Arlene Foster today unveiled the DUP’s manifesto for the assembly election that will be held on 2nd March. However, rather than outline a detailed plan about what the DUP was planning to do, she mentioned general policy goals with a lack of substance to back them up. Rather than talk about the issues that the people of Northern Ireland are desperate to have resolved, the former First Minister emphasised the potential electoral success of Sinn Féin in an attempt to scare unionists into voting for her party. This cannot be allowed to stand.
The DUP leader said that the small manifesto offered by the party, which is only eight pages long, should act as “an addendum to reflect developments since last May”. This is highly disrespectful to the electorate. An election should require a detailed plan of how you are intending to govern over the course of the term in government. The DUP manifesto contains: five commitments alongside ten general policy goals; a page on Brexit; two pages on post-election negotiations; and one page on the DUP’s record in government. That’s it.
According to their manifesto the DUP’s policy proposals are: prioritise health spending; create more jobs and increase incomes; protect family budgets; raise standards in education; and invest in infrastructure. How would the DUP go about funding these pledges? Fuck if I know. Upon inspecting the manifesto, there are three pages dedicated to the front cover, an introductory page explaining why there isn’t really a manifesto there, and a back cover.
I’m not saying that the DUP’s manifesto should be hundreds of pages long, but it should at least show what the ambitions of the party are. Although the Sinn Féin manifesto isn’t much longer, it is much more detailed than the DUP’s. By comparing the two manifestos, the only thing that comes to mind is that the DUP think that the majority of unionists will back them, and sincerely hope that Arlene Foster’s party are kicked out of government.
But the main point of this article was to address the announcement of this shit manifesto. During her speech today, Arlene Foster said ‘Sinn Féin’ 31 times, and Gerry Adams’ name 12 times. Obviously I know why she’s doing it- Sinn Féin is politically toxic among the overwhelming number of unionists. However, when there are no policies being suggested by the party this political tactic becomes pure propaganda, which is ironic given that Foster claimed that electoral success for Sinn Féin would give them a “hugely significant global propaganda boost”. The DUP substituted policy substance for an exercise is spin, and this needs to be driven home at every opportunity.
However the mentions of Sinn Féin were not only confined to Foster’s speech. In the DUP manifesto, if indeed you can call it that, I counted eleven references to Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams. Some of these were in context and necessary but the one that stuck in my throat was a half-truth which was on page 4 of the manifesto, which is that Sinn Féin brought down the Assembly.
Whilst this is technically true, the context that is omitted is that Arlene Foster was instrumental in the biggest political scandal in the years since devolution. The RHI scandal reveals Arlene Foster to be either corrupt or colossally incompetent. By attempting to shift blame for the election onto Sinn Féin, she is trying to distance the scandal from the DUP, and it’s up to us to remind as many voters as possible that the refusal of Foster to resigned which forced Sinn Féin’s hand.
Rather than treat the election seriously by trying to convince people to support you, the DUP is trying to scare unionists into voting for them. By not outlining their policies in any great detail, the DUP is taking their voters for granted. Further, by trying to manipulate unionists in this way they are playing into the non-republican parties. Unionists disagree with me on a fundamental constitutional question, but I hope they leave the DUP en masse because the party have shown themselves to be contemptuous of their own base. I’m not saying that unionists should support the UUP because I don’t agree with them on basically anything, but I’m more than happy to support an anti-DUP campaign any day of the week.