I don’t like it. I don’t like it one little bit, and I’m only going to say one thing on the issue of the UUP / Conservative Talks.
I joined the Conservative party because they offered something different and better from the tribal madness of Northern Ireland politics. To be a Conservative was to be a Unionst, certainly, but it was not the core cause of membership, nor the complete logic of the party’s existence. It felt good to be part of something wider than the narrow bullhonkey of Northern Ireland.
I do like the electioneering possibilities of a potential merger; certainly, the UUP has a bigger base than the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland; if it has the possibility of putting a North Down MP’s arse properly on a Conservative bench in the commons, whip and all, then, great for North Down.
What I don’t like is the concept of the UUP in control of the Conservative brand in Northern Ireland. David Cameron and other modernisers have fought long and hard to sell the true image of a party at peace with itself, with a positive vision for the future of the whole UK. It has worked hard to debunk the media myth of the nasty party, and has done a stunningly good job of it.
On the other hand, if the Ulster Unionists were given the marketing campaign for KFC, we could expect the slogan ‘Warm Dead Bird’, and sales would plummet. For all his good points, Sir Reg Empey looks like a cross between Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and Don Quixote, except Don Quixote had someone to talk to most of the time. By allowing themselves to be outflanked by the bigoted, god-awful (and one must hope, godforsaken) DUP, they kinda deserved to sink into oblivion.
People gave up listening to the UUP a long time ago, just when they started listening to the Conservatives again. My concern is that, far from a merger heralding the launch of a combined fighting machine with government prospects for the whole of the UK, the UUP involvement could dampen the fire recently ignited in the belly of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, further contaminating the Tory brand. This could be the most comprehensive bogarting of a proverbial political joint in history.
Then we come to the Ulster Unionist’s remaining MP, Sylvia ‘Lady in Red’ Hermon, who votes more often with Labour than Conservatives. Parachuted into North Down to secure the safest seat in the region, she represents all that’s wrong with the essentially crazy mish-mash of political views espoused by the Ulster Unionists. At just the time when the tories have pulled together with a single, determined purpose, which political journalist will be the first to ask Lady Hermon (whom I affectionately liken to Rosa Klebb) why she consistently voted against Conservative policy in the commons?
I would sooner learn a method to reliably kick myself in the face than vote for Sylvia Hermon, and I know others who agree.
And which DUP candidate will be the attack-dog sent to dispatch her in any election? Perhaps the miasma of these discussions between the two parties can be clarified at least by the dignified stepping down of Hermon from the candidate’s list, and the selection of someone of calibre for the General election for North Down?
I hope and expect that Owen Paterson has a good handle on things in the colony; he is one person everyone can effectively trust to steer the party in the right direction toward selecting a decent and effective candidate.
When I think about the Conservative party now, I think of good strong double espresso, a crisp, healthy salad and a jog in the park. When I apply the same test to the Ulster Unionists, it’s half a round of limp egg sandwich and a glass of lukewarm, close-to-the-date milk, served in an under-stairs cupboard. I’ll blog more about the political lunch game in the future.