FST

kensei said...

If SF disappeared tomorrow, we'd still have a job to do, to sell the Union. I detest SF for a whole host of reasons but I do realise that what I think of them matters f-all whilst their own core electorate, no matter what's revealed, remains loyal. Doesn't mean I have to agree with either their morality or policies.

No, but the weird obsession with them leads to doing stupid stuff. Aside from the normal SF as bogeyman politcs: Pact in FST: long term stupid. Mooted assembly election pact: stoopider, especially with PR elections.

Part of me, seriously, hopes that first point isn't true...we (Unionism) needs a kick where it hurts and if there is a lesson learnt from it, then it probably would be worth it.

It's possible but unlikely. Hilarious if it happens though.

Re the SDLP, again, morally, they made the right decision.

No they didn't, morally. They have no chance of winning; they have little chance of increasing their vote now. This is a Prisoner's Dilema, and straightforwad agression by Unionism. I can't see the gain from taking it, it just emboldens further agression. If they are Nationalist and would prefer a Nationalist, the right thing to do is withdraw. One scenario not envisaged would help them no end: them withdrawing and SF still losing.

Long-term (like the UUP) they need to think what's their USP- if there isn't one they may as well pack up and join the bigger brother.

Yes and no. They need a batch of smart policies, not just clever branding. But if they continue to focus all fire on SF, they'll continue to lose votes. This isn't simply a communal thing, though that plays. They are just fairly ideologically close these days.

They need to pick their fights with SF. Folding here gives more credibility elsewhere.

Chekov said...

Tony - no meltdown I can assure you. I reserve the right to express my complete contempt for Andrew Charles at the drop of a hat. It's a luxury of being, ultimately, completely independent. Sometimes I might want to debate a point, sometimes there is no point to be debated, there's just a shit-stirring Dupe who can't write, doesn't know what unionism is and has a tendency to make unsubstantiated allegations.

tony said...

>>My point would be there, Salmond is a monarchist, you must certainly are not. So, where do you draw the line?<<

Sadly I might have overestimated you Oneil. True I am no Monarchist but neither is Salmond, he is the leader of a party who respects the wishes of the broad spectrum. What you have flagged up is the similarity in principal, but criminally what you are choosing to omit is that for Unionists it is the shameful stain of generational anti-Catholic sectarianism.

You and through you vicariously we(the readers) were sold a pig. Trying to put lipstick on the pig is not even worthy of the term sophistry, it is plain dishonest.