The elephants in the #uupconf room (updated)

While Lord Craigavon got an mention as proceedings started this morning at the UUP conference, there are other absent friends who will not be toasted.

The party chairman laid into the Westminster candidates who have deserted the UUP in recent weeks. Trevor Ringland, Paula Bradshaw and “Flash” Harry Hamilton are off the Christmas card list.

The other elephant in the room is Lagan Valley activist John Lund. An anonymous complaint was lodged about comments he made on the Nolan show the morning after Tom Elliott was elected as the new UUP leader. The UUP Disciplinary committee met this week – though John Lund did not attend given the lack of time to prepare and the lack of documentation (eg, an official transcript of the interview). In a weird piece of media mismanagement, an email to announce Lund’s six month suspension from the party was sent out, days before the party conference. Mark Devenport carried the party’s letter of suspension on his blog.

You can hear what John Lund said in this very short clip from the Nolan show.

Lund was a member of the Conservatives for many years, transferring to the UUP about ten years ago. He’s heading back to the Torys now, possibly via the High Court to ask for a judicial review.

[Update – John expands on his situation in the comments below.]

While there have been some high profile resignations, a UUP spokesman pointed to the hundreds of people who have joined the party this year.

Lund’s friend – Jason Johnston – who was due to accompany him to the hearing – has resigned from the party with a spiriting party shot.

My impression is that the UUP is being swept by McArthyism.

On a personal note I am saddened by this. I am also aghast by the slow death march to the right of the political spectrum at a time when the DUP and even SF are clamouring for votes in the centre ground. Mr. Ringland became disillusioned and left the Party, and I must say not without good reason. It seems to me that the history of this party shows that every once in a while a chance for progress arises, but the old guard, will pull the carpet from under the feet of the liberal element and retrench to “Ballygobackwards”. This is sad, frustrating and counterproductive.

I cannot be a member of a party that conducts business in a manner more suited to a William Golding novel. I cannot be a member of a party that represents dead ideals. I wish to resign my membership of the Ulster Unionist Party with immediate effect. Kindly arrange confirmation of same.

Update – and there’s more. Over on Three Thousand Versts, Chekov posts about the resignation of Lisburn’s UUP chairman Roderick Oliver … and Lisburn City Councillor Ronnie Crawford expressed his disappointment at “a total shambles” on Facebook (as posted by Mark Devenport).

It shows the split of opinion in the UUP around Lagan Valley. The vast majority (ie, all but one – Ronnie Crawford) of Lisburn UUP councillors voted for Tom Elliott in the leadership election, while many local members of the party preferred Basil McCrea. While the run of resignations and outspoken comments could be seen as weakening the local party, the quick exit of pro-Tory/”progressive” members may in fact strengthen the remaining (larger) core of the UUP in Lagan Valley. But no doubt their local association meetings will be interesting in the weeks to come.

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  • vanhelsing

    Checked McArthyism, turns out it was a typo 🙂 Can’t see that either Ringland or Bradshaw were bringing anything to the UUP. A mate went to hear the MP debate in Willowvale for the E Belfast parliamentary seat and said that Ringland couldn’t answer the question without a rugby analogy [and even those were poor].

    Surely they’re can’t be rugby analogies for everything…feel like I’m opening a can of worms…

    Flash was I thought was good though…but where will he go…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    It is indeed odd that three of 17 candidates at the last election have actually resigned. And no doubt its true that many more have joined as these purges always produce new members as much as people leaving.
    But surely this “right”, “left” thing is a smokescreen and increasingly seems to be part of the mood music that the defectors and would be defectors are dancing to.
    Surely the “Tory” element within UCFNP always realised that the Tory Party was “centre right” and that the UUP was to the right of “British” Conservative Party.
    Therefore Mr Jason Johnstons angst at the UUPs lurch to the right seems a bit odd.
    Indeed one of the main figures associated with the “NI Tories” has stated that the Tories are centre right and Alliance is centre left.
    One would imagine that any mass entry (is a dozen people enough to be considered a mass entry?) into Alliance Party would seem to indicate that they are either totally content with APs centre left position OR would want to bring AP away from the left to as they would see it a more centrist position.

    It could of course be argued that the defectors are only individuals to be submerged within the AP but I see that they would actually act “as a party within a party” ….after all thats been their track record so far.
    But they are not merely individuals.
    They have been movers and shakers within the UUP (candidates etc) and surely intend to be movers and shakers in ……say the Alliance Party.

    Obviously the AP has degrees of support.
    The voters (soft and committed).
    Party members……how many?
    The people prepared to be delegates etc……activists.
    The movers and shakers……Leader, MP, seven MLAs, support staff, advisors, 40ish councillors, young Turks, branch secretaries are unlikely to number more than say 100 (the same I guess for the other parties here).
    But if say a dozen motivated shakers and movers join up with APs shakers and movers the party will change.
    Now of course there is choreography afoot. As much as Elliott denouncing the defectors today, we might well see El Beardo welcome some of them during his conference speech at the Dunadry.
    Many AP people will see it as a success story in the context of Naomi Longs stunning victory in East Belfast….actually the wise old heads in AP will not be enthusiastic..they will see it actually undermines the work of AP over 40 years.
    Liberal Unionism or NI Conservatism…..risible concepts which is being promoted on the Blogosphere cannot be saved by swimming from the UUP Titanic towards Alliance lifeboats.
    And if AP has any sense it can help some clamber aboard. Others should be hit over the head with an oar when nobody is looking.

  • plainly speaking

    Couldn’t see any elephants in the room – they were completely obscured by the dinosaurs.

  • Comrade Stalin

    He’s heading back to the Torys now, possibly via the High Court to ask for a judicial review.

    I thought judicial reviews only applied to decisions made by government officials/ministers and civil servants ?

  • tolpuddlemartyr

    Am sinking in to the mud of Irish Politics! What ever happened to Mrs. Robinson?
    read about’ Prince Andrew – a right royal buffoon’…….
    .http://www.tolpuddlemartyr.blogspot.com

  • tolpuddlemartyr
  • Rory Carr

    Just as well that Jason Johnston has resigned, it was bad enough to have to endure a Freddy Mercury impersonator, but harbouring a man who admits to having read a novel (by William Golding, whoever he might be when he’s at home) was surely asking too much of the Fermanagh faithful.

  • John K Lund

    The comments I made on the Nolan Show were on the 23/9/2010. Apparently the unsigned letter of complaint was “sent” to the Chair. Tom Fleming of the UUP Disciplinary Committee on the 24/9/2010. There was neither an address on the letter or a signature either. The letter was totally anonymous, an edited and not full transcript of a small selected part of the programme; which also eventually, I believe lead to Trevor Ringland’s resignation during a meeting with Tom Elliott. On the 9/11/09 I was informed that one Mark Hill, a 25 year old recent émigré from the DUP and now a prospective assembly candidate for Lagan Valley, had proudly announced in a constituency management committee meeting that he was the instigator of this complaint. I spoke to Hill and he verified this fact and sent me a copy of his letter of complaint. Whether this emanated from further up the UUP food chain and Hill was supposed to sign it or if it was his own handiwork, in my opinion, is open to conjecture. However when I received the summons to the disciplinary meeting by its chair on the 10/11/10 the letter was either totally anonymous or redacted. On the 12/11/10 I informed Fleming by Email that this was barely a weeks notice and that I had a dinner party to attend. I further said that this summons had taken over eight weeks to issue, which I found disturbing. In this letter I asked several questions to help me prepare my defence, these remain unanswered to this day. I also asked for the names of all committee members involved in the investigatory part of this process and the names of the disciplinary panel to ensure that no one was involved who might in my opinion have a conflict of interest regarding me.
    On the 9/11/10 I also requested by Email the minutes of the said LVC Management Committee meeting of which I am an elected member, but this was totally ignored by Bingham their Secretary. I then sent a reminder on the 17/11/10 and received a reply from Ian Vincent, their Chairman, refusing my request. One must bear in my mind that all committee members are jointly and severally responsible for the committee’s actions.
    On receipt of the new hearing by letter of the 18/11/10 I responded with a very detailed letter requesting that full discovery and disclosure of all documents, what so ever in the party’s custody, power or control relating to this particular disciplinary procedure.
    I then went on to remind Fleming that it was his paramount duty to ensure his various panels acted fairly and in accordance with the rules of natural justice. I mentioned that I was also given the impression that he was openly hostile towards me and that I had experienced disagreements with the party chairman. I then suggested a pre trial hearing to iron out these difficulties of procedure. I am still awaiting a reply. Jason Johnston then made two phone calls to the party administrator, who informed him she would ask Fleming to contact him. This was to no avail whatsoever. Jason then tried to contact Fleming himself but with no result. Jason informed the administrator that if a satisfactory response to our questions was not forthcoming then we did not propose to attend the hearing. This I hope sets the record straight.

  • Biggest Baddest Bobby

    Who’s John Lund? What’s he ever done or achieved?

    Who cares about this?

  • Belfastconfetti

    Dead right, why should anyone care about a failed candidate taking the hump because they aren’t being paid the attention they deserve. I’d say that Mr Lund will be very much at home among the Ulster Tories.

  • For those who are interested, you can hear the brief remarks that John Lund made on the Nolan show back on 23 September.

  • pia_lugum

    Mr Lund deserves ‘natural justice’ no matter what the scenario or party for that matter. I suspect that this disciplinary committee was operating well outside of any acceptable code and I would support Mr Lund if he hauls them ALL before the courts of justice. Only there will we see fair play. These UUP committees in the past usually resolved these matters before they took action for fear of court proceedings. [Text removed – Look up Godwins law – Mods]

  • New Statesman

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of Mr Lund’s actions, he deserves a fair hearing and this has patently not been the case with the hearing that was arranged for earlier this week
    I can understand the embarrassment of the Chairman and Secretary of the Lagan Valley Constituancy Association, as a Constituancy Management meeting was hardly the forum to air the details of the complaint, as I understand that a member of the disciplinary committee who was to hear the complaint was present and could have been compromised

  • Munsterview

    “……. Whatever the rights or wrongs of Mr Lands actions, he deserves a fair hearing and this has patently not been the case with the hearing that was arranged for earlier this week…..”

    Agreed. I am glad to see that John is getting some support from slugger, John probably have even less time for my politics than I have for his, but he is totally correct to insist on his rights and entitlements as a party member.

    Political parties have constitutions for a reason, in every political party, club or association. power and control gravitate to the ‘leadership’ and very often this can mean a central figure and a few cronies running things by convenience, not constitution, with ‘power’ disproportionately exercised.

    I do not know the limits of judicial review in the Northern Ireland but in the South it is a very useful device and it has been used to sort out a few problems in clubs and associations where officials had their wings clipped.

    The UUP is still a significant political player in Northern Ireland, it has an influence in the body politic and in these circumstances not only should members rights be fully exercised, they should be seen to be exercised in a fair and impartial way.

    Good luck to John with his Judicial Review !

  • joeCanuck

    MV,

    Judicial Review has worked against heavy handed action outside of the rules in the UUP before. Didn’t the rat who deserted the ship get his ejection from the party revoked before he deserted?

  • John East Belfast

    Fitz

    You are displaying a surprising ignorance of Left – Right debate in unionist political thinking – it has got nothing to do with economics and is instead about the degrees moderation or lack there of along the unionist spectrum.
    Orange to Secular, traditional to modernist etc.

    Mr Johnston is talking about the UUP veering to the Orange and Secular.

    However what a lot of UUP Liberals (and I count myself in that category) forget is that our direction has not translated into electoral success and therefore the other wing of the Party wants to have a go now. That to me is fair enough.

    In my view there are always at least two sets of hands on the UUP steering wheel both pulling the party in one direction or another. The feet are similarly fighting for who controls the pedals. The different indicators keep going on and off as well and the horn is blown occasionally.

    However this is not a Right Turn but veering right – the liberals are still in the car attempting to pull it back.

    In theory that is supposed to keep us on a straight road but that is where the skill of a UUP leader comes in and that is what Tom will ltry to do.

    This constant grappling causes some people to open the door and jump out – it was no different a few years back when hard liners were jumping ship to the DUP. Meanwhile others are gettting in the back.

    This changing in seats and who has the strongest grip on the steering wheel has become part and partial of the UUP the last 10 years now – eventually it will settle down with new occupants and direction.

    There will be no car crash.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont know why JohnEastBelfast should be surprised at my surprising ignorance of the Left Right divide in UUP politics.
    Im certainly not surprised at my ignorance as Ive never really given it much thought.
    Difficult of course to disentangle “liberal unionist” from “british conservative” among the small group seemingly pitched somewhere between UUP and Alliance.
    But as I see it this group were firmly attached to UUP (a party which would be to the right of the actual Conservative Party).
    Ian Parsley (formerly Alliance, formerly NI Conservative but was he UUP……sorry I cant keep up) has identified himself as a centre right person and presumably the people in the 2010 group would so identify themselves……centre right.

    Mr Parsley has also identified the Alliance Party as centre left……….which I suggest makes it an odd place for people on the cente right.
    I dont see how significant figures from one party can defect
    to another without actually changing it (for better or worse).
    Did the Democratic Left “change” Irish Labour?
    Did the SDP “change” the Liberal Party when it became the Liberal Democrats.
    I suspect the answer to both questions is yes.
    Therefore those sniffing around the Alliance Party might wish to influence or change its direction.
    There are two Alliance responses.
    Welcome fresh blood and count on some moderate electoral improvement…possibly short term.
    Or be highly suspicious of the motives of folks who were rivals just a few months ago.
    Ms Bradshaw, Mr Hamilton, Mr Ringland, Mr Parsley saw themselves as closer to Reg Empey, Sandra Overend, Danny Kennedy and Fred Cobain in May……..after all they smiled out at us from the same manifesto.
    It is risible that Ms Bradshaw now claims to be closer to Anna Lo (who she fought in May)than to Bobby Stoker who signed her nomination papers in May.
    Risible that Mr Hamilton might want us to believe he is closer to Brendan Heading (who he opposed in May) than toSam Gardiner and George Savage who signed his nomination papers in May.
    Risible that Mr Ringland might claim to be closer to Naomi Long (who he fought in May) than to Stella Empey (are they related?) who signed his nomination papers in May.
    And risible if Mr Parsley tried to convince us he is closer to Stephen Farry (who he fought in May) than to Leslie Cree and Mark Finlay who signed his nomination papers in May.

    Frankly my concern is not a bunch of defectors (confirmed and possible) from the UUP or “liberal unionism and the centre right”. I have no time for them anyway.
    But I do have a certain empathy with the Alliance Party.

  • John East Belfast

    Fitz

    Well if you havent “given it much thought” then with all due respect perhaps you should refrain from long posts on the UUP ?

    As for UUP defecting to the Alliance you have nothing to worry about as it will never be anything other than a trickle of political opportunists and I would lay money Trevor will not be among them

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Oh I dont think many Sluggerites only post on issues about which they know a lot. But Ive been watching “liberal unionists” for a very long time and they were always a beaten docket. Theres nothing there of any import.
    But the trickle of political opportunists (defectors from UUP to Alliance) to which you refer is exactly the kinda thing about which I worry.
    You and I seem agreed they are political opportunists and you can hardly blame me for highlighting that.
    I see no pressing need for me to make their transition from centre right to centre left easy.

  • drumcairnharp

    Natural justice are words that are not in the UUP manifesto. Reading John’s posting I believe he will get the decision overturned but why would he want to rejoin the UUP even for 5 minutes.Reading the postings on their conference they are a beaten docket.

  • slug

    Fitzjameshorse1745 are you happy now with people addressing you fitz? I remember you upbraiding someone for that yet you seem not to upbraid JEB.

  • John East Belfast

    Fitz

    That is the point I was making to you – Left Right is of no pressing concern (with the exception of the NI Tories) in the Venn diagams of NI politics and hence certain people are able to jump around depending what is and what isnt important to them – often the biggest circle is their own self importance.

    As for liberal unionists it is what makes up the majority of those who would identify themselves as unionist – whether there is a political party (or indeed they want one) that they are actively interested in supporting is another issue.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Slug
    Actually I much prefer FJH. I dont suppose that JohnEastBelfast actually knows that I have a preference. And I am sure no malice is intended.
    The incident you refer to was back in January when I joined “Slugger”. As you know I tend to be rather formal as I think it acts as a brake on “unparliamentary” language etc.

    I did indeed ask that “Fitz” or “Fitzy” be not used. Which I think was reasonable and most people readily accepted that. One or two influential voices did pointedly refuse to so do.
    But actually that simple thing did tell me as much as I needed to know about them.

  • slug

    Thank you FJH for letting me know. I do find writing fitzjameshorse1745 quite a slow process so it is good to know that an acronym is acceptable.

  • John East Belfast

    FJH

    I wasnt aware but will note for the future

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    JohnEastBelfast,
    I can assure you no offence was taken.

  • bob wilson

    ‘Left Right is of no pressing concern’
    Try telling that to the rising number of unemployed people and thousands catch in negative equity.

    In addition to losing a hard working activist like John Lund I was thinking the UUP are mad to lose Jason Johnston who I believe is from the Belfast office of a leading UK law firm.

    They clearly have very few people of any legal understanding left in their ranks!

  • tolpuddlemartyr

    Dublin Evening Post 1801,’ Mr.Ireland the flying phenomenen……..postpones his engagement at Belfast for a few days!’
    http://www.newsagentprovocateur.blogspot.com

    Those were the days!

  • Update – and there’s more. Over on Three Thousand Versts, Chekov posts about the resignation of Lisburn’s UUP chairman Roderick Oliver … and Lisburn City Councillor Ronnie Crawford expressed his disappointment at “a total shambles” on Facebook (as posted by Mark Devenport).

    It shows the split of opinion in the UUP around Lagan Valley. The vast majority (ie, all but one – Ronnie Crawford) of Lisburn UUP councillors voted for Tom Elliott in the leadership election, while many local members of the party preferred Basil McCrea. While the run of resignations and outspoken comments could be seen as weakening the local party, the quick exit of pro-Tory/”progressive” members may in fact strengthen the remaining (larger) core of the UUP in Lagan Valley. But no doubt their local association meetings will be interesting in the weeks to come.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Alan,
    Whatever effects this has on their Lagan Valley Association is secondary to the damage its doing to them provincewide.

    Its symptomatic of a party which *still* doesn’t know what it stands for or even what it exists for. In the midst of a huge economic crisis that is just criminal, and for a political party practically on the eve of an Assembly election to be debating these issues is madness.

    Post-UCUNF all the UUP members seem to have in common now is a hatred of the DUP – something evident from Elliott’s conference speech. The biggest reaction he got wasn’t for the vision (even the paltry amounts they were given) but for 25 yr old digs at Peter Robinson about Clontibret.

    They’re living in the past, and worse still, they’re living in someone else’s past!

  • fudged

    Biggest baddest Bobby- John is a hard working activist on the liberal wing of the party who fought tirelessly in the Euro and Westminster elections to elect Jim Nicolson and gain 102000 votes in May -not a bad showing and would have been 3 seats under AV(Is UUP in favour of AV?).He is colloquially known in Liberal unionst circles as El Presidente or the Enforcer.John is Chartered Textile Technologist , has industrial and manufacturing experience and has a wealth of experience in politics,is former association Chairman with good contacts in Northern Ireland and also England ,he believes passionately in non sectarian Unionism free of Orange influence that can reach out to all communities . He believes in freedom of the individual, promotion of private sector and that Ulster Unionist policies must be outward looking to attract votes outside the comfort zone and In particular the 100000 disenfranchised pro Union English, Scottish and Welsh living in NI turned off by sectarian Unionism.With his contacts he was involved in fundraising for the Conservative Unionist recent campaigns.He is an astute tactician even if sometimes radical and very involved in backstage strategy with a good political nouse and ability to get things done.He has an excellent pan UK contact base.He worked hard to ensure better relations and chemistry beteween the two parties in UCUNF project his efforts were largely spurned by an inward looking and unconfident, threatened cabal leading to the failure of the joint committee to operate effectively as the managing committee of the project.

  • Munsterview

    fudged 7 December 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Wow ! Has he ever considered Sinn Fein ? A bit premature at this stage but with a few adjustments could be our kind of guy for the future!