Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

And what do we believe? Why? Where are we heading?

At the present moment politics and by extension, political blogging in the US, bores me; not so much the issues, more the black/white, no room for debate, partisanship. There are very few indeed standing back, using critical analysis on their “own” side as well as putting the boot into the “other”, very few prepared to stand out and say “Yes, well, I do believe a), b) and c) but…”

One exception is The Daily Dish, which joined my daily essential reading list several months ago. “Exception” is the perfect description for its editor, Andrew Sullivan, for a whole host of reasons you can read here, but what I have found particularly interesting over the last week or so, is his reiteration of his own personal brand of conservatism (here and here) and how far away that description lies from the Palinist “the only good liberal is a dead’un” loons who are presently dominating the discourse on the American Right.

More below the fold

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‘Best of the Web’

[First published in the News Letter on Friday March 26.]

The main Unionist Parties have (largely) confirmed their candidates for the election. The phoney war is over… let the campaign begin!

In these early stages, Facebook is the social media weapon of choice for candidates. The ability to generate ‘friends’ (ie. nick other people’s established networks) makes this attractive for candidates. It’s also the lost-cost venue to launch your personal campaign. For example, within a couple of hours of being confirmed, @PaulaJaneB had invited me to become a fan of ‘Paula Bradshaw – Vote for Change in South Belfast’ on Facebook. Very organised.

I now see that fellow UCUNF candidate, and partner, Ian Parsley ‘likes’ most things on the page. I’m sure Paula likes you too Ian.

Wait, no update on the DUP Facebook page for 9 months? C’mon lads – you should talk to your friends more! (That page has been cleaned up since publication on Friday.)

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The Nasty Party Wheels Out it’s Next Barrage

Picked this up from Mick Fealty’s Twitterfeed

The Tory’s have launched a new set of attack posters, highlighted here on Conservative Home; in keeping with the internet trend of amending posters as soon as they appear, Conservative Home already have some even more gloves off suggestions.
Tories launch anti-Brown posters

All in all, very reminiscent of a US election campaign, how will the British public react to attack adverts? How will Labour respond? With the election being as tight as it is I predict a nasty couple of weeks. Moreover, with the same team behind these posters being at the call of UCUNF, we can hardly assume Northern Ireland will be exempt as it has been in previous years. Will style or substance win?

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Analysis: UUP choice for justice minister…

Newspaper reports suggest that the UUP  are poised to back Alban Maginness as Justice Minister. Slugger O’Toole has already pointed to an apparent anomaly in this. So what are the UUP trying to achieve? In the post below W B Maginess considers why the move might be clever politics…

By W B Maginess

Rumours abound that the UUP are going to back Alban Maginness for Justice Minister.  This deserves some analysis.

The principle that d’Hondt should be used to appoint Ministers is one that the UUP have stuck to throughout the debate around devolution.  The SDLP seem to have thought this meant that they would get first refusal at Justice because they have 11th pick in d’Hondt, but of course this is flawed.

Were justice in the mix in 2007, it is inconceivable that Environment or Regional Development would have been selected ahead of Justice.  As a result were d’Hondt to be used to appoint this Minister, all Ministers would need to cease to hold office and the entire thing run again.  The DUP’s argument was that this left it open to Sinn Fein, but of course that is totally disingenuous.  If Sinn Fein and the DUP had a pact not to take the post, then they wouldn’t.  Their aim in not running d’Hondt was to keep the UUP and SDLP out.

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Rumour mill… DUP holds back in 2 constituencies!

[Posted originally on Bobballs]

I’m hearing that the DUP are finalising their selection process and all candidates are to be ratified tomorrow… but the rumour is that they are not going to run anyone in either North Down or South Belfast.

Lots of questions.

What will be the effect of a DUP no-show in North Down? Will that not give UCUNF a better chance of defending the seat?

Won’t the DUP voter be closer to UUP thinking (given that P&J vote) than to the Labour-leaning (P&J supporting) Sylvia Hermon? I suspect so.

Slugger quotes the excellent Ken Reid who suggests that a DUP withdrawal will advantage Sylvia. But she will be an independent, and here’s the rub. If the DUP’s ‘Unionist Unity‘ campaign is to mean something it must mean backing the Unionist candidate in North Down if they choose to withdraw. Holding to the logic behind the campaign, the DUP must back Ian Parsley mustn’t they? After all, he is the mainstream Unionist candidate.

The DUP can hardly withdraw in ND to support an anti-UCUNF candidate, but then expect UCUNF to negotiate with the DUP on unity candidates elsewhere. No, I disagree with Ken. If the DUP back Sylvia they may forget about the Unity campaign ie. their platform for the general election.

Likewise, in SB. If true, is this a unilateral withdrawal? Or is there some sort of agreement in place? I might be reading this wrong, but if the DUP fail to select in SB and ND then it directly benefits the UUP, right?

That being so, the onus is on a positive response from UCUNF. How could they expect to respectably run Tom Elliott against Arlene Foster in FST? If the DUP withdraw from any constituency, then Tom’s campaign is finished.

Interesting stuff. Will the rumour come to pass? Will Trimble be forced to eat his words?

I’ll update when I hear anything further…

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Scooptastic post at Hand of History!

[Just posted this at Bobballs, thought it would be of interest here.]

Hand Of History blog has the big scoop on who the next UUP Comms Director is. Rather than re-report his scooptastic post here and spoil the sense of anticipation, just mosey along to Ivor’s blog.

For me, this is a far-sighted and bold appointment – perfect for UCUNF, in my humble opinion.

Nice work Ivor!

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The case for ‘Unionist Unity’…

With the selection process nearing completion for Unionist Parties, debate continues in the media over the prospects for fielding ‘unity’ candidates in constituencies considered winnable for a single Unionist runner. While the former UUP leader and Tory peer Lord Trimble contends that there will be no unity candidates, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds puts forward the case for cooperation in Fermanagh & South Tyrone and South Belfast…


By Nigel Dodds MP MLA

In any group of people there will always be differences of emphasis and opinion and unionism is no different. However, the state of Northern Ireland came into being because unionists were able to put those differences aside and unite behind the shared cause of ensuring that our future remained within the United Kingdom. The idea that the men and women who signed the Covenant or who backed Carson’s Ulster Volunteers agreed on every aspect of policy is as ridiculous as the notion is now. However, they were able to unite behind a greater shared ideal and it is thanks to that determination and effort that we are able to enjoy our Britishness today.

Co-operation between the different unionist parties holds the prospect of that same principle working again today. We must all be able to agree that the more unionist voices representing Northern Ireland at Westminster the better. The car manufacturer Kia uses an advert based on the simple logic that a 7 year warranty is better than a 3 year one. Similarly having 12 unionist MPs at Westminster is better than 10.

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UCUNF: 15 UUs; 2 Tories; 1 name to come

I posted this up earlier today on bobballs, thought this would be of interest here too.

Eight UCUNF candidates have been selected today.

  • Antrim East – Rodney McCune
  • Antrim North – Irwin Armstrong
  • Belfast North – Fred Cobain
  • Belfast South – Paula Bradshaw
  • Down North – Ian Parsley
  • Fermanagh and South Tyrone – Tom Elliott
  • Foyle – David Harding
  • Londonderry East – Lesley Macaulay

South Antrim will be last constituency to be decided.

As predicted earlier, only a couple of Tories were among the names: Parsley and Armstrong.

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Best of the Web

By Geoff McGimpsey

It was a bit of a pick’n’mix this week from the bloggers –numerous stories on a variety of subjects.

Northern Ireland’s constitutional status is up for grabs according to a Belfast Telegraph poll. Apparently 25% of Protestants think there will be a united Ireland by 2021. Hand of History was sceptical, and pointed out that none of this ‘takes into account whether or not the Republic of Ireland want us’. Yes, I do wonder whether NAMA would be overly thrilled.

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TUV Westminster Candidate for East Belfast David Vance sets out his Party’s position on Caitriona Ruane’s proposal to remove funding for pupils in preparatory departments. The issue, he says, is further evidence of dysfunctionality at the heart of the Executive and reinforces his Party’s demand for voluntary coalition…

TUV Leader Jim Allister during last year's Euro election

A lesson in dysfunctionality…

By David Vance

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane is ideologically driven to dismantle Northern Ireland’s academic system. She follows in the tradition of Martin McGuinness who started the ball rolling and her latest attack on the funding of Prep Schools demonstrates the utter dysfunctionality that lies with the currentform of devolved Government.

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