by Michael Burke
The Tory Party has launched a joint manifesto with the Ulster Unionist Party.
This is a revival of a formal alliance that stretches back nearly 100 years, when the anti-Home Rule wing of the Liberal Party (the 'Liberal Unionists') split and joined the Conservatives to form the Conservative and Unionist Party. This was the political force most opposed to Irish independence and which helped to organise the illegal arming of the Ulster Volunteers as well as the 'Curragh Mutiny' - the rebellion by anti-Home Rule British army offices stationed at the Curragh camp outside Dublin.
However the UUP is not the force it was, the dominant representative of political Unionism. It lost 5 out of its 6 remaining seats in the 2005 General Election with Reg Empey now as its sole representative at Westminster. Both parties have perhaps been hoping for a lift from the remerger; the UUP aiming to win seats from the DUP, and the Tories having an automatic back-up ally in the event of a narrow majority in current election. Politically, both have proclaimed that the manoeuvre signals that 'Northern Ireland' is now an ordinary part of and "no longer semi-detached from the UK."
However, their own manifesto shows that this is not true, politically or economically
The only concrete policy for the northern 6 counties seems to be turning it into an 'Enterprise Zone- different from the rest of Britain. This is to be a regulation-free, low-pay and low tax area, an extreme echo of the early years of Thatcherism, which one commentator at the time dubbed 'Welcome to Slumsville'.
Economically there is too a qualitative difference. In an interesting map in the manifesto reproduced below, there is a geographic representation of the relative size of the economies, with the 6 Counties shrunken and shrivelled. This is a function of the current phase of colonialism in this part of Ireland.
Per capita output in NI is approximately one-third below the British average. A key feature of the economy in NI, and primary cause of this underperformance is that it is a closed one. Its most recent trading performance shows annual foreign sales (equivalent to exports) of just £12bn, with just £5bn going to non-British destinations. By contrast, Britain's total exports amounted to £421bn, and even this is a weak performance by international standards. At the same time exports from the rest of Ireland amounted to €84bn, even though the population is only just over 2 1/2 times greater.
This is a direct product of colonialism, which the policies of the UUP/Tory Party will only deepen.