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A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Map first, then the route?

Both Chekov and Arthur Aughey have been ruminating lately on the future role of progressive / civic / liberal / UK / new / non-cultural* Unionism post the collapse of the Conservative-UUP project and the election of Tom Elliott as the latter party’s leader.

I deliberately included all the various descriptions because I think it illustrates one of the fundamental initial problems with trying to deal with the topic: whilst there may be overlapping between the categories, beliefs and policies may not always be common or shared between the different groups and individuals, e.g. it would seem that my thoughts on the economy (and probably following on from that attitude towards the Conservatives) would vary widely from others who might describe themselves as Progressives. Civic Unionists would not necessarily adopt the same social liberal positions as I would on such subjects as women’s reproduction rights.

Continuing on from that observation, I think before we can consider how the various brands of Unionism listed can now advance their arguments (or indeed whether there is any point in them even attempting to do so) a set of basic targets needs to be agreed upon.

These would my personal ones:

1. Northern Ireland’s social responsibilities and rights becoming closer to those existing and enjoyed in the rest of the United Kingdom.

2. Reducing the importance of communalism in Unionist politics.

3. Positivism

4. Nationwide political UK issues becoming part of the mainstream in Northern Ireland.

5. Eventually the removal of the constitutional issue and (by logical extension) the Northern Irish Unionist parties from the equation.

Some of those we are closer to achieving than others, some may be impossible to reach in the short-term, some others similar-thinking Unionists might believe shouldn’t be included at all. How we could objectively measure success or failure in each case also wouldn’t be an easy task.

But without first having some sort of benchmarks to guide us, I think there is a real danger that we constantly end up chasing our tails. Once targets are agreed, whether they are achievable can be assessed and if they are, only then is it worthwhile looking at possible ways (be they new parties, working within existing frameworks, focus groups etc) forward.

What do others think?

Unionist Lite

(*delete as appropriate!)

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Filed under: civic unionism, liberals, unionist unity?, ,

8 Responses

  1. Reactionary Unionist says:

    You don’t need a map when you are far on the road to nowhere.

    Some of the targets are better than others (how do you remove the constitutional issue when nationalists want to keep it alive?). But it won’t really matter as liberal unionists are too full of a tiresome self-righteousness to put together any credible platform.

    Refusing to work with other unionists (the sniffiness over the liberal Connor candidacy being a case in point), arguing that the DUP is simply a mirror image of SF, or refusing even to transfer STV preferences (as favoured by O’Neill) suggests that there isn’t much core to liberal unionism beyond anti-DUP bile.

  2. st etienne says:

    how do you remove the constitutional issue when nationalists want to keep it alive?

    Disregarding the current malaise in nationalism within Europe in general that allows unionism to set the constitutional agenda anyway, the above line suggests nationalism is a natural agenda-setting force.

    This has only any basis in fact as a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that’s a sign of an ingrained weak unionism. I don’t see that as a sole trait of either the liberal or ethnic wings – Robinson and his anti-apartheid message on education showed even firebrands can set the agenda with a non-constitutional message.

  3. oneill says:

    “You don’t need a map when you are far on the road to nowhere.”

    At this particular stage, I wouldn’t disagree with you; it may even be worse that with the different varieties heading off in even widely varying directions.

    Refusing to work with other unionists (the sniffiness over the liberal Connor candidacy being a case in point), arguing that the DUP is simply a mirror image of SF, or refusing even to transfer STV preferences (as favoured by O’Neill) suggests that there isn’t much core to liberal unionism beyond anti-DUP bile.

    Changing that last phrase around a bit:
    “… there must be something more to Unionism than simply voting for whatever bigotted donkey decides to pin on the red, white and blue rosette?”.

    Why on earth should I even consider voting for a person, whose views (apart from a vague support for the link with the rest of the UK I have nothing in common with? Does it really strengthen the Union if we unthinkingly vote against our conscience merely to keep themuns out?

  4. Turgon says:

    oneill,
    I can sort of empathise with your questions about voting in an abstract sense.

    However, in F/ST the reasons for voting for Conor were in no particular order that the main alternative:

    supported the previous murders of her constituents
    opposed democracy in her own constituency and in NI
    opposed the rule of law in her own constituency and elsewhere
    thought a future generation of her supporters might have to go back to killing other constituents
    supported blatantly discriminatory practices in grant allocations
    refused to attend the parliament to which she had been elected

    Conor on the other hand opposed criminality and murder and also discrimination
    Had a track record of work for the whole community
    was going to attend Westminster
    opposed killing people
    supported democracy.

    essentially when faced with the threat of people who support wicked and unprincipled actions most decent people ban together and set aside more minor differences.

    the fact that you wilfully refuse to see Sinn Fein and Gildernew as anti democratic fascist thugs is if true a little worrying. If you recognise it yet still oppose a unity candidate that is also worrying.

  5. oneill says:

    I know SF and Gildernew are fascists, I also know that almost the entire Unionist political elite are, despite that fact, still happy enough to share power with them at the Toytown parliament…happy enough to share power with them, yet when the election time comes around suddenly once again we are informed that the Unionist “community” must band together behind “our” man, whether we agree with stance on any other subject other than the Union or not. So does that make me or the DUP/UUP political machines the bigger hypocrite or villain of the piece?

    If SF are fascist thugs then they are fascist thugs 7/24 and not just at election time when its convenient to bang the big communal drum.

    When the stagecoached are circled round you move the battle onto one of SF’s choosing, they are able to take advanatge of the sectarian “victim” card to much better effect than the Unionist parties ever will. Why facilitate them?

    This post from Nicholas Whyte is interesting in its relevance to FST:
    http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1563750.html

  6. Reactionary Unionist says:

    Thanks O’Neill for making my point for me.

    No one is asking you to vote for bigoted donkeys. Instead, in certain cases where there are mutual benefits eg maximising representation, unionists ought to work together.

    The furore generated in some places by Connor’s candidature shows what is wrong. Here was a candidate far more liberal than either me or Turgon, who quite easily could have come up via the UCUNF route. But it wasn’t enough for a moderate to have a decent chance of winningt a seat. It was more important to confront the DUP, even if that meant trailing in second behind SF.

    In fact Gildernew’s majority would have been one not four if the (allegedly) unionist blogger Seymour Major and his family had voted for Connor, instead of going SDLP in protest at not having an official UCUNF on the ballot.

    I wish our liberal brethren would realise that they are mirror image of old style Paisleyites: more interested in pursuing their own factional interests/obsessions rather than working together with other unionists. Self-righteous, and foolish but not surprising.

    O’Neill and people like him might be soggy liberals but I’m sure Turgon and me would still give him a preference under STV. I rather doubt he would do the same in reverse.

  7. oneill says:

    “O’Neill and people like him might be soggy liberals but I’m sure Turgon and me would still give him a preference under STV.”

    Why?

    1. Because we agree on the Union
    2. I’m not Sinn Fein?

    And you think that’s enough?

    If there were a socially conservative Aliance or even SDLPer, constitutionally agnostic or not too vocal about the UI, why should you still vote for me? Only because at some stage in the undefined future we’ll be voting for the same side in the Border Poll?

  8. […] In a post on Open Unionism not so long ago, ‘Unionist Lite’ pinpointed the difficulty with all this diversity within unionism, referring to ‘progressive / civic / liberal / UK / new / non-cultural* Unionism’ and saying that ‘all the various descriptions’: illustrates one of the fundamental initial problems with trying to deal with the topic: whilst there may be overlapping between the categories, beliefs and policies may not always be common or shared between the different groups and individuals, e.g. it would seem that my thoughts on the economy (and probably following on from that attitude towards the Conservatives) would vary widely from others who might describe themselves as Progressives. Civic Unionists would not necessarily adopt the same social liberal positions as I would on such subjects as women’s reproduction rights. […]

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