Belfast Telegraph

Now the Union is secure, let's get down to business

The Union has never been safer. Now it's time the Ulster Unionists created a centre-right, pro-business party open to all, says Johnny Andrews

The Ulster Unionist Council's objectives - to defend and secure the Union - are largely achieved. It was founded in 1905 as a single-issue movement from a coalition of interests - liberals, conservatives, left, right, businessmen, trade unionists, professionals and tradesmen.

Like all single-issue movements with its objectives achieved, the UUC can celebrate this and encourage its members to move into their chosen areas of politics and contribute to real, everyday issues.

We must celebrate our success in strengthening the Union and our continuing contribution and participation in the life, culture, sports and armed forces of the UK. We should now move to the next stage and confidently engage also in the politics of the Union we cherish.

The Union is no longer under the same threat; even Irish government ministers have signalled recognition that, with the bailout and economic crises in the Republic, there is no longer any appetite for, or prospect of, a united Ireland.

With the Union secure, unionism can move on to next stage of securing the Union through persuasion of its merits by a party open to all and free of the shackles and stale debates of the past.

Only through normal left-right politics can we move on to debate the real issues of the economy, jobs and growth and be able to confidently challenge Sinn Fein's delusional economic policies, based on socialist dogma.

The UUP now has an opportunity to create a dynamic, pro-business, pro-Union, centre-right party that can reach out and widen its support base by representing all creeds, races and communities.

The UUP should welcome the offer by the first actively pro-Union Prime Minister to create a new, autonomous, pro-Union party that is open to all.

This will further strengthen the Union and provide a vehicle for a wider cross-section of the people to participate in centre-right politics and thus contribute to and participate in the Union.

In this time of economic crisis and increasing unemployment, the province needs a strong centre-right party to promote a pro-business agenda to help rebalance the economy and promote private-sector regeneration.

Only the private sector can pick up the slack that will create jobs, reward skills and encourage growth.

Above all, we can participate in a pan-UK, pro-Union party that contributes to the Union with all its influence and support for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Segregation will never secure the Union - it merely perpetuates instability and educational and economic underachievement through division. Northern Ireland must move away from divisions of the past, where political spoils are carved up. A new, dynamic centre-right party can create an effective Opposition to ensure delivery on the economy and a shared future, creating a Northern Ireland for all.

Politics at Westminster has suddenly gained a new importance as issues that affect us all are determined in London - welfare, tax and public spending - while the Northern Ireland Assembly simply allocates the Budget set by Westminster.

We are now faced with the greatest economic crisis in our economy since the 1930s.

We need a unionism for all to buy into; one that delivers at Westminster and gives priority to jobs, the economy and growth to create the prosperity that will secure our future success within a strong United Kingdom.

By taking unionism to the next step, we can secure our future within an ever-stronger and deeper Union.

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