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Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: Farage shies away from Northern Ireland pact

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Farage plays down Northern Ireland pact…

I reported previously in this column about a possible alliance between UKIP and the Traditional Unionist Voice, a small right-wing party in Northern Ireland, during the European elections. The TUV is led by Jim Allister, their sole MLA and a former MEP, and his local profile and the TUV’s on-the-ground infrastructure, combined with Farage’s star power (such as it is), might have made for an intriguing wildcard bid for the province’s third European seat.

Although according to UKIP’s internal structures the final decision rests with the local party, according to the Newsletter Farage himself is playing down the idea, claiming to prefer UKIP standing on its own as a distinct entity.

It isn’t difficult to see his point. As province-wide proportional election, the Euros are an opportunity for minor parties without concentrated support to demonstrate virility by garnering a respectable vote (a fact of which groups such as the NI Conservatives and NI21 will be very aware). Unless it has a clutch of very promising council wards in its sights, this might be the party’s best chance to demonstrate it is on the rise as a political force in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, whilst linking up with an established local force could boost UKIP’s likely remote chances of actually capturing the seat, it risks losing the UKIP brand (and any rise in awareness thereof) behind the TUV. The Conservatives technically have a Northern Irish MEP in Jim Nicholson, an Ulster Unionist elected under the now-dissolved UUP-Conservative pact. Yet the NI Conservatives don’t feel like a party who have won a real political battle.

That’s because they haven’t. As his website makes clear, Nicholson is an Ulster Unionist, not a Conservative. Since the TUV would be the senior partner in any local pact the joint candidate would likely be theirs, and Farage will be wary of squandering UKIP assets and opportunities to bolster a likely temporary ally and potential rival.

…whilst his devolution policy draws dissent in Wales

Meanwhile, retiring UKIP MEP for Wales John Bufton has dropped hints about setting up another ‘traditional unionist voice’ of his very own, born from opposition to Farage’s “relaxed” attitude towards devolution and federalism. Bufton has talked of setting up a party to represent Welsh people opposed to the Assembly.

Despite the closeness of the initial referendum, I’m not sure what hope such a party might have in a part of the country where the constitution is not a dominant day-to-day political issue. But it’d be nice for people have the option on the ballot paper.

Irish Taoiseach challenges Adams over IRA ‘disappearance’

Enda Kenny, leader of the Republic’s ruling Fine Gael party, has challenged Sinn Fein TD and former Member of Parliament Gerry Adams to make a statement to the Irish parliament about the disappearance of Jean McConville, a Belfast resident, during the Troubles.

This comes after IRA bomber Dolours Price accused Adams of ordering McConville’s kidnap and murder. Recorded conversations with price, taken for posterity and study by the University of Boston, have been given to the PSNI after being acquired by the US Justice Department.

Both Kenny and Michael Martin, leader of the opposition Fianna Fail, disputed Adam’s insistence that he was never involved in republican terrorism. Martin was particularly direct: “Nobody except Deputy Adams believes he wasn’t in the IRA.” How true.

Better Together: What positivity problem?

Is Better Together, the official campaign for a ‘No’ vote in the upcoming referendum, too negative? That’s the thesis posed by a contributor to the Scotsman. Peter Geoghegan moots that the apparent shrill relentlessness of ‘project fear’ may drive agnostic Scots into the arms of the separatists.

To my surprise, the accompanying poll (displayed automatically at the time of writing on most pages of the Scotsman website) suggests that their readers disagree with his suggestion that BT is too negative by a whopping 90 per cent to 10. It’s not that a handful of vigilant unionists spotted the poll in its early stages, either:

Is the tone of the Better Together campaign in the independence referendum too negative?

Yes: 3375 (10%)

No: 29023 (90%)

Since there’s no well-organised online pro-Union activist base, one has to assume that either there’s been some sort of computer error or the No campaign are getting something very, very right – measured by that particular metric, at least.

They have certainly paid enough attention to the matter. Even before the separatists stole the march by registering ‘Yes Scotland’, unionists have realised that they’d have to run a positive ‘Yes to the Union’ campaign alongside the negative ‘no to separation’ one. Better Together events, logos and literature are drenched in assurances that they don’t believe that Scotland couldn’t make it on its own. Instead, they want to sell the UK to Scotland, as it were.

The problem, as Daniel Hannan wrote recently, is that for many the UK is fundamentally a ‘head’ thing, whilst romantic nationalism is much more a matter of the heart. This makes falling into negativity much easier because, whilst it is perfectly possible to maintain that Scotland and Britain have their own subjective upsides, a graph that demonstrates Scotland is better off in the UK is also a graph demonstrating that Scotland is worse off outside it. The SNP proceed to look at every fact-based case for the Union through that end of the telescope, and lo! ‘Scaremongering’.

Yet stray from economics and the ‘positive case’ for Britain becomes harder to agree upon and articulate, since many of us are ill-versed in defending the Union in such terms. Due to the evolution of how history is taught in Britain, we aren’t raised with the British national story. This means the nationalists have a novel, peopled with heroes and villains, whilst unionists are left holding a civics textbook. Until that changes it’s going to be very hard to make the UK a ‘heart’ matter in the same way it was to generations past.

Despite that handicap, however, the Scotsman’s readers seem to have given Better Together a clean bill of health.


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