Sectarian headcounts will not meet the hopes of young voters

Terry Wright
Terry Wright

Some unionists will welcome the Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt’s retreat from his previously expressed view on unionist co-operation to facilitate a pact with the DUP.

They will wish that it had been agreed in all constituencies.

The logic for not doing so when it is possible to combine for some seats will be lost on many.

Differences between the two parties seem minimal and where they exist appear driven largely by animosity resulting from previous elections and the DUP’s desire to exercise control over unionism.

Perhaps it this continuing fractured linkage which militates against merger.

Where this can be overcome the logic of the decision now taken is for the two parties to become one particularly if it delivers what is targeted.

Voters will decide.

Party managers will have done calculations to determine success.

Failure cannot be an option any more than continued disunity.

But, not all unionists are ‘so-called traditional’ unionists.

Realising that you can only wade in the same water once they do not share the same yearning for a return to shadowy deals, contrived Protestant unionism and organisationally rigid politics.

Offering restricted choice and manipulating preference will not have universal appeal across unionism.

Abandoning any desire to offer inclusive politics to the whole community is seen as running counter to modern unionism’s sense of mission.

It is this constituency that has seen a marked reduction in voting because they observe a decline in representation that has anything relevant to say.

Unlike leaders of opportunistic unionism they are not content to walk away from challenge and retreat into safe sectarian territory.

Their view is that the primary aim of politics cannot be informed merely by a desire to keep a lid on the success of your opponents.

This is not political leadership.

It is certainly not about creative political transformation.

Many younger voters with only limited or no memory of the worst of the troubles have different goals to orchestrated unity.

Theirs are the politics of hope, better health and education and an economy that delivers employment and rewards enterprise and endeavour.

They are finding better ways of handling differences that in the past produced bigotry and scarred communities.

Their choice is not reflected in an appeal to a sectarian headcount.

Ultimately, those who seek to plant much through the tactic of electoral pacts may find that they harvest little.

• Terry Wright is a former chairman of the Foyle Ulster Unionists, and a former deputy chair of the party. He joined the Conservatives in 2013