I’m encouraged that Alex Kane continues to take such a keen interest in the Northern Ireland Conservatives and our electoral prospects. To be clear, the fact that I did not confirm or deny any of his conjecture in July 16th’s News Letter does not mean that I endorse it. Like any political party we continually discuss various strategies and ideas and will continue to do so. However, just as I took issue with some of the conclusions in that article, I must also contest the analysis in his latest column.
There is absolutely no room to doubt David Cameron’s support for Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. As leader of the opposition he attracted robust criticism for emphasising that he would 'never be neutral' when it comes to the Union. As prime minister he has stuck to his guns and reiterated that commitment, departing from the previous position of impartiality taken by successive UK Governments, most recently when he addressed MLAs at the Stormont Assembly.
Although, in the past, Conservative speech-writers have chosen not to use Alex Kane’s suggested words, the truth is that David Cameron has not been in the least ambiguous in any of his speeches. Like all of us in the Conservative Party, he believes that everyone in Northern Ireland will have a brighter future if we remain part of the UK.
Mr Kane says that actions speak louder than words. Well Conservatives in Government over the past year have proved by their actions their commitment to Northern Ireland: driving efforts to grow the economy, saving our coastguard station, supporting the removal of air passenger duty, securing a favourable block grant settlement and additional security funding. They have consistently gone the extra mile on our behalf.
We believe that everyone’s interests are best served by having the Conservative party in the UK Government and most of all we believe that everyone’s interests are important, irrespective of their race, religion or community background.
Alex Kane should remember that it’s precisely our outward looking approach which represents the pro-Union argument “in the broadest sense of the word”, not the brand of narrow-minded, sectional politics which has sometimes flourished in Northern Ireland in its stead and which he seems to imply that David Cameron ought to adopt.
As Northern Ireland Conservatives we’ll continue to move forward and to look at the bigger picture, advocating full participation for Northern Ireland voters in our national Government and a strong centre right voice in local politics.