The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Ruritanian Mockney State


Mick Hall • 6 May 2005

Every time a UK general election is held, the fact that Northern Ireland is a failed political entity stares one in the face, for at the end of the election campaign, after the votes cast have been counted, not a single north of Ireland voter will have made a jot of difference as far as electing those who will govern them for the next five years.

None of the major UK political parties organise or stand candidates in the north, thus, bar there being a hung Westminster Parliament, the NI electorate are all but disenfranchised, having absolutely no direct democratic means to influence who is to govern them.

You would have to look pretty hard to find another example of a major Western Nation in which a section of its people are excluded from directly electing their national government. Even in the Basque region of Northeastern Spain, which has similar constitutional problems to the north in that a large part of its population refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the State that governs them, the two main Spanish parties organise politically, plus, unlike in NI, a local assembly exists.

The situation the northern Irish electorate find themselves in is truly a case of taxation without representation. More surprisingly, bar the Irish Republican parties, the Greens and one or two small outfits such as SEA, all of the main political parties in NI, both nationalist and unionist, accept almost without question this nonsensical and anti-democratic situation as it serves their best interest. Sadly the overwhelming majority of the Unionist electorate (who in many ways are the victims here), along with most of the north's media, totally acquiesce with this crass political gerrymandering.

One could understand this behaviour if Northern Ireland had, as the Scots do, a Parliament of their own, but they do not. Indeed when any local democratic forum has been established in recent times, it has been quickly shut down by the London government, more often than not at the behest and with the support of the majority of the north's politicians, which in itself must be unique in the annuals of parliamentary democracy. Indeed, if the unionist political leaders were honest people, at the last assembly elections they would have stood on a programme of 'vote for us and we will disenfranchise you by demanding of our masters across the sea that they shut down the Assembly'.

In reality what happens in the north of Ireland when a UK parliamentary election is called is more on a par with a Ruritanian Mockney State. For appearance's sake, if they can be bothered, the two main UK Party leaders will make a flying visit to the north for the benefit of the TV cameras, in the full knowledge their appearance will have no effect on the overall result of the election, as Northern Ireland's 18 parliamentary seats will all be won by candidates standing for local (NI) or all-Ireland political parties. Indeed, on the day after the current General Election had taken place, after the leader of the opposition Michael Howard had long conceded defeat and Tony Blair, having visited the Palace to receive his new PMs credentials from Betty Windsor, was in the process of making the names of his new Cabinet public, not a single NI constituency had been declared.

A side effect of this gerrymandering is that a majority of the leaders of the north's political parties have been in office way beyond their sell-by date and treat their party as if it was their own thiefdom. Unlike political leaders elsewhere, whose main ambition is to lead their nation, most of NI’s leading politicians' height of ambition is to control their party and through it the political affairs of the community which supports them, not by governing them via a democratic forum, but by making deals with the king across the water.

This has changed somewhat now that SF has become the main nationalist party, as its leader clearly has quite legitimate ambitions to rule the island of Ireland as a whole, which in reality would mean ending the political partition of the island of Ireland. As to the Unionist leaderships, they seem quite content to play the big fish in a small pond and display all the bigotry, prejudices and hatreds which are inherent in provincial politics at its worst. Another downside of this provincial mess, which enables NI leaders such as Mr Paisley to remain in office for decades, is few able lieutenants emerge through the party ranks, for Caesar fears losing his crown. What you get instead are able party bureaucrats who are astute at carrying out their leaders' wishes, but are not leaders in their own right.

Of course, when the British first established Northern Ireland the Ulster Unionists were an integral part of the British Conservative Party; today this is no longer the case. The fact that neither the British Labour Party nor the Tories show any enthusiasm to organise in the north highlights the fact that the establishment in London does not see NI being a part of the UK in the long term, nor, incidentally, does the bureaucracy that runs the European Union.

By the next UK general election, both of the main nationalist parties in the north will have an all Ireland perspective; SF always has and in all probability the SDLP will have hitched up with Fianna Fail, and if PIRA has been stood down, an electoral alliance between the two might not be impossible in the north.

On the Unionist side it is difficult to see how the momentum for a single Unionist party can be stopped. Having said this, come the next general election the same problem of taxation without representation will still exist. The only realistic way to overcome it is for the island of Ireland to be reunited politically. With Mr Paisley with his maker by the next general election and Mr Adams about to retire to the Republic's Presidency, perhaps this is not such an unrealistic proposition, certainly no sillier than the present arrangement.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

6 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Voting Bobby Sands
Anthony McIntyre

Ruritanian Mockney State
Mick Hall

It's a Dirty Job
Brian Mór

Fred A Wilcox

2 May 2005

Daily Ireland: It's Not Over til It's Over
Mick Hall

Education Cuts
Sean Smyth

Rate My Teachers Blocked
Michael Hussey

* Election Coverage *

Greens Endorse McCann
John Barry and Kelly Andrews, Greens

Young People Are Not the Problem
Tish Murray Campaign Press Release

Liam Kennedy and West Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

Coulter's Choice
Dr John Coulter

Send Mitchel to London
Brian Mór

Flashback: A Coversation with Lindsay Whitcroft
Anthony McIntyre



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices