AFTER the UUP spent the past year trying to portray itself as more hard line than the DUP, today David Trimble described his party as ‘moderate’ and ‘centrist’. Perhaps Mr Trimble realised that his chances of holding his seat may depend upon attracting the voters his party usually has little time for. But what if those people think Trimble has had his chance – and blew it?
Trimble told Breakfast with Frost:
“I think it would be much better now to let the parties and the extremes have a bit of time in opposition where they can sort themselves out.
“I think you could have a cross-community administration based on the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP. I think that trying to have a cross-community administration that brings in every party isn`t going to work in the present circumstances.
“What we want to see in this election is whether people are prepared to vote for that or are they going to, as it were, endorse the extremes and reinforce stalemate.”
The problem is, while Trimble now appears to be supporting the idea of a voluntary coalition, that the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have invested so much in trying to out-unionist the DUP and out-green Sinn Fein respectively, that anyone from ‘the other side’ will no longer perceive them as ‘moderate’.
At the same time as the DUP and Sinn Fein have moved in from the extremes, so the UUP and SDLP have moved towards them. So when such appeals go out, the effect is minimized by the lack of ‘moderate’ (an awful word) credibility.
The UUP/SDLP argument seems to be: “Vote for us – we can make a deal after the election, but the DUP and SF can’t.”
I’m not convinced. Trimble is seen by harder line unionists as the man who fell into a republican trap, which Paisley escaped from late last year. More liberal unionists and others who have might bailed him out in the past see him as a busted flush.
There may be some tactical voting in Upper Bann, but whether it will be enough to save Trimble’s seat is a good question. It certainly won’t be enough to stop the DUP, I suspect.