Conservatives prepare for UUP failure but they might still be hedging

At long last, agreement has finally been reached between the Northern Ireland Regional Conservatives and the Conservative leadership on a strategy for promoting Conservativism into the future.

The Party has issued the following announcement copied by email to the membership:

“The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland has committed itself to an ongoing programme of campaigning and development and will shortly move into a new campaign headquarters in Bangor, Co. Down. A full time member of staff will be based at the headquarters and one of the Party’s most senior campaign directors has been appointed to liaise with the Party in Northern Ireland.

The Party is committed to the development of progressive centre right politics which offer the electorate of Northern Ireland the opportunity to cast their votes for and participate directly with the national Government of the United Kingdom.  The Party will continue to review how Conservatives in Northern Ireland can play a full part in the Conservative Party as in every other part of the United Kingdom and senior Conservatives in Northern Ireland will work with the Board of the Party to develop that relationship.

Central to that development will be the Party’s desire to see Conservative Associations formed in every Northern Ireland constituency and an active programme of membership recruitment at a local level.

Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said: “The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland has the unequivocal support of the Party nationally. Politics in Northern Ireland continues to evolve and we are determined to be at the heart of that evolution. Our approach will be one of active engagement – starting with the fielding of candidates in the Local Council elections in May.”

With that issue having been settled, the regional chairman of the Conservatives, Irwin Armstrong has now withdrawn his offer to resign. So is this the end of the uncertainty for Northern Ireland conservatives?

Jeffrey Peel’s headline suggests that the Conservative Party has “dumped” the UUP. In his statement on the question of fielding candidates at Assembly elections, Irwin Armstrong has said as follows:

“Members of our Executive have agreed that we would not now be able to properly contest the Assembly elections as we will not have the necessary infrastructure in place due to the events of recent months.”

The right to field Assembly (and presumably Parliamentary) candidates in the future is very important but there will be no further elections on the horizon (except the Euros) for four years.  Furthermore, you do not need an “infrastructure” to field a candidate. Ask an Independent. You just need to be able to register and pay the deposit.

There is a very strong case for the Conservatives putting up candidates, even in the limited time and space available. Nobody would suggest that a Conservative candidate would stand much chance of winning an Assembly seat but the act of fielding candidates would make the clearest possible statement to the electorate that the party no longer has any ties with the UUP.

Last November, Conservative leaders promised the UUP that they would not be fielding candidates.  The effect of this latest declaration is that the Conservatives will not be breaking that promise.  The UUP may now be in the equivalent of a bin liner but it could be taken out of it later.  It is much too early to say that it has been dumped.

This entry was posted in Conservative Party, Conservativism, Stormont, UK Politics, Unionism, UUP and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Conservatives prepare for UUP failure but they might still be hedging

  1. Editor says:

    Seymour I agree wholeheartedly. Once again I suspect the local Executive has been duped by CCHQ. The party has no real interest in organising here, I suspect. Irwin Armstrong should have made the fielding of candidates in the Assembly elections – even one – the condition he required to reverse his decision to resign as Area Chairman.

  2. Richard says:

    The Executive has not been duped.
    If we had pressed the point of standing candidates in the Assembly election I have no doubt that CCHQ would have relented. Have we the candidates of the necessary calibre to stand? That may be quite a different matter.
    What we have to realise is that if the party is to have success here we must build from council level up and have the backing of associations who have active members.
    We decided that the best approach was to go back to the drawing board and build associations. CCHQ have backed that approach with this statement and the financial investment. If they had no real interest in organising here they wouldn’t invest significant sums of money.
    It’s difficult to make an argument for the financing of a proper Assembly campaign when the background is very poor results at the last assembly elections and only 3 months to this one.

    • Seymour Major says:


      For the avoidance of any doubt, will you please confirm or deny that the Northern Ireland Regional Conservatives have given a commitment to CCHQ not to put up candidates at the Assembly election.

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  4. Richard says:

    That’s not the wording I would chose to use Seymour.
    We did not press the issue of standing in the Assembly elections because to do it properly is not possible at this stage, and to ask CCHQ to finance a campaign which would equate to something similar to last years late campaign is hardly reasonable.
    Much more sensible is to invest in a full time employee and office and build for a stronger future.
    Its all very well putting up candidates for the sake of it but you end up with egg on your face if its less than 1% of the vote again and it isn’t people of the right calibre.
    CCHQ run a tight budget and both things are not possible. I have no doubt that if we had pressed the point it would have been possible to stand at the Assembly election but we chose not to, and instead invest in the future beyond that election. I would emphasise the word ‘chose’.

    • Seymour Major says:


      I did not ask you if you pressed the issue of fielding candidates with CCHQ. I did not ask you if you did or did not press them to finance a campaign.

      I will put the question to you again. It only requires a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’

      Did the NI conservatives give a commitment to CCHQ that they would not field candidates?

  5. Richard says:

    Ok let me put it more simply Seymour.
    We did not give any such commitment but we saw the reality of it not being possible in any proper sense and chose a different course.
    It’s important to read the wording of the statement from CCHQ and see that they are investing in the future, not something 3 months away which in all liklihood could prove humiliating if not done properly.

  6. Gary Niblock says:

    I am a member of the Conservatives, based in Newtownards and received no such email. How do I go about getting such emails and where can I contact this new office in Bangor?

    • Seymour Major says:


      Your email should be on the database. Please confirm that the email address you set down with your comment is correct. I will then pass this on to Neil Johnston.

      • Gary Niblock says:

        Yes, that email is the email I submitted in my application on the national party website and the one I use regularly.

        Richard: I am afraid I have to detach myself from any credit. I have a membership card but have actually never had any contact with anyone in the party but would be willing to help in any way I can ahead of this spring’s elections.

  7. Richard says:

    Gary, the new office will not be opening for a few weeks until the advertising for the new employee etc is completed.
    Congratulations by the way to Strangford Association in leading the way in how we might really get elected instead of fielding candidates for paper purposes.
    I understand David Sayer has been working hard on local issues which are important to the people in Ards.
    Strangford Association also are holding events and working on building up membership. Keep up the good work.

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  9. Richard says:

    Gary if you would like to e-mail me your details on I will pass them on to the Strangford Association.
    It’s very encouraging to see people like yourself who are willing to actually put in an effort to achieve results.

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