The Trimbles wade in… and now I’m really confused

2 02 2010

Daphne Trimble, UUP nominee for selection in Lagan Valley, has quite deliberately posted the following on facebook:

Daphne Trimble David has just posted on his website
an email correspondence that he had with Alex Kane in November discussing devolution, UCUNF etc. In light of recent happenings he considers that people might find it an interesting exchange.

She is of course referring to Alex Kane’s resignation as Director of Comms for the UUP.

Alex presented his resignation letter to the Party leadership on Sunday then this article appeared in Monday’s News Letter. Perhaps the proximity of the resignation and the article makes it easy to consider that Alex simply resigned in response to unity talks with the DUP. Well, maybe, but I don’t think that’s the entire story.

Stephen King said on Evening Xtra tonight that there were a number of others things which impacted on the decision to leave. A commenter over on Jeff Peel’s blog has posted up what he claims is Alex’s resignation letter. It contains alot of complaints which anyone with any experience of dealing with the UUP will readily recognise (so it looks genuine enough to me). And this would tie in with what King was saying earlier.

But what of the intervention of the Trimbles? Check out DT’s webpage. To my eye, it’s pretty unhelpful stuff.

David has posted up an email discussion between himself and Alex in relation to the GFA. It seems that the Alex’s position is that the GFA is flawed, its structures are weak and the whole thing needs to be reworked. Trimble takes the view that the GFA is the best thing to happen to unionism in 40 years and to mess with it is to undermine the position of Unionism generally.

Fair enough. So far so revisionist. But while these chaps sort out whose history works better in the present, it should be noted that Kane is arguing a position which is now UUP policy. Anyone heard a UUP guy talk about dysfunction and structural problems? Heck even, Reg’s line on children’s transfer has a certain tone to it.

But Trimble says: ‘Making a major unilateral change would be.. a godsend to republicans’.

He adds: ‘The view you seem to espouse can only return us political instability.’

When Kane asks what the UCUNF project is about, Trimble says:

‘The project was never about lining up the Conservative party alongside ethnic Unionism, but about replacing political structures based on constitutional and national issues, with politics based on social and economic issues using the same party structures that operate elsewhere in the UK.’

This heaps more confusion on top of the UUP’s increasingly chaotic relationships. Have I read this right? Isn’t this a pro-Union project? And hasn’t Kane largely produced the UUP party policy only for  Trimble to warn that this could lead to instability?

Why would the Trimbles unilaterally put this into the public domain? Is Trimble protecting his legacy or enunciating a Tory position? Is there another policy divergence between the Tories and the UUP?

What benefit to anyone is served by publicising this? For example, what does the UUP nominee for Lagan Valley think about the UUP’s policy towards structural change to the institutions? And what does the nominee think of Lord Trimble’s tough assessment of the consequences of structural changes to the Executive? Is Daphne not in an awkward position for having linked this stuff?

Why would anyone seek to invite such questions right now?

Seriously, someone help me out. If I’ve read this wrong, let me know. It’s late, and the Trimbles have left me very, very confused indeed.

PS. Commenter Alias over on the Slugger thread has this interpretation as to what the Trimbles’ motivation might have been in releasing this email exchange:

I think Trimble’s missus published Alex and David’s private correspondence to show that Kane’s problems with the UUP predate recent events, specifically that it was Trimble’s and the Tory party’s plan to keep a system in place that Kane believed to be fatally flawed. A bit of a cheap shot and one that seems self-defeating.

Trimble, of course, is right when he says that the GFA is the best deal offered to unionists in 40 years. How could it be otherwise when the competing nation accepted the Unionist Veto, elevating it to the status of a principle, and formally renounced their nation rights to self-determination? Essentially, the game-plan is to get the muppets to focus on everyday matters and forget all about national rights, such that the Irish nation lives happily within a British state.

But as Kane probably understands, what is the point of British control of the state if unionists cannot fully exercise their validated right to self-determination within it?

Think that seems like a pretty darn good assessment. Though as stated above, I do still believe Kane was articulating a position on the institutions which is now mainstream Party policy, right? So it becomes less about slapping AK as he heads out the door as to pointedly dress down UUP policy vis a vis the institutions. Not very helpful, no matter the motives or the intended outcome…




5 responses

2 02 2010

Your confusion is to be regretted. Let me give you the Conservative perspective.

We all know that the Power Sharing system is dysfunctional. It does not deliver efficient Government. Alex Kane has cited examples of this in his email. The saga about Sinn Fein, with the assistance of the Labour Government, dismantling the 11+ without anything satisfactory to replace it, is a classic example of what can happen in such a system.

Trimble’s argument is that despite these failings, the system can not be changed without the consent of the majority of both communities because the agreement which set up the power-sharing system was more than just the setting up a Northern Ireland Government. It was part of a wider deal for peace and security in Northern Ireland and the settling of the Constitutional position.

Both the UUP and the DUP have played their part in bringing this about. The UUP can be proud of the part that it played in 1998. The GFA has been amended by the SAA. The benefit of the latter has been to bring Sinn Fein to supporting the PSNI as the arm of enforcing law and order. That was an achievement of DUP negotiation. That needs to be acknowledged without grudge, notwithstanding that St Andrews did include some politiking (such as the mechanism for who becomes first minister).

Power sharing is a sectarian system of Government and no right thinking person wants sectarian politics to remain in Northern Ireland. Where Trimble and Kane differ is in relation to the right way to change that. The inadequacies of the power sharing system do not justify unilateral change by UK legislation for all of those reasons mentioned by Trimble and perhaps more. Such a course of action would lead to de-stabilisation, destruction and likely terrorism and tragedy on a much larger scale. It certainly would be a propaganda fodder for Republicans and you would soon see International diplomatic pressure being applied on the British Government. That would certainly damage an incumbent Conservative Government.

David Trimble uses the term “evolution”. That is the correct term to describe future progress. It is a long hard road on which to travel but it is the only good one for Northern Ireland. Yes the power-sharing system does need changing but the right way to campaign for change is by a twin track approach of (1) persistent consultation with the Nationalist communities by the Government on the way forward for evolution of the devolved powers (2) as part of a long-term project to work hard for votes within the Catholic community for policies based on shared values – not constitutional preference. David Trimble is right to mention the potential of the Labour Party to influence NI politics. Hopefully, we will see more development of the Labour party within NI after the General Election.

This is conservative policy and it is a long-term project. We all thought it was the UCUNF project as well.

Is Trimble protecting his legacy or enunciating a Tory position?

It is most certainly the latter. Anybody in the UUP who thinks the Conservatives in Government are going to legislate changes to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 without the agreement of majority of Nationalists or their representatives are seriously misinformed.

It most certainly is but with the qualification that the hard won constitutional arrangements must be supported and respected. Owen Paterson has promised that in Government, he will discuss changes to the system with Sinn Fein and the SDLP but that is as far as it goes. A Conservative Government will never support legislation to give the UUP its wish without Nationalist consent. If that was not understood previously by UUP supporters who backed UCUNF then there have been some serious misrepresentations down the line.

As for Alex Kane, I do not blame him for his resignation. He has not been given proper direction, that is obvious but part of the reason for this lack of direction may well be a difference of vision between the UUP and the Conservatives behind what the UCUNF project could and should be all about.

The Conservatives and the UUP leadership were talking for a year leading up to the agreement reached on 20th November 2008. One has to ask what they were talking about during all that time.

7 02 2010

Ah torystoryni

Such an opening line is worthy of Trimble himself! No, it is not a matter of universal regret. It’s a perfectly legitimate response to the ‘clarity’ DT often supplies through his public statements.

I understand the nature of the arguments – evolution versus structure.
My main problem is that Alex Kane was espousing the UUP’s present position on devolution. How long Kane might have held his view is irrelevant – it is now UUP Party policy. In fact UUP acceptance of the policing deal seems to be dependent on structural changes.

My confusion comes in understanding why Trimble needed go public at all. The UUP and the UCUNF project has had a troubling 2/3 weeks. It doesn’t need more dispute and ill-feeling. And yet here is Trimble issuing private emails which might be designed to expose Kane in some way, but which also cause some collateral damage in as much as he criticises UUP policy. A former leader of the UUP chiding the present leader of the UUP. Why? I am confused – I am legitimately confused as to why this exchange had to be made public.

What is the percentage gain? The Tories have no MLAs, no players at all in Stormont. Why step on the UUP’s toes like this? You read it otherwise, but this is clearly about Trimble the ego.

Dissenter pretty eloquently describes other problems eg. between Trimble’s intuitive grasp of theory and his inability to export that knowledge effectively into the real world. I can’t add to what he writes and I agree with every word.

PS. i hope Alex Kane gave them permission to publish those emails? Otherwise, anyone who’s every had an email from DT might just say the precedent has been set to publish private correspondence it you wish to unsettled and embarrass.

2 02 2010

First, unless I am reading this wrong, unless Labour engages constructively and substantially in Northern Ireland the Conservative ‘project’ or whatever it is fundamentally flawed. I may have read Trimble wrong, but that point is more than incidental.

Second, given Trimble’s track record on leadership and electoral performance Alex has a perfectly reasonable question on the way forward that is simply not answered by Trimble. He is reflecting questions from the streets in Northern Ireland, and not the chatter of the Home Counties or North Down candlelight suppers.

Trimble is good on theoretical minutae, but poor on the practical or realistic. In that he has been entirely consistent.

The Belfast Agreement was good in theory, but it has locked sectarianism into the system which itself means that the structures/framework are flawed, inherently unstable and likely to perpetually accentuate tribal voting – where is the future in that. Twelve years on it is entirely right to question and expect to campaign on changes that will deliver good government. In all this there is a sense that the discussions with the DUP etc were perhaps a tipping point, but Alex rightly questions the direction of where the UUP is heading and how an alliance with the Conservatives is going to get it anywhere if it doesn’t know where it is in the first place.

It would be more convincing that the Conservatives were taking us to a new world if we had heard anything from them or the UUP of the ‘Conservative’ policies that were going to shape the new Northern Ireland but there has barely been a single contribution to policy debate since 2008. So where’s the beef on the bones of this ‘project’. To date they have not made one single point outside the usual party poll-dancing of local politics.

Bodballs you are entirely right to be confused.

3 02 2010

surely the reason the Conservatives have not been unilaterally issuing lots of NI policy is because they don’t want to stand on UUP feet? UCUNF needs to be issuing policy but where is the agreed process of policy development and who signs it off on both sides?

4 02 2010

“The benefit of the latter has been to bring Sinn Fein to supporting the PSNI as the arm of enforcing law and order.”

You are not living in it – your ethos is in Bangor, or Donaghadee. So, that is not entirely true – SF run West Belfast and other areas as a fiefdom, the PSNI are expected to slot themselves into the infrastructure.

The proof of that is the PSNI, NSPCC, NICCY etc. nobody is referring the LA vetting issue to the Police Ombudsman etc despite SF, and a raft of community groups sticking the PSNI with the blame. It is an *agreement* between the PSNI and SF. The police take a bit of flak for a corporate ally – and they do so in the knowedge the usual referrals do not happen. It ( vetting) is outside the scope of due process etc. What we have is sanctioned Kincora as a protocol of policing & SF politics.

To understand the Tammany laws, read the Belfastmediagroup – it is Southie as Bulgerville. The idea of the PSNI and SF as partners with the PSNI replacing ( in some respects) the IRA, is unhelpful.

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