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Politics here remain firmly stuck in allegiance

(Brian Feeney, Irish News)

Years ago, at a time when the loony left was strangling the British Labour party, one of its hard-left MPs, might-have-been Frank Allaun, graced us with his presence.

He gave a hilarious interview to the local BBC in the course of which he confidently asserted that if Labour stood here they would win four seats in the next Westminster election, probably 1983.

Oh, asked the interviewer, could you tell us the name of one of these seats? Without pausing for breath, Allaun said East Belfast. And why East Belfast? "That's where the shipyard is, quoth Allaun".

Ah, the naivete – if they are 'workers' they must vote Labour. Needless to say, the interviewer didn't bother asking for the names of the other three constituencies.

It's a hardy annual.

Every Labour Party conference, we are treated to the fantasy that if the British Labour party organised here everything would be different.

Every year Kate Hoey MP is trotted out to prove that you can take a woman out of Newtownabbey but you can't take Newtownabbey out of the woman.

Each year she demands the right for Labour's national organiser to make a right royal ass of himself by allowing the party to come last in any constituency here.

Suffice to say the British Labour party has no intention of exposing itself to such ridicule.

The party hides behind the fiction that if you want to vote Labour you can vote for its 'sister' party in the Socialist International, the SDLP.

Ho Ho Ho.

The real reason is that both Sinn Féin and the SDLP would slaughter any Labour candidate. As for unionist districts, the DUP would wipe the floor with Labour.

Any doubts which may have lingered about such an outcome were dispelled years ago by the fate of the Conservative Party, which was suckered into putting up candidates here and, incredibly, even sending ministers to canvas. They got annihilated.

The very fact anyone would propose a British party should organise and fight seats here is a certain indication that the proposer is devoid of political nous – in short, lives in cloud cuckoo land.

The truth is that such proposers are in reality unionists, either right wing or left wing, people who ignore the political facts of this place.

The truth is that the British got out of Ireland in 1921 and hoped never to have anything to do with the place again. Dragged back into the quagmire in 1972, they have spent the last 34 years trying to find the exit again.

Demanding that a British party organise here goes against the whole stream of British political history for the last century.

The logic of that absurd demand is to reestablish the union, a position against which all British parties have set their faces for generations but most explicitly since 1973.

After the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement there was no going back. Mrs Thatcher banged the arm of her chair in Downing Street at a meeting with Molyneaux and Paisley and told them there would be no integration. Nor could there be with the Irish government's officials ensconced at Maryfield and the British government required to consult the Irish for 'views and proposals' on all matters affecting the north.

The Good Friday Agreement has taken the whole process of British withdrawal onto a new plane. The refusal of unionists to share power with nationalists is going to lead to an ever-growing connection with the Republic in social and economic and financial affairs. No nationalists are going to vote for a British party, that's a given.

What the fantasists who want Labour to pretend this is a normal society forget is that the one aim unionists have is to control a party of their own which will look after their own sectional interests here. They're certainly not going to vote for a party which is busily strengthening links with the Republic any more than they voted Conservative when that party was promoting the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

In other words, politics here remain firmly stuck in allegiance and identity, not about the issues which concern the Labour Party in Britain. The fantasists will of course pretend that is not so. That's why Labour, correctly, doesn't take them seriously.

September 28, 2006
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This article appeared first in the September 27, 2006 edition of the Irish News.


This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News



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