Jeffrey is Vice Chairman and Spokesperson for the Conservatives in Northern Ireland.
Saturday 6th December, 2008 was the day when a leader of the Conservative Party changed Northern Ireland politics forever. Evidence can be found in places other than David Cameron’s speech to the UUP conference on Saturday – a speech that made clear that Northern Ireland is no longer a no-go area for Conservatives or real politics. There is other, more tangible, evidence - a blog post on Slugger O’Toole by a lady from West Belfast called Kathleen. She attended a Cameron Direct event immediately before David made his way to the UUP Conference.
Kathleen has previously voted SDLP or Sinn Fein but, having listened to Cameron, she’d be prepared to vote Conservative, given what she’d heard.
And others in the Cameron Direct audience were moved too. Young people were in the majority in the room of around one hundred people who were fortunate enough to get places at the over-subscribed event. And the questions focused on real issues that mattered to people – healthcare, fuel poverty, the economy, alternative energy. Not one question was asked about devolution of policing or the Irish language or the border – issues upon which the DUP and Sinn Fein fixate.
What Kathleen heard was a Conservative leader make clear that Conservatives defined Unionism in a way that resonated with her. She was moved by Cameron’s commitment to ending social exclusion – and doing something about the social decay evident in places like West Belfast. She made clear that if Conservatives came into her constituency and made the same points that Cameron had made, they’d get her vote.