Many Conservatives are bewildered by the fact that continually, references are made to the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone in terms of “splitting the unionist vote”
Regrettably, it cropped up again, yesterday after the UUP rose to Arlene Foster’s bate. In yesterday’s edition of The Newsletter, Mrs Foster criticised the Conservatives and Unionists for their decision to field 18 candidates at the General Election.
The UUP’s response was to hark back to what happened in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2001. In that election, Sinn Fein took the seat with a majority over the UUP candidate, James Cooper, of only 53 votes. James Cooper was opposed in that election by an independent unionist candidate, Jim Dixon who polled more than 6,000 votes. Dixon was endorsed by the DUP. This is not the first time that the UUP have retaliated to taunts by the DUP of splitting the vote by making a reference to Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Sir Reg Empey referred to it on the Politics show on 7th December. I saw another reference to it on a previous post on the UUP website.
Whenever the UUP retaliate in this way, they expose themselves in a very negative light. The clear subliminal message is that they would be in favour of deals over vote splitting if the DUP had not acted in bad faith. It also makes the UUP look as if it is getting sucked back in to sectarian politics. That is entirely the wrong message to give to the electorate.
The UUP’s proper response to this kind of taunt should be to make it clear that we are presenting the electorate with a choice which is different from the DUP. We are presenting a brand of unionism which is entirely different to the UUP. We are not a party which is wedded to sectarianism. We are a party of tolerance. We are progressive.
If anybody wishes to emphasise the DUP’s sectarian credentials, here is a quote of Sammy Wilson at the beginning of December 2008 reacting to comments by David Cameron and the announcement of the Conservative/UUP link.
“The comments made by David Cameron that he would never side with one part of the community over the other raises questions for Reg Empey. In Northern Ireland, like all societies in the world, there are occasions when a side has to be picked, when people have to stand up and be counted for what they believe in. In Northern Ireland there are times when someone has to decide whether they are on the Unionist side of the debate or the Nationalist side of it.”
I rest my case
Filed under: Arlene Foster, Bigotry, Conservative Party, David Cameron, DUP, General Election, Sammy Wilson, Sir Reg. Empey, Unionism, UUP | Tagged: Arlene Foster, Bigotry, Conservative Party, David Cameron, DUP, General Election, Sammy Wilson, sectarianism, Sir Reg. Empey, Tory-UUP linkup, Unionism, UUP | 3 Comments »