The shrinking heart of the UUP: A lucky 13?

So, there’s a lot of people looking at the crisis in the UUP and coming to a conclusion they hope is true. In fact Mike Nesbitt put in decent performance on Spotlight last night, but I think Emmett Doyle is not far from the truth when writes:

The Party need to come up with some answers, and fast. With respect to the other MLA’s currently in the Assembly, I would dare say the man and woman on the street would have severe difficulty naming more than five.

The promoting of new MLA’s to key portfolio’s simply isn’t paying off for media-centric Nesbitt. Sandra Overend is out of her depth up against Arlene Foster. Tom Elliott is burnt out, from what I can tell, Jo Anne Dobson who is recognised as having talent, has been thrown into the party’s Agriculture brief? I mean come on.

The only talent the party can speak of is Danny Kennedy who is seen as proving effective at the Executive, Michael Copeland who I am a big fan of, and who speaks genuinely and works hard on issues in his constituency – and pulls no punches in the Assembly Chamber – and finally Danny Kinahan, his only downfall for me is that he is a ‘big house’ Unionist – literally.

UUP MLAs

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  • BarneyT

    Looks like an awful lot of splicing and photoshopping….so if they can’t manage a group photo is this not indicative of their effectiveness in general?

  • http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/ Chris Gaskin

    It really is quite pathetic to see what they have been reduced to. I’m not sure that shot would engender much confidence in their future.

  • carnmoney.guy

    Better to photoshop it so that losses in future can be literally airbrushed.

    Thought Nesbitt had his best public appearance in a while, maybe getting shot of the two liberals means he has a core team to trust

  • Otto

    “the two liberals”

    The latest two liberals.

  • Antain Mac Lochlainn

    I can’t really agree that Nesbitt put in a good performance on Spotlight. Positioning himself against gay marriage, saying that all the deaths of the Troubles were down to Nationalists being unhappy about the recognition given to their cultural identity – if that’s one of his better outings I’d hate to see his disasters.

  • http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/ Chris Gaskin

    Antain

    Think about the constituency he is targeting. He isn’t looking for your vote or mine but when he argues against gay marriage, about how everything was the fault of Nationalism and the recognition of their cultural identity I can see how that would play well amongst the knuckle draggers.

  • Banjaxed

    Chris

    ‘Think about the constituency he is targeting…’.

    Well, he’s obviously given up entirely on the unicorn vote and his big idea on the larger, ie – secular, community vote. Therefore, if his plan is to go back to unionist basics, frankly this won’t work either; DUP and TUV already occupy that patch. So we come back to the fundamental question: what is the point of the present day UUP? Forget about any emotional hang-ups about its longevity, it has hardly been a runaway success apart from being around for so long. Had they shown any generosity of spirit when the fledgling Civil Rights movement were making modest demands – well, who knows where they might be now? I would hazard a guess they would still be the largest unionist party in the ring today.

    But even now, as he goes to hell in a handcart, Nesbitt reverts to old washed-up thinking, as Anton above implies, in that the ‘other side’s’ cultural identity and aspirations can be totally ignored despite the massive demographic changes both in Belfast and the sticks. Not only is the man a politically inept fool but he is also now an embarrassment and a major political liability to the UUP. His party should press the eject button forthwith.

  • Banjaxed

    Apols, Antain, for mispelling your name.

  • Otto

    The Tories are saying they reached 450 paid up members in the middle of 2012 – which isn’t all that bad from a standing start – and they signed up 50 members at Queen’s Freshers’ Fair this year.

    They’re certainly not taking them off Alliance.

    Makes you wonder what the membership trend is in the UUP.

    Someone needs to update the spokesmen bit of the UUP website. Out of 16 briefs 5 are attributed to people who aren’t in the party anymore.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Unionist_Party#Party_spokesmen

  • http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/ Chris Gaskin

    Banjaxed

    “Well, he’s obviously given up entirely on the unicorn vote and his big idea on the larger, ie – secular, community vote”

    He may have said that at one stage but as the old phrase goes, judge a man by his actions and not his words.

    Ever since he has been made “leader” he has tried to be more DUP than the DUP and that was never going to work.

    If he keeps up this approach he will eventually finish the UUP but the problem he has in reversing this course is that the liberal voices are abandoning the ship and so there will be no one to offer a different perspective.

    He will effectively finish the UUP with the remnants joining the DUP with the possibility of the emergence of a new liberal wing of Unionism.

    The UUP, quite possibly in the face of outside Republican forces, managed to keep a “big house” party but with that siege away from their door age old factions have begun to arise.

    Historically there has always been a liberal wing and conservative wing of Irish/Ulster Unionism and all we are seeing now is the re-emergence of that divide.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Id not label Danny Kinahan as a “big house unionist” as while literally true has an image of at best paternalism or at worst detachment.
    In fairness to the Kinahan family they have been a provider of jobs in West Belfast, have a record of public service and have always been on the liberal wing of Unionism….an uncle (???) of Danny Kinahan being a very well respected Alliance MLA.

  • Banjaxed

    ‘The UUP, quite possibly in the face of outside Republican forces, managed to keep a “big house” party but with that siege away from their door age old factions have begun to arise’.

    Chris

    Those factions have always been there – from redneck to liberal. When the party was in the ascendency, no problem, it was strong enough to carry them all. But when their more reactionary members started to drift towards the DUP the UUP did not appear to have the foresight to accommodate and/or build upon a more liberal form of unionism. Or maybe the nature of the beast wouldn’t have allowed it to change. And it’s possible that therein lies its tragedy – its failure to adapt to modern day developments.

    In its heyday, the UUP was seen to deliver – jobs, positions, contracts, etc. Those days are over. And perhaps this failure to deliver on everyday matters may also act as a warning sign for the other parties. The street protests have ‘flagged’ (oops!) up the depths of disillusionment on the PUL side to their political representatives and SF aren’t exactly to the fore in bringing jobs to West Belfast, for example. We all know why, of course, as the world’s eyes, wallets and wherewithal are now focussed on the Orient. So when comes the point that to cast one’s vote merely gives credence to an utterly failed system of government. Mind you, this is not only Stormont’s problem.

  • Banjaxed

    merely gives credence,
    as perception might indicate
    , to an utterly failed system of government.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Otto

    The NI Conservatives claimed to have 400 members in 2010. They certainly did have around 90 in North Down, which was close to the Alliance total.

    Yet these never turned into seats, and I suspect for similar reasons as the UUP (which claimed about 3,000 then). People liked to turn up and talk about politics, and indeed often had some great ideas, but when it came to getting out on the doorsteps on a windy February lunchtime…

    There really is no substitute for hard work on the ground; or even mere presence. Neither the UUP nor the NI Tories (nor I suspect the Basil Party, if it comes to pass) have that. Without it, you can have as many members as you like, influence will inevitably be limited.

  • Alias

    They look like a bunch of ALDI assistant managers or the members of some hairdressing federation committee.

    Charismatic, they ain’t…

  • Reader

    carnmoney.guy: Better to photoshop it so that losses in future can be literally airbrushed.
    Alternatively, use an actual group photograph, but to position the next folks to leave at the edges of the shot, and behind the front row.

  • OneNI

    To be honest IJP I”ve never seen any evidence of alliance doing hard work on the ground.
    Also you could also say that all that hard work on the ground will never come to anything with a coherent and attractive vision – hence why Alliance have stagnated over the years
    I notice Nesbitt now claiming 2,000 members if over 1,000 are in Fermanagh it means the rest are pretty thin on the ground – and yet they got twice as many MLAs (initially!) as Alliance. They definitely Didnt work hard.
    How many members do Alliance have btw?

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    OneNI

    Indeed Alliance hasn’t done a huge amount where you live – so tell me, how many elected reps at any level does it have in your constituency? How many did it have prior to 2011?

    I suspect the answer is 1 and 0. See, no hard work, no representation! Begin hard work in one area of one town, get some representation! Rather proves my point.

    As you know, I have some sympathy with the NI Conservatives’ vision; but to be accused of “stagnation” by a party which has stagnated at, er, zero elected representatives elected anywhere in NI in the entire post-Agreement is, well, almost as laughable as Mike Nesbitt.

    In 2011, 400 NI Conservative members delivered 1,500 votes; 800 Alliance members delivered 51,000 votes.

    You do the maths. Is it not about time the NI Conservatives took friendly advice from parties who actually know how to get people elected in NI?

  • OneNI

    IJP you’re misunderstanding my point. My fault – the flaws of the format. Best wishes!

  • Framer

    So the UUP is a mixed bag. Sounds pretty representative to me. And not yet a crime.
    Any idea what Danny Kinahan is saying on the Educational Skills Authority bill – the Assembly’s only legislation this session? Thought not.
    Basically everyone on here in various guises is just fighting the unionist/nationalist battle. And yes so is the UUP – it’s in the name.
    So the UUP has now spotted it is being bullied and has stopped tolerating the bullying (once the prima donnas wandered off), to the consternation of the liberal, secular, nationalist blogosphere.

  • http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/ Chris Gaskin

    “So the UUP has now spotted it is being bullied and has stopped tolerating the bullying”

    Do you really believe that nonsense? Please tell me there are people like yourself advising Nesbitt?

  • edoylederry

    Cheers Mick, didn’t know this was up ’til I checked the blog traffic! Much appreciated.

  • Obelisk

    “So the UUP has now spotted it is being bullied and has stopped tolerating the bullying (once the prima donnas wandered off), to the consternation of the liberal, secular, nationalist blogosphere.”

    I don’t think anything the UUP does can casue consternation to any Nationalist, from our politicians to our bloggers to the men in the street.

    What it does provoke, for any of us bothering to pay attention is schadenfreude with the shame as we observe it stagger from self inflicted crisis to self inflicted crisis.

  • Obelisk

    Sigh my kingdom for an edit button, should be ‘WITHOUT THE SHAME’.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So the UUP has now spotted it is being bullied and has stopped tolerating the bullying (once the prima donnas wandered off), to the consternation of the liberal, secular, nationalist blogosphere.

    A few more prima donnas (known as “MLAs” to the rest of us) are likely the wander off over the course of the coming week or so when Basil and John announce their plans (which are nothing to do with the Conservative Party).

  • Banjaxed

    So the UUP has now spotted it is being bullied and has stopped tolerating the bullying (once the prima donnas wandered off), to the consternation of the liberal, secular, nationalist blogosphere.

    And there was me looking up all sorts of thesauri and dictionaries for an example of the good ol’ Ulster Scots word ‘thran’.

    Wake up and smell the odour of decay.

  • Barry the Blender

    To be honest IJP I”ve never seen any evidence of alliance doing hard work on the ground.

    I’m always very suspicious of anyone claiming ‘their’ political party has done lots of ‘hard work’.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    ” I don’t blame John and Basil for running for the hills, I would too, the man [Mike Nesbitt] is frankly awful.” ..Emmett

    I’ve no idea how he performs within the UUP organisation but he did an excellent demolition job on the SF chair, Declan Kearney. It’s most unlikely any other senior SF figure would go head-to-head with him; he also blew Noel Thompson out in that same exchange. [SDLP and APNI folks must feel a little gunked that they were overlooked for this Spotlight ‘Question Time’]

    “Danny Kennedy who is seen as proving effective at the Executive” .. Emmett

    I’m surprised that anyone would attempt to portray any members of the Executive as effective in a positive sense, let alone the UUP and SDLP ministers. Perhaps the Ministers look better than they are because we have such a weak Committee system and mainstream media. Danny, as yet, hasn’t delivered for this lady or on this promise; the problems didn’t begin on his watch but they haven’t been resolved either.

    a big void in terms of contact with the farming community that McCallister monopolised .. Emmett

    John McCallister is a farmer but, on the night I saw him in action – a ‘beauty contest’ between Tom Elliott and Basil McCrea near Ballymena – John was following Basil around the hall on an invisible lead. On that occasion, I’d imagine the North Antrim farmers cast their vote for a fellow farmer, Tom Elliott. The big story in the local papers this week is that of another farmer and UUP member, Sandra Hunter, who delivered twin calves on her farm, an important role that caused her to be thirty minutes late for her other role as chair of Moyle District Council, an assorted collection of mainly party sheep.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Sheep? The current UUP seem more like lambs – to the slaughter.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Antain[2.25] I agree with you on Nesbitt on Spotlight It would be interesting to hear his view of Cameron’s performance at Amritsar and his admission that there was a shameful episode in Britain’s colonial past and Gregory Campbell must be even more furious with Cameron now over his aplogy for Bloody Sunday. Unionists are in a sticky position over the issue of what they call terrorism, in that they have to take either one of two unwinnable positions over the victims of britain’s colonial rule. Either they have to say all ‘freedom fighters against all the colonial powers were terrorists for trying to ecect the powers from their lands, or clamining that it was ok for Britain to invade and occupy their colonies because it suited unionists herer. Neither is any credit to unionism.

  • GEF

    UUP’s fall from master of house to whipping boy
    The Ulster Unionist Party’s failure to adapt to changing times is responsible for its current sorry state, says David McKittrick

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/uups-fall-from-master-of-house-to-whipping-boy-29082457.html

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Joe, it would appear that our ‘shared future’ is on life support; the UUP and SDLP have been victims of appeasing regimes in both London and Dublin.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    GEF, I read the McKittrick article yesterday; it would appear to be from the John Hume school of political analysis. You get no sense of the nationalist aspiration for a United Ireland or the lengths that some nationalists would go to to achieve it. The electorate, in its collective act of lack of wisdom, has opted for the politics of thuggery; what a sad and forlorn state we’re in.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin,

    I’ve no idea how he performs within the UUP organisation but he did an excellent demolition job on the SF chair, Declan Kearney.

    Let’s face it, it doesn’t require any particularly great talent to knock over SF’s flimsy arguments for reunification.

    Nesbitt’s failure has been to define what the UUP is in the face of its decline.

  • Banjaxed

    Nevin

    I’ve no idea how he performs within the UUP organisation but he did an excellent demolition job on the SF chair, Declan Kearney.

  • Banjaxed

    Nevin

    ‘I’ve no idea how he performs within the UUP organisation but he did an excellent demolition job on the SF chair, Declan Kearney’.

    Speaking as a person with mainly N/R sympathies, you’ve put me deep in a bucket of sh*t of a quandary. Despite my antipathy towards Mr Nesbitt as a political animal and leader of a once proud party, any person who understands enough of the labyrinthine intricacies of Declan-speak, as to understand him enough to disagree with his convoluted verbiage, has just gone up a notch in my estimation.

    Who said life’s fair?

    PS. How do you get from italic script to normal? ;-O

  • Chrisco

    The irony for the UUP is that they bought into the narrative in the aftermath of the 2010 General Election that the alliance with the Conservatives was a ‘disaster’, when the reality was that it actually slowed/stopped the rot.

    After the next general election, when the further demise of the Ulster Unionists is being recounted, 2010’s ‘Conservatives and Unionists – New Force’ will be seen as the moment that the UUP assured its own demise – not by entering into the alliance in the first place, but by being so impatient to get back on top that they failed to see the benefit it had accrued to them.

  • Framer

    McKittrick’s article is reasonably accurate so far as it goes on unionism (in isolation) but he hasn’t spotted the uneven divide amongst Protestants.

    The DUP is hegemonic in Westminster particularly where Rev Paisley still predominates and in the Peter Robinson fiefdom of Stormont which he always preferred but together they hardly represent a quarter of that community.

    The UUP probably represents near 50% but no longer in seat terms. However the war with the DUP which the media, the SDLP and Alliance insist on and encourage is ebbing away. The UUP has stopped participating and Robbo is releasing his grip on the change agenda and veto.
    The other quarter, if not Alliance or Tory, are headless chickens led by individuals who won’t or can’t organise the exclusively British (i.e. not Ulsterist) portion of the population.

    The ‘British’ can only be represented by defectors whom the UUP creates and who then see a life of freedom outside party control. Bliss for them but not the people who voted them in.

    Naomi is a version of that as she keeps away from the LibDems and sticks to the Ulster MPs Party.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “it doesn’t require any particularly great talent to knock over SF’s flimsy arguments for reunification”

    CS, it was the different approach he used – “Persuade me” – that proved to be effective, an approach that was also used later against Alex Maskey.

    “failure has been to define what the UUP is”

    The four main parties hang their hats on the constitutional question. That’s about it. London and Dublin have rewarded thuggery – the unionist/nationalist gap continues to narrow – so it’s hardly surprising that the ‘muscular’ elements prosper. APNI has a temporary significance in Belfast city Council.

  • FDM

    I was going to read this post then somebody mentioned the name “Danny Kennedy” and the word “talent” in the same sentence.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin, you’ve been around much longer than I have. When do you remember this golden age when muscular elements did not prosper ? We’re just after celebrating the event where 100 years ago the muscular elements threatened dire consequences to Irish home rule. What’s changed ?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    CS, I wasn’t around in 1913 or in the 1880s. It seems to me that the Ulster and Irish volunteers brought a measure of order to the chaos of the 1880s.

    If I can just repeat a quote that came my way within the past year: “We don’t have a problem with A, B and C; we burn them out”. You’ll find this mindset in some local ‘charities’ that are registered as limited companies; these companies also have civil servants and police officers acting as directors. For me, the independence, such as it was and is, of police officers has been further compromised.

    I think we had a higher standard of policing forty years ago when I assisted David Ford in the organisation of a community service conference for sixth-formers in Corrymeela forty years ago. Folks who formerly would have been brought before the courts are now given a measure of community control as well as being feted by the London and Dublin political establishments. Those on the receiving end of paramilitary ‘justice’ might prefer to take their chances with the ‘baton-swinging’ police officers that we saw or heard about in the 1960s in Dublin and Derry.

  • http://nwhyte.livejournal.com Nicholas Whyte

    Framer,

    The DUP is hegemonic in Westminster particularly where Rev Paisley still predominates and in the Peter Robinson fiefdom of Stormont which he always preferred but together they hardly represent a quarter of that community. The UUP probably represents near 50% but no longer in seat terms.

    I hate to break it to you, but Rev Paisley retired from Westminster almost three years ago. He casts a long shadow, to be sure, but it’s a stretch to say that he still predominates.

    The DUP’s share of the total Unionist vote has been well over 60%, and the UUP’s 30% at best, for the last several elections. On what evidence can you possibly claim that these figures are really 25% and 50%?

  • Charles_Gould

    Nicholas

    “Rev Paisley retired from Westminster almost three years ago”

    Um, he is still a legislator at Westminster, just not in the same House.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    The UUP reached the same point in 2005 that the Israeli Labor Party had reached two years previously, and for many of the same reasons. In Israel the electorate punished Labor for having entered into the Oslo process with Yasir Arafat and the PLO. Ehud Barak claimed after the July 2000 Camp David conference that he had revealed the real Arafat. The electorate certainly didn’t reward him for this feat! In NI the unionist electorate punished David Trimble and the UUP for the IRA’s failure to decommission in a timely and transparent fashion. Gerry Adams, either deliberately or merely fortuitously for Sinn Fein, saw decommissioning carried out when only his party and the DUP could benefit from it. It may be decades before either the UUP or Labor can recover to its previous levels of support. Since 2001 Labor has gone through a series of short-term leaders who never really gained traction. They even brought back Barak who stabbed them in the back by quitting the party with a third of its MKs just so he could remain as defense minister in Netanyahu’s government. The UUP has gone through much the same arc since 2005. Maybe in a couple of years the UUP can think seriously about bringing Trimble back, as long as he doesn’t run for the Commons.

    I suspect that before too long Basil McCrea will be running the Tory Party with either John or David as his assistant. McCrea and McCallister lack the funding base and other resources to really start a new party at the provincial level. They can either, at best, represent the constituencies that they were elected to in the last election, or join an existing party and marry their talent and experience to the Tories’ infrastructure. If McCrea and McCallister fail as Tories, it simply means that they would also have failed as independent unionists. The Conservative Party is clearly a unionist party or at least a pro-Union party and has a non-sectarian identity, based on its English identity. In the UK mainland I’m sure it has thousands of Catholic supporters.