Conservatives represent the old politics

The Ulster Conservatives and Unionists has formally launched its manifesto for the general election.

The Ulster Conservatives and Unionists (UCU), formed as a result of the electoral alliance between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservative Party, has formally launched its manifesto for the general election.

Launching the document, shadow foreign secretary William Hague said:

“Without doubt we have the strongest and most able team of any political party in Northern Ireland at this election.”

His statement, however, overlooked the many serious doubts that have been raised over how wise a move it was for David Cameron to become so politically embroiled in Northern Ireland. As one Conservative blogger has written:

“I believe that the deal was a huge mistake on the part of the Conservative leadership and one which they will eventually regret.”

Hague added:

“It’s because of our shared belief in the Union, and our passion for the United Kingdom, that we are here together today.”

His comments come despite Sunday’s poll for Sky News, prior to the Scottish leaders’ debate, clearly indicating the Conservatives pose a bigger threat to the cohesion of the Union than any of the other parties. Within the manifesto itself, two pledges make particularly interesting reading.

Firstly, on page 57, the new political entity created by the UUP and Conservatives states:

“We intend to build a new political system that serves people rather than politicians.”

In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists agreed to jointly support an independent unionist, Rodney Connor, which both parties agreed would increase the chances of a unionist winning the seat. Given David Cameron’s commitment to a changed political system, based on empowering citizens, how can he justify denying the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone a genuine choice between all the main parties? If Northern Ireland is to move forward, such sectarian stitch ups will have to cease.

Furthermore, Mr Connor has pledged to take the Conservative whip if elected, raising questions about just how independent he really is. At the very least it gives the impression the Conservatives used the situation as a way of cynically pushing out their DUP rivals before a vote had even been cast.

As Alliance Party candidate for the constituency, Vasundhara Kamble, said:

“The fact that both parties have struck a deal for Fermanagh and South Tyrone shows that shows tribalism still appears to be the main priority for both UCUNF and the DUP.”

What is more, as Left Foot Forward has previously reported, the same sort of back room deal was attempted in Belfast South. How does that tally with David Cameron’s calls for a new, transparent politics?

Likewise, following the UUP’s criticisms of the decision by Sinn Fein education minister, Caitríona Ruane, to abolish the 11-plus test, the UCU has stated (page 50):

“Conservatives and Unionists will continue to support academic selection in Northern Ireland.”

Commenting on academic selection previously, however, the National Association of Headteachers in Northern Ireland has said:

“In our opinion it is educationally unsound, inaccurate, unfair and socially biased. The process is futile, wasteful and immoral and results in extensive emotional and motivational damage to many children. If, as a society, we claim to care about our children, we must no longer perpetuate this annual form of child abuse.

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