Earlier today, I was at the High Court in Belfast representing a client. For the purpose of this post, I will use the pseudonym Eamon as if it was his real name. After the hearing, we paid a visit to a coffee shop.
Eamon is a Catholic businessman. He very well understands the connection between Government revenue, taxation, spending, monetary policy and the economy. He is exactly the sort of person whose vote the Conservatives and Unionists should have been chasing at the General Election.
He has not voted since 2001 but would never have considered voting for a unionist party in any event. He had a low opinion of politicians before the expenses scandal. He knew that UCUNF existed but he felt no enthusiasm to vote for them at the General Election.
We discussed the Saville report. His attitude towards it was very interesting. He said that before last night, he thought that £200 million spent on the enquiry was a complete waste of money. Last night, he watched the TV broadcast showing David Cameron making an apology for the killings in the House of Commons and the reaction of the families of the victims to the apology. He told me that his view now is that the enquiry was worth every penny. And David Cameron?
He seemed to echo the words of Martin McGuiness on the Spotlight programme last night. “For a Conservative Prime Minister to make that apology, the way he did, was incredible,” he said.
‘If only you knew, there is no shortage of compassion in the Conservative Party,’ I thought to myself. Then I realised that Eamon’s words are indicative of how toxic the Conservative brand is amongst Catholics.
The good news is that David Cameron has shot up in Eamon’s estimation. It lends credence to a suggestion that I made some time ago that Politicians can greatly help healing processes if they take responsibility for bad historical events by apologising for them. It is not just what David Cameron said but the way in which he delivered the message which was crucial to its impact. David Cameron has a gift for capturing the mood of large audiences through the delivery of his words and he will get better at it. Perhaps he is a born rhetorician, just like Winston Churchill. Did that mean that Eamon might now consider voting Conservative in the future?
“I don’t know about that now….,” he smiled “…..but sure, you never know.” Perhaps we should not get too carried away.