Mike Nesbitt doesn’t think the voters of Northern Ireland want any policies.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In what, surely, must be one of the most depressing reads, Sam McBride’s interview of UUP “leader” Mike Nesbitt is a perfect encapsulation of the depravity of Northern Ireland politics.
McBride has provided an insight into the ‘thinking’ of a man who has managed to shrink the UUP into boneless form. Rather than a Party for “decent people” Nesbitt sees Unionism as nothing more than a vehicle for Protestantism. That is the extent of the policies needed to achieve the vote. Orange. Period. Nothing else matters in Nesbitt’s political world.
Nesbitt believes that as long as he and his DUP cronies serve up the bad-smelling muck of sectarianism the voters will come out in their droves. The hapless Unionist candidates need to make the appropriate noises that roughly (and not at any detailed level, because detail is the stuff of policy and decision-making) correspond to some rough definition of Prod. So ideally some link to Ulster-Scotscrap “identity” nonsense, a whiff of Orange Order brethren garbage and an just a little squirt of Shinner bashing for good measure. (And all served up with a little scent-spray of anti-popery).
What Nesbitt seems to have missed is that no-one cares any more about this inanity-fest that passes for politics. The reason people vote for the full-frontal lobe-rendered excuse for politics is that there’s nothing else on offer. Voters are offered crap and vote for crap. Or don’t vote because they aren’t fond of crap in any of its forms.
So read this and weep folks. This is the thinking that leads Unionism.
Shinners and DUPs: United in Spending (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On Inside Politics on Sunday Fionnuala O’Connor had a pop at me (and Irwin Armstrong of the Conservatives) for suggesting that there was a yawning gap in centre-right politics in Northern Ireland. She seemed to be of the view that the Unionist Parties very much filled that void and there was no need for any new or revised political groupings – to address the political dispossessed.
The assumption that Northern Ireland’s Unionist Parties occupy the right-ground of the (normal) political spectrum is correct only if one thinks about social policy. But even there the Unionists are a rag-bag bunch. Indeed the Ken Maginnis debacle of last week is a good exemplar. Ken comes out with his anti-gay rampage. Then Mike Nesbitt has his hissy-fit, withdraws Ken’s whip, and thereby engages the wrath of his membership (most of whom are a bit iffy on gay rights).
In short, even the UUP is far from homogeneous on homosexuality – never mind the raft of other social issues.
But I wasn’t really thinking about social left-right positioning when I suggested there was a gap in the Northern Ireland political market. And I wasn’t thinking about typical “Unionist” voters. Rather, I suspect that the most politically disengaged are fiscal Conservatives – business owners and professionals who want a smaller state – and certainly a smaller and more fiscally Conservative NI Executive.
The only choice on offer to such people (most of whom are pro-Union, regardless of religion) is the choice between fiscally profligate Nats (SDLP/Sinn Fein) or fiscally profligate Unionists (DUP or UUP or Alliance). Hence my point (and Irwin’s on Hearts & Minds) that there is a Centre-Right void in Northern Ireland politics.
As I’ve stated here in other posts, I’m not sure to what extent the Cameron-led Conservative Party is setting any kind of example for local Centre-Right (potential) voters. The UK deficit is still too great. Per capita, it is gargantuan in Northern Ireland (much bigger than RoI’s). And UK borrowing is still at scandalous levels. And “the cuts” have yet to affect Northern Ireland in any material way (except in terms of capital spend allocation). And the Assembly has increased local business rates – and attempted to introduce other stealth taxes – to make spending here even higher. No real moves have been made to address Northern Ireland private sector under-development. Instead the default position is always to maintain spending.
Perhaps this clarifies things for Fionnuala.