Choosing prestige over power?

By Des Wilson (for the Andersonstown News)

David Trimble joining the British Conservative Party is a sad event.

It is sad that anyone chooses to be a member of the House of Lords - which even the London administration is trying to bring under its control and make more accountable to people’s votes - while refusing to join in political structures in his or her own country which would bring them real decision-making power.

The possibility of Irish Lords having real power in Westminster is slight.

Those who now sit in the Lords have given up the possibility of decision-making in Ireland in exchange for personal prestige.

The British House of Lords has had a negative and blocking role in Irish affairs, and no Irish lord or baroness is going to change that, even if he or she wanted to.

Real decision-making ability could have been created in Ireland in which the Irish lords and ladies could have had real power to make changes. They chose not to and their choice is an interesting but barren one.

Now we are in a strange situation. Many people were unwilling to vote for David Trimble, now they are forbidden to do so because the British Conservative Party does not ask for votes in Ireland, nor does the British House of Lords.

Stray votes cast now for David Trimble would be invalid by British law.

Irish people who opposed David Trimble could not have eliminated his powers more effectively than he has done himself by joining the House of Lords and by becoming a member of the British Conservative Party.

It is a strange choice for a supporter of the British union, to join a party which has done so much by political incompetence first, to change the foundations of the union and then, to make an all-Ireland economy and policy almost inevitable.

Does one join the British House of Lords then in order to make a difference, or as a refuge from one’s own frustrated ambitions?

In either case, personal prestige of a kind may result, political relevance will not.

Even the personal prestige is fading.

When one of its members was told that the House was an unworthy power base for rich landowners and merchants, she replied, “But that’s all changed in the House, why, you can tell from the accents...”

Indeed you can.

And anybody from Ireland who does not recognise the real prestige they have in the British House of Lords is at least imprudent.

Going into the House is not an advance, it is a regression; staying in it as a member of the British Conservative Party is an acceptance not only of Irish powerlessness, but of the loss of the desire for real power.

Unless, of course, one hankers simply after the quiet influence which the rich establishment used to their advantage in the past, behind closed doors in lodges and privy councils.

That is a very exclusive club and just because you are inside the walls does not mean you are an insider.

A rank outsider, the traditional term they used, is still a rank outsider even when physically inside the walls.

However, from time to time startling thoughts enter our minds. Where London and Dublin administrations are involved this is not surprising.

One startling thought is this: People like David Trimble and Ian Paisley may be unwilling to join in all-Ireland arrangements as unionist politicians - but what would happen if they joined them not as Ulster Unionist politicians but as representatives of the once great British ‘Ouse of Lairds?

Would that make it alright - a result the governments want through a circuitous route?

One jests of course.

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