Chekov’s latest post on his blog on the state of Unionism following the general election contains analysis that I would hardly disagree with. He has not yet written any direct comment on the campaign for a new, tribally neutral, centre-right party but he did say this:
“A split, and a bolstered Northern Ireland Conservative party, positioning itself as a moderate, secular force, committed to the Union, but not to unionism’s traditional shibboleths, could yet emerge.”
I have no idea if this was written with this project in mind. Perhaps the “split” is a reference to my initiative but his words “committed to the Union” appear to indicate a ‘thumbs down.’
The reference to “bolstered” is a reference to a likely exodus of support from the UUP to the Conservative Party if a significant proportion of the UUP membership decide to abandon their party in the wake of divisions within the party which are likely to be exposed in the forthcoming UUP leadership election.
That possible scenario is bound to turn some heads amongst Northern Ireland Conservatives. There is a real danger that sufficient numbers of Conservatives, hungry for electoral success, will see this as a means of expanding party support. The challenge will be to persuade unconvinced conservatives of the merits of the counter-argument that an anticipated plunder of recruits from the UUP will turn out to be “fool’s gold.” I will address that challenge in future posts.
In his final paragraph, Chekov says this:
“…unionism worth the name is not about the existence of Northern Ireland, it is certainly not about various strands of Ulster Protestant culture, it is explicitly about the maintenance and quality of a political link to Great Britain”
He is right about that. A new neutral Northern Ireland centre-right party will pursue a working alliance with the Conservative Party. That is an essential element of a strategy for developing a credible centre-right party for Northern Ireland. On the basis of Chekov’s definition, once that alliance has formed, it will mean that it is possible to practice unionism without actually having to vote for a unionist party. It is also worth mentioning here that some Nationalist and Republican bloggers have already started to argue that if normal politics came to Northern Ireland, it would be prejudicial to the prospects of a united Ireland.
It is inevitable that there will be some debate about whether this project is more or less likely to preserve the union or lead to a united Ireland. It is extremely sad that so many involved in Northern Ireland politics are so wrapped up with their tribal “isms” that they will not give priority to improving people’s lives and making Northern Ireland a more peaceful, happy and prosperous place to live in.
We who support this project will not be able to avoid listening to those discussions. It is therefore as well to be “street-wise” about them at an early stage. In future posts, I will discuss those arguments.
Unwittingly or not, Chekov’s portrayal of the state of unionism has laid bare its near pointlessness as a political ideology in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement. One reader was moved to comment
“If what we mean by union is some ahistorical, secularised society, kind of like an out-of-town shopping centre, then I just wonder what point is there in the union at all? It doesn’t really matter what sterilized government collects my taxes”
Quite sir! It is how much you pay and what it is spent on that really matters.