Friday 8 May 2009

Unionists may destroy the union

It seems fairly inevitable that the Conservative Party will win the next general election in the UK. Or, it might be better to say, in England.

The Conservatives are unionists: "I support the union" says David Cameron, time and time again. They have proved this in the Northern Irish context by jumping into bed with the UUP – "a party of the Union" – through the formation of UCUNF.

Logically, therefore, it might be expected that a Tory victory in 2010 would strengthen the UK and weaken nationalism.

But the Tories presently hold only one of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland, three of the 40 in Wales, and none at all in Northern Ireland. Even with the anticipated swing towards the Tories in 2010, their total of MPs outside of England may reach barely 17 out of 117 (including three gains in Scotland, ten in Wales, and none in Northern Ireland). The Tories are simply an English party.

The UK may then revert to the situation of the Thatcher years in the 1980s, when Scotland and Wales saw the Tory government as an unfriendly foreign power, and nationalism grew in opposition to it. Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Mark Perryman noted that:

"Through three consecutive general election defeats between 1979 and 1992, Labour maintained the semblance of effective opposition because for millions the promise of a Labour government remained the alternative to Thatcherism. After 2010 that prospect may not have the compelling purpose it once had, certainly not in the immediate aftermath of the wasted opportunity for change that the new Labour years will come to represent after being defeated by the Blair-lite Tories."


"In Scotland and Wales after 2010, independence won't simply be an end in itself in place of British labourism – it will be the purpose of opposition, and thanks to Labour, the institutions to fulfil that ambition now exist."

The victory of the unionist Tories in England in 2010 will give an enormous impetus to the nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales, leading to increasing tensions within the UK's constitutional structure. The very success of 'unionism', in the guise of a very English Tory party, may come to be seen as 'foreign' rule, where England, always the biggest part of the UK, essentially rules the UK in its interests. The Labour Party, a party genuinely popular in Scotland, Wales, and large parts of England was, ironically, much more a party of the UK than are the Tories.

How long the Tories remain in power may be crucial to the disintegration of the UK. Thatcher ruled for 11 years, and kindled nationalism in a way that had never been done before. Now the foundations are laid and the institutions are in place, a further prolonged period of unsympathetic Tory rule may tip the balance.

No UK means no place for Northern Ireland. The breakup of the UK would leave it unwanted by England or Scotland, and too poor to go it alone – even if a majority of its people wanted that. There is, of course, one logical direction that it can take – a direction favoured by an increasing number of people – re-unification with the south.

Practical nationalists must hope for a crushing Tory victory in England in 2010.


hoboroad said...

The Tories have never done unionists any favours yet they keep coming back for more.The Unionists are like a battered wife who keeps going back to the abusive husband thinking he will change.

Pedro said...

Gooed lateral thinking.

Anonymous said...

I'm an admirer of this site and agree with its general thesis - that demographic change is real and will have profound implications for the constitutional status of the North. There's something illogical about this latest posting, though. For example: 'No UK means no place for Northern Ireland. The breakup of the UK would leave it unwanted by England or Scotland, and too poor to go it alone...'

The article continues by offering re-unification with the south as the solution. But really, if the North is so poor and wretched who is to say that the South will want it either?

Horseman said...


Perhaps I didn't express myself very clearly. What I meant was that NI on its own, and with 45+% of its population in favour of reunification, could never make a serious go of independence. There are certainly poorer countries that are independent, but rarely are they physically connected to another jurisdiction that almost half of them would prefer to join.

I think when the time comes, assuming there is not a shooting war going on, the south will happily re-unify with the north. The old chestnut that 'the south doesn't want us' is a uniquely unionist hope, and is not born out by any opinion polls in the south.

If the UK breaks up, I expect to see a lot of unionists suddenly beating serious paths to Dublin. I think that they should already be doing that, but they remain (over-)confident about their future.

hoboroad said...

I see all the DUP posters feature DODDS 1 are they trying to get Diane elected on Nigels higher profile?Why not go the whole hog and get Ian junior elected on his fathers good name?

hoboroad said...

Has anybody seen any news on are local mps expenses?I bet you some have been milking the system for all it's worth.

Anonymous said...

17 seats out of 117 is 15%, which is actually quite similar to the percentage of the population of the UK that is not English. If they got this, plus the one in North Down, then they are not so unproportional.

Horseman said...


The 117 seats are the total of all of those outside England. If the Tories get only 15% of them, it is a pitiful amount. It would mean that they would be ruling the UK on the strength of their seats in England, and 85% of the non-English seats would be held by other parties.

While their total UK-wide may not be disproportional to their vote (though it will be, thanks to the FPTP system), their seats will not be evenly distributed. Within England that may just look like a class thing, but in Scotland (in particular) it looks like a nationality thing.