I was heartened to read Andy Burnham’s article in today’s News Letter. The Labour leadership contender has received the support of the local Labour Party in his leadership campaign.
It is noteworthy, in his article, that he holds out hope that the Labour Party may, ultimately, contest elections here. However, more interestingly, he makes clear that no deal with a local sectarian party is on the cards. Hardly surprisingly, he takes a dim view of the Conservative Party’s relationship with the UUP…
“What I believe is dangerous, however, is for one party to link up with a mainstream UK party, as the Ulster Unionists did with the Tories at the last election.
“That is why, as Labour leader, I would take a different approach.
“I would trust our members here to decide whether to put forward candidates for election, although I would always expect such a decision to be sensitive to the politics of Northern Ireland.”
It’s just a pity the Conservative Party doesn’t adopt a similar stance. I gather that while local Conservatives had resolved to contest the Assembly elections (against the UUP and other, local, sectarian parties) – CCHQ has taken a different view. I understand that Andrew Feldman (Co-Chairman of the Party) has written to Sir Reg Empey assuring him that Conservatives will not be contesting Assembly election against UUP candidates. However, according to my sources, the author of Feldman’s letter was none other than Owen Paterson’s “Chief of Staff” and “Irish politics expert” Jonathan Caine.
Therefore, while Andy Burnham is assuring his local members that they can decide where and when to run elections here, a superannuated, £70k-a-year, ‘special adviser’ is essentially taking all decisions on behalf of local Conservatives – and ignoring their natural desire to run against the rudderless UUP. Bizarre.