Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Building the vote

In my internet meanderings I came across this post by Nicholas Whyte in response to my Garden Centre ProdsOf my three lines of argument he agrees with two and provides a statistical argument against the second - that I have overestimated the East Ulster Catholic turnout issue.  He believes that:

"However, Reynolds' wider conclusion (if I read him correctly) is that it's not worth the while of Unionist politicians trying to engage with the '100,000 or more' voters who participated in the referendum and not in the subsequent election."

In my enthusiasm to challenge the GCP myth I may have created this impression but it was not my intention so I can put him at ease.  I have no problem whatsoever with Unionism reaching out to get more voters, I wish it were more proactive in that field.  However, I don't consider trying to do so on the basis of misidentification, over-estimation, preconceived notions of what their views are (rather than a research base) and to the degree of obsession that it excludes other opportunities e.g. minority ethnic communities (who have barely been discussed as a new source for Unionism despite them being the most speedily growing social group in Northern Ireland in the same period as the GCP theory.) 

He adds an interesting angle to the UCUNF debacle that I hadn't considered:

"...the problem is that by 'normal politics', the UCUNF integrationists actually mean 'English politics' - not Scottish or Welsh, where Labour and the Nationalists compete for the top spot, with Tories and Lib Dems (now the UK's ruling coalition partners!) in third and fourth place. Most Northern Irish voters know Scotland at least as well as they know England, and can spot the difference between 'normal' and 'English', in politics or anything else."

I would add one further caveat to his argument that is like most he ignores the role of organisation in delivering votes.  Disconnect with voters isn't simply an ideological/political driven issue but also one of personal relationship.

BTW Nick's intermittent political blogs are well worth reading despite having to wade through a large number of Dr Who ones to find them.


Dilettante said...

I think that UCUNF's interpretation of 'normal politics' is the politics that is practised in the great majority of the union - a fine position for a unionist party to hold. Wishing to see the decline of the Nationalist parties and majority mainland politics practised is I'm sure not an ambition that the Conservatives limit to Northern Ireland, but to Scotland and (to a lesser extent, given the Conservatives are the second party in Westminster terms) Wales too.

Describing it as 'English' politics seems to be an attempt to suggest there is some English-Nationalist undercurrent to it, when the attitude can be explained solely in unionist terms.

Anonymous said...

For me, normal politics means the possibility of voting for and against parties that can form the government. At Westminster level that means the three big ones. Otherwise we don't really get to take part in the larger issues and debates.

Nicholas Whyte said...


Thanks for the link, and apologies for the Doctor Who posts. I do tag all the political ones so you can always check to cut out the ones you are less interested in!

I completely agree with you about the role of organisation in delivering votes; indeed I would see the activity of identifying the target voters as a key element of that process. I have heard anecdotally that the UUP does not do this well, but the DUP does it rather better. It would not surprise me if the UUP's internal structures, designed at a time when it could rely on the votes of 95% of all Protestants in Northern Ireland, are not well adapted to the present circumstances.

Lee said...

No worries it was a good post.

"I do tag all the political ones"


"I have heard anecdotally that the UUP does not do this well,"

With some Tory technology they were trying to do this in the last campaign but I have some doubts about the direct transference of mainland techniques to here. (Past attempts of using fundraising techniques proved a disaster).

"the DUP does it rather better."

We do it a bit better and a bit more hard-working at elections but I wouldn't say we have it cracked by any means.

"It would not surprise me if the UUP's internal structures,"

They have got in a bit of a rut of monthly meeting with speaker or a social event rather than out and about.