Ulster Workers' Party

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Ulster Workers' Party

Páirtí na n-Oibrithe Uladh
AbbreviationUWP
LeaderKalvinLokan
Deputy LeaderSasja Friendly
Founded30 January 2021; 10 months ago (2021-01-30)
Preceded byProgressive Party of Northern Ireland
Headquarters26-28 Bishop Street
Londonderry
BT48 6PP
Membership (2021)Increase 176,000
IdeologyBritish unionism
Social democracy
Political positionCentre-left
National affiliationProgressive Workers Party
Colours     Red
Slogan"Together We Are Better"
Northern Ireland Assembly
20 / 90

The Ulster Workers' Party (UWP) (Irish: Páirtí na n-Oibrithe Uladh), also known as the Ulster Workers, is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland, operating as the Progressive Workers Party Northern Ireland branch.

The party is currently led by KalvinLokan, who has been the leader of the party since 25 March 2021 with the Deputy Leader being Sasja Friendly who is also responsible for sitting on the national party's Presidium.

History

Early Leadership

The Ulster Workers' Party was formed as a result of a party merger between the national parties of the SATUP and the PPUK with the Ulster Workers' Party being the political successor to the PPNI, a minor Northern Irish unionist party that had lost it's only MLA at the December 2020 Northern Ireland Assembly election and was suffering historic lows in polling as the party polled at around 1.1% in the wake of a declining presence in politics and waning membership which had become increasingly drawn off to the 'other' party in Alliance.

The party saw the beginning of a revival with the arrival of several new Syndicalist members who had formerly been a part of the SATUP, including the involvement of the national party Co-leader KalvinLokan and future Deputy Leader ThomasT143 who began to run an organised press and recruitment campaign on behalf of the party. Furthermore, the party began to undergo a major internal transformation as it went into a period of recovery that saw attempts to increase press presence for the party and saw its first involvement in legislation for a long time. This period was ultimately broken as the then party leader, Sten De Geer, departed from the Ulster Workers' Party in order to form his own independent political movement as a response to the creation of the Rose Coalition government that the national PWP had supported and entered into a Confidence and Supply agreement with.

KalvinLokan's Leadership

KalvinLokan assumed the leadership of the party following Sten’s departure and underwent a reshuffle of the Parties leadership that saw ThomasT143 step in as the UWP Deputy Leader in late March as well as continue an overarching strategy of making the party more appealing to the mainstream in Northern Irish politics though this was alongside a considerable shift towards a more hardliner unionist position as was noted by the then SDLP leader, ABrokenHero, in an interview.

The April polls were favourable for the Party with them gaining significantly and the parties strategy clearly working though not without controversy as the Party found itself repeatedly at odds with not only the republican Sinn Féin but also from the more moderate unionists the UUP and Coalition! NI. Indeed the arrival of the Syndicalists had marked a strong return for the party as by March 2021 the party had recovered electorally with the March Assembly polls putting the party on 2.1%. This was still last but was a significant improvement from the outlook in February and indeed was an improvement over the election performance that had lost them their only seat.

Despite criticism, the parties success marked a resurgence in unionism across Northern Ireland and the party solidly improved its position in Stormont with some touting the party as potentially being the main unionist party by the next election with the defection of senior Coalition! NI politician IcoMHOC reflecting the parties growing position in the unionist community as Ico replaced the resigning Party Deputy Leader ThomasT143. This was then followed in early May by an announcement of a Social Democratic Party endorsement in the Northern Irish Assembly and then later a merger of the two parties in the Assembly with the Ulster Workers' Party representing both the PWP and SDP in Stormont.

Ico departed after a short tenure in Deputy Leadership due to personal reasons on 13 May and was replaced by Sasja Friendly who also assumed the position on the Presidium. The final run-up through May to the June 2021 Northern Ireland Assembly election saw the party surge in polls to 15%, overtaking the Ulster Unionist Party on the final polls before the election and establishing the party as the most likely largest unionist party in Northern Ireland.

The June 2021 Northern Ireland Assembly election was a resounding success for the Ulster Workers' Party who gained 20 seats in the Assembly, overtaking the UUP and becoming the largest unionist party in the Assembly though still remaining 15 seats behind nationalist Sinn Féin who lost 1. The result gave the party the deputy First Minister spot that the UUP had previously and enabled them to enter the Executive as critical figures in its formation which had raised considerable concerns during the campaigning period as the party had been thought to potentially refuse to join the Executive with Sinn Féin who had broken an agreement with the party by which they had agreed not to stand two controversial candidates for comments made towards the UWP during a debate on the Centenary Monument Motion that had gone through the Assembly during the previous term having been written by party leader KalvinLokan.

21st and 22nd Executive

Despite the concerns, the party announced in debate and in a statement following the election, it's intent to join the Executive and negotiate with Sinn Féin for a result which was shown to be an honest promise as the party entered into the Executive alongside the LPNI and Sinn Féin on the 27 June, marking the first time in the history of the Northern Ireland Assembly that an Executive was formed without the Ulster Unionist Party as the main Unionist party. The Executive also saw the inclusion of both Motelblinds and Wiredcookie1, Sinn Féin party members who had drawn considerable controversy from the UWP for comments made regarding the party and it was considered a major surprise that terms had been negotiated which saw both welcomed into the government despite questions of lingering distrust remaining.

The term however got off to a rocky start with a series of press posts by the Ulster Workers' Party, criticising their Executive colleagues for failure to answer Executive Questions came under intense scrutiny which the party defended. The early nature of the controversy along with already lingering resentment between the leading figures of the party and Sinn Féin meant that there was a concern that the Executive would collapse only a few weeks into its term however, these were proven to be too preemptive and ultimately despite a lingering dislike and disdain for what had happened, the parties ultimately continued in the Executive with further press posts from the UWP coming under similar attack though being seen as a threat to the stability of the Executive. Attendance for the Executive was however a major issue over the term and whilst the UWP maintained a high ratio of turnout in both voting and debating, other parties fell significantly behind and faced repeated criticism from not only the UWP but also the opposition UUP who attacked not only the press pieces but also the lack of progress on many issues which had been raised repeatedly.

Ultimately significant changes in the leadership of the Executive, seeing the replacement of Motelblinds with Model-al and Ohprkl with Model-slater, along with the C!NI-UUP split meant that the Executive's position stabilised, though with a significant decline in the Sinn Féin vote which saw the UWP overtake them as the largest polling Northern Irish political party by the time of the August 2021 polls. This represented a significant achievement for the party who in just over 7 months had rocketed up the polling to become the largest political party in Northern Ireland.

The changes in leadership however would not mean an end to political disagreements internally which ultimately culminated with the collapse of the Executive on the 23 September 2021 for a day as a result of Petitions of Concern submitted by the Ulster Workers' Party against M120 and B186 with the support of the Ulster Unionist Party that had caused both Sinn Féin and LPNI withdraw from the Executive.

The collapse of the Executive would become known as the Half-Day Collapse as an agreement between the parties of the Executive was reached within 14 hours of the withdrawal of the two other parties from the agreement, resulting in a swift reformation of the government of Northern Ireland after a brief though deeply dividing press war erupted between the parties, a primary reason being cited as the building tensions surrounding UWP media being critical of other parties in the Executive over the term of government.

Policies and Views

Unionism

The Ulster Workers' Party are Ulster unionists, supporting Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom and opposing attempts to form a united Ireland. The party also supports the flying of the British union flag all year round on government buildings and retaining unionist names for locations such as Londonderry. They have also issued calls for "fair funding for Ulster-Scots" which it has been claimed is opposition to funding for the Irish language and culture, though the party leadership denies this and has stated it supports funding for all cultures and languages but believes in a principle of "equality" with it.

Economic Policies

The Ulster Workers' Party economic policy can be described as economically interventionist. The party is in favour of subsidies and grants in agriculture and industry as well as also being supportive of a Progressive tax policy and high welfare spending on social services along with broad support for the nationalisation of what they consider "public interest services" in Northern Ireland. Despite their support for spending and nationalisation, the party has argued strongly in favour of a net surplus budget and has been known to call for the Minister for Finance to implement one of a fairly significant surplus though the party emphasises maintaining a significant level of spending on the various sectors of the welfare and healthcare system. Furthermore, the party has been a long-time advocate for lower rates of corporation tax on smaller businesses, especially those with under £1,000,000 a year in profits, arguing that reducing the tax to below a rate of 10% would enable smaller Northern Irish businesses to "flourish" and encourage their competitiveness which the party argues can additionally be supported through government spending on grants and subsidies alongside a reduction in the tax burden placed on the businesses.

Social Policies

The Ulster Workers' Party holds socially moderate positions on the vast majority of social policies in Northern Ireland though with significant socially liberal sections of the party and having repeatedly reiterated strong support for the LGBT movement in Northern Ireland as a whole.

Leaders

Image Name Tenure Notes
StenDeGeer.jpg Sten De Geer 30 January 2021 25 March 2021
LokanNI.jpg KalvinLokan 25 March 2021 Present

Election History

Year # of
votes
% +/- # of
overall seats won
+/- Position Outcome Additional Information
June 2020 12,376 1.54% new
1 / 90
new 9th Opposition First election to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
December 2020 14,958 1.87% Increase 0.33%
0 / 90
Decrease 1 5th Extra-parliamentary Despite increasing vote share, it failed to win any seats.
June 2021 280,455 22.05% Increase 20.15%
20 / 90
Increase 20 2nd Government Became the largest unionist party.