Fearing change, but change can be good
Published 24 Jan 2013 09:15 0 Comments
Newspapers in England this week published a list leaked from Arsenal Football Club of the fines imposed by manager Arsene Wenger on players.
"Bringing a newspaper into the dressing room, £100."
I can't help feeling that Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt might consider a similar ban on his party's members, such has been the painful reading for him and the UUP generally in recent weeks.
The similarities between him and Monsieur Wenger don't end there. Arsene has been losing vital team players to one of his biggest rivals for a few years now. And he appears to think everything is still all right and he will recapture former glories.
It is, of course, all too easy for commentators to focus on Nesbitt as the protests of recent weeks focus on the difficulties faced by the mainstream Unionist parties.
Over the years, the Unionist community has struggled to adapt to changing circumstances.
But change is here. Now.
In the week of the anniversary of the death of George Orwell, I am reminded of one of his quotes: "To see what is in front of one's nose is a constant struggle."
Or as comedian Peter Cook once colourfully described it, "the bleeding obvious."
But what to make of change?
Nesbitt has inherited a party riven by factions virtually from the beginning of its existence. It was easy to manage away back when. When the big house ruled the roost.
You may well think that David Trimble's tenure as leader when he signed the Good Friday Agreement, and regular internal votes manifested raw division, started the rot. That would ignore the make-up of a party that we kindly refer to as a "broad church."
Just a few short months ago, Fred Cobain, David McNarry and Basil McCrea were all UUP members. Cobain has headed to the DUP. McNarry was welcomed into UKIP (well somebody had to welcome him.)
And McCrea is heading.... where.
It illustrates just how difficult any leader would have in getting everyone to pull in the same direction.
Quite the direction Nesbitt is going is hard to guess, though such is the splintering of the once-great UUP that the question was asked this week if he would would the last-ever leader of the party.
Surely, such diversity within a single party only illustrates it would be an impossible dream to have one united Unionist party.
There is such diversity within the Unionist community. From the loyalist protesters to the political spokesmen of the paramilitary UDA and UVF.
The dissident TUV of Jim Allister.
To a DUP which contains Gregory Campbell to Arlene Foster.
To the Ulster Unionists. And independents like David McClarty.
Re-alignment of Unionism has been talked about for a while.
Far be if for me to lecture Unionism. I'm not daft. Unlike Mike Nesbitt, I know that asking the tough questions is a heck of a lot easier than finding answers.
But I do feel that diversity can be a strength in any community.
Unionists have failed to grasp this and a resultant paranoia and fear from those who also call themselves British has resulted in a crisis of confidence. I don't know why they keep looking over their shoulders at the hardline elements.
Keep telling your people they have cause to fear and they will.... feel fear.
And yet if Unionists are to have the confidence in moving forward to a shared society, they must first have confidence in themselves.
The change in tone by some Unionists this week towards a Border poll is an interesting one. Sinn Fein are now campaigning for a poll in which the simple question will be asked. Do you want to remain as part of the United Kingdom or seek Irish unity.
After baulking at the idea, Unionists are now coming round to it. Is this an early sign of renewed confidence in their own position?
Whatever the reason, I'm a great believer in letting the people decide.
The politicians will then have to accept their answer, whatever that answer will be.
As Orwell also wrote, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
In the privacy of the ballot box, we should always tell the politicians what we really think.
This blog appeared in Impartial Reporter 24 Jan 13