NI Centre Right Campaign strengthened by events of the last week

Child abuse comes in many forms. Nearly all child abuse falls into one of three categories: neglect, physical harm and emotional abuse. All forms of abuse by a parent or carer involve some form of emotional abuse.

Not all child abuse by Parents is driven by wickedness or selfishness. Sometimes, the root cause of child abuse is illness by the parents or parents simply not being able to cope.

If the abuse is severe enough, it falls into the category of ‘significant harm.’ If a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, the child protection authorities are obliged to intervene. In the worst of these cases, if the parents show no sign of wanting or being capable of providing a suitable upbringing for the child, the child will go into care. In exceptional cases, more likely with infants, the authorities will place the child for adoption. Metaphorically speaking, “child abuse” has occurred in the Conservative and Unionist family.

The Conservative Party is more than 300 years old. The Orange Order is more than 200 years old. In the earlier years of Orangism, these two organisations did not like each other. Relations were at their lowest ebb when, in 1829, legislation for Catholic Emancipation was passed under a Tory Government. However, they had one thing in common. They were unionists. The rise of the Parnellites brought them into a relationship.

In 1905, the Ulster Unionist Party (the UUP) was born. The UUP was a bastard child of the Conservative Party. The Other parent was the Orange Order. From the time of that birth, the Conservative Party were content to leave the care and upbringing of the UUP to the Orange Order whilst continuing to acknowledge it as its child.

The Orange Order was a bad parent. It engendered an attitude of antipathy and mistrust towards Catholics. The UUP became papaphobic, just like its Orange mother. Its Conservative father neglected it by not being involved in its upbringing. The UUP became a bully but its Conservative father, proud to acknowledge it when they met in the UK Parliament, could not see that it was doing anything wrong.

The UUP then got into trouble. When the civil rights riots broke out, the Conservatives were obliged to take some responsibility. When the Conservative father asked the UUP to accept some Sunningdale treatment, its mother objected. For a short period, the UUP was torn between the wishes of its mother and its father. Papaphobia was still a dominating influence. Inevitably, the UUP rejected Sunningdale. Like a sulking teenager, the UUP stopped talking to its father. The father attempted to talk sense with its son but to no avail. The combined effect of the political power vacuum and the deteriorating security situation led the father to signing the Anglo Irish Agreement. This caused so much anger that the UUP cut off all remaining ties with its father.

Shortly afterwards, the Conservative Party fathered another child. This child was a legitimate non-sectarian daughter. The Northern Ireland Conservatives had been born. For a short time in its early life, this child was encouraged to survive and thrive but soon suffered from neglect. It was hungry and undernourished. Because it achieved nothing, it was ignored by its father. Nonetheless, the daughter was dutiful and did what it was told by its father.

The UUP’s mother started to become frail and weak, suffering from a debilitating long-term illness which will eventually lead to its death – secularism. With the mother’s influence declining, the UUP drifted slowly towards moderation and signed the Belfast Agreement. When the Northern Ireland Conservatives saw that its father approved this development, it became jealous. In a desperate attempt to get its father’s attention, it opposed it. Still the Conservative Party ignored its daughter.

The UUP, having been badly beaten by an ever strengthening DUP, sought to get back on terms with its father. Reconciliation then occurred. However, the father wanted the UUP to be locked permanently into the family. The UUP was asked to enter into a marriage with the Northern Ireland Conservatives. The marriage proposal was rejected. Instead, an agreement was made that they live together. The result of this relationship was the birth of UCUNF.

The relationship between the UUP and the Northern Ireland Conservatives did not work out and the UCUNF child was abused by the UUP when it decided to equivocate over possible candidate deals with the DUP and internal wrangles over candidate selection resulting in crucial delay. Going into the 2010 General election, a sole unionist candidate was selected for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Northern Ireland Conservatives were traumatised. The UCUNF child, already unhealthy going into the 2010 General Election, had been severely abused by its father and grandfather.

The UCUNF infant later died. The UUP walked away from its relationship with the NI Conservatives and told its father that it wanted the NI Conservatives out of the house.   The Northern Ireland Conservatives did not want the relationship to continue either.   The UUP’s rejection of a continuation of the link, or any future election pact, gave rise to confidence of Northern Ireland Conservatives that it would, at last, receive the support it deserved from its father.  The father had to choose between one of its children to decide who would represent National policy in Northern Ireland. In the end, a parent’s selfishness played a crucial part in the decision.

This brings me to the end of this sorry mythical tale. I apologise for the very few historical distortions which have appeared. It is sometimes appropriate to use a little bit of artistic licence to illustrate an important point.

The Northern Ireland Conservatives have been rejected, in my opinion, to a point where it is not possible for them to continue as a regional branch of the main Conservative Party. The position of trust and confidence is not something that is capable of being restored.

Alex Kane likens this position to something akin to inevitable political infanticide. I completely agree. That being the case, there is only one way for the Northern Ireland Conservatives to go. It should become an independent party. An independent party needs a political niche. That niche is a centre-right party which would take no position if there was a referendum on the future of Northern Ireland. Admittedly, there may still be a battle of persuasion ahead in relation to that last point.

As a lifelong Conservative supporter, I deeply regret what has happened. However, every cloud has a silver lining. The civilised campaign that I was conducting was always likely to be difficult, so long as there was such a strong attachment between local conservatives and the main party. With the severe weakening of that attachment, there is no doubt that the Northern Ireland Centre-Right campaign has been strengthened.

In time, as Northern Ireland Conservatives lick their wounds, they may well conclude that the events of the last few days were all for the best.

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7 Responses to NI Centre Right Campaign strengthened by events of the last week

  1. Richard says:

    Very amusing Seymour.
    There’s no doubt that your position has been strengthened.
    Only a few weeks ago I had said to you the time wasn’t right, no one could have predicted things accelerating this fast.
    It ain’t over till the fat lady sings Seymour but she is mounting the stage!
    There has been much speculation as to how much room or how much support any such new grouping may get. Care to comment?

  2. Seymour Major says:

    Richard,

    To answer your question, I have not had any chance to discuss recent events with any other NI conservatives.

    I am very confident that in the event of an independent, NI-centred, neutral on the union, party being formed, it would attract significant support from Catholics who support the Grammar School system.

    I am equally sure that if the new party was a unionist party, it would have much more of an uphill struggle.

  3. Seymour,

    I am very confident that in the event of an independent, NI-centred, neutral on the union, party being formed, it would attract significant support from Catholics who support the Grammar School system.

    This is perhaps the single issue where most support could be gained at short notice, and should certainly be at the top of the agenda. I’m worried though that so far the movement (if it qualifies as such) is primarily of a unionist (or post-unionist) character. This is understandable as the main driver of events has been the failure of UCUNF, but unless it is seen as an equal partnership of (post)unionists and (post)nationalists it will be easily tarred as “Unionism lite”, a label that the Alliance party has struggled to shake off. It’s no good having policies that might appeal across the divide if one’s activists are (however unfairly) perceived to be partisan.

    So while there is a potential well of activists amongst disaffected unionists, it’s harder to see where their nationalist counterparts would come from. While I have no doubt that given sufficient time this deficit could be rectified, it may be too late to prevent misconceptions from taking root, and this could strangle the movement at birth. This is something that has been concerning me greatly of late.

    • Seymour Major says:

      Andrew,

      Some very important points.

      The APNI began life as a unionist party. 40 years later, although there are encouraging signs of a possible breakthrough in politics here, it shows no sign yet of getting out of the naughties in terms of vote share.

      Original perceptions are extremely important. For that reason, I think it is absolutely vital that such a party, if it is eventually formed, begins life as a non-designated neutral party and not as a unionist party which converts to that position later.

      It is also very important that the new party is seen to include people from a Nationalist background from the very start. That is one reason why this campaign was open, rather than internal within the Conservative Party. I am pleased to say that some Nationalists have shown interest, although not as many as I would have liked and it will not be enough. It is important to be on the look out for “big fish” from the Nationalist community and also why it is important to get the blessing of politicians from the Fine Gael party.

      If a new party is born, quite a few unionists are likely to be going into this, at the start of this adventure, “holding their noses” but they will get over that uncomfortable feeling very quickly.

      They will also know, once they have thought it through and been properly briefed, how exceptionally important it is to conduct themselves in a manner which demonstrates that this is a warm house for Nationalist Conservatives. Knowing fellow Conservatives here, I know they will.

      Success is not guaranteed but if we keep working, neither is failure.

  4. Richard says:

    I’m having difficulty Seymour in thinking there would be enough difference between any such new party and Alliance. Alliance has sort of got the territory for the catchment of people you are talking about don’t you think?
    I think this is the reason so many are in limbo at the moment and are not actually going through with the concept of a new party i.e. no room for it. It could have tremendous difficulty getting off the ground.
    I’m more and more coming around to thinking the best solution is within the structures of the Conservative Party but with fundamental reform in the direction of virtual independence. Something close to the CDU Bavarian option. I know that Paterson is very keen on this at present. Complete independence with a neutral approach to the union is something I don’t think I could ever buy into. I would join Alliance if that approach appealed to me for 2 reasons.

    1) Alliance has built an electoral base over many years and seems on the up.

    2) It is a broad church and can make home for people of a conservative outlook on economics etc.

    The decision by CCHQ last week has had a fundamental effect on my thinking and even a full reversal (as unlikely as that will be) would still leave the feeling they can’t be trusted and control needs to shift away from centre. I am strongly of that opinion now. I haven’t studied the Scottish proposals in detail yet but I believe they are a basis to work on.

    • Seymour Major says:

      I begin my answer to that point with a question. What is your idea of normal politics in Northern Ireland?

      Before I highlight fundamental differences between the Conservatives and the Alliance Party, it needs to be said, in the clearest of terms that being neutral on the constitutional question is not a political ideology. It is a political positioning that enables a party in Northern Ireland to become a cross – community party. By way of illustration, you can adopt that position and be as far to the left or as far to the right as it is possible to be.

      The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, officially, has just one ideology, which is non-sectarianism. Is that a proper basis for a normal political party? I think not.

      The Conservative Party and the SDLP are also non-sectarian parties. Unfortunately, because they are communal, in the sense that one is unionist and the other is nationalist, they are presented as “sectarian” from time to time. Regrettably, there is an indirect link between community politics and sectarianism. Because the overwhelming majority of Unionists are Protestant and because the overwhelming majority of Nationalists are Catholic, community politics separates people along sectarian lines. Thus, community politics ends up re-enforcing the social and political sectarian loop.

      You may not like the idea that I am suggesting that the Conservative Party is “communal.” You can’t argue that it is not communal just because there are some Catholics inside the party. The problem lies with the perception amongst the overwhelming majority of Catholics that the Conservative Party is a party from “the other side.”

      At regional level, the Alliance Party does not support the grammar schools or academic selection. It wants to dismantle the system. That is one huge policy difference between the Alliance and the Conservatives and it is a reason, on its own, why I personally would never join or support the Alliance Party. In a later post, I will explain in more detail the link between Conservative political principles and its support for the grammar school system. For now, it suffices to say that the Grammar school system is consistent with the Conservative principle that all children should be enabled to achieve the best that they can achieve in an education system.

      The Alliance Party has an unofficial ideology. It is liberalism. You will know that the Lib Dems are its sister party. When it comes to National politics, the Alliance Party more or less adopts the policies of the Lib Dems. It is about time that the Alliance Party was more forthcoming about where it stands on “bread and butter” politics.

      I would recommend that you read the election manifesto put about by the Alliance Party in 2010. If the Alliance Party is not the Northern Ireland version of the Lib Dems, what is it then? The “cut and paste” party, perhaps?

      Here three examples of policies from that manifesto which I would vigorously oppose.
      (a) Their policy to bring down the voting age to 16
      (b) Their policy to join the euro “when the time is right”
      (c) Their policy to abolish the first past the post voting system in UK Parliamentary elections

      You can read the alliance party manifesto here

      http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/apni/apni060510man.pdf

      I would now like to finish off this comment by asking another question. How much difference would there be between a new independent centre-right unionist party, the UUP and the DUP?

  5. The problem lies with the perception amongst the overwhelming majority of Catholics that the Conservative Party is a party from “the other side.”

    It is much worse than that. The problem lies with the perception amongst both Catholics and Protestants that the Conservative Party is a party from England.

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