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Thursday, September 21, 2006

 

Former Minister Joins NI Tories

The NI Conservatives have a new scalp. Former junior minister at the Office of the First Minister/ Deputy First Minister James Leslie has called a day on his association with the floundering UUP and thrown his lot in with Camerons’ Tories. The BBC reports that:
Mr Leslie said the main reason for his decision to leave was his strong support for Conservative values.

"To get serious policy development you need the resources of a national party.

"You can see that clearly in all the political parties in Northern Ireland, there is no serious or fresh thinking."
I know James Leslie, I canvassed for him in North Antrim and was impressed that someone of his background and ability was willing to put up for Westminster against Dr Paisley. That ability was put into sharp relief when he was in the company of most of the UUP North Antrim machine- the same association that thought deselecting James and replacing him with James Currie for the 2003 Assembly elections was a good move. The seat was lost to Sinn Fein.

I wish James well in whatever direction his new party takes him. I understand the desire to be involved in national politics and have to admit to being very tempted by the NI Tories. However, experience of the last Tory government and their stewardship of the process before Labour arrived in 1997 make me wary.

Readers may recall that the Belfast Agreement came from a Talks process where the delegates were elected. The NI Tories stood in that election but were hampered somewhat by Sir Patrick Mayhews' assertion that should any of their candidates (Mr Shipley-Dalton included) be elected they would not need to attend the talks as the Conservative SoS would represent both the party and government interest. Unsurprisingly, no local Tories were returned.

I am a unionist who believes that unionist success will arrive when the Union is secure and unionist parties are therefore redundant. At that point I will happily offer my services to Smith Square. Until then any support for the local Tories will only be forthcoming if they can show a real input into the national partys' NI policy. It may be that only once a Tory SoS is back in Hillsborough can this influence be demonstrated.

I might have been a Young Unionist but I may yet be an old Tory.

UPDATE: Belfast Telegraph interview here.

Comments:
yMMMh Pakman if I'd have adopted your attitude then the change in heart in the Tories evidenced in recent years would not have happened. Cameron sympathetic, Fox enthusiastic and Lidington welcoming members and posing for photos!
Cant have seen My Lords Brooke or Mayhew doing that! (Thank God!)
Of course I might still be betrayed but I’ll will spend next Tuesday pushing my case with Francis Maude and at least 40 other MPs who are coming to the NI Reception at Tory Conference (including Boris Johnson, Paul Goodman and Michael Gove – now all influential Shadow Ministers who were won over in Laurence Kennedy’s day when they were mere scribblers.
If you’re not in you cannot win!
 
Bob

is the change of heart one of style or substance? How will it survive the transition from opposition to government?

BTW enjoy Goodman and Gove, both good fun and in Ulster terms V. "sound".
 
Your alternative appears to be to sit outside and pray that the Tories come good? There is no historical evidence for such a ploy working.
Is it a lack of confidence - I dont mean you personally - but think of the mindset. 'They (Tory hierarchy) might let us down and we'd be embarassed lets sit on the sidelines and berate everyone'
 
Bob

I'm all for positive engagement and the eventual redundancy of all "local" unionist parties but the Tory party has not yet proved itself sufficiently unionist to attract my active support. Perhaps being burned once by "constructive ambiguity" unionists will in future be much less willing to jump first in any situation.
 
"I am a unionist who believes that unionist success will arrive when the Union is secure and unionist parties are therefore redundant. "

I agree Pakman although there is a chicken and egg scenario.

The Union will not be secure unless and until the national parties can be truested with the Union. Being accountable to the entire electorate would focus the mind of the national parties but that requires a realistic chance of electoral sucess. There will not be a realistic chance of electoral sucess until the parties can be trusted with the Union.

Thus speaks a former Democracy Now acticvist.
 
Micheal Gove is indeed one of the good guys as is Goodman. What is Boris's views on the Union?

I did hear that when some were trying to get him over to NI, it was arround the time of the Liverpool stuff. The message came back "Boris would love to come to NI, as far as he knows he hasn't insulted anyone there yet.
 
aileen

spot on, as usual. The distance between where the Tories are now vis a vis where the critical mass of Unionism is is considerable. However, there will be convergance and at some stage in the future a judgement call will have to be made whether the Union is best served by a national party as opposed to the "locals".
 
Unfortunately there is a brand of unionist that sees Unionist parties as an end in themselves and indeed more important that the Union. I never got my head arround the logic of that unionist seperatists our of conviction as opposed to necessity (perceived or otherwise).

I suppose another way of putting the phrase I quoted of yours - I am a unionist that wants to be able to take the Union for granted.
 
aileen

when the Union is a non-issue the local parties can disband after a job well done. The urge to continue at that point will have nothing to do with the Union and should be punished electorally.

We are some way from that happy day!

BTW Iain Dale has a nice thread on Kate Hoey.
 
Thanks for that Pakman. I've had my say. Have to put in a good word for my mentor, not that she needs it.

I was speaking to her yesterday to pass on the news of a new voter in F&ST in the 2014 ;o)
 
'when the Union is a non-issue the local parties can disband after a job well done'
But they - esp the atavistic ones - have actually become a threat to the Union.
Time to drop what Trimble called the 'nationalist framework of reference'
Boris is a sound supporter of Equal Citizenship
 
Trimble was also the prime advocate for "structural unionism" which tried to make the union a non issue for nationalists. Unfortuantly, the nationalists greedily snapped up the removal of state symbols and became keen for more just as unionists developed a keen resentment over the same issues. So the arguement for the union descended to one of flags, emblems and nomenclature. At which atavistic politicians excell.
 
The fundamental choice remains one of isolationism versus involvement.
The record of the past thirty years (and arguably the last 85) is that isolationism doesn’t work.
In the late 80/early 90s the Ulster Tories won the important victory of membership.
The time to development that – given the political and paramilitary backdrop - was not right.
Now we have a Conservative Party leadership that is receptive to our involvement.
Will a future Tory government be influenced by its fellow Tories in NI? I believe yes – and the stronger and more vibrant that local party the more influence we will have.
There are no guarantees in politics but it really is as simple as ‘if you’re not in you cannot win’
 
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