Cupid has been good to DUP Leader Peter Robinson tonight as the UUP suffered yet another self-inflicted disaster with the very public announcement by former UUP MLA John McAllister of his resignation with immediate effect from the party after news broke of the agreed unionist candidate for the Mid-Ulster by-election. McAllister made his announcement on BBC1’s The View tonight, suggesting that Basil McCrea might follow in his wake shortly.
John McAllister’s resignation letter, sent to party leader, Mike Nesbitt, includes the following critical observations about the conduct of Nesbitt as leader:
“Your failure to articulate and communicate a distinctive UUP stance – based on Ulster Unionism’s core values – on last year’s parades controversies, on the Covenant centenary, on the Union flag debate, on the misguided Unionist Forum and on the potential of electoral pacts with the DUP has unfortunately inflicted grave damage on the party,” he added.
“Under your leadership a profound disconnection has occurred between UUP policy and Ulster Unionist values. The policies have increasingly become alienated from the values which should guide and shape an Ulster Unionist leader.
“Above all, your determination to act in concert with the DUP – over parades, flags and forum – has significantly contributed to forcing Northern Ireland politics back into the sectarian trenches.
“At a time of division and uncertainty in our society, Northern Ireland needed the UUP to set out with courage a pro-Union alternative to the politics of sectarian headcounts.
“It gives me no pleasure to say that, under your leadership, the UUP has utterly failed to do so.
“Rather than building a confident and generous pro-Union centre ground, you have opted instead to become Peter Robinson’s junior partner.”
The resignation followed the announcement by the leaders of both of the main unionist political parties that Nigel Lutton would be the agreed unionist candidate for the March 7 Mid-Ulster by-election, news that will be greeted with unabashed glee by Sinn Fein and its candidate, Francie Molloy, and a groan by the SDLP camp and candidate, Patsy McGlone, for reasons I outlined on last week’s programme feature on this constituency contest here.