Alliance: Be Careful What You Wish For

John McCallister and Basil McCrea have left the UUP. So…the middle ground is now bigger. So this is good news for the Alliance Party, the brand leader in middle ground politics.

Well…seemingly not. For John and Basil have NOT joined the Alliance Party but are intent on forming a political party of their own…a liberal unionist Party.

It might well be the case that they can attract Catholic votes…but are these new voters, former nationalist voters.

I think it is I unlikely that any pro-union Party can attract nationalist votes. The clue is in the name. No matter how “pragmatic” the unionism…NHS, economics…it’s a unionist party.

There is disappointment in the Alliance Party that McCallister and McCrea have not joined them. Are they really so different from Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley who jumped ship from UUP to Alliance…and were as avowedly unionist as McCallister and McCrea in 2010, when they all fought the Westminster Election as party colleagues.

Now members of a Party which claims to be agnostic…a designation which has suited it…agnostic as a Party but with a membership who are unionist (likely), agnostic (likely) and nationalists (not very likely).

The Alliance Party will have bad memories of the last time they had to compete for votes in the centre ground. …with the Women’s Coalition. The Alliance Party as always been vitriolic about the Women’s Coalition. And certainly the attitude to the new Party will be interesting.

The Alliance Party was founded as a liberal unionist party and is…I would argue a coalition of liberal unionists and letsgetalongerists.

McCallister, McCrea and others may well try and start a new party….and it might be one without overt unionist symbolism but McCallister and McCrea will have difficulty shaking off the British flags on their UNCUF election posters….but then so will Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley…in the AllIance Party.

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18 Responses to Alliance: Be Careful What You Wish For

  1. factual says:

    Excellent well written blog post.

    What is interesting about UCUNF was that it brought out quite a lot of new faces who then were stranded when it folded – people who weren’t initially Alliance but who were attracted to UCUNF.

    It will be interesting to see if this new party is also able to attract new people in the same way. People who didn’t want to join any of the existing parties. If so, then it will be able to stand people in a number of constituencies and at council level.

    It would take votes from Alliance and UUP but it might have a broader appeal than Alliance, which is a kind of “agnostic” party that tries to be neutral or all things to all people.

    To be agnostic or neutral does not really excite people to vote for you. To start from a position of being agnostic means you can’t really talk about your beliefs in a very passionate way; agnosticism is a very positivistic approach that suits the academic seminar but not the political arena.

    A political party that is neutral and agnostic is boring. I think that Basil and John can see that. This new party sounds as though it will not be agnostic/neutral. It sounds as though Basil and John want to offer a unionist/pro-union vision that they believe in with some passsion.

    • factual says:

      The other advantage of the new party is that it is oppositionalist in its DNA. While Alliance is a NIO party, that is in the Executive, this new party will not be in the Exeutive and so will be able to draw on the oppositionalist instincts of Basil and John, without constraints.

      The Alliance party are a government party; the new party can oppose Alliance very easily. Alliance are not actually doing what Alliance voters want in terms of CSI, the new party can advance these things.

      The new party wont attract nationalists- those who strongly want a UI – I would argue.

  2. hoboroad says:

    Nesbitt has refused to rule out more joint DUP/UUP candidates in future elections. Mike Nesbitt is Peter Punts political poodle.

  3. I see that that, in Sout hDown at least, there is one ex SDLP member who is now an Alliance councillor, Paddy Clarke ( I’m not sure about the rest of the elected representatives, ( It seems that they do exist west of the bann, but more in the form of councillors.

  4. bangordub says:

    Looking forward to “The return of the Csar of Russia” Great fun and games while you were gone in the UUP and Mid Ulster 😉

    • arrived home a couple of hours ago.
      Don’t expect anything sensible from me for a couple of days.

      • factual says:

        Hopeing you retain that new-found inspiration.

      • Charlie says:

        I was down in Cookstown on Saturday, and as luck would have it I was paired with Fergus who I remember reading about on one of your previous blogs. Total gent. I mentioned I first heard about him on John’s (Fitz’s) blog and he laughed by way of acknowledgement. He also had good words for you.

        Anyway, welcome back.

      • Fergus….absolute gent.
        About a year ago, we were at a SDLP Youth Fundraiser Quiz in Belfast….and he came up and introduced himself and said he read the blog. It meant a lot.

  5. oakleaf says:

    The Belfast Telegraph reporting that McCrea and McAllister are in talks with the Tories. If they join that would be a good result for nationalism.

    Tories still pretty toxic among Catholics.

    • Yes…McCrea spoke at a Tory meeting in Lagan Valley a few months ago. It’s all bad news for Alliance.
      When Alliance talk about strengthening the middle ground…their real intent is strengthening themselves.

    • factual says:

      Doubt if they would brand themselves Conservatives even so.

      • factual says:

        I could be wrong but I think they will likely NOT brand themselves Conservatives. Instead they will brand themselves something new, and if there is to be some relationship with Conservatives, treat Conservatives as a sister party who can provide support of erious kinds.

      • Too soon to say. McCrea addressed a Conservative meeting which included Trevor Ringland and Felicity Huston.
        Effectively McCrea and McCallister need a platform on which to launch…and the Local Tories need a news story.
        I would consider a launch/relaunch of local Tory Party as a strong possibility. It could mop up some other disaffected types who always seem to be on the fringe of politics.
        A new Party??? Well again…if a platform announcing a new Party merely consists of Basil and John, then it just looks like two individuals.
        I won’t make predictions but deep down the Tories CERTAINLY need them. And Basil and John PROBABLY need the Tories.
        That may not necessarily translate as a joint launch but to me they NEED some kinda organisation.

      • factual says:

        fair points and note that i said they would not BRAND themselves Conservatives, though they might have some kind of partnership. Its possible there could be a new party and the conservatives support that party.

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