Firstly, I would like to wish everybody who follows this blog a warm and happy new year.
I have noticed that political bloggers, from time to time, write posts about sport without there being any political context. I am a lover of cricket so I’m going to have a one-off crow. I have been hooked on the Ashes cricket series down under between England and Australia. To see Australia being so comprehensively beaten, in a sport which they have dominated since the late 1980s, is a joy to behold. The enjoyment of it has kept me warm during this appalling period of freezing weather, burst pipes and water shortages.
For the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, there is still a freeze in their relationship with CCHQ. From what I have been told by Conservatives, much of the blame for the situation rests with Jonathan Caine, a former advisor to the Conservative Party on Northern Ireland and now a special advisor to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Mr. Caine has a reputation, within the Conservative Party, as a person with very considerable experience of Northern Ireland political affairs. He is well read on the politics and history of Northern Ireland, as you would expect. I respect his reputation as a learned man.
Mr. Caine has also been portrayed as somebody who has lost his sense of independent judgment because of his close sympathy towards the UUP. I am told that he still does not understand Northern Ireland because he does not live here.
I don’t know, exactly, to what extent, Mr. Caine was pivotal in the decision to prevent Northern Ireland Conservatives from fielding candidates at Assembly Elections. For the moment, I make two observations.
Firstly, the recent decision by CCHQ to continue their support for the UUP, at the expense of Northern Ireland Conservatives is misconceived in its entirety. The UUP have nothing to offer the Conservative Party, in the short or medium-term future, in terms of winning Northern Ireland Parliamentary seats.
Secondly, I agree with the contention that you can not know Northern Ireland unless you have lived here. I have lived in Northern Ireland for 12 years. Before that, I had lived in England and the Republic of Ireland. For all the Newspapers, political and history books that I have studied and read about Ireland, nothing was as educational as living amongst Northern Irish people.
A sense betrayal has festered amongst Northern Ireland Conservatives for the last month. CCHQ, if it is making a decision that NI Conservatives do not like, should be going out of their way to keep their membership on board. Instead, they have been completely insensitive and left them isolated. That is no way to run a political party. To borrow an old English metaphor, ‘it just isn’t cricket’.