Now… where did we leave that DUP think tank?

17 08 2009

Time for some new ideas

Time for some new ideas


The Tory/UU alignment has provoked a bad-tempered reaction from the DUP. Lots of meaningless point-scoring like this – where the DUP attempts to have the UUP answer for every Conservative Party member and every utterance of Conservatism. It doesn’t quite work like that. Separate parties, you see.

And yet the DUP still keep launching themselves at the CUs. And when they do so they all but confirm the criticism that the DUP are little Ulstermen, or Ulster Nationalists, or bitterly parochial. The DUP has hammered Labour governments (for GFA among other things), and is now hammering the incoming Tory administration and their Unionist colleagues on the Executive.

If the DUP continue down this road, where will it take them? How does this end? Surely a deepening row with the next Conservative administration will leave the DUP more marginalised at Westminster? Surely it drives this new force more closely together (for mutual support against constant attack)?

Donaldson was Director of Elections during the disastrous Euro. After this Robinson said the Party must review its approach. And now Donaldson is out again criticising the Tories and the UUP (christ, Jeffrey you presented the UUP opportunity to detail how they set up the NHS in Northern Ireland. Way to go Jeff!).

Has the DUP completed its review following the election? If it has, then the anti-Conservative messages must be part of DUP strategy.

This is a mistake. Alongside the anti-Conservative line is the stuff from Sammy Wilson attacking support groups for ethnic minorities (an attack which occurred only weeks after this). It narrows and limits a party which has more than enough capacity to persuade people that it has a broader UK vision for engagement.

The Tory cuts line is a mistake. Stuff like this seems pleasing but is a waste of bandwidth. So all right, let’s take the worst case scenario: if we accept that the Tories will make cuts why does it necessarily follow that cuts are unpopular? Government spending is funded on debt and to reduce this either requires government income to rise (TAXES) or spending to be reduced (CUTS). So if its TAXES or CUTS, where are the DUP?

The DUP don’t like Tory CUTS, so are they in favour of higher TAXES? But they seem to be in favour of small government? In fact the DUP favoured big spending cuts three weeks ago. Why the flub on this?

Just say you believe in small government, want lower costs (CUTS) and you’ll help the Tories deliver a low tax economy. That way you back the winning argument, steal some credit and are seen to be supportive of unionist unity/family etc. At the moment, it seems as though bitterness has overthrown all logic…

The DUP should instead concentrate their efforts elsewhere. They should focus on developing a big and generous vision for engagement/demonstrate the range of inputs the Party makes to government across these islands. (Ironically, one instance when the DUP looked like they had a persuasive island-wide vision was when they signed up independent Tory Andrew Hunter. And now the DUP are reduced to Tory bashing…?)

So how? Well, whatever happened to that Think Tank? It can say and do things the Party cannot. Pump it with resources, elevate it, get it publishing, make it your equivalent of the Tories’ Policy Exchange. Ideas, papers, direct grassroots and stakeholder meetings delivered through it can help to cohere/describe the efforts of Europe, Westminster, Assembly, Councils to audiences. It was a good idea when launched – it’s a good idea now. Why did it go off the boil? Relaunch but resource the damn thing.

So to recap, why not:

  • end the phony war with the CUs
  • come out clearly for small government
  • positively communicate a cpherent, unified strategy
  • re-launch the think tank – instil ideas/values/narrative in Party output.

There is a lack of vision. And it’s no surprise that the strategist behind the Euro elections disaster is exemplifying this once again. You need to stop and think Jeffery, so why not use the think tank – that’s what it’s there for.




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