The DUP are often keen to claim that they are ‘delivering for Ulster’ but their recent, often vehement, opposition to the recent electoral pact between the Conservatives and the UUP has given their game away.
A charge often levelled at the DUP is that of ‘little Ulsterism’. This is hardly surprising from a party whose former leader told a journalist to ‘get back to England’ when he didn’t like his line of questioning, yet manages to adorn all their literature with the Union Flag as if it is merely a symbol to be seen in a Northern Ireland context.
The worst example of little Ulsterism came in June last year when they decided to back Labour over 42 day detention, helping to prop up a government which has, for the last twelve years, been guilty of the worst type of constitutional vandalism and an erosion of liberties which the vast majority of British people find abhorrent.
People from Northern Ireland play a massive role in British society.
Vast numbers of Northern Ireland’s youngsters now attend universities
in England and Scotland. It is impossible to switch on any of the major
news channels without hearing an Ulster accent. Soldiers from Northern
Ireland excel in the ranks of the military, serving their country
wherever they are required.
Northern Ireland punches above its weight in all aspects of British
life. Seldom has a population of 1.75 million achieved so much, yet the
lack of real representation at Westminster ensures that Northern
Ireland’s voice goes unheard and that it remains at the edge of the
Union, with its elected representatives content to negotiate payouts
and concessions, rather than form opinions.
In his speech to the UUP conference, David Cameron told us he wants to
“cement Northern Ireland’s position as a peaceful, prosperous and
confident part of the United Kingdom”. DUP activists would surely argue
that this is an aim all Unionists share, but why then, in the DUP’s
view, is Northern Ireland not good enough to have the same input as the
English, Scottish and Welsh to an all-British party of the Union?
The DUP’s vision of politics is dominated by contrasting images of hard
and soft Unionism, backstabbing Englishmen and Catholics who are viewed
purely through a religious prism. It’s horrendously rhetorical and
counterproductive. It creates a party identification model based for
the most part on religion and eschews the idea that people from
different backgrounds can share common goals. Essentially, it is
isolationist and far removed from the Unionism envisaged by Lord Carson
on several counts. Eventually, the reliance on age-old issues that is
the DUP’s particular brand of Unionism, will fail.
Many Unionists complain that other British people fail to understand
them. Indeed, conversations with politically astute English friends
about Northern Irish politics offers an insight into how little the
place is thought about, let alone understood. Unionism cannot be
supported, if it is not understood and to be understood, it must have a
presence at the heart of British politics. This is something the DUP
have gone out of their way to avoid and an area where they will
consistently fail to deliver. On the other hand, we Conservatives and
Unionists see this as crucial.
The Conservative-UUP pact offers Northern Ireland two things. Firstly,
the genuine chance of achieving the political representation it is due
and secondly, of creating Unionism, based not on religion but by
employing the best arguments we have – that the combined strength of
the United Kingdom is far greater than the sum of all our parts.