Monday, June 14, 2010

Northern Ireland Conservatives, what's the point?

One of the main problems which plagued the UUP/Conservatives project from inception was the *leaks* (more often than not from those on both sides vehmently opposed to whole concept and, more often than not, containing "scoops" of dubious veracity) to gullible journalists. I gave my opinion on the future of the arrangement here and whilst one or two things I've heard since then give hope that the "Unity" wing of the party are not going to perhaps have as an easy a fight as they anticipated, I stick by the original depressing conclusion: the UUP in its present form is not capable of delivering on the targets originally set out by Cameron and Empey what seems now a lifetime ago. Despite the fact the leadership of the UUP are seemingly intent on moving away from the Conservatives anyway, "informed" Conservative party "insiders" still can't give up the leaking habit, although you've got to really wonder the point behind the latest one:
Conservatives in Northern Ireland are divided over whether to continue the electoral link-up with the Ulster Unionists, the BBC has learned.

Confidential minutes of an internal party meeting leaked to the BBC reveal striking differences about the direction the party should take.

Some party members wished to end the relationship with the Ulster Unionists.
A public *revelation* that there is a difference of opinion over the matter? That sure is dynamite. Other "information" destined to rock the N.Irish political scene:

1. There was a strong desire to see Conservative candidates selected for forthcoming elections soon.
2. There was no support for participation in unionist unity talks, with discussions between the Conservatives and Unionists and the DUP prior to the election described as "damaging and demoralising".
3. The electoral name - Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force (UCUNF) - was dismissed as "weak".
4. It was felt that coffee purchased from Tescos rather than Safeway should be served at the next meeting.

OK, point 4) may or may not have been discussed, our source was unusually coy on the subject when questioned... I know it's the quiet season but really, the Beeb thought the public wanted or needed to know all that?

Concerning the basic question apparently under review (the continuance of the pact with the UUP) there are two unpalatable, factors the local party need to ponder on. Firstly, the UUP has the current bums on the seats of the Assembly, the party network, workers on the ground and the voter loyalty to be able to operate as a party capable of achieving its targets (when it finally decides what those targets are); the NI Conservatives don't. Secondly, if the UUP do decide to continue with the arrangement and Conservative HQ is happy enough to supply the logistical (and oh yes, cash) support to enable that to happen, I suspect that the views of the NI Conservatives on the matter will (once again) be of little consequence.

The Scottish Conservatives are presently undertaking a root and branch review of the party and its future there; the NI Conservatives should be doing the same, independently of their HQ. Without at least some UUP support, it's highly improbable that a Conservative is going to be elected to the Assembly next year. In my (admitedly completely unpragmatic and idealistic) opinion that is perhaps of lesser importance than whether or not the views the party locally espouse are capable of being filtered into and influencing the mainstream; at the minute without some kind of "game-changer", I don't believe they are. Rather than wasting time with "leaking" nonsense to a completely disinterested public it's that latter fact that they need to be addressing, otherwise what really is the point in having a Northern Irish Conservative party?


Seymour Major said...


The fact that one of our members leaked a copy of the minutes to the BBC was very irritating but so also was Ian Parsley's post setting out the views in a meeting of the North Down Con Assn. That may have provoked the person who leaked the minutes. I dont know. I am only guessing.

I agree with you that the splits in opinion (not over what to do in practice) are not exactly dynamite and you must ask the BBC why they decided to give that news such prominence.

Just to give what was said by the BBC some balance, the Minutes did acknowledge the reality that the UUP might not want anything more to do with the Conservatives. Furthermore, Conservatives here are still committed to continuing dialogue withe the UUP at all levels of that party.

Your analysis about the reasons for UCUNF's failure was spot on and very similar to mine and many others in the Conservative Party.

You are also absolutely right that we should be focusing on a root and branch review on our future, like the Scottish Conservatives. There is a very important AGM next week.

We do need more rigorous debate. We also need strong, independently-minded, men and women on that committee to articulate the region's point of view with force and authority. With the election now out of the way, the time for being "yes men" is over. The time to be forceful with CCHQ is now.

O'Neill said...

I agree with you that the splits in opinion (not over what to do in practice) are not exactly dynamite and you must ask the BBC why they decided to give that news such prominence

That's what puzzles me more than anything else, I could have written most of the BBC's report myself, so why on earth it was considered newsworthy, I don't know.

I hope that realk genuine debate does take place; too often games were/are being played through the media and online rather than trying to argue the case face to face.