On the same day that Conservatives in Scotland and Wales will be electing members to their Parliament and Assembly, Conservatives in NI will be barred from so doing. Image via Wikipedia
Alex Kane has written an excellent piece in Today’s Newsletter. Here’s just a taster. You can read the full article in the comments to my previous post.
“It is worth noting that I have seen the words ‘unequivocal support’ used in Central Office documents in 1989, 1992 and 1996. It turned out to mean nothing on those occasions and it means nothing now. On the same day that Conservatives in Scotland and Wales will be electing members to their Parliament and Assembly, Conservatives in NI will be barred from so doing. Not by their own choice, mind you, but simply because Central Office doesn’t want the Secretary of State to have to take sides when it really matters. It seems he can say what he likes when he is in Opposition—but not when he is in Government!” – Alex Kane in Today’s Newsletter
Is Cameron serious about detoxifying our politics? Image via Wikipedia
This is an extended version of a comment I have made on my previous post. I felt it deserved greater oxygen.
A few of my former colleagues in the local Conservative Party organisation have criticised me for being a tad lukewarm re. yesterday’s announcement about Party organisation here. This is my attempt at an explanation. Interestingly, Alex Kane, former Head of Communications at the UUP, agrees with me (see comments on yesterday’s post).
The point I have made is that the local Conservative Party Area Executive threw all its toys out of the pram because CCHQ refused to contest the Assembly elections. The Area Chairman, Irwin Armstrong, resigned over the issue. Now he has un-resigned when nothing has changed.
The excuse for the U-turn is that because of the delay in reaching an agreement with CCHQ it would be impossible to get ready for elections that are still several months away. But that’s nonsense – as has been pointed out by Seymour Major over on his blog.
Even a single candidate put forward for the Assembly elections would make clear that the Conservatives are serious and intend to define themselves as a brand distinct from sectarian “Unionism” and “Nationalism”. There is no point to democratic politics if elections aren’t contested. Constant preparation for success is not the point – it’s about democracy, plain and simple. If the brand is dodgy, no-one will vote for it. That’s politics.
But the end game in the process is about de-toxifying our politics. We’re either in that game or we aren’t. And, it would appear, the local Conservatives seem to have decided that they are not – and that implies sloppy and wimpy leadership.
Image via Wikipedia
I have received a media release from Conservative Central Office confirming that the Party will be organising in Northern Ireland from here on as the Conservative Party (no reference to “Unionist”). The release makes clear that the Party will be contesting local government elections in May.
However the release makes no reference to the Assembly elections.
I’ll be commenting in more detail on this announcement later. (In fact, no need, just read my comments on this post).
The full text of the release from CCHQ reads as follows:
The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland has committed itself to an ongoing programme of campaigning and development and will shortly move into a new campaign headquarters in Bangor, Co. Down. A full time member of staff will be based at the headquarters and one of the Party’s most senior campaign directors has been appointed to liaise with the Party in Northern Ireland.
The Party is committed to the development of progressive centre right politics which offer the electorate of Northern Ireland the opportunity to cast their votes for and participate directly with the national Government of the United Kingdom. The Party will continue to review how Conservatives in Northern Ireland can play a full part in the Conservative Party as in every other part of the United Kingdom and senior Conservatives in Northern Ireland will work with the Board of the Party to develop that relationship.
Central to that development will be the Party’s desire to see Conservative Associations formed in every Northern Ireland constituency and an active programme of membership recruitment at a local level.
Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said: “The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland has the unequivocal support of the Party nationally. Politics in Northern Ireland continues to evolve and we are determined to be at the heart of that evolution. Our approach will be one of active engagement – starting with the fielding of candidates in the Local Council elections in May.”
Image via Wikipedia
Rodney McCune (not sure who he is, by the way) must be thinking no-one has noticed. But it would appear that he has hijacked the Conservatives in NI/UCUNF/VoteforChange Twitter account.
If you visit the VoteforChangeNI website (built, it would appear, by Conservative Central Office – and last updated in May 2010) and link to the Conservatives in NI twitter account, the only tweets on the account all link to the chap McCune’s blog.
McCune, it would appear, is a kindof Twitter-Squatter (if indeed he is the author and master of the aforementioned Twitter account – perhaps it’s a Conservatives in NI/UCUNF/VoteforChange/McCune groupie).
There is no mention of the word Conservative on his personal blog – but he seems content to get the traffic from well-meaning followers of the political dead parrot that is Conservatives in NI/UCUNF/VoteforChange Yada Yada.
Image by Slugger O'Toole via Flickr
Chekov, over on the 3000 Versts Blog has highlighted an open letter from two local bloggers to Owen Paterson, NI Secretary of State, and chief architect of the partnership with the UUP (that crashed and burned with UCUNF).
As an act of solidarity with my fellow bloggers O’Neill and Dilettante (and Chekov) I am reproducing it here. I’ll be interested to see the response and will publish it here (if it ever comes).
Dear Mr. Paterson,
We are writing to you concerning the position of the Conservative Party vis-à-vis its activity in Northern Ireland. As Conservative and Unionist bloggers we have been firm supporters of Mr. Cameron’s policy of political engagement in the province, and we hope to be able to continue to facilitate in our small way the efforts of the party there. In recent weeks there has been some confusion about the future of the party in Northern Ireland, and if you were able to clarify that position for us, we would then be able to pass it to our readership.
Local Conservatives are dropping me heavy hints that they will be fielding candidates in next year’s Assembly elections – in opposition to former ‘partners’ in the UUP. This decision is to be welcomed.
However, it may be the case that the Conservatives in NI will return to a position they occupied prior to the UCUNF debacle. CCHQ has always regarded Conservatives here as some type of lunatic fringe. While the disgraceful, and incompetent, antics of the UUP during the recent general election campaign may have changed central office’s opinion, I’m still not sure that the national party will be much inclined towards investing heavily in an election campaign here.
I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps Owen Paterson and Jonathan Caine will have convinced the powers that be that local Conservatives are worth the investment. However, it is questionable, given the bum steer that both gave in terms of UCUNF’s prospects of success, that anyone will listen.
Moreover, even if CCHQ does provide support and back-up, one really has to ask what people here would be asked to vote for. After all, the perception is that the coalition government is implementing the austerity measures here that will result in huge cuts to the Executive’s budget (this is nonsense, by the way – the budget deal for NI is very, very fair). Moreover, voters will be confused as to what Conservatives might stand for in the Assembly.
At a more fundamental level, local Conservatives have no effective or media savvy spokespeople, few familiar faces, and little if any political marketing talent.