McUnionists…To Be Taken Seriously?

There is a part of me that feels I should do the McUnionists…the breakaway liberal unionist party…allegedly started by Basil McCrea and John McCallister….the simple courtesy of taking them seriously.

Alas I feel justified in treating them as a joke because they themselves dont seem to be treating themselves to seriously. It is now months since they announced their new Party and nothing has happened. They dont even have a name. Perhaps a motto “Manana , Manana” (sp) is the Spanish phrase that speaks to their sense of urgency. Yet…someone appears to be poking Basil and John with a big stick. They seem to be going on a charm offensive with our local university Politics Societies. They got a feature on the BBC “The View” and coincidently a longish post on Slugger O’Toole where coincidently a core member of the Slugger team (hi Alan) was on the guest list when they spoke to students at the University of Ulster last week.

Whats going on? I have of course absolutely no idea but that wont stop me speculating. Defectors from the liberal wing of UUP have usually gone to the Alliance Party and there does not appear to be many left to defect. The arrival of a new Party in the so-called “middle ground” is of course good news for people who like that kinda thing but curiously bad news for the Alliance Party.

The Alliance Party is a coalition of liberal unionists and letsgetalongerists (with varying degrees of sincerity) who have labelled themselves as “agnostic” to share the gerrymandered trappings of power. It is therefore damaging to them electorally if they leak votes to a credible liberal unionist Party.

Alliance face a dilemna. If McCrea and McCallister had joined Alliance, like fellow defectors Parsley, Bradshaw and Hamilton…David Ford would introduce them to the media as men of vision….he would of course have to deal with the fall out that Alliance would be less attractive to nationalist voters and would barely be able to hold on to that “agnostic” designation which has served them so well.

McCrea and McCallister seem less willing to give up their overt unionism. If Alliance cant absorb the McUnionists, the only other course is to destroy them.

This makes the official launch extremely interesting. There is nobody left to defect from the Assembly Party…and not much opportunity for serious councillors to jump ship, especially with so many council seats already scheduled to be abolished under re-organisation.

Liberal unionist Trevor Ringland has already declared himself “Conservative”. And not likely that Felicity Huston or Alex Houston will throw their lot in with Basil and John…or maybe it is? And even if the McUnionist Party is a better fit for Ian Parsley, Paula Bradshaw and Harry Hamilton…surely they could not defect from the Alliance Party without looking opportunistic or silly.

So who can they attract as high profile members. They are both MLAs and thats a good start and signing up QUB and UUJ students is useful but they need recognisable people to give the Party substance.

The good folks at Platform for Change is a useful avenue. Signatories include Nuala McKeever and Robin Wilson and a fair share of academics. But ultimately the chattering classes are unlikely to do much more than chatter….or blog. Are we likely to see a high profile blogger or Sluggerite throw his or her weight behind Basil and John?

But WHY the delay? Is it Finance? Are the McUnionists waiting for a grant to be processed by a Foundation or Trust…..”innocent money, chocolate money, Quaker money”. Perhaps the Alliance Party would not like that.

Or are negotiations still ongoing? Is the Alliance Party wooing the McUnionists? A crowded “middle ground” of Alliance, McUnionist, Conservative and Green is a mixed blessing for the chattering classes. I wonder if someone is mediating discussions.

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24 Responses to McUnionists…To Be Taken Seriously?

  1. bangordub says:

    “McUnionists” – Genius.
    If I may be sycophantic Mr Fitz 😉

  2. hoboroad says:

    Robin Wilson was in the Workers Party at one time was he not? I think Basil said it would be a Unionist party but not have the word Unionist in the party title. You’re right of course if Basil and John do join the Alliance Party it just makes the Alliance look like a moderate liberal Unionist party. Only Mr Muir and Mr Clarke have defected from the SDLP to APNI in recent times. And neither were big names or had any following in the party.

    • Its possible.
      Last time I saw him was 10th March last year at the Labour Norn Iron Conference.
      I think this is the problem…a distinct “conservative” party, a distinct “liberal” party, a distinct”unionist” party and a distinct “letsgetalongerist” party…broad church or narrow church???
      A lot of the chattering classes lean to the Left.
      But for me the issue is finance….if the Alliance Party have trousered £98,000 of Rowntree money over four years, the McUnionists might have a case for saying that they would like some of it too. Which might mean some Alliance funding would be cut.
      And if Rowntree is prepared to finance a moderate unionist party…they might have to reciprocate by handing out cash to SDLP.
      Either way, its a dilemna for the chattering classes.
      Will the McUnionists be the Sluggers new best friend?
      Its always about money.
      Muir could never have been elected as SDLP.
      And Paddy Clarke hahaha …as they say. Not to be taken seriously.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      I think a few jumped ship in Antrim town too.

  3. So now there are Unionists and Pro-Union-Unionists? What about the I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter-Unionists?

  4. Political Tourist says:

    Not another Unionist Party of Northern Ireland that only geeks like me will remember in 30 years.

  5. Fear Feirsteach says:

    Good analysis, Fitz.

    It’s unfortunate for the two Mick Macs that the ‘liberal unionist’ refugees from the UCUNF experiment have since found homes elsewhere. They need to get organised and get wooing quick. Otherwise it’s oblivion!

    • Also unfortunate for the defectors like Parsley, Bradshaw and Hamilton who are now stuck with a Party …the Alliance…which is not a perfect fit.
      They cant defect again asthey would lose any shred of credibility.
      All they can do is jockey for position hoping they get a safe Stormont seat….when an elderly MLA retires.
      Its a crowded field.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        Aye, not too many of those about. McCarthy is in Strangford only one I can think of.

        Hamilton, Bradshaw and Ringland are ex-UUP so they would be seen as unionist-lite in any case. Now Parsley, he might have a (bigger) credibility problem if he jumps ship again – but Alliance will never trust him.

      • Of the eight Alliance MLAs, five are older than me.
        I note with amusement that things are not too happy in the Alliance Party.
        The whole Equal Marriage debate has split them. It is after all a small Party. And the Assembly Party is older and more socially conservative than the Party at large. Although on reflection it would wrong to equate Youth with Liberalism.
        Alliance is after all a coalition between the LetsGetAlongerists (churchy types) and liberal unionists (secular).
        With just one MP likely to lose her seat in 2015 and only eight MLAs prospects dont look good for nine people chasing eight seats.
        East Belfast…Cochrane is ridiculed on Slugger by the regular Aliance voice there. Holding two seats wont be easy anywy and they will need Naomi to bolster the ticket.
        South Belfast…Anna Lo is in her 60s and I expect she would rather see Cathy Curran inherit South Belfast although Paula Bradshaw could claim the Village area. Bradshaw is on the Party Executive but Curran is a city councillor.
        Strangford…if McCarthy retires, theres no obvious successor there.
        North Down….Farry is still young.
        Lagan Valley….Lunn is another one who annoys social liberals but the churchy types might want him to stay on as the succession will likely go to a social liberal.
        South Antrim…Fords #2 there has always been Lawther.
        East Antrim….Dicksons running mate last time was Gerardine Mulvenna but younger Alliance types like Heading (who fought Upper Bann in 2010) might have to deal with Ian James Parsley, who is rssident there.
        Alliance members may or may not have faith in Parsley but he has faith in himself which is almost touching. I wouldnt write him off…but Id like to.

    • factual says:

      But FJH you are not particularly old. Regarding the Alliance I have heard it said that McCarthy will stand again – he is electorally popular – and after a respectable while the cooption process can be used to “blood” a new talent.

      • Well Im sure you will agree that if Kieran McCarthy does not intend to serve a full term in the Assembly, the correct stance would be for the Alliance Party to say so up front.
        Thats what a Party with INTEGRITY would do.
        Of course I cant possibly comment on what the Alliance Party would do.

      • factual says:

        FJH The SDLP use cooptions too. What do you think of the new SF mla for Mid Ulster? Ian Milne: looks promising.

        I see that the assembly will not be re-elected now until 2016 which will give all the new SF cooptions to bed in. Also gives the “Jasil” party longer to bed in.

      • No Ian Milne looks like a time serving Sinn Fein clone.
        I think you will find that SDLP have had just one co-option since 2011. Sean Rogers replacing Margaret Ritchie.
        I have no problem with co-option but clearly your favourite party Sinn Fein abuse it.
        Fermanagh South Tyrone: Gildernew replaced.
        Mid Ulster: McGuinness and Molloy replaced.
        Foyle: Anderson replaced.
        West Tyrone: Doherty replaced.
        Newry-Armagh: Murphy replaced.
        West Belfast: Maskey replaced.
        South Down: Clarke replaced.
        Thats at least EIGHT.
        I have no problem with it in itself. In a six seat constituency say East Antrim where there is one nationalist seat. Or Foyle with one unionist seat….it seems self-evidently decent that the minority quota be respected. But Sinn Fein show utter contempt for the process.

        What you appear to be saying is that Kieran McCarthy..71 this year might well stand in the 2016 Election.
        McCarthy is Alliances big hitter in Strangford and gets Catholic votes in the Peninsula area.
        For him to stand WITH THE INTENTION (note my emphasis) of standing down for an unelectable Alliance member…would in my view be an abuse.
        Of course youre entiled to hold your own (wrong) opinion.

      • factual says:

        I would argue that the cooption process is legitimate – it allows the voter to see a candidate in action for a spell before being able to cast their vote. In that sense it is helpful to voters.

        The SDLP of course have not phased out double jobbing. Sinn Féin have phased it out. These cooptions are in large measure because SF are being proactive in phasing out double jobbing – helping SF to serve the voters better. Because SF are a popular political party, they have so many more seats than the SDLP so that when double jobbing is phased out then there are so many more seats to be replaced.

        The SDLP of course have not phased out double jobbing and Alastair McDonnell actually argued that he needs to hold both seats (Westminster and Stormont) to do his job as party leader properly.

        The SDLP used cooption in the case of Conal McDevitt.

        McCarthy will not be that old. People in politics often go on well into their seventies – I expect Gerry Adams will do so.

      • Dont be so silly.
        It means the voters get someone that did not vote for.

      • factual says:

        Cooption is part of the system. And when voters vote they know that cooption is part of the system. There is no evidence that SF voters are other than happy with this approach. If anything I would argue that SF are showing a deft hand with the new system, allowing voters the opportunity to get a taste of what their next MLA will be like, and if they don’t like this person they have the opportunity to vote against them at the next election. It seems to me that it is not an abuse at all; rather it is an intelligent and helpful use of the features of the system.

        We will have to await the next election to see what the electorate think but the opinion polls suggest no anxiety or unhappiness on the electorates part.

      • factual says:

        Moreover: Sinn Féin take their responsibilities to the electorate seriously. It (co-option) is a real opportunity to allow voters to make the most informed choice possible. By presenting the candidate to the electorate in advance of the election, the electorate are able to get acquainted with the candidate, allowing an informed choice. Sinn Féin are behaving in a responsible, dutiful, and appropriate way. This is effective use of the system. Other parties will follow.

  6. Ayone fancy me in forming the Bag O’ Shyte Party to allow the growing umber of those who do not support any NI parties a voice. Ill even have my nale changed to Paul Calf by deed pole.

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