Sunday 21 March 2010

The Tories had nobody

One of the things that has become clear in the whole long drawn out saga of the UCUNF nominations is that, behind the bluster, the Tories had nobody to contribute. They were bluffing, in the hope that the hype would attract new members of a sufficient calibre that they could, by May 6, look like a credible force in Northern Ireland. But it seems that that bluff has not worked, except in the case of the Alliance turncoat Ian Parsley.

The revelation yesterday that, of the 17 candidates so far approved by the tortuous UCUNF selection procedure, only two are from the Tory side of the partnership is indicative of the Tory weakness in Northern Ireland. They have, at best, between 250 and 350 members, and only one of these was considered electable (apart from the opportunistic Parsley, who only became aware of his Tory yearnings after standing for the Alliance Party in the 2009 European Parliament election!).

And the other Tory is not exactly a big name either – Irwin Armstrong. A man who has apparently never actually stood for election before, and has taken no noticeable part in politics until 2009 (when he was 58 years old! A hobby for his retirement perhaps?) A successful businessman, however, he is precisely what the Tories would like to attract. But if they are expecting his grateful employees to vote for him, well, they may be over-optimistic – his micro-business employs only his own family members. On a related note, could the Elizabeth Armstrong, also from Ballymena, who stood for the Tories in North Antrim in the 1996 Forum election be a family member?

So, out of the 18 seats only South Antrim is left to be decided by UCUNF. But the rumour there is that the Tories have a weak candidate and the only issue is the unacceptability of the UUP’s offering, the bigoted Adrian Watson.

The great Tory invasion of Northern Ireland, that was supposed to bring new and improved candidates, has flopped so far. Two candidates, neither of whom could be called popular, standing in seats that they have little chance of winning (unless Sylvia Hermon unexpectedly withdraws in North Down). David Cameron and his Northern Ireland Spokesman Owen Paterson must be wondering why they bothered. All they’re going to get is a big bill from the UUP for the cost of their candidates campaigns, most of which will fail.

One good thing that has come out of the latest round of UCUNF nominations is confirmation that the mooted electoral pacts to try to recapture Fermanagh and South Tyrone and South Belfast are dead. Unless the DUP stand down – which would be a humiliation for them (and may actually be counter to their real strategy) – FST should re-elect Michelle Gildernew, and South Belfast will be quite open.

However, despite the absence of any formal pact, there remains a suspicion that the UCUNF has not actually proposed strong candidates in constituencies where there is a risk, even a remote one, that the sitting unionist MP might be ousted by Sinn Féin or the TUV. In North Antrim UCUNF has selected the unknown Irwin Armstrong – hardly a challenge to the DUP, whose main concern is Jim Allister. In North Belfast UCUNF has selected the serial loser Fred Cobain who has already proved his inability to eat into Nigel Dodds weak majority, and thus hand the seat to Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly. In East Derry UCUNF has proposed an ultra-lightweight – Lesley Macauley – who will take few votes away from the DUP’s Gregory Campbell. In Upper Bann – a seat being eyed up hungrily by Sinn Féin – the DUP’s David Simpson will face only a celebrity candidate from UCUNF. While a Freddy Mercury impersonator may make for good media, his popularity amongst the voters may be somewhat less – he has, like so many of UCUNF’s other candidates, never actually bothered to get his hands dirty in local or regional politics before now. He, like others, thinks he can simply bypass the grunt-work and go straight to glory in Westminster. Local voters (and party activists) may disagree.

If, on May 7, Northern Ireland wakes up to the news that there are no UCUNF MPs – and certainly no Tory MPs from Northern Ireland – this will probably kill the Tory interest in Northern Ireland for years, if not for ever. If after a year or more of media campaigning and hype they turn out to have never really had any good people in Northern Ireland, how many could they expect to have following a failure and a dimming of interest from Conservative Central Office?


Anonymous said...

What a load of bull Horseman! The alliance is between The UK Conservative party and The UUP. Of course The Conservatives have very little presence in NI - that's why they've formed an alliance with The UUP who at one time took The Conservative whip and where effectively The Conservative Party in NI. I presume the plan is to effectively bring The UUP back under The Conservative whip if they get any seats in the next election. You are completely blowing this issue up out of all proportion. In any case, the last thing NI or anywhere else in The UK needs is some sort of celebrity politicians, which you seem to be proposing.

Anonymous said...

Horseman weren't you saying a while back that it was a disgrace that the Tories would get 9 and the UUP would get 9 considering the UUP had all the ground support?

And surprise surprise when Tories get less seats then the UUP you also find fault.

Make up your mind horseman!

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Permit me to applaud your tour d'horizon: neat, sweet and delightfully informative. And therefore to demur from the all-purpose, omnipresent "Anonymous" above.

I'm posting elsewhere my disappointment that the whole UCUNF disaster was so badly-planned, so atrociously executed. Not because I could ever hold my nose long enough to vote for the buggers, but because there was, once, a faint hope UUP would save itself from terminal decline by evacuating the kraal [look it up].

There ought to be a motto for NI politicians, of all persuasions: Ex Westminster semper numquam bonum. [OK: "nothing good ever comes out of Westminster."]

UCUNF failed because it hitched its wagon to a failed London PR-man, when what was needed was a comprehensive and devolved social programme: Where there is no vision, the people perish ...

New times, New approach said...


While it's hard to disagree with your reasoning, one is inevitably left in some doubt as to your main objective.
Did you feel it absolutely necessaire to use French, Afrikaans and Latin to get your point across? Who is your primary audience - the mirror?

BTW I think your motto could be better expressed. A direct translation is 'From Westminster always never good'. Or am I missing the point of it's inclusion?

Do chara (look it up)..

Anonymous said...

As a point of interest Irwin Armstrong's business appears to be more than micro and employ more than family members. A quick google shows CIGA Healthcare which seems to be a sizeable enterprise with some very large customers, unless of course you know better.

Horseman said...

Anonymous at 25 March 2010 03:50,

The size of CIGA Healthcare is hard to gauge, but the link in the blog said that it employed only family members.

And, on CIGA's own web site there are three 'employees' listed ... all called Armstrong (Irwin, Alan and Neill). Coincidence? I don't think so.

If you have better info, please share.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Anonymous @ 03:50:

For what it's worth:
Armstrong runs CIGA with his wife and son. Due to the business’ reliance on outsourcing and automated systems, it has only four permanent staff, all of whom are members of the family...

“The self-testing market is forecast to double in the next five years,” says Armstrong. And by negotiating low prices from his various suppliers in the U.S, Europe and the Far East he is able to undercut the market...


Anonymous said...

According to the website they sell a test every 15 seconds, that is over 2,000,000 a year, hardly micro when you look at the cost of the tests in the shops.

Also from website:-

'CIGA’s SURESIGN® brand is sold in over 5,000 multiple, pharmacy, grocery and general retail outlets across the UK and also in a large number of other countries including Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Benelux and many more.'

You can make up your own mind on its size.