Friday, November 21, 2008

The Conservative and (Ulster) Unionist Party

It is not a merger, and neither is it take-over, and the details are yet to be agreed – not least the nomenclature – but it has been decided unanimously by the UUP Executive (with two abstentions) that the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party are to have an ‘electoral pact’ and will henceforth be in a formal ‘partnership’. The two parties are to remain distinct and separate entities, with their own leaderships, memberships and officers, but a new ‘Conservative and Ulster Unionist Joint Committee’ is to be established which will make decisions and agree policy by consensus.

Well, this is going to be interesting.

Cranmer made known his thoughts on this proposal when it was first mooted. And he agrees with Mr Cameron that there should be full Conservative representation in all constituent parts of the United Kingdom. In some parts of Northern Ireland there has been a dedicated organisation loyally beavering away for years. They have branches, associations, officers and field candidates, and fight very credible campaigns which have yielded some creditable results. And they have done so without reference to the Protestant/Catholic sectarian fray which has long blighted the Province’s politics and placed issues of Nationalism and Loyalism well above the bread-and-butter political issues of taxation, education, health, pensions or the economy.

With the addition to the Conservative fold of Jim Nicholson MEP and Sylvia Lady Hermon MP, the Conservative Party is about to become the only national party with representation in all constituent parts of the United Kingdom. This is indeed to be welcomed, and is something of great symbolic importance for the party. But one cannot ignore the fact that Sir Reg Empey has rather more to gain from this pact, and that the UUP is seeking to revive its electoral fortunes after being eclipsed (indeed, virtually wiped out) by the DUP in 2005. The UUP is hastily trying to respond to a moment of crisis and may well find this ‘partnership’ turns out to be just as detrimental to its interests as Iceland will find any rush to join the EU and the euro will be its long-term national interests.

The best political responses to desperate crises rarely emanate from the depths of depression and despair. It is rather like trying to write about love when one is hopelessly in love. If the best poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility, the most enduring political policies are forged in a context of enlightened and rational objectivity when iron can sharpen iron and all parties can see clearly.

Any formal Conservative-UUP relationship will have an undoubted detrimental effect on any future relations with the DUP. If Mr Cameron aspires to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, he ought to be cognisant (as Cranmer has previously said) of the fact that the DUP holds the office of First Minister in the Province, and that he will need to work proactively with the DUP to strengthen the Union and maximise Unionist representation. And in the event of a hung parliament (which, once again, is looking increasingly likely), he will find friendly relations with the 9 DUP MPs of far more use than any formal pact with the solitary one from the UUP.

It is one thing to talk of One Nation Conservatism coming to Northern Ireland, but quite another to persuade the Roman Catholic community that this ‘new political force’, as Owen Paterson calls it, will not be tarnished with Orange history. The UUP statement on the partnership says that the job of the Joint Committee will be to bring forward proposals on manifesto commitments and the branding of candidates, ‘ensuring that the heritage and appeal of both parties are respected’.

It is difficult to see what the UUP heritage is other than Protestant, Loyalist and Orange.

And it is difficult to see how ‘respecting’ a heritage which is irrevocably fused with the Orange Order will not be a stumbling block to the Conservative Party’s Roman Catholic voters, for the organisation is not known for its commitment to equality, liberty, inclusivity or the ‘celebration of diversity’. Indeed, voting UUP will be about as palatable to many Catholics as voting DUP would be for the vast majority of homosexuals (and just about as likely).

But Cranmer has a policy proposal for the Joint Committee to consider.

A promise of direct rule from Westminster would unite all unionists and would give David Cameron a landslide victory in the Province. However, Cranmer understands that Mr Cameron may find this unpalatable in a post-devolution era. In which case, the first joint manifesto of the Conservative and Ulster Unionist Party should offer a devolution settlement with a Northern Ireland Assembly under Westminster with absolutely no interference from Dublin and the total abolition of the encroaching ‘cross border’ bodies. There is, after all, no other part of the United Kingdom which is subject to such foreign interference (pace the EU).

As an aside, Cranmer looks forward to reading the Joint Committee’s manifesto pledge on abortion.

And Cranmer can hardly wait to hear from Sylvia Lady Hermon MP, who not only appears to have more affinity with the Labour Whip than that of the Conservative Party, but this 'Third-Way' pseudo-Socialist 'Blairite' is about to be foisted upon the loyal and true Conservatives of North Down.

Cranmer shall remember them in his orisons.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit like repairing butterfly wings with knitting needles and glue.

Good luck to all who try.

21 November 2008 at 10:49  
Blogger Wyrdtimes said...

The Tories would be better standing up for their English constituents by calling for an end to the disgusting Barnett Formula.

Sadly they like McLabour see the oppression of the English as a price worth paying for their sacred "Union".

One day soon the English are going to wake up and all the kings horses and all the kings men won't save the Union then.

21 November 2008 at 10:55  
Anonymous I Albion said...

Well said Wyrdtimes,That is all these fools in England think about.. the Union..Cameron being the biggest fool of all
What is England gaining from being in the Union? except being a money pot!

21 November 2008 at 12:50  
Anonymous bugs bunny said...

"With the addition to the Conservative fold of Jim Nicholson MEP and Sylvia Lady Hermon MP"

Erm, no. Lady Hermon won't be taking the Tory whip. She's never once voted against the Labour government and indeed this pact has been condemned by Michael Mc Gimpsey. Lady Hermon even voted for the repeal of Section 28.

"It is difficult to see what the UUP heritage is other than Protestant, Loyalist and Orange."

Only if you have a deficient understanding of Irish politics, which His Grace's post seems to bretray.

The Act of Union 1801 which united the Kingdom of Ireland with the Kingdom of Great Britain was motivated by Pitt's and Castlereagh's desire to secure Catholic Emancipation (which Lord Clare had successly defeated in the Irish Parliament) and to ensure that the Ulster Protestants would not be successful in their aim for a Irish Republic. The original Republicans were almost invariably Protestant, most coming from Presbyterian Ulster who resented the Anglican (and mainly southern) ascendancy in Grattan's Parliament and abhorred the concept of legislative union with Britain.

Furthermore it is only after the revival of the post-1st Gladstonian Home Rule Bill that the Orange Order endeavoured to include Presbyterians in their fraternity. The Presbyterians loathing of the prelacy and its ascendant status made them natural supporters of an independent Irish Republic. In the 1798 Rebellion against the Crown and Grattan's Parliament, where the vast majority of Ulster Protestants supported the republican United Irishmen, an inclement reaction followed afterwards against the Cromwellian settlement in Wicklow where thousands of Presbyterians were killed. This naturally made Presbyterians more suspicious of the Catholics. From then on, the alliance between Presbyterians and Catholics began to break down. But it was still endurant. The Irish Liberal Party in 1868 won all the Ulster seats and all the seats in heavily Catholic Connaught. The electoral pact that Catholics and Presbyterians had ensured that Anglican Dublin and Leinster were to become increasingly powerless to block the 1869 Irish Church Disestablishment Act, which passed to the fury of Irish Anglicans.

Furthermore, the Irish Unionist Party was never led by an Ulsterman until partition. Edward Carson, although he joined as a member at Dublin University in his teens, denounced the order and fiercly opposed its influence. The Orange tradition in the Unionist Party can be apportioned to the Craigite tradition.

21 November 2008 at 13:49  
Blogger McKenzie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 November 2008 at 14:18  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Bugs Bunny,

While His Grace and doubtless his communicants and readers are appreciative of your foray into the minutiae of the Province's history, he was referring to 'heritage' in the sense of common perception, in rather the same way as he referred to a homosexual perception of the DUP.

While you are correct to point out the significance of the Craigite tradition, just about everything which preceded it has been subsumed in the public consciousness to everything which succeeded it, in particular Lord Trimble's commitment to the Orange Order (since they made him leader after Drumcree) and its influence within the UUP up until the Order severed links in 2005.

While there are many decent, fair-minded Protestants in The Orange Order, for whom it is a benevolent and fraternal organisation, the Order has a virulently anti-Catholic strand within it and is tarnished with sectarianism. This is not so much theological and sociological, and this has in turn tarnished the term 'Protestant'.

His Grace does not dispute your account, and it is a welcome contribution to this discussion, but the history will be about as accessible and relevant to ordinary voters as talk of the 'Whig tradition of Conservatism' would be to the voters of England.

Sadly, for the sound-bite generation for whom history is an alien concept, 'heritage' means yesterday, not two centuries ago.

21 November 2008 at 15:10  
Anonymous bugs benny said...

"Sadly, for the sound-bite generation for whom history is an alien concept, 'heritage' means yesterday, not two centuries ago."

Sadly, very true.

21 November 2008 at 16:44  
Blogger Chekov said...

"this pact has been condemned by Michael Mc Gimpsey"

Indeed it has not. Chris McGimpsey has criticised the deal, but NI's Minister for Health has been conspicuously silent. He's rather attached to his job.

21 November 2008 at 16:51  
Anonymous bugs bunny said...

Ah, Chekov you are indeed correct. I have confused the two. Chris Mc Gimpsey, not Michael Mc Gimpsey, has criticised the pact.

21 November 2008 at 16:54  
Blogger Timothy Belmont said...

Another well informed and written article, Your Grace. I utter these words as a true Ulster man and Briton.

I concur with most of your piece too. As an erstwhile chairman of Victoria Ulster Unionist Association, I hope to vote Conservative and Ulster Unionist at the next election.


21 November 2008 at 18:58  
Blogger Chekov said...

"Another well informed and written article, Your Grace."

Do you think so TB? i was rather struggling to grasp its point. If the UUP is too 'Protestant, Loyalist and Orange', why is Cranmer suggesting a pact with the DUP? It is a nakedly sectarian party. The gist seems to be 'might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb'. As a secular unionist, uninterested in Orangeism, I find the UUP a convivial home. As it becomes more connected in voters minds with ordinary Tory policy I don't see Catholics being unduly perturbed, unless of course it is the Union which puts them off.

24 November 2008 at 09:12  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Chekov,

Your first question is the point.

His Grace is not saying get into bed with the DUP; he is saying that a more platonic partnership with them might prove more fruitful in the future, especially in the context of a hung parliament.

His Grace is of the opinion that the Conmservative Party should stand in Northern Ireland as the Conservative Party. This marriage has the potential to distract and alienate. Alliances should be formed as the political context changes, and this fusion risks dividing unionists in an age when they should all be prepared to collaborate in defence of the Union.

24 November 2008 at 19:02  

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