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Newton Emerson: Tribal solidarity trumps all in North Belfast
The Ulster Unionist Party's new dawn lasted barely a week.

New leader designate Steve Aiken had pledged to run candidates in all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies in next month's Westminster election.

Unionist voters appalled by the DUP's mishandling of Brexit would have had a choice at the ballot box and a chance to save unionism from itself. In North Belfast, they could have unseated DUP deputy leader and chief Brexiteer Nigel Dodds for the price of letting in an abstentionist Sinn Féin MP.

That would have been a steep price but only a few hundred voters could have made the difference.

By last Thursday night, Aiken was wobbling under ferocious pressure from the DUP and other unionists. Last Friday, police were called to investigate threats against UUP staff. One threat mentioned a particularly violent faction of the UDA.

On Sunday, Aiken announced his party would not contest North Belfast. Possible loyalist intimidation of moderate unionist candidates recalls the political crises of the 1970s.

In his statement on Sunday, Aiken wrote: "It is better to elect Nigel Dodds in North Belfast and hold him to account than to elect an abstentionist MP."

How can the UUP hold Dodds to account when it will not run against him?

Aiken added: "We are a party that believes first and foremost in the union, and secondly in the importance of representative democracy."

Country over democracy is a dubious enough position if you feel your country is at risk. When the DUP is the risk it makes no sense whatsoever.

But tribal solidarity trumps all.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 7th, 2019 at 02:06:25 PM EST

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