Five years since the last Tory-Unionist-Unity pact-filled Westminster election of 2010, once again we see unionist parties attempt to field “unity” candidates in marginal constituencies. Previous experience shows that this strategy tends to be counter-productive; and there is little evidence that this time could be much different.
On 7th May, parties across the UK will aim to differentiate themselves and their policies from the opposition across the political spectrum. In Northern Ireland, we deserve more choice than that which our politicians tend to bargain for.
Politics and votes should be about choice, conflicting narratives and visions for the role of the State; it is throughout the rest of the UK, currently, anyway. In Northern Ireland, constituency polls do not have to be about what is “good for unionism” but rather what is good for local representation.
An electoral ticket or candidate defined simply by wanting to “defend” Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom for the next five years cannot be good for representation; neither is a ticket or candidate born out of such negativity or siege mentality good for the unionist psyche generally.
Unionist leaders attacking the likes of the Alliance Party solely in response to them winning a seat held previously by Ulster and Democrat Unionists does little to inspire confidence.
A clear choice between black and white as opposed to orange and green politics is needed; a debate over representation as opposed to no representation at all at Westminster would be a good start. Unionist pacts merely reflect the lack of choice that these parties have to offer; few signals say this is likely to change over the next five years.