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Neil Johnston: Northern Ireland - Time for a better beginning


Neil is a Northern Ireland based Conservative activist.

In their paper following the last General Election, the Electoral Reform Society said that with the extension of the franchise in 1918;

“No majority government in British history has ever rested on a flimsier base of public support…”

They got it in one – 66 seat majority and 35% of the vote – unfair?

Well yes. But unless we’re going to embrace PR then we’ll have to do what we’ve done before - grin and bear it until next time, but be better persuaders, have better policies and contest all seats. (I’ll come back to this particular point.)

Galling enough considering what this tax, spend and deceitful administration has turned into.  But how would you feel if as someone paying the same stealth taxes as you, sees the same senior citizens lying on hospital trolleys, doesn’t have enough money for heating (let alone a peerage) and weren’t even asked to support the great ‘master plan’ of the New Labour Dual-Monarchy?

Not one vote was cast for any candidate presenting Labour’s manifesto in this part of the United Kingdom – not one. No one stood giving those who wanted to the opportunity to vote for or against the Government that governs and taxes them.  Voters in Zimbabwe and Belarus have more choice.

Surely in the 21st Century this cannot be right? No citizen of any nation should have to suffer a Government that did not first seek permission to govern?  People do actually want to vote Labour here. 

Why, I don’t know? But they should be given the chance, just as those who want to vote Conservative should be given every opportunity.

So let us give them something worth voting for and a party worth joining.  Let’s engage wholeheartedly, think outside of the box and give them a future and not a re-run of the past they neither sought nor deserve.

At the next council elections, the next assembly elections, the next European and general elections, there are inroads to be made, seats to be won and a better new beginning to be had here. If Nouvelle Conservatism is good enough for Notting Hill, then it’s good enough for Newry and Newtownards.

But they could vote for the Ulster Unionists, the party traditionally seen as the Tories across the water? Historical myth. Unionists were nothing more than voting fodder at Westminster elected by an eclectic mix of people who didn’t want a united Ireland.

A band of loyal, mainly Protestant liberals, conservatives, socialists and trade unionist amalgams committed to a union with a bigger island. And today their last remaining representative in the House of Commons doesn’t even vote with the Party anymore.

Since 1989, to its undying credit, the Conservative Party has organised here, but never wholeheartedly. Now is the time.

Like the Party in Scotland and in Wales; across the counties, villages, towns and cities of England, if we are to win we need to engage, going out across the nation to win the nation.

It is time for a better beginning for Northern Ireland. If we want to be a genuine party of the entire nation, and for all who share our values, we can’t ignore the needs of communities in Antrim or Armagh, just as we don’t ignore the needs of those who live in Aberdeen, St Albans or Aberystwyth.

The party needs to show that it is committed to all, but there is another, perhaps more fundamental reason for starting afresh.  We can be a party of genuine unity and reconciliation. Where local parties can only polarise, national parties can unite. The party would bring together Catholic and Protestant, individuals form well established ethnic minority communities - just as it does across the UK - and those from the new nations of the European Union who have come to live and work here.  People who deserve more than the politics of the past and the privilege of paying for a new suit clothes for the same emperor once every 25 years.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, in a speech to mark his 100 days as leader, David Cameron said that one of the biggest challenges facing all politicians was cynicism. Even here turnout is falling.  We are a historic party with a new young leader. We need to re-engage across the UK and especially with the young.

In this corner of the Kingdom we should remember that someone born on the Friday evening when the Belfast Agreement was reached in 1997, will be able to vote in nine years time.


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