Lies, damned lies, and Observer articles

There are times you watch a football or rugby match on television and wonder if the studio pundits were watching the same game you were. There are times you enter into a discussion and wonder if the other person is discussing the same issue you are. And then there are times you read Observer articles referring to meetings you attended and wonder if those providing the information were even in the same country when the meeting took place…

Henry McDonald is a journalist I have long admired, but his article in the Ireland edition of today’s Observer does not even hit the corner flag. This was a confidential meeting, but since it has now been discussed in public (including on the blogosphere), it is fair to use this forum to correct each and every aspect of it.

Firstly, Friday was an exceptionally important day in Northern Ireland politics and Owen Paterson was involved in private talks with local party leaders designed to ensure the talks over devolution of justice kept progressing and the institutions remained in place. Despite this, he found time to host a meeting of all the Conservatives’ prospective candidates at which seven, including myself, were present (not three, as the article indicates).

Secondly, we had confirmation by three nominees at the meeting of their intention to withdraw as prospective candidates as the deadline for final selection of candidates had not been met. For professional people who had entered into a process with no guarantees about the final outcome, it was entirely understandable that they wanted their futures resolved so that their careers would not be kept on hold indefinitely. It was noted that, given the fluid political situation (which included the possibility of an intervening Assembly Election), no guarantees could be given either on the date of selection or the nominees likely to be finally selected. As a result, they stated their intention to withdraw as prospective candidates, but they were content to remain as party members – nothing was ever mentioned about it having anything to do with talks with Unionist parties.

Thirdly, there is reference in the article that the meeting was about a DUP-UUP carve-up. This was not even raised.

Finally, it is noted for some reason that Peter McCann’s departure “in particular” is a severe blow to the promise of a Conservative and Unionist candidate in every seat. In fact, once Strangford selects its Ulster Unionist nominee, every constituency will have a Conservative or Ulster Unionist prospective candidate (or both). These withdrawals therefore make no difference to the simple fact that there will be a Conservative and Unionist candidate in each of the 18 seats.

It is well known that there is a small minority of people in both parties unhappy at the link-up, and that is their right. However, the facts of the matter are quite simple. Three nominees stated their intention to withdraw on the basis that they could not wait around indefinitely for the selection process (which has indeed taken longer than intended) to be completed – a process entered into by all of us with no guarantees.

That they have withdrawn this time around just as the process nears its completion is particularly unfortunate, but it certainly does not preclude them from standing at future elections. The fact remains that both the Conservative and Ulster Unionist Parties are on the up, and that the people of Northern Ireland will have 18 Conservative and Unionist candidates to vote for at the forthcoming General Election – candidates from all backgrounds who stand for a genuinely new type of politics as well as a much needed change of government.

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6 thoughts on “Lies, damned lies, and Observer articles

  1. […] She would have made an exceptionally good candidate.   In response to the Observer report, Ian Parsley has denied that the withdrawal of these three were anything to do with a prospective pact with the […]

  2. […] right to reply etc… UPDATE: Thanks to Alan in Belfast for spotting Ian Parsley’s blog. Ian has an account of the Friday meeting and what I’d been hearing seems to tie in with […]

  3. DC says:

    ‘Thirdly, there is reference in the article that the meeting was about a DUP-UUP carve-up. This was not even raised.’

    In politics words are everything and I doubt that was raised, the possible “carve up”. But say maybe a way in which to maximise the conservative-unionist vote share in a manner favourable to David Cameron just might have been?

    If you are right, which you probably are, should you not call on the likes of Brian Walker to resign his blogging spot on Slugger.

    I mean goodness I know I’m fed-up with the meedja always pumping out the same call at politicians, if he’s wrong he shouldn’t just apologise to Reg Empey, he should resign and f-off into retirement and, well, the night.

    So yes if any journalist once makes a mistake, a controversial one, they should, like that requested of politicians, resign the post from which they made the mis-representations on the grounds of incompetence. That applies to Brian Walker and everyone in journalism right across the range.

    Good idea? Certainly seems a fair one!

  4. Patricia says:

    Why should anyone believe your version of events even if you were there?

    • Because I’m not a bitter Labour supporter who once said “That [being a Conservative] is worse [than being Unionist]” in an Alliance Party meeting, Patricia. (Amended to reflect precisely what was said – it is fair to add that most if not all others in the room found the comment laughable.)

  5. world geopolitics…

    […]Lies, damned lies, and Observer articles « Ian James Parsley[…]…

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