UUP leadership race – Nothing in it for the Conservatives

Well, at least we now have a contest for the leadership of the UUP.  I do not propose to go into the political differences between the two candidates.  Others will do a better job than me. 

What is important to recognise is that neither candidate is interested in a pact with the Conservatives – at least one which involves Conservatives standing in Elections.  So why doesn’t the Conservative leadership say, “That’s fine.  We will continue to pursue Conservativism in Northern Ireland without you.”?

In fact, there has been hardly a peep about the link with the UUP since the General Election.  All that has happened is that a letter has been circulated by a senior conservative official indicating to the UUP that their candidates will not be standing in Assembly Elections.   Furthermore, the remnants of the UCUNF connection are still on the Conservative Website – as if the pact remains.  So what is really going on?

Could it be that UUP politicians have complained to the Conservative hierachy that the Conservatives are a hindrance to the joint aspirations of the two parties?  Could it be that the UUP have asked them for a free run, without contest by the Conservatives and the Conservatives have granted that request?

The silence from Conservative Officials is almost deafening. 

Many Conservatives in Northern Ireland appreciate that there are huge differences between them and the UUP.  There are some who would disagree with that suggestion.  Nobody should be fooled.   Conservativism is not an ideology of the UUP despite what you might find written on Wikepedia.   When was there ever such a suggestion from a UUP politician? 

Furthermore, Protestantism, which is still a feature of the UUP is not a feature of the Conservative Party.   I say that with the greatest respect to Basil McCrea who would like to completely de-sectarianise his party.  Good luck to him on that.  I wish him every success.  

In the meantime, what do Conservative activists in Northern Ireland really want?  Are they happy to just sit there and be told that there will be no opportunity to vote for a Conservative in the Assembly Elections? 

There is too much control freakery inside the Conservative Party.  It is one thing to have good internal party discipline and to stick to the policy line even if you do not personally agree with it.  However, it is quite different if your rights of representation are being violated. 

If you are a member of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland, do you really wish to be moved about like a piece on a chessboard?  What is really in this for you?

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5 Responses to UUP leadership race – Nothing in it for the Conservatives

  1. slug says:

    This from the man who voted SDLP last time.

    • Seymour Major says:

      Yes Slug, I did. Thank you for drawing that to everybody’s attention.

      If the circumstances of what happened in Fermanagh and South Tyrone were repeated again, I would be likely to vote against the unionist candidate in a similar way. I have always been consistent on campaigning against the politics of the tribal headcount.

  2. I think both contenders for the leadership have (belatedly perhaps) realised that the Tory brand has little relevance for the NI electorate. Politics is a reflection of civic society after all, and the society that sustains the Conservative Party in its heartlands is not one that many NI voters would feel kinship with. Yes, there must still be room for a conservatism of sorts, but it must be one that takes root organically, not one that appears (unfairly or otherwise) to be a transplant. Like it or not, Ulster Unionism is organic, and Toryism is not.

    I’m torn about McCrea. I haven’t seen enough of his actual policies to say I like them, but his instincts appear decent. He is certainly more superficially attractive than Elliott, who is busy digging himself a Casement Park sized hole at the moment. I doubt that will put off the traditional wing of the party (many of whom will no doubt consider his statements a virtue).

    As for Conservative Central Office, they’re nursing burnt fingers so their caution (or indecision) is understandable. Not that I’m excusing them for leaving the locals swinging in the wind, but it is just more evidence that they don’t understand NI as well as they thought they did.

  3. Seymour – this is a good piece, but your “There are some who would disagree” point linking to my blog is obviously inaccurate.

    If you actually read what I wrote (as opposed to relying on conspiracy theories!), you’ll actually find I am in complete agreement with you!

    In the post referenced, I was simply providing an assessment of the Conservative leadership’s position. My own opinion appears later – “I am a strong supporter of the link, provided…” – but it’s a pretty big “provided”.

    If you read my assessment of what has happened to that proviso latterly, you will find that it leads to the same conclusion as you have posted here. Your last three paragraphs are absolutely spot on.

    • Seymour Major says:

      Ian,

      Firstly, thank you for your comment and your clarification. I have now removed the link.

      I am also relieved that you now seem to have accepted the position that an electoral alliance with the UUP is unviable.

      I was, of course, totally behind UCUNF this time last year. I was not the first person to realise that the partnership had no future. Furthermore, not all Northern Ireland Conservatives have travelled along the same thinking route

      However, I think it is now fairly clear that practically all Northern Ireland Conservatives have reached the same destination on this issue. We are all very clear that it is totally unrealistic to have any kind of electoral partnership with the UUP either now or in the near future.

      Meanwhile, I maintain my position as a campaigner for a new, non-designated, centre-right party formed out of the Northern Ireland Conservatives. I also still want this to be achieved with the blessing and support of the Conservative Party as a whole. Disassociation with the UUP is an important step in that direction.

      I believe that, in time, the majority of Northern Ireland Conservatives will be persuaded of the merits of this proposal. This is not a prediction based upon wishful thinking. It is based upon the recognition that there are certain natural forces at work which eventually have their way with the political landscape.

      I believe that political plate tectonics will deliver success for the proposed party or a party of a similar nature. I hope that the Conservatives will buy into the arguments that I have advanced and the foresight that I have projected rather than waiting for the political earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis to force their hand.

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