UUP Conference (updated) #uupconf

after lunch Sandra Overend (Women’s Development Officer) introduced a video about the Parker Programme.

The bulk of the afternoon was taken up with the Shared Future Panel, which included Duncan Morrow (chief executive of CRC) as well as candidates Lesley Macaulay, Bill Manwaring and Kenny Donaldson.

MEP Jim Nicholson was the last speaker in what he described as “the graveyard slot”. He spoke about co-chairing a trip to Haiti earlier this year as well as mentioning his new appointment as “rapporteur for the future of the dairy sector which is a co-legislative situation”.

He then moved back to the issue of the leavers.

I have no time for those people who join our party and because they don’t get what they want, when they want it and walk away. No time at all. (applause) And I think we should stop worrying about those who walk away and those that are here work together to develop the greater challenge for the future.

I think we have got to be very honest and say last year was not the best year as a political party. It would have only taken a few more votes and we would have had first class success and everyone saying we did well. But that’s where we are, and we are where we are.

But don’t forget the year before that was a great year. That ladies and gentlemen is politics. The challenge is not hat happened in the past but what happens in the future and let’s look forward. Let me say, the Ulster Unionist Party has a proud record in history and we can look back with proud to that history. I can think of two other Northern Ireland parties who would wish to airbrush their past, who do not want to remember their past and try to reinvent what their past has been.

National Anthem at end of UUP conference

When they closed conference by standing to sing the National Anthem, there were a lot less than a hundred delegates remaining in the hall.

UUP Assembly candidates

12.50pm John McCallister got the best laughs of the conference so far – he’s really the UUP’s Sammy Wilson – as he got up on stage as deputy leader to introduce the Assembly candidates for May 2011. Self deprecating humour went down well – the suggestion that as farmers, Tom and he were hard working and hard done by – “there is a creamery can down at the back and we don’t want to hear any coins going in!

Originally the candidates – sitting on labelled chairs in the first two rows – just stood up and turned to wave at the delegates. But after a while there was a rush for the stage and they (nearly) all ended up at the front.

UUP wordle of Tom Elliott's speech

12.25pm A standing ovation as Tom Elliott enters the conference hall to the strains of A little less conversation a little more action. Though perhaps one of the later verses inadvertently sums up the direction of travel by some of the UUP’s previous candidates and members!

Come on baby I’m tired of talking
Grab your coat and let’s start walking
Come on, come on, Come on, come on, Come on, come on
Don’t procrastinate, don’t articulate
Girl it’s getting late, gettin’ upset waitin’ around

Standing comfortably at the podium, Tom Elliott has a good sense of timing as he reads through his speech. He thanks Sir Reg Empey and also leadership candidate Basil McCrea: “on occasions it was a lively campaign – to put it mildly – and we are now working together and I thank Basil for his commitment and hard work“. (applause)

Before the end of the first page of his speech, he introduces the “Who is Tom Elliott?” section.

I am a Unionist: an unembarrassed, unapologetic Unionist. I’m not just a Rural Unionist: or a West-of-the-Bann Unionist: or an Orange Unionist: or a This or a That Unionist. I’m purely a Unionist.

My Unionism is not determined by religion, race or background. My Unionism is open to anyone and everyone who lives in Northern Ireland and supports that process. (applause) My Unionism is founded on pluralism and an equality of citizenship and opportunity. My Unionism is one which sets out the value and benefits of the United Kingdom.

So let no-one try and say that Tom Elliott is some sort of political dinosaur: for I am not.

Some of the press present at conference reckon that the reference to “dinosaur” is not helpful. Better to focus on what you are rather than denying other people’s accusations and saying what you are not.

At one stage in my life I wore a uniform – a legitimate uniform, not a red beret. (applause) In fact my uniform was the same as the one that our brave men and women are wearing today in Afghanistan.  As we head towards Christmas I am sure you will join me in extending our sincerest thanks to all those men and women who are serving overseas in our name. (applause) And we will all be aware that a number of our young soldiers who have not come back and I pay special tribute to Ranger Aaron McCormick of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment whose funeral is today and we remember is family.

There is something else you need to know about me. I will not do something, or say something, or turn up somewhere, just for the sake of a photo-opportunity or a pat on the back from an interest group or a section of the media.

I know that there are people in Northern Ireland who will never be won over to Unionism. And I accept that. Their passion for a United Ireland is every bit as valid as my passion for the United Kingdom. But I have absolutely no difficulty with their determination to promote their beliefs – as long as that promotion is done by democratic means.

He’s critical of the Sinn Fein/DUP carve up.

You cannot talk about a shared society and common responsibility when you have a government which is built on carve-up and veto. You cannot expect to break down barriers across Northern Ireland when the Sinn Fein/DUP failure has proven they are utterly incapable of reaching their own compromises on a range of key issues.

Right now people need and deserve politicians who put the public’s interests before their own narrow party political interests. They deserve politicians who are honest with them – not a party that claims to want an end to double jobbing and then cynically does a u-turn. (applause)

Both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have become very fond of telling us how good their working relationship is.

It’s Hardly surprising as the whole thing is based on the equivalent of a ‘dirty weekend’ in Scotland ‘shotgun marriage’ in St Andrews [changed between draft and delivery] and changed the arrangements and mechanisms to suit themselves.

Much of the speech feels like a reaction to last week’s leader’s speech up the road at the DUP Conference. In many ways the two should be read side by side.

Countering Peter Robinson’s list of Executive triumphs, Elliott refers to failures: no agreement on RPA, no agreement on Transfer Test, no agreement on a budget, lost the potential for a national stadium and the “much awaited Parades Bill has been hidden away with deserved embarrassment”.

We need change at the heart of the process: Greater accountability of ministers – both individually and collectively.
But Mr. Robinson reeled off a list of Executive achievements last Saturday he forgot to mention the fact that many of those achievements were the work of Ulster Unionist Ministers.

So he highlights some UUP achievements:

It is no coincidence that the Ministry for Health, Social Services and Public Safety is the only Government Department to implement its Review of Public Administration.

It is no coincidence that the Department of Employment and Learning has overseen record levels of participation in higher education from people from socially deprived backgrounds. We also continue to ensure that our Universities retain their world class status.

It is because they have been led by Ulster Unionists who are dedicated to delivery and I would at this stage like to thank Michael McGimpsey, Sir Reg Empey and more recently Danny Kennedy for that record of achievement. Imagine what the Assembly would be like if we were not around, working tirelessly to make meaningful change.

With a review of the devolved institutions coming in the next Assembly term, Elliott set out his party’s opening position in the negotiations.

Yet, The Assembly needs a proper voluntary coalition with a cross community basis, which requires an appropriate Opposition. The foundation stone of democracy is that a government be held to account inside and outside. The electorate need a choice between an outgoing government and a possible alternative. It boils down to this: you cannot build a consensual, genuine power-sharing Northern Ireland upon the specific interests of Sinn Fein and the DUP. It isn’t working and it wont work.

Unionist cooperation at the forthcoming elections is within the realms of Elliott’s possibilities.

There is a responsibility for Pro-Union parties working to maximise votes and seats: and cooperating when required to preserve, protect and promote our common interests. I don’t want to see seats lost because Unionism is too set in its ways to co-operate and recommend vote transfer. But let me tell you folks, I will not be pressurised by any other party into creating a sham, short-lived, self-serving unity.

So yes, I am happy to talk with other unionist parties about ways in which we don’t damage the chances of winning seats and votes. But let me be clear. Under my leadership the UUP will be a free-standing party. We will field our own candidates under our own colours and policies: and those candidates and representatives will be accountable to their own Associations and to the Ulster Unionist Executive.

UCUNF isn’t going to be killed at this conference. It is dismissed with three brief sentences.

This is neither the time nor the platform for a discussion about our relationship with the Conservative Party.

That said, I will continue to work to ensure that the Ulster Unionist Party retains a linkage that is beneficial to the Northern Ireland community with the Conservative Party. (applause) We have many interests in common – not least our shared belief in pan-UK Unionism.

Looking forward Elliott set out the UUP’s stall – partly by looking back.

We need to stop trying to re-invent and re-position ourselves and concentrate, instead, on reminding people of what we have done and can do.

We are the party of delivery. When the DUP walked away, we stayed. It was the Ulster Unionist Party that put Articles 2 and 3 on the negotiating table, ensuring that their final removal spelled the end of the territorial claim.

There’s another dig at the DUP and last week’s statement that “our [DUP] values and core beliefs remain”. A draft copy of the speech …

I have one word for Peter Robinson’s about his core values – “Clontibret”

… was much stronger than the final delivered line:

Are those the same core values displayed at Clontibret?

He associated the UUP with the continuing themes of PMS and Corporation Tax.

As the Prime Minister has acknowledged it was the Ulster Unionist Party and my colleague Sir Reg Empey who led the fight to rescue savers in the Presbyterian Mutual Society a deal that now appears to be in some jeopardy due to the paralysis over the budget. We will continue to force this issue to a fair and just solution.

We have led the debate to vary Corporation Tax. Northern Ireland has great businesses; we have an excellent education system; brilliant entrepreneurs and some world class infrastructure. However, without the right business environment we will not take the next step to being the dynamic and expanding region I know we can be.

Looking forward to the election …

We are now just 152 days away from Assembly and Council elections. But the battle begins when we leave this hall today folks. So let me say this to all members, representatives and candidates.

Get out there and meet your electorate – engage with your local communities – listen to their concerns and hopes and discuss with them our vision for the future of Northern Ireland.

We will prioritize further and higher education – we are a Party that will fight for academic excellence and a resolution to the mess that Sinn Fein and their Minister Caitríona Ruane has left our education system in.

We want better government and will push for reform – from reducing the number of unelected Quangos by a third to cutting the cost of the North South Bodies.

From seeking an opposition in the Assembly to changing the way the Speaker of the Assembly is selected.

Improving efficiencies, effectiveness and accountability – these are the Ulster Unionist Party priorities.

I want a Northern Ireland in which a genuine power-sharing, consensual government, delivers polices and strategies which we all have collective ownership of.

I want the reality of progress in Northern Ireland and not just the promise of it.

And as your Leader, I want the Ulster Unionist Party – a strong, united, disciplined and determined party – to finish the job that we started in 1998.

12.15pm Change of plan. After Michael McGimpsey finishes his speech, Tom Elliott’s speech as party leader is being brought forward and will be followed by his deputy John McCallister introducing the new candidates. Sandra Overend’s “women’s slot” is being pushed into the afternoon.

Here’s the audio from the Health Minister’s speech.

11.55am They’ve been debating the economy for the last 45 minutes. You can listen to the full audio from the debate.

Basically, they’d like local devolved control of corporation tax. Danny Kennedy is wrapping up with his speech, beginning with a tribute to his predecessor Reg Empey.

The need to offer hope and opportunity to those who have lost their jobs, who have seen their businesses go to the wall. It is not a time for the usual knock-about jokes at the expense of other parties. It is a time for serious politics.

The actions of one party in the Executive have undermined confidence in Northern Ireland’s economy. One party has dangerously delayed the Executive’s budget. Sinn Fein has been playing economic poker with the future of Northern Ireland – with the livelihood of our families, communities, voluntary sector, public services and businesses.

In an echo from last week at the DUP he refers to overseas’ perceptions of NI strengths.

The skills of the Northern Ireland workforce are prized by overseas investors. They value our work ethic, our education system, our Further Education Colleges and our universities.

As he comes towards the end of his speech he pays tribute to those in the military.

Recently the Coalition Government announced that in Great Britain college and university scholarships would be given to the children of military personnel killed on active service since 1990. I was determined that Northern Ireland would not be left out of this scheme. Families here in Northern Ireland, from across our entire community, have fathers and mothers serving in the armed forces. They should not be treated as second class citizens. And they won’t be. So today I can announce that I have agreed with the Ministry of Defence that the scheme will be extended to service families in Northern Ireland.

10.50am Basil McCrea welcomes Matt Baggott to conference.

Basil’s speaking from the podium talking about what he saw the Ardoyne riots over the summer, pressures on policing, and analysing what dissidents are doing with regard to tactics to draw police in to use plastic bullets to create some kind of propaganda victory.

When I took this on three and a half years ago, I wasn’t sure. But the more I’ve got into it, the more I believe [human rights] is what this party actually stands for.

matt baggottMatt Baggott pays tribute to the bravery of PSNI officers who risk their lives to evacuate areas and protect the public.

He says the new generation of recruits are as good as the force has ever had. In the current recruitment round, 50 applicants for every one accepted.

Wearing the green uniform is the biggest privilege of my life. (Matt Baggott)

He has “never underestimated the threat”. He suggests that there was “an over-optimistic view of the future” and the PSNI was “wound down too quickly”. He doesn’t blame anyone for that.

Baggott is very confident and comfortable speaking to the conference, getting a good laugh when he suggests any party would like the 7% rise in public confidence the PSNI has achieved this year.

Every NI household will get a set of promises from the PSNI in the new year stating what they can expect if they contact the police, report a crime etc. Baggott explains that he doesn’t seek to command and control the PSNI from the centre, but believes in delegating budgetary authority to divisional commanders to align with their local priorities.

Similar to the DUP last week, the Q&A session after McCrea and Baggott’s speeches is not random and the questioners seem to be coming off a pre-prepared list.

UUP hall filling up10.40am Party Chairman David Campbell referred in his opening remarks to Westminster candidates who swiftly left the party. He laid in heavily.

I also want to make one thing clear. This party over recent elections has gone out of its way to facilitate the entry and candidature of what we thought was new talent, committed to the principles of Ulster Unionism and to the recovery of this party. I have been in this party for nearly 30 years. I like many of you have stood for nominations, and like many of you have had successes and have had knock backs. But like each of you my overriding loyalty has been and is to this party. (applause)

It is an absolute outrage and scandal to see Paula Bradshaw, Harry Hamilton and to an extent Trevor Ringland take the nominations and plaudits of this party just a few months ago, and then at one disappointment to pack up their bags and leave in an ill-tempered sulk carrying their single transferable principles with them. (applause)

This party owes a living or a position to no one. We all enter as volunteers and the day we forget we are volunteers is the day we all need to reassess our motivation for membership. (applause) I feel deeply sorry and disappointed for those members who loyally worked and supported Harry Hamilton and Paula Bradshaw in the last election. It’s clear to me that Harry needs to change his name from Flash Harry to Flash in the pan Harry. (little laughter)

Lets us today, however, reject those who have so bitterly let us down and focus now on rebuilding under our new leader.

You can listen to his full remarks below.

UUP conference panorama10.15am The UUP are in the Ramada hotel this year. They’re using the full ball room – the SDLP filled (bursting) one half of the room – so it’ll be interesting to see if the UUP can fill the bigger space. If they do, they’ll have a similar number of delegates to those who attended the DUP conference last week.

They’re starting about twenty minutes late. The first major part is the policing discussion, to be chaired by Basil McCrea and featuring the Chief Constable Matt Baggott who is due to be arriving downstairs any minute.

,

  • Lesley Macaulay is looking forward to the UUP candidates training today. Then attending the UUP dinner tonight. Its going to be good craic because Ross Hussey and I are the compares! The Elton John and KiKi Dee of unionism!

    Flash Harry is yesterday’s chip paper 🙂

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “compared to what” exactly Ms Macauley?
    Obviously a candidate for Minister of Education.

  • Candidates training? Can she do UUP problem solving in an hour? Will the UUP internal peace walls come tumbling down?

  • fjh, that Ross and Lesley performance is already on YouTube. They’re singing that little number written by Dave Cameron for Country and Western performer, Tommy Elliott, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart“.

  • Candidate training for MLAs and election agents (including media handling) was on Friday.

  • billy

    Can’t wait for Elliot’s keynote speech. Man, that’s going to be one dynamic, exciting, charismatic, passionate and rousing 30 mins.

    NOT!

  • [Baggott] suggests that the PSNI was “wound down too quickly”. He doesn’t blame anyone for that.

    So who’s to blame for the constable deficit ‘cover-up’?

  • Rocketeer

    If you do not mind me asking Alan, what is the attendance like at the moment, and what sort of atmosphere is there among the delegates, for example towards the leader Tom Elliott and does the mood of the conference thus far match the excitement witnessed amongst the DUP delegates at Le Mon last week? Thanks very much! 🙂

  • Tom Elliott currently appearing on BBC2. He’s just had a dig at the ‘on the runs’.

  • billy

    Rocketeer asked,

    If you do not mind me asking Alan, what is the attendance like at the moment, and what sort of atmosphere is there among the delegates, for example towards the leader Tom Elliott and does the mood of the conference thus far match the excitement witnessed amongst the DUP delegates at Le Mon last week? Thanks very much!

    ————————————————————————————–

    Aye, Rocket, sure Elliot does have that ‘rock star’ quality about him. Them UUP ladies will be hurling their knickers at him for certain.

    lol guy’s as dull as ditchwater.

  • Just watched a little of Elliots speech and the phrase ‘Full charisma by-pass’ sprung to mind.
    I’m sure the UUP won’t be too happy with your photo showing all the empty seats Alan.
    What is the attendance?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im not really familiar with the Ramada layout. I dont suppose Ive been there more than five times ever. I didnt even know that the “ballroom” could be divided.
    But my recollection from the SDLP Conference was indeed that it was packed. Standing room only at the back during the Hume moments and the Ritchie/Attwood speeches.
    And there were so many people milling around that I suspect many never bothered actually going into the main hall.
    But my recollection is that the hall (the other half of the ballroom??) alongside the main hall was actually fully used by stallholders and sideshows……..and there was a second lot of stallholders outside the main hall.

    So if Im right and the two sections of ballroom are being used…does this means that there are fewer stallholders at the UUP event.
    And if this is the case……who is missing?…….the campaigning groups…………”rights organisations”, “amnesty”, charities, League of Cruel Sports????

  • billy and MP, you’re quite right Tom Elliott lacks charisma; it may not be his only limitation. Tony Blair, the very personification of charisma, became a cheer-leader for George Bush; the ladies of the WI hissed and booed him. Paisley and Hume had charisma of sorts but charisma that put the mobs here at each other’s throats.

  • cynic47

    Was it only me or was Basil McCrea awful?

  • Rocketeer

    I think that Tom Elliott’s speech was quite poor.
    I think that it was quite telling that I recently met a former senior member of the Ulster Unionist Party at a dinner function and when asked by another person why Tom Elliott is described as a ‘grey man’, he laughed and replied that it means that Tom has regrettably less charisma than Reg Empey before proceeding to lambaste him for his lack of direction and experience. I actually thought that Tom’s reference to Peter Robinson and Clontibret was misjudged and a little rich given the fact that at the time of the event Ken Maginness rallied to the support of Robinson. Other poster’s elsewhere have actually raised this issue, but I think that I should repeat it: David Trimble once said that just because someone has a past, does not mean that they do not have a future. Tom Elliott should bear this in mind, and try and stop living in the past and start directing the UUP for the future.

  • Nunoftheabove

    cynic47

    Think you mean is rather than was ?

  • I’d like to hear a little bit more about the DUP-SF ‘carve-up’ within the Executive decision making process, not least the roles of the special advisors. Is it too much to expect the MSM to do a little digging?

  • Truth & Justice

    Lots of empty seats I see.

  • Cynic

    ” A little less conversation a little more action”

    …… yes Tom, 1968 was a vintage year for Unionism wasn’t it.

    “My Unionism is open to anyone and everyone who lives in Northern Ireland. ”

    …… just NI Tom? So you are a provincial unionist then?

    ” Tom Elliott is some sort of political dinosaur: for I am not”

    …… oh dear oh dear. Who is writing this stiuff

    ” I will not do something, or say something, or turn up somewhere, just for the sake of a photo-opportunity or a pat on the back from an interest group or a section of the media.”

    …….. Yep…. sounds like the UUP definition of engaging with the media. So in the run up to the election we wont see him of any platforms in fields etc?

  • Comrade Stalin

    A lot of empty seats – a fundamental mistake, you size the room for the number of delegates you expect to have. The SDLP room was significantly smaller, the DUP room likewise.

    This is symptomatic of the UUP acting like it is still the big party.

  • cynic47

    Empty seats but at least they spared us the childish waving of flags.

  • Rocketeer – speech went down well in the hall – it wasn’t packed out, and this afternoon’s attendance is much reduced on the star-studded morning.

    fitzjameshorse1745 – they’ve what you remember as the SDLP hall + the exhibitors space next door all knocked into one room. They could have done with about a two thirds of it … as there were empty seats scattered across the hall this morning, and there’s plenty of space now.

    To address the charisma criticism. Tom Elliott is greatly improved in terms of delivering his speech and a quick interview I did afterwards. He’s a lot more confident, a lot snappier with answers. He’s not naturally funny, so he didn’t try jokes in his speech. And he spoke for a good 25 minutes – long enough in my book.

  • “My Unionism is open to anyone and everyone who lives in Northern Ireland.”

    Nice little dig at the Justice minister and his ‘open’ prisons 😉

  • Carson’s Cat

    Alan,
    Tom might well have “went down well in the hall”, but that’s exactly the point – his speech was directed at the fossils in the hall, and not at real people watching on from the outside.

    He said that they would go out and fight the election “for Bertie Kerr” and other no-bodies that even most political anoraks won’t have heard of. No mention of fighting for the economy or fighting for the people who are struggling. Not for them will the UUP ‘fight back’ but for the so-called grandees of the Ulster Unionist Party. Its all about *them* and not about the voters.

    His delivery was ok-ish, given the very very low expectations, but there wasn’t an awful lot by the way of content. He’s still too wound up in the UUP of the last decade which is concerned with reacting to whatever the DUP has said or done, and still can’t quite get over the fact that the public don’t much care who “did the heavy lifting”.

    Peter Robinson was looking to the future last week but this week all Tom could do was poke a few jibes about Clontibret and red berets. There’s no doubt that those kinda jokes go down a storm with UUP party hacks but they’re lost on a public who wants to see what Tom offers for the future, not his critique of the past.

    The hall was undoubtedly not well filled – something noted by Eamonn Mallie amongst others and the whole thing seemed to be a bit ‘flat’. There was support for Tom, but not exactly what you’d have called a rapturous reception.

    It wasn’t a car crash, but that’s hardly what people should be looking towards as a good point in a leader’s speech.

    Oh yes, and to get around their disastrous scheduling (which they should have had the wit to avoid) – the women once again get shunted aside for the grey suited men of the UUP…..

  • G O’Neill

    Just when you thought the UUP had hit the bottom they go and appoint Tom elliot as leader. A man with no charisma and the political version of a dinosaur.

  • Anon

    A few observations:

    1. The hall was sparsely filled, considerably down on last year when the local Tories boosted the numbers for Dave’s appearance. The love-in with the local Tories may be over, but Tom was incapable of saying so in his speech. He hinted around a relationship with a national party, then went on to say the UUP was free-standing etc. The 2 are not incompatible but it is a mixed message.

    2. The conference set looked poor. Every single shot of the stage should have the party logo in it. Instead we simply saw parts of words.

    3. The age profile of the audience was 55+.

    4. The side swipes (both from Campbell and Elliott) at the defectors was a mistake: drawing further attention to the issue and conveying further the impression of a party that is divided.

    5. Too much living on past glories and whinging. Cheap shots about Clontibret and other stuff like that shows bitterness and a refusal to accept the verdict of the electorate. It was noticeable that the personal attacks on Peter Robinson got applause whilst the digs at Sinn Fein were met with silence.

    6. Basil McCrea was just awful. His delivery was stunted and it was obvious that he was fishing for applause. Fishing is fine, but you shouldn’t look like you’re trying.

    7. The atmosphere was flat. The DUP conference conveyed genuine excitement and enthusiasm: a party that is hungry for victory and moving forward. The delegates here just looked like they were out because they had to be and didn’t really want to be that much.

  • cynic47

    Robinson’s speech was more geared to the ears of the voting public but Tom Elliot kept his speech “inhouse” in many ways. It was not as slick a conference as the DUP’s and did you notice the rush for the exit door as soon as Elliot finished his speech. Looked bad!

  • Anon

    Cynic 47

    Yes i did notice that. I also noticed that not all the delegates stood to their feet for their “leader” once he’d finished reading his script.

    I really think the UUP has a major problem on their hands: say what you like about Empey, Trimble, Molyneaux or even (seeing as he’s from his part of the world) Harry West, but these men had real presence and authority. Tom Elliott has neither.

    A nice man, but terribly out of his depth, being exploited by the anti-Basil cabal.

  • Nunoftheabove

    A party without any worthwhile reason to exist. No vision, no relevance, no infrastructure, parochial, narrow, inward-looking, clueless. Let’s join in celebration at the demise of one of the most malevolent and culpable forces in the history of the northern state.

  • Donald Fraser

    Just watched Elliot’s speech on the BBC website. Suffering. Jesus. Nowhere else in Western Europe (well, in fairness, nowhere else in Western Europer bar the South of Ireland) would this chap even be allowed to speak in public on behalf of a party, never mind become its leader. Staggeringly, howlingly atrocious stuff. Presumably it’s time to now start picking over the electoral carcass of the UUP?

  • alan56

    Extraordainry that the UUP Chairman is still in post given all the shenanagins of the last few years and yes his getting stuck in to the ‘defectors’ seemed a bit personal. His tone was so different from Elliotts.

  • Damian O’Loan

    I’d say that ‘let’s do it for Bertie Kerr’ as the climax of your conference speech was indeed a car crash moment. When I read this line beforehand,

    “Tom Elliott has a good sense of timing as he reads through his speech.”

    I thought ‘damned with faint praise’. It wasn’t just that he was reading, avoiding eye contact in favour of his page, it was that he seemed to be reading it for the first time.

    Visibly bored by own policies, with a mixed message on the defining issue of Party identity and doing nothing the DUP isn’t doing better, this was as bad as could have been expected.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Damian,
    Ohh, err, I think you’ve just accused me of being unnecessarily kind to the UUP – and you’re probably right.

    Dedicating that you’re in it for a few party unknowns is indeed a staggeringly bad idea and just sends out all the wrong messages. However, that sort of thing is just in the DNA of Ulster Unionists like Tom Elliott. They’ve been brought up on a diet of “what’s good for the party is good for the plebs” and I suspect Tom doesn’t even realise that he’s doing it, or just how terrible it is that he is doing it.

    After all, this is someone who’s been trumpeting that his party has existed for 105 years over the last couple of days – but doesn’t seem to realise that no-one gives a **** about how long they’ve been around. However, in the DNA of the Ulster Unionist member this somehow not only justifies their existence but should be reason enough for people to realise how silly they’ve been in voting for those nasty DUP people and to come back to their “natural home” in the UUP.

    Tom Elliott doesn’t have that kind of nasty air of superiority which many of his colleagues have that their party has some divine right to attract votes – however, whilst he may not have it in a nasty way, its still within him – just in a different form.

  • Skyblue

    Attended the conference for the first time in a few years and here are my observations.
    The attendance was reasonable
    Thought the backdrop was interesting
    Tom’s speech had good content but he didn’t make much eye contact with the audience.
    Basil was poor
    Can fully understand why Sandra Overend’s slot was moved away from the cameras she was terrible. I now agree that the only reason she is a candidate is because she is a women.
    Danny Kennedy delivery of his speech was poor.
    John McAllister was by far the star performer.
    The afternoon session was poorly attended. Overall I was disappointed although it would be fair to say the conference “was a safe pair of hands” one.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Carson’s Cat,

    It wasn’t particularly aimed at your incisive comment, I was watching thinking, ‘this is car crash material’. You’re quite right though, and the UUP isn’t alone.

    If it thinks moral superiority more important than electoral superiority, it should be in the clergy, not politics.

    If it thinks it has something, morals even, to sell that people need and want, it should look at its sales rep, sales pitch, showroom, back office… not to mention the long and distinguished list of extinct political parties.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Skyblue
    Sandra wasn’t just selected cos she’s a woman – its also cos she’s Billy Armstrong’s daughter….

  • Anon

    “John McAllister was by far the star performer.”

    The most devastating critique yet…..

  • Nunoftheabove

    Anon

    LOL, nice touch.

  • Alan

    Does anyone know how the Shared Future discussion went over yesterday? I’m guessing the hall would’ve been emptying out given its’ afternoon slot?

  • slug

    Some good candidates there mind you.

  • Slug

    As a Unionist of the drippy liberal variety there are about a dozen or so candidates that I’d feel happy supporting as individuals.

    The problem though (and this was an obvious one also with the Conservative project) is how can a party with McNarry at one of the spectrum and a Nesbitt at the other deliver any kind of coherent message?

    The parties on the mainland can cope with being a big tent with several strands of wildly differing opinion being accomodated. The UUP no longer has that luxury.

  • Updated with audio from throughout the day.