LAST night saw the launch of a new campaign to keep the United Kingdom united! The former DUP leader, Northern Ireland First Minister and newly ennobled Arlene Foster is the inspiration behind the Together UK Foundation – a pro-Union organisation which she has kick-started to promote the benefits for all of us of living in the United Kingdom.
But it is about more than that. Foster is particularly concerned about the way the conversation on or the narrative for the future of the Union has become increasingly emotional and angry; she is dismayed by the political tribalism and aggressive nationalism which has poisoned debate; pointing out how ‘ordinary voters in towns across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales no longer hear anything other than hostile attacks. It puts everyone off; we must rise above it’.
She holds a particular brief against the Scottish National Party which she described as being just about anti-everything. She does not believe that yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment ruling against a Scottish referendum, while a win, will prove to be the end of the story. She warned her audience that they will be back – a handful of ideologues dominating the narrative. Unionism is not the mainstream media narrative – it is always about the inevitability of Scottish Independence and a united Ireland, faithfully parroted by the MSM.
But this simply does not reflect what most people think or want. A recent poll in Northern Ireland for example revealed that, at present, 48 per cent would vote to remain in the UK compared with 41 per cent against. Another positive for unionists in that poll was that two-thirds of those who did not vote in either the 2022 NI Assembly election or the 2019 Westminster general election not only would vote in an Irish unity referendum, but would vote in favour of maintaining the Union.
This is not what we hear and it has to change – hence the need for a front-foot, positive, Together UK campaign.
Baroness Foster is a forceful woman but she is also a people person and diplomat. She stressed the ‘explicitly non-party political’ approach of the foundation – she almost didn’t have to. It was self-evident that she has already attracted a wide range of support from the range of guests present. White, Indian or black, they had one thing in common – they were pro-Union and felt and were proud to be British. They neither wanted to see that identity taken away from them, or their country diminished in the world and dropping to a third-rating state as must be the case were the United Kingdom broken up. Together is always more than the sum of the parts.
Here is the speech she gave to set the ball rolling, an inspiring call for the defence of freedom, and a statement of aims.
‘I begin tonight by offering inspiration from the words of a Republican. You need not fret, I have not abandoned my belief in the United Kingdom nor in the monarchy – it is an American Republican, Ronald Reagan. At the 1964 Republican Convention Reagan argued,
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
‘His warning that an idea held in common by so many that has been fought for, secured and whose value is self-evident can face fresh assault, be undermined by fair means and foul and waste away if it is taken for granted. The case for an idea must be renewed with each new generation, its relevance secured with each new generation and its value communicated to each new generation. The Together UK Foundation wants to be a key partner in that generational renewal of the United Kingdom. The Foundation wants to offer the ideas for our best future such as how do we tackle the common problem of low productivity and how we deepen relationships with a rising economic superpower such as India. The Foundation wishes to engage with the public in every part of the UK. Some may claim the people don’t care but if I may be indulged one Northern Ireland reference, since 1998 the British Social Attitudes Survey shows the percentage of people in GB who want my home to remain part of the UK has almost doubled since 1998, overturning a past majority that support it to be absorbed by the Republic of Ireland. The Foundation wants to communicate the UK’s benefits every day consistently and persistently.
‘The everyday is easily overlooked or taken for granted. The work of generational renewal will be pursued in common with many other groups, parties and individuals. This pan-UK movement and work must be driven by openness and our common belief and commitment:
• To the United Kingdom and Britishness;
• To see it flourish economically, socially, politically and culturally;
• To see each part and every citizen to make their full contribution while enjoying its full benefits and protections. Opinions may vary in the means to achieve those but what equally unites us is that separatism in whatever form is not the answer. A common trait of the separatist factions is their belief that their victory is an historic inevitability. It enables them to carry on regardless of failure after failure but makes them inflexible on means. We know the future is not written but we know how it can be. Tonight, let us all commit:
• To supporting the Together UK Foundation.
• To contribute to and promote its work to renew the United Kingdom for a new generation. This is how we will all write the best future for the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’
You can find the website to support Together here Together UK Foundation