Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cam Confusion: Titanic Day for Northern Ireland?

Looks like the Conservatives think they're ahead of the pack by organising in the six counties of Northern Ireland, which to be fair they've done for a while, but also linking arms with the numerically depressed UUP whose sole representative doesn't even tend to vote with Cam.

Iain Dale kindly suggests Labour might want to strengthen links with the SDLP and the Lib Dems with the Alliance. Which is missing out the somethingly troubled DUP, and Sinn Fein.

But he's wrong, again. Labour have been organising in the six counties for some years now. Since a rule change, partly precipitated by a challenge under the Race Relations Act, in 2003/2004 I think it was. Not to be confused with the former NI Labour Party which ceased in 1987. This one attempted to be non-sectarian but declined after voting for Union in 1949. And also not to be confused with Paddy Devlin's Labour Party of NI which is still, ahem, thriving.

With the SDLP as a sister party, as is Irish Labour, thoughts are divided among the "Labour and Irish" - and we have an affiliated socialist society of course (opposed to LP organising in Ireland) - as to whether there should ever be distinct Labour Party candidates.

I'd say there are also plenty of putative Labour supporters who are strongly identified with either Unionist or Nationalist politics. Or with the independent left-of-SDLP that exists. Gerrymandering, corrupt politics, and discrimination are almost gone. Sectarian politics makes less sense certainly.

Don't think Iain understands this situation at all. Anymore than the drinker in the listing bar of the RMS Titanic understood the limits of the concept of unsinkability: "I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous". A large part of the Loyalist/Unionist Community - particularly outside of the unpopular UUP - would be natural Labour supporters away from a sectarian context. Sinn Fein ditto.

The day when Northern Ireland starts voting by class and economic interests would indeed be a landmark day for the Conservatives! Like the iceberg was to the Titanic, built in Belfast as she was.

And it is of course interesting to see this enthusiastic reinforcement of the Conservatives Unionist credentials in Northern Ireland while they whither in Scotland, in England, and just possibly in Wales too. They changed names there a decade ago, but were clinging to co-dependence at the time.

Comments at Slugger O'Toole here, here, and here.

Personally I think that the Cooperative Party could be the answer. This already has a co-membership arrangement with Labour, it is non-sectarian, and it is strongly linked with trading societies and other forms of co-operatives that operate through the North of Ireland.

Incidentally Alan Johnson's rather bullish 2007 announcement of candidates soon set the wolf among the sheeple.


Anonymous said...

Lickle Iain obviously doesn't understand the nature of N Irish politics!

The problem is that the politics of the region is completely overshadowed by secterian interests.

There already exists a left right spectrum in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein are allied with Communists in the European Parliament, and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are well known as having (or having had) quite explicitly left leaning beliefs.

What I found interesting also is the clear left right divide on social policy, the way DUP and UUP (except Lady Herman) violently fight against issues like homosexuality (*cough* Paisley, Robinson *cough*) whilst Sinn Fein are explicitly promoting equality relating to that topic (despite being Catholic!).

Northern Ireland doesn't need any more parties, it has enough to choose from, what it needs is to change it's own priorities, then maybe the region can tackle the unfortunate level of poverty that can be so rife

Chris Paul said...

Thanks Aodhán - my mum dad and bro live near Giant's Causeway on the North Coast and Papa Doc is their MP. With Jnr having some sleazey interests nearby. Would you agree that the DUP - however reactionary - have a wider, more workerly set of adherents?

It is very interesting how Sinn Fein are taking the socially liberal/left ground while the SDLP are (officially anyway) socially conservative.

Hume was a family friend to the younger aunts and uncles, and one of my cousins worked for him too, and Durkan is up for a drink and the craic.

But, whatever Iain may think, an alliance between an essentially English and non-unionist conservative party and the rump of the posh unionists is hardly a landmark day for the 6C.

Merseymike said...

Mark Durkan is socially liberal..has a good record on gay rights, for a start