Henry Hill: ‘Show, don’t tell’ is the right way to fight the SNP – and ‘Ukima unionism’ in action

30 Sep

According to the Times, the Government is taking a new tack on how to tackle the threat of Scottish independence: stop talking about it:

“In a private edict, government ministers have been told not to engage with the SNP or proactively make the case for the Union. They were advised to take a show-not-tell approach of prioritising policies that will benefit the UK and ensuring that civil servants and ministers think about the impact of decisions north of the border.”

Lord McInnes, the latest man to take up the post of Boris Johnson’s adviser on the Union, apparently thinks that putting a spotlight on the subject is counter-productive given that the SNP missed out on a majority in May. Instead the plan is to try and “shut down the debate”, and presumably give the Nationalists space to focus on all the things they disagree on.

The paper also reports that the plan instead is to take a ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach by “highlighting money allocated to communities through city region deals and the potential of the upcoming Union connectivity review”, as well as using the new legislation passed by the Government to spend more directly in devolved areas.

Yet reports that this is being spearheaded by Michael Gove conflict with others from Whitehall sources that the new ‘Minister for Intergovernmental Relations’ previously opposed the UK Internal Market Act which makes such an approach possible, as well as trying (and failing) to get the Government to await a legislative consent motion from Holyrood before proceeding with the Subsidy Control Bill.

Whatever the truth, a shift towards building a positive, pro-active case for the British state – as opposed to saying nasty things about the Nationalists and then handing them more powers – can only be a good thing.

‘Unionist unity’ is a cul-de-sac for Northern Ireland

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, has called for a so-called ‘unionist unity’ pact in order to prevent Sinn Fein claiming the First Minister’s office after the next Northern Irish election.

But whilst no unionist wants to see Michelle O’Neill installed in the Provinces ‘highest office’ – in fact, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister are a co-equal executive, with a fictive hierarchy originally meant to flatter the unionists – the other parties should resist.

After all, it was the DUP who, along with Sinn Fein, negotiated the 2006 St Andrews Agreement which changed how the First Minister was chosen. Instead of being elected, and thus chosen by MLAs from the larger communal bloc (which the unionists will still probably be), they are simply nominated by the largest party. The very obvious intention was to corral voters behind the big two.

It is significant that the leaders of all the main ‘capital-U Unionist’ parties, including Doug Beattie of the Ulster Unionists, have come together to oppose the Protocol. But their best hope of maximising the unionist vote is a diverse offering, with parties capable of appealing to voters with different priorities and values. ‘Unionist unity’ shrinks the overall electorate by shedding voters to the Alliance or seeing more people stay at home.