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Unionist unity debate moves to a new level…

Writing in today’s News Letter, Terry Wright – the man tasked with heading up the UUP’s post-election review – says that the party recognises its second-party status and “will engage in constructive communication with the DUP, based on our values and principles”. Given the nature of his role in guiding and advising on future UUP strategy, this could be seen as a significant overture within the unity debate. Is this piece a scene-setter for unity talks?

By Terry Wright

Following the General Election, UUP Leader Sir Reg Empey announced a wide-ranging review and analysis.  He expressed the hope that this would spur unionism in general to take an honest and bold look at where we are going.

With regards to the UUP, there are a number of vital issues regarding strategy and presentation of policy which must be urgently addressed.  The review’s findings will shape the UUP’s approach to the 2011 Assembly elections.

The General Election result leaves us with real challenges – the review will not be a white-wash.  I would like to thank those 102,000 people who voted for us.  We know that a similar result in an Assembly election would have produced additional seats.  But the hard questions will not be avoided.  We will ask those questions and produce a measured but thorough analysis.

This will include examining the workings of the UUP-Conservative link.  Many media commentators, of course, have been quick to pronounce it dead.  This is despite the fact that the UUP’s electoral allies now hold office in Downing Street.

There is also the question of ‘unionist unity’.  Ulster Unionism has always been committed to unity amongst and co-operation between pro-Union parties, based on shared values and a shared commitment to promote the Union.

It has been, however, bitterly disappointing to see some in the DUP engage in triumphalism after 6th May and avoid asking themselves the hard questions about East Belfast.

There is also the sobering fact that, at times, the DUP appears to have more in common with Alex Salmond than with David Cameron.  Then we had the DUP boast that ‘Westminster’s difficulty is Ulster’s opportunity’ – taken from the old Republican slogan that ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’.

If there is to be a unity of values between our two parties, it must be based on a real, genuine commitment to the Union – not a form of Northern Ireland nationalism that wants nothing to do with mainstream British politics.

That said, it would be churlish not to recognise that while 1 in 3 pro-Union voters support the UUP, 2 in 3 support the DUP.

Recognising this mandate, the UUP will engage in constructive communication with the DUP, based on our values and principles. We trust that the DUP will engage positively.  Our dialogue cannot be about a sectarian zero sum game.  It must be about positively promoting the Union and bringing Northern Ireland into the mainstream of British politics.

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Filed under: unionist unity?

4 Responses

  1. st etienne says:

    Mr Wright – what is the main differences in policy between the UUP(sans Conservative linkup) and DUP right now?

    If there are none why is the UUP still in existence? Should the Conservatives within not move to create a full Conservative and Unionist party competing in all elections from council to Westminster? Similarly should the McNarrites not just drop the dead donkey and join the DUP in whatever form, as the ‘winners’ of the battle for the tribal unionist voice?

    The worst that can happen in my opinion is some ugly fudge where more alliances and what not are churned out by a generation of politicians who seek to reduce unionist voter choice rather than expand it.

  2. Food For Thought says:

    Judging from the UCUNF/Tory language (codewords like “into the mainstream UK politics”) in this article, it seems like the (cunning?) plan is to try and persuade the DUP to drink deeply from the same Tory Kool-aid that’s already left the UUP on the rocks.

    This seems rather unlikely as the DUP are very smart cookies and know well that any whiff of Tory links or merger would have an even more devestating and divisive effect on the DUP (esp. their large working-class base) than it has had in terms of dividing and weakening the UUP.

    (Look at East Belfast where working-class loyalist voters – unhappy at the DUP for local reasons – refused to vote for a Tory Unionist and instead opted for Naomi even though she wasn’t a Unionist at all.)

    Massive painful cuts are a-comin’ down the line from the Tory govt in Westminster, cuts which will hit working class communities across the UK hardest. The electorate have given their verdict on the Tories – zero seats. And after the Tory cuts hit home, there’ll be even less than 15.2% of votes too.

  3. st etienne says:

    Deluded rubbish.

    The scandalous previous administration who left nothing in the public bank account were leading everyone – yourself included – a merry dance for years. If you think the drug of unaffordable government borrowing was helping working class areas (or any other for that matter) you are very much mistaken.

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