Followers of this blog will be aware that it had been mothballed it in June last year as I launched by new blog “Northern Ireland Centre Right.” The new blog was the focus of a campaign of persuasion, directed at the Conservative Party, that the Northern Ireland Regional Conservative Party should become an independent centre-right party which took no position on whether Northern Ireland should remain as part of the United Kingdom.
In the Autumn of this year, I became aware that the regional committee of the Northern Ireland Conservatives were campaigning hard with CCHQ for a new package which would enable them to field candidates at Assembly elections, including the election of 2011. I was persuaded that if they achieved their aim, I should suspend my Northern Ireland centre right campaign and campaign as a Conservative until after the Assembly elections. I made it clear, however, that the Conservatives had to be allowed to field candidates in the forthcoming 2011 election campaign. A promise to be allowed to field candidates in future elections was not acceptable, since it was clearly necessary, as a first step towards non-sectarian, non-communal politics, that the Conservative Party put some distance between itself and the UUP.
In November, it was looking very much as though the Committee would succeed in their aims. They had elicited favourable responses from very senior members of the party, including Owen Paterson. In preparation for that anticipated success, I decided to “dust down” the Tory Story NI blog. I still was not completely sure that they would succeed. Whilst the position was uncertain, I wrote posts simultaneously on Tory Story and NI Centre Right.
Two days ago, the Conservatives made their announcement that a new package had been agreed between the regional committee and CCHQ. The package included the right to campaign in Assembly Elections in the future but not the 2011 election. The Chairman indicated that it was operationally too late to field candidates in May. This looked to me like a “smoke screen” to conceal the fact that the committee had caved in to CCHQ pressure not to field candidates in the 2011 Assembly elections. In response to that, I asked one of the committee members to confirm or deny that the regional committee had made a commitment to CCHQ not to field Assembly candidates. The response I received was that they had not.
Since it appeared that it was now the regional committee that had made a decision not to field candidates, I held out a glimmer of hope that some local Associations could be persuaded by members to field their own candidates. I then learned that the Area committee had the power to block the fielding of candidates in its local area. As far as I was concerned, that marked the end of any hope that the Conservative Party would be fielding candidates in the 2011 Assembly elections.
Since there is no Assembly campaign to support, there is now no point in me continuing to write new posts on the Tory Story NI blog. As of today, I am announcing, once again, that there will be no further posts on that blog in the foreseeable future.
I will continue to write posts on Northern Ireland Centre Right until further notice. However, I will also be reflecting on what has happened and the political route most likely to be successful to achieve non-communal, normal left-right politics in Northern Ireland. In particular, I will be considering, very carefully, whether there is any remote possibility that the critical mass of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland might come around to my way of thinking after 2015.
Filed under: Assembly, Conservative Party, Conservativism, Normal Politics, Northern ireland, Northern Ireland centre right, Northern Ireland politics, Owen Paterson, ulster unionist party, Unionism, UUP | 2 Comments »