NI Conservatives face humiliation

The coming years will likely see the NI Conservatives put out of their agony – not because Conservatism in NI is a bad idea, but because of the unbelievable naivety its leadership continues to demonstrate.

Firstly, as noted over on Open Unionism, their failure to secure any defections of elected Ulster Unionists, not even the two obvious MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister, represents a disaster because their whole strategy was so obviously based around attracting them. The fact that an offer of organisation and financial backing was still not good enough to attract disenchanted MLAs, including one who stood as a Conservative and Unionist, is telling.

Secondly, and surely worse still, they continue not to compete in actual elections! They have become like the “hospital with no patients” of Yes, Minister fame; a “party with no candidates”. Two by-elections have now occurred in Northern Ireland since the Assembly Election from which the Conservatives were barred; neither has included a Conservative candidate. Nowhere else in the UK could a by-election take place without a Conservative candidate, so this is an obvious demonstration of the distinctiveness of Northern Ireland politics – the very distinctiveness the Conservatives deny or, at least, are supposedly intent on ending.

Thirdly, UKIP has now stolen a march on the Conservatives – with an MLA of its own and the likelihood of a strong European Election candidate. A joint TUV/UKIP ticket, which is likely, would secure a significant vote (albeit probably not enough to win), many multiples ahead of any NI Conservative candidate. I would go so far as to suggest already that the Conservatives will meekly withdraw in favour of the “Basil” candidate – again proving NI’s political distinctiveness, the very contention they are trying to deny or stop!

It is a no-win situation already. Either the Conservatives run a candidate and get annihilated, or they allow three UK-level elections in a row to pass without a Conservative candidate after an Assembly Election which took place without one. There is no way back from either of those. It was entirely predictable back in 2010 – arguably NI needs a Conservative voice, but living in a constant state of denial is no way to achieve political influence.

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9 thoughts on “NI Conservatives face humiliation

  1. harry cullen says:

    So why after all the meetings with Mr Ford and other senior officers,did those Mlas not join the mighty Greater Belfast Party of Alliance?

    • Because Basil wanted to be the Big Guy, probably!

      Another alarming trait of NI Conservatives is to try to criticise other parties. That just looks ludicrous when you haven’t managed to get a single candidate elected to anything in the entire post-Agreement era!

      If you want to criticise, stand!

  2. St Etienne says:

    How did Alliance get on in mid-Ulster? Where is the massive increase in support trumpeted by various echo chamber mouthpieces?

    Ah sorry, to hijack your metaphor the Alliance cross-community medicine is only to be prescribed to one part of the community; nationalist indifference is to be ignored and unchallenged.

    If the only defence of continued abject Alliance performance in nationalist constituencies is an attack on a party who didn’t run, I think we can surmise the underlying message from Alliance is that only unionism requires change (or more accurately, only unionism can provide Alliance with votes).

    • Funny how Nationalists always look at it that way round. How are Nationalists doing in Alliance areas? I live in a mixed neighbourhood and I’d be more likely to stumble across an NI Conservative looking for my vote than a Nationalist!

      • St Etienne says:

        Where exactly are the ‘Alliance electoral areas’?

        Answer that honestly and you’ll begin to address the actual point I made rather than deflect from it.

        What is the Alliance response to it’s inability to capture votes in predominantly nationalist constituencies? Simple question, no answers as yet.

  3. The Listener says:

    Ian, As you were once a Conservative candidate, you must really get your facts right about the Conservatives being barred from running a candidate in Mid-Ulster. You seem to have a special reserve of vitriol for your former party! The fact is that unless you have strong support and a party machine in an electoral area there is little point in running a candidate. That is unless you are so flush with money you can throw it away just to make a point.

    You know as well as I do that the problem with Conservatism in Northern Ireland is that it takes time to build up a solid base of support for fundamental policy positions, whereas the traditional local parties easily achieve voting power through inherent sectaianism. The 49% of the population of the public, who do not vote,because many of them see no point and adopt a “plague upon all of you” attitude, have to be reached out to.

    To achieve a solid support base takes a hell of a lot of enthusiastic effort, and human beiings being human being only a minority of any party are enthusiastic enough to make an effort. SF and DUP, with well oiled and funded party machines, will do better.

    You could keep to your eye catching and provocative headline, but if you had said, that “humliation will occur at the next General Election unless Conservative suporters pound the streets and build up a well funded base it may well fade away” then that would be fair comment which we could all take seriously, and the Conservatives might well be able to spell out what they are doing to strengthen their support on the ground.

  4. Editor says:

    Ian I tend to agree with you. Although I’m not really sure the post was worth writing as the NICs have disappeared off the electoral scene in any case. Most people aren’t even aware the Conservative Party is organised here.

    • This is true.

      I draw no solace from that. The idea of a serious centre-right political movement linked perhaps to the English Conservative Party is not a bad one.

      But it takes hard works on the doorsteps and with the drains.

  5. The Listener says:

    Editor is correct as to public awareness of the NI Conservatives. From a charitable viewpoint maybe perceived inaction is due to Montgomery prior to El Alemaine. increase strength before doing battle!

    In truth it may be a question of a lack of dynamic leadership. However what comes first, the chicken or the egg? In any venture, it is not a matter of just creating a group at the top but attracting those with leadership quality able to expend time out of enthusiasm and ultruism, who then make their presence felt, whilst working up to the top.

    It is a concept which requires thought and loads of explanation, so much easier for a traditional local party, which has the default of voting cultural habits. Alliance after many years of effort has carved a niche in the face of cultural voting habits. Likewise without clever spin doctoring, NI Consrvatives are here for the long haul.

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