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.
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?
(*delete as appropriate!)