“Unionist Unity” has its attractions to many

The Liberal commentariat has, naturally, come out against the UUP’s decision to endorse the same candidate as the DUP at the forthcoming by-election, not least given the obvious and predictable penalty of the loss of two further MLAs.

Yet the attraction of Unionist Unity is significant, particularly in border areas and west of the Bann. These are areas where Unionists are a significant but nevertheless clear minority; areas where mistrust of neighbours remains stark; areas where bitter memories land seizures, famines and murder linger. Here, Unionism means defence, even survival, and thus circling the waggons – whether or not that is wise – it is surely at least understandable.

Colin McCusker is from such an area, and is Mike Nesbitt’s closest adviser in practice. Mr Lutton was, apparently, Mr McCusker’s idea. Mr McCusker comes from the same part of Co Armagh that my grandfather came from, and in which many of my family still live. I have little doubt most would instinctively agree with him – when your group perceives itself to be under threat, staying together is a powerful instinct.

Again, what we have here essentially is a clash between the rational and the emotional. Where people are secure – socially, financially, politically even – they will go with the rational. Unionist Unity isn’t rational. But where they are not secure, where fear and mistrust predominate, then emotional urges and instincts come to the fore. I wouldn’t seek to justify this (indeed, I will explain why I think it stupid and dangerous tomorrow), but I do empathise with it.

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4 thoughts on ““Unionist Unity” has its attractions to many

  1. you cannot ride 2 horses at the same time.the idea of being a distinct party and putting your ideas before the electorate is what politics is,to reduce it to a headcount of us and them will only increase tensions -and do nothing to promote good relations,to follow this to its logical outcome is like saying we dont want your vote -this time anyway,just go away and let the dup stand unopposed in all constituencies that way you will maximise the pro union vote,the constitutional question is irrelevant as the secretary of state has no intention of having a referendum.can you imagine the tories and lib dems agreeing candidates to keep labour out – no.this is a sectarian headcount which will result in a sf victory anyway,so principles have been diluted for ……well no good reason actually,unless you are on a mission to destroy the uup.

  2. james McKerrow says:

    If your ship is caught in a storm and becomes unseaworthy, you get on with the task of making your ship seaworthy and able to survive the storm, make port and repair and refit. You can then set out across the seas again with confidence. Occasionally the ship is lost and has to be abandoned, and the occupants survive whilst the ship, their former home and possessions doesn’t. The worst of all worlds is when the ship is perpetually at sea, continually storm tossed, and never totally seaworthy, and that is the seige mentality. An allegory to inform the political, social and economic challenges facing unionism West of the Bann.

  3. While the appeal of Unionist unity might exist West of the Bann and the border areas, the reality is that majority of people there and with the possible exception of East Londonderry the majority of constituents there actively will reject it. To me it rejects three strands of the agreement, strand 1 because it fails to tackle a cross-community link to nationalists and republicans or indeed non-unionists, strand 2 because it doesn’t look at forming even a détente cross border relationship for unionism and the effect of the border economy and strand 3 because the candidates end up looking a lot more single issued than the incumbents who don’t really need to as abstentionists … Assuming the policy will not be turned towards the SDLP or Alliance Party or indeed so called liberal unionists like Herman.

    As a mathematician, I would draw inspiration from the Nash Equilibrium, (discovered by paranoid schizophrenic) that strategies do work best at achieving something if collectives work towards an equilibrium with one another rather than competing in must win battles with all competitors. While this doesn’t seem to be possible at a cross community level by unity, the pan-Unionist equilibrium does exist. And Nesbitt, Robinson and co will explain it is legitimate and natural and productive even if it fails to win outright, while the McCrea’s and McCallister’s will argue that new equilibriums will need to be found for the new Union and the old attitudes are unproductive and forced. People make their nations not vice versa.

    I think the question has to be asked, if the fear spurring Unionist unity is irrational then call it out for what it is, it is simply paranoia, fear for the sake of fear … If it is a rational fear, then what Robinson and Nesbit afraid of, even in the best case scenario how is getting their wanted candidate in really going to elevate fear?

  4. other paul says:

    I’m from Tyrone, and whilst I would vaguely agree with what you’ve written, and appreciate that you’re trying to “get into the mindset”, as far as the second paragraph goes, I really don’t think “East of the Bann” is any different (personally I would say it’s worse!!).

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