Saturday Update: The Board of the Conservative Party has suspended Jeff Peel as an Area Officer for "failing to respect agreed protocols concerning websites and external communications", while Mr Peel has enlarged upon his resignation to the News Letter.
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson has regularly said throughout this process that it would not happen overnight, that there would be ups and downs, and that it would happen too quickly for some and at too slow a pace for others. He is also right in his assertion that the long term goal of normalising politics in Northern Ireland is both important and worthwhile. As such, I hope this minor hiccup will not be anything other than a momentary distraction.
Jeffrey Peel, vice-chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, has today resigned from the joint Conservative-UUP committee which is overseeing the efforts to forge a new political force in the province to fight European and Westminster elections.
He claims that the Ulster Unionists have broken agreements about the banner and branding under which candidates would stand, and goes on to cast aspersions about the UUP’s motives for participating the electoral alliance.
This is a most unfortunate development and I sincerely hope it will
not hinder the excellent progress that has so far been made towards
creating a new Centre-Right force in Northern Ireland politics.
Walkouts and resignations are not exactly unfamiliar to those who
follow politics in the province but I had hoped that they had been
consigned to the politics of the past.
Mr Peel has circulated the following email explaining the reasons for his decision:
Thursday evening both the UUP and Conservatives NI area councils met to
agree a paper from the joint committee of the UUP and Conservatives.
The most substantive element of this paper was the name that the two
parties would campaign under. The proposed name in the paper (Ulster
Conservatives and Unionists – New Force) was essentially an arrangement
to ensure that the paper would be passed by the UUP council. The
Conservatives received assurances via email from David Campbell,
Chairman of the UUP, prior to the Council meeting, making clear that
despite the wording in the paper, the only name that would be used for
campaigning purposes would a “short form” of the name i.e.
Conservatives and Unionists.
"It was also made
clear to the UUP in the joint council meetings that the only branding
that would be acceptable would be the regional form of the official
Conservative ‘tree’ logo device, and the Conservatives and Unionists
typography in the official Conservatives in NI colours. Therefore we
took the email to mean that the UUP had accepted the short form name
and branding. Our Area Council was briefed to this effect and passed
the paper. The UUP Council also passed the paper (with no dissent).
As Conservatives we wished to ensure that branding reflected the
non-sectarian and national nature of our joint initiative – with
successful candidates taking the Conservative whip in Europe and in
"It was agreed by both sides that
there would be NO media briefings on the Thursday evening. However,
this deal was broken by the UUP who briefed the media on the long form
version of the name – despite assurances to us that the short form
version would be used. The local and national media coverage only
featured the long form version of the name that was NOT agreed by our
"As a result of this, it was agreed by our side that we would release a logo featuring the correct short form branding.
"The UUP complained bitterly that we had released this branding. At
a joint media conference held last Friday the UUP insisted that we
remove all logos from display material. Moreover the UUP has continued
using the long form version of the name in media releases despite
assurances that the only naming to be used was to be Conservatives and
"As a result of this, I have come to the conclusion that the UUP
does not have the interests of Conservatism at heart. Rather, as the
UUP is facing a severe financial crisis, it sees the Conservatives as a
means out of its financial and electoral woes. Many UUP members
(although by no means all) still adopt a little Ulster mentality when
it comes to politics, and the Party’s only MP is simply not a
"It is for these reasons that I have taken the decision to resign
from the Joint Committee. Although I’d like to make clear that I am
NOT resigning from the Conservative Party and am NOT resigning as Vice
Chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland. I fully support the
Conservative Party under the leadership of David Cameron and I hope to
see it elected to government after the next general election. I would
encourage the Party to seek a mandate to govern every part of the
United Kingdom without entering into deals with other political