For many subjects the maxim ‘those that know know, those that don’t know, don’t matter’ is usually true. Regarding John Major’s efforts during the 1990’s to bring peace and normalisation to the people of Northern Ireland it seems that not enough people appreciate the facts.
The Good Friday Agreement has been described by some as‘Tony Blair’s Good Friday Agreement’, and of course he deserves recognition for his efforts; but it wasn’t just his. This article does not deny that the heavy hand of history was on his shoulders, even if it wasn’t a day for sound bites; but we Conservative’s need to be a little sharper elbowed before the revisionist historians start to diminish the impact that we have made.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and it is self evident that peace in Northern Ireland has come a very long way, a lot has been done, but there is still more to do. It remains a process akin to the Christian understanding of sanctification. It is a process of becoming; it is a state of perpetual improvement.
One of the key aims of the Good Friday Agreement was ‘normalisation’ which according to the letter of the agreement,was to reduce the number of military installations there. The spirit of the agreement to ‘normalise’ goes so much further, it surely also means ‘normal’ politics, the same as the rest of the United Kingdom and an end to the dominance of political parties with historical links to the ‘troubles’.
So here is a challenge to the Conservative Party; why don’t wemake sure we field a Conservative Candidate in each of the eighteen Parliamentary Constituencies of Northern Ireland? Let’s not stop there; we should field candidates in every constituency, except the Speaker’s.
No more deals with other Unionist Parties, no winks, no nods, let us confidently declare to the people of Northern Ireland that we, the oldest and most successful political party in the world, respect them enough to at least give them the chance to vote for us. In some we might lose our deposits, but in others we might just find a significant proportion of the public supporting us because they want what we want, normal politics.
We shouldn’t stop there. We should be encouraging the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to do the same. From North Antrim to Belfast West, let’s give every elector in Northern Ireland the chance to vote for one of the big three. Let’s even extend the challenge to UKIP, see if they really are fully UK.
Let the message go out to those that know and those that don’t know, that the Conservative Party is here for everyone, all matter and we’ll give everyone in the UK the opportunity to vote for us. On Good Friday, is there a better time to bury the sin of the past and begin again with new life?
Remember the Conservatives are the One Nation Party, or are we?
(This article was published on ConservativeHome this morning)