UUP misreading UK position again

I have referred before to Fair Deal‘s excellent piece, the summary of which is that the Ulster Unionist Party’s woes derive from an inability to understand the UK Government’s position. The latest (and bizarre) example came, it seems, at Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. No one will be more let down by this than Mr and Mrs Average Ulster Unionist (who, these days, are typically non-voters).

UUP Leader Tom Elliott’s initial reaction, kindly placed on this blog’s comments by one of our frequent contributors, was that he had met the Prime Minister, UCUNF hadn’t worked, and they would find a new way to link. This was sensible, demonstrating a respectful stance which leaves options open.

However, he has now allowed an article to go out with the news that he “angrily rejected” plans for a “full merger”. To which, a few points:

– who the hell is the UUP Leader to “angrily reject” a proposal from the Prime Minister without even considering it?

– did the UUP seriously believe the Conservatives’ ultimate objective was anything other than a full merger?

– on what grounds does the UUP actually reject this idea?

Firstly, the UUP does itself no favours by trying to make the Prime Minister look a fool (any more than Fred Cobain did by setting ultimatums to the Secretary of State). How precisely does Tom Elliott plan to gain leverage to, for example, change the First Minister designation system if he is busy “angrily rejecting” the Prime Minister’s proposals on behalf of a party with the same number of MPs as the Monster Raving Loony Party?! This only gives the Conservatives even more cover for not doing what the UUP wants.

Secondly, the UUP yet again misread the intentions of the largest party in the UK. It has been doing so consistently since the 1980s. The idea that the Conservatives would come in, fund a General Election campaign, and then go away again with nothing to show for it is ludicrous. From the very start, David Cameron talked about a “new party”. He meant it.

Thirdly, the UUP has no future east of the Bann (and thus really at all) other than by merging with someone. By rejecting the Conservatives, one has to assume that these talks with the DUP will continue, that Belfast City Council deals will turn into Assembly deals, and the surrender of the UUP to the ever expanding DUP will meekly continue.

Meanwhile, on the real issues, the UUP is silent while the DUP makes all the running. When it comes to negotiating with the Government on PMS savers, it is the DUP to the fore; when it comes to taking a sensible line of public spending reductions, it is the DUP to the fore; even when it comes to calling on the BNP to “disappear”, it is the DUP to the fore!

No one will feel the pain of this reality more than the many Ulster Unionists who feel their party has gone away from them. Their leaders are unable to read the game. Their representatives, many of them decent individuals, carry no clout. Their party is absent on any of the real issues. The truth is that a merger with the Conservative Party (which has already been through the challenge of staring into the abyss and coming out the other side) is an option which needs to be seriously considered, not angrily rejected – Ulster Unionists, both inside and outside the party, should not allow another election to pass before merger ceases to be an option and becomes instead a necessity.

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25 thoughts on “UUP misreading UK position again

  1. john Greene says:

    Poor Tom does not whether he wants to be inside the tent or out.
    Owen Paterson could arrange meetings with the UUP and hail their important input on PMS or on the Spending Review but following the Cobain Commandment (see above) and Tom Tantrum (on First Minister) and the ‘angry rejection’ of Cameron’s offer the Conservatives are leaving them to twist in the wind

    • I don’t mean to personalise it to Tom Elliott, who is a polite and, dare I say, decent man with a difficult job ahead.

      I mean to suggest that he has a straight choice, and he has harmed one of the avenues by what *appears* to be an outburst (I find it hard to believe, in fact, that the report is accurate – but then questions have to be asked of his PR team).

      The apparently inevitable end of the Ulster Unionist Party is not something which fills me with great delight, despite the fact I never voted for it first preference. Trimble’s UUP (whatever you think of the man himself) played an essential role in the better Northern Ireland we now have. Even Elliott’s UUP contains within it many fine people, who rejected terror and who stood up for democracy when the reckoning came. However, there is no future for a party which continues to be directionless and which seems intent on cutting off all its avenues.

      • paul says:

        ian why do you seem to suggest its the end for the uup.yes the uup have problems but so do the sdlp its far too early to make any predictions next years elections will give us a far better picture and i am hopeful of gains at council and mlas levels

    • paul says:

      i dont think cameron is saying that hes trying to find away forward.myself i would rather work with the DUP than the NI tories

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Northern Ireland and Stephen Montgomery, Ian James Parsley. Ian James Parsley said: UUP misreading UK position again: http://wp.me/psfAD-gh […]

  3. Dilettante says:

    Would McCrea have been any better? I’d be interested to hear both cases (for and against merger, from a non-sectarian perspective) clearly put forward. Maybe something Open Unionism could arrange.

  4. paul says:

    i would just add that there is no chance of any merger between the uup and the ni tories i think its safe to say over 90 percent plus of the uup would be against any merger with the ni tories.I personally would have nothing to do with it and a lot of us simpy could not stomach some of them.the link between the uup and tories is almost over i would rather work with the DUP than the ni tories

  5. clarion says:

    What Elliot and McCrea both said publically before their contest and what they both think privately and what is now most pragmatic for them and the UUP may very well be two different things.
    What I took from being in Birmingham is that the leadership and CCHQ are more committed to NI than ever before. All the signals are that they want a new approach.
    This nonsense about them considering pulling the plug simply isn’t on the agenda. Very much the opposite is happening and Cameron is offering the UUP an honourable way out.
    They have two choices or face a possible split and/or meltdown. Conservatives or DUP. It’s also a stark choice between sectarian or non sectarian politics.

    • That’s pretty much the way it is, yes.

      There’s also my second point that many self-identified Ulster Unionists (who are typically, though not always, Conservative) do not currently have a party.

      There is still a chance for Ulster Unionists to play a lead role in shaping a new, Conservative-aligned party. But they’ll need to make a decision and see it through.

      • paul says:

        ian what do you think will happen theres a lot of ifs and buts the uup rank and file would never approve a merger with the ni tories never i can tell you that.i hope for gains next year we ill just have to wait and see.

      • Paul – no one has suggested a merger with the NI Tories, but with the Conservative Party.

    • paul says:

      but what happens if the uup makes gains next year.then what you seem pretty confident about the uup are going to take a hit lets just wait and see.

      • As I’ve said before, the UUP in current guise would gain a seat in West Tyrone but would likely lose a few elsewhere.

        If it showed itself willing to reform, I think it could gain ground. However, all the evidence points the other way.

    • paul says:

      i dont see a split clarion an honourable way out for who the ni tories you over estimate yourselves you bring nothing to the table.

  6. paul says:

    i could not support a merger between the uup and the conservatives.Which would also incoperate the ni tories it will never happen the rank and file uup members would never approve it i even think the talks at the end of the month between cameron and tom will come to the conclusion its best for both parties to go there seperate ways.I would rather work with the DUP

  7. paul says:

    i just want to pick up on ian saying the uup will gain an assembly seat in west tyrone i agree i also think mike nesbitt in strangford will gain a seat for the uup.its all to play for

  8. paul says:

    just to add to the debate what would the name be of any merged party suggestions please certaintly not the ni conservative and unionist party you are kidding are you not.????? surely it not have either conservative or unionist or ulster in the name

  9. brian lynes says:

    Paul what is the problem with Northern Ireland Conservatives and Unionists?
    Surely you are not going to insist on ‘Ulster’ – which is a comparatively recent addition to the Unionist Party.
    Cameron is clear however this will be a Conservative Party not a Unionist ‘catch all’ party – not the UUP rebranded.
    Most UUP members will not join

  10. Joseph Addison says:

    Paul,
    Go and join the Dreary Uninspired Paisley Party. There will be a realignment and the moderates will get together. I want rid of Tom ad hominem. Any sane party that wastes its time worrying about unecessary Marches causing the majority of the populace total grief should join the Pan Unionist Front. There is one thing; Inla have been the only political party to really take the NI Conservatives seriously. They were not slow learners-Unnecessary change is coming 500000 people wont even vote for any Northern Ireland Parties.Watch this space. It appears the UUP are now only fit for bar room brawls. Tom has thrown discipline out of the window.

  11. clarion says:

    Interesting what you said about the INLA Joseph. I’m guessing you mean the killing of Airey Neave and Ian Gow.
    I think this is a very important point.
    The militant republicans know that keeping NI apart is key to their strategy of fragmenting the union.
    These highly principled men I have long had high admiration for. They wanted NI more fully integrated into the union.
    Unionists don’t seem to realise that keeping NI on the window ledge actually prepares it to fall out of the building.
    The national parties forming here is the logical step in cementing the Union. These men paid the ultimate price and were both killed by cowards planting devices under their cars.

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