Open Unionism


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The Problems for GB Parties standing in NI – Labour and Lib Dems

The problems with the NI Tories standing or indeed with the CU alliance are possibly even greater for the Labour Party. Although Labour provided Northern Ireland with one of unionism’s favourite secretaries of state in Roy Mason, Labour’s official position for many years was a “united Ireland by consent” and under Kevin McNamara in the 1980s and early 1990s the Labour Party was seen as far from neutral but actually hostile to the union and at times it seemed unionists. Blair of course replaced McNamara with Mo Mowlan but although Labour under his tenure may have been less hostile to unionists many of the decisions especially in the early days of the political process were highly unpopular with unionists. This was never more so than in the release of the assorted criminals from gaol without decommissioning and the extreme deceit of Blair’s promises made at Coleraine University immediately before the referendum on the Belfast Agreement. Mandleson was seen as considerably more pro unionist (or at least even handed) than Mowlan but subsequently Peter Hain, initially distrusted due to his previous support for a united Ireland later became distrusted at least as much for his dishonesty; Woodward was seen as utterly oily and disingenuous.
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Filed under: Uncategorized

The Problems for GB Parties standing in NI – The Tories

The major ideal at the heart of the CU project was that the alliance offered a way of offering people within Northern Ireland the opportunity to vote for a party capable of national government; a mainstream, mainland UK political party, in their case the Conservative Party. When some countered that the unionist party contained some members with more left of centre political views the suggestion was made that following the success of the CUs (illusory as that proved) the other GB political parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats would also stand. This notion is of course far from new: it inspired much of the UUP intergrationalist movement of the 1980s and for a time seemed to have significant traction within the UUP. The failure of the CUs at the Westminster election has led to considerable soul searching especially within that section of unionism which was highly attracted to the CU project. The recent news that the NI Tories are in some confusion as to the way ahead is unsurprising and although the concept of a new centre right party is interesting it again looks like suspiciously like a politicos dream rather than a viable political alternative.
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Filed under: Conservatives

Best of the web…

[This column first published in the News Letter on Friday June 04.]

Last week, I referred to criticism over what Nelson McCausland believes is a lack of Orange Order and Creationism displays at the Ulster Museum. That was the case for the prosecution.

This week we hear the case for the defence.

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Filed under: Best of the Web

Thoughts on Purvis’s resignation and the PUP

There has been much analysis of Dawn Purvis’s resignation from the PUP over on slugger. I will probably post this over there later but I thought it might be worth mentioning here.

Purvis has been being lauded as a woman of integrity in multiple sections of the media with only Mark Devenport and a few others willing to make anything other than wholly supportive comments. This eulogisation of Purvis and Ervine before her has been a feature of most outside of mainstream unionism for many years. This seems to have reached its zenith now that Purvis has left the PUP. She joined in 1994 when although the UVF had declared a ceasefire thy had shown absolutely no sign of decommissioning, let alone going away. She stuck with the party through a total of 28 murders by the UVF until leaving after this one. In addition of course she remained with the PUP despite the UVF’s overwhelming involvement in drug dealing, prostitution, racketeering and assorted other organised crime including the loyalist feud which as well as involving multiple murders also resulted in about 600 people being forced to leave their own homes.
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Best of the web…

[This column first published in the News Letter on Friday May 28.]

There’s been plenty of niggle on the blogs this week. Over at Mike Nesbitt’s blog, I’ve been ribbing the UCUNF candidate on his ‘will-I-won’t-I’ positioning in the UUP leadership race.

Blogs Mike: “[Bobballs] suggests the fact that I say I have no camp, campaign or team, may, in fact, be my strategy for securing the Leadership – a sort of Masterful Inaction. Has he really sussed me again?”

Yes I have. Best of luck Mike!

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Filed under: Best of the Web

It’s not the economy: stupid

Bill Clinton’s strategist James Carville famously coined the phrase “It’s the economy – stupid” for the 1992 US Presidential election. In the UK the issue of the economy has been seen as central to a party’s election chances for many years: making Labour trusted on the economy was one of Tony Blair’s greatest electoral achievements. In the recent Westminster election the centrality of the economy was there for all to see. There may no longer be major left / right economic issues over say nationalisation but the variations over economic policy are highly important. Other social issues are of course also relevant and sometimes on those the left right position is less obvious. However, It is pretty clear that these social issues and especially the economy decide how most people vote.

Northern Ireland is of course different: not really a place apart as there are many places in the world where politics functions along less strict socio-economic lines; Belgium is an example of a modern western democracy which does not function in a simple left right fashion.
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