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It's a nice idea but we lack the organisation to be credible players in NI.

You've got to deal with the fact that a "good job" in NI is one that's in the public sector. Any threat to the huge public sector spending will not go down well.

Years and years of hand outs has killed off the entrepreneurial spirit that used to exist in the 50s and 60s.

Is it really a surprise that Northern Ireland prefers a Conservative Government over a Labour one? Over the other choices, what other way would anyone vote?

I agree with Michael not surprising that people in NI want rid off Brown as much as people in GB but what is interesting is that the polling suggests there is strong interest in UK parties in NI and potentially a significant vote.
Conservative Party has to prove it is serious about getting members and voters in NI

Isn't NI THE most subsidised part of the UK?

With the help of Conservative Central Office and the full hearted commitment of David Cameron the Conservative Party could make a real impact on politics in Northern Ireland. This would be beneficial to the United Kingdom and would help to take sectarianism out of Northern Ireland politics. Lets go for it.

Steve R, perhaps you should google 'Invest NI' - the public sector is trying to stimulate huge growth throughout the private sector, to do that it needs short-term funding. I cannot see subsidy forever.

And you are correct Vincent. Now what exactly is the relevance of that?

Back on topic - we need to build a solid base in the next election, but to do so we need to start soon to get people aware that there are Conservative candidates, and the Conservatives are an option. Starting that 4 weeks before a General Election is too late. But to start an offensive, we need support from CCHQ and Dave as John has said. It is important that 'normal' politics returns to NI. I may not agree with their stance on alot of issues, but I applaud the Alliance Party for attempting that.

The problem is that the Conservative Party can't engage with the sectarianism that the provincial parties create. Just look at how things have sifted (for the worse) in the last few years. Most people have voted for either mad hat bigots (the DUP), or former terrorists.

Why would these people now vote for the mild mannered Conservatives who don't want to be either "Unionist" or "Nationalist".

The whole article is on Owen Paterson's website at http://www.owenpaterson.org.uk/record.jsp?type=news&ID=296

I also understand that part of the deal Lord Trimble did when he left the Ulster Unionists was pledge that he wouldn't campaign for the Tories in NI. I can understand why he might not want to campaign against the party he once led.

Thanks Dan. I'll add that link, Tim

This is a fine idea in principle, but no matter how much resources the Party invests in Northern Ireland, it will never achieve the electoral breakthrough that is needed. Every election in Northern Ireland, (whether it be a local council election, an Assembly election, a European Parliament election or a Westminster election) is always viewed as a referendum on the Union.

The Conservative Party may be a Unionist Party but many unionists would view a vote for the Conservative Party as a wasted vote which could have the potential in certain constituencies to split the vote, resulting in a Nationalist victory. This may be a unfortunate truth for some, but it is a truth nonetheless. As for moderate Roman Catholics who have been brought up in a nationalist community, but who may see themselves as belonging to the centre right, for them there will always be a stigma attached to the Conservative Party. A vote for the Conservatives would be a vote for a British Unionist party, which historically, hasn't always been sympathetic to this section of the population. You can dispute this if you so wish, but that is how many moderate Roman Catholics perceive the Conservative Party, and I say this as a young catholic conservative brought up in nationalist Tyrone.

The Conservative Party can attempt two things in Northern Ieland. It can direct all its energies to becoming another alternative Unionist Party. Or, it can ditch its Unionist tag and become a modern, secular centre right party, pioneering the path to bread and butter issues, in an attempt to appeal to all the people of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately both options offer pretty dismal electoral returns in Northern Ireland.

To use a well worn phrase: 'Is the juice worth the squeeze?'

Will the setting up of offices, training the staff, building up the infrastructure, finding suitable candidates, gaining local knowledge etc be worth the potential seats that could be won. I don't know, but with only two years to the biggest election in over a decade, shouldn't all our resources be put to use winning where we can get more juice for our squeeze?

Whether people in Northern Ireland are receptive to the Conservative Party depends on the party's policy on grammar schools

Although some may think Northern Ireland is ‘bankrupt’ or ‘oversubsidised’, our young people have the highest rates of university attendance in the UK. 100% of pupils at Queen’s University Belfast, a Russell Group university which is highly ranked in the League Tables, are from state schools (mostly grammar schools) and many are working class.

Today Michael Gove visted grammar schools in Graham Brady's constituency. I hope that Mr Gove starts to make the case for new grammar schools - and not just in Buckinghamshire.

What are the chances of us re-merging with the UUP? What exactly are the ideological differences?

For info NI has contributed considerable ‘juice’ to CCHQ over the years. We already have an office and an infrastructure of dedicated volunteers. Shortly we will employ a Development Officer (paid for by local ‘juice’) and continue to build towards the general election. Our polling evidence suggests we could win seats here if the Party Leadership manages to get its message over to the electorate in NI something we have failed to do to date

It is time the Conservatives fielded candidates in all Northern Ireland seats if it is serious about representing all of Britain, as it did prior to 1972. Now that David Trimble has joined us and the Rev Ian Paisley is retiring, I think it would be a good time to call upon Unionists (especially Ulster Unioinsts) to come over and join us.

I think it would be a good time to call upon Unionists (especially Ulster Unioinsts) to come over and join us.

You would need to try appeal to conservative catholic voters too, otherwise you would just become the UUP by any other name.

There would be a case for the Alliance full integrating with the LibDems too, but it would be harder for Labour to run against the SDLP, and the two can't merge because SDLP take nationalist positions (ie against Westminster rule)

More Owen Paterson please!!!!!!

I know quite a few people here (Northern Ireland) who would have vote for the Tory candidates fielded in previous elections if they thought he had a chance in hell of winning, but since they perceive a vote for a NI Tory as a wasted vote, they continue to vote for the bitter and entrenched NI-only parties. I'm not sure how to change this really, unless we begin to flood NI with Tory candidates for every election going. I think when people see the Tories having more than a token presence in NI, they may take them more seriously. But of course you also have to deal with decades of deep sectarian hatred that lie beneath the surface of society here. Not an easy nor enviable task.

What are the chances of us re-merging with the UUP? What exactly are the ideological differences?
The UUP policy has always been to support Capital Punishment and campaign for withdrawal from the EU, on economic policy they have moved more towards a Free Market agenda, they are if anything closer to UKIP. There is of course also the Scottish Unionist Party who are affiliated to the UUP, but have only put up candidates in the West of Scotland so far.

As a Northern Ireland man working on public policy on the mainland I am excited by this announcement. The devil, as with most things in NI, will be in the detail. The Daily Telegraph piece suggested UUP MPs coming under the Tory whip. That assists DC for minimum effort, but is a far cry from a serious Conservative Party in NI. I am desperate to see some normalisation of politics in the province. Currently the main right of centre parties are protestant and the main left of centre parties are Catholic. You would expect each side to have had a left and a right party! I also favour the main southern parties getting involved because they will create further right and left options. I suspect it will be messy for a while, especially because the Assembly means relatively small parties can have an important role. This begs the question - how will the Conservatives deal with the Assembly? Will the coalition run under a UUP banner at local and Assembly elections and The Conservative banner for national elections?
So many questions, but an encouraging direction of travel.

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