On the subject of Unionist Unity, UUP researcher Stephen Warke says that there is a great degree of commonality between the main parties. He suggests that a closer working relationship could energise the unionist electorate and maximise the potential gains for Unionism…
By Stephen Warke
With the outcome of 2010 General Election decided, it is now apparent that in the broader interests of Unionism reflection and consideration must be given in order to allow major and possibly radical decisions to be made.
Having canvassed extensively in my home patch of East Belfast, the clear message I received on the doorsteps was that voters wanted to see greater co-operation amongst the unionist parties.
At the present time there will be those in the Ulster Unionist Party who will insist on clinging to the sinking ship of UCUNF, clutching to the coat-tails of the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister with all desperation in the vainglorious hope that they will somehow be able to influence those in positions of power. This is the height of fantasy.
Whilst it stands to reason that the majority of Unionist voters are conservative (small ‘c’) on most social and economic issues, the reality is: They are not Tories. Alongside this fact, in my opinion, the unionist electorate have never forgotten – nor forgiven, the actions of Margaret Thatcher or the comments of Peter Brooke.
To quote Shakespeare, “what is done cannot be undone”, but David Cameron’s avowed lack of neutrality on the Union allows the potential for a reasonable and logical argument to be made for a relationship with the Conservative Party. However, the question is to what depth and extent should that relationship be?
Like many others, I have crossed swords with the DUP on a wide variety of issues for a number of years. However, the reality is there is more commonality between our two parties than we may sometimes care to recognise.
I do not endorse a merger – that would be totally out of the question and a bolt-on measure would not work either. I support an exploration of the commonality between our two parties which could enable the potential for a closer working relationship which, in turn, will energise the unionist electorate and maximise the potential gains for Unionism across Northern Ireland.
Alongside such discussions should also be an identification of a vision for Unionism going forward. It would appear that the proposals for a Unionist Academy have fallen off the radar. The questions needing to be answered urgently are: Who is thinking strategically for Unionism and where do we see Unionism in 5, 10 and 20 years time? The answers to these will hold the key to our future.