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.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.