What route back for the UUP?

The BBC is reporting that David Burnside thinks the UUP should not take its Executive seats and go into opposition.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think Burnside should take a BA flight back to London.

  • PeaceandJustice

    This is no way Sir Reg will keep out of Government. He can’t wait to get back into power – whatever the circumstances.

  • GavBelfast

    Where in the world DOESN’T have an Opposition, official or unofficial?

    It is something that the UUP, SDLP, Alliance, etc, should not be ruling out.

  • smcgiff

    Yip, the two smaller parties should at least have the option of forming the opposition. It would bring a feeling of Real Politic to the place.

    That all 4 main parties had to be involved in government was because the two biggest whingers were then the two smallest of the big four. The SDLP and the UUP should think long term and go into opposition. The bullies might try and stop them though, but may be happy to hoover up the extra departments.

  • BonarLaw


    “Where in the world DOESN’T have an Opposition, official or unofficial?”

    That is why this bastardised form of administration with all its sectarian baggage must be time limited.

    Time before next assembly election to campaign for:

    1) an end to tribal designation
    2) an end to d’Hondt
    3) for proper cabinet government with collective responsibility
    4) voluntary coalition
    5) a reduction in MLAs (down at most to 90, hopefully to 72)
    6) a reduction in ministers (no more that six departments inclusive of OFMDFM)

  • game is up

    If there was any balls amongst the sdlp/uup/alliance they would get together in next 24 hrs and disband themselves and form a new slightly right of centre party (tory-lite?) – however depressing it is the careerist politicos in each will opt for a scrap of ministerial chauaffered car privilige and pseudo-power rather than some big leap politics and perhaps a new political party in the middle of SF – DUP axis.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Where in the world DOESN’T have an Opposition, official or unofficial?

    It is something that the UUP, SDLP, Alliance, etc, should not be ruling out.

    There isn’t supposed to be an opposition. d’Hondt means that the executive is drawn supposedly in accordance with the size of the parties (doesn’t quite work out though).


    1) an end to tribal designation
    2) an end to d’Hondt

    Yes to that

    3) for proper cabinet government with collective responsibility

    I think we already have that

    4) voluntary coalition

    The endorsement from the people in NI over the past ten years has been for powersharing, not for voluntary coalition. For several examples of how voluntary coalition does not work, take a look at the record of co-operation between parties in councils throughout NI.

    5) a reduction in MLAs (down at most to 90, hopefully to 72)
    6) a reduction in ministers (no more that six departments inclusive of OFMDFM)

    Let’s walk before we can run, although I doubt the parties are going to vote themselves out of jobs.

    game is up :

    If there was any balls amongst the sdlp/uup/alliance they would get together in next 24 hrs and disband themselves and form a new slightly right of centre party (tory-lite?)

    Can’t do right of centre, but if you want left of centre, you join Alliance. Agreed, the UUP and SDLP should just disband. They’re a waste of time and energy.

  • George

    if unionists are incapable of sharing power then there is no chance of a return to majority rule by the next election.

    It is still up in the air as to whether there will even be power sharing in this generation never mind moving on to the next stage.

    The hurdle of willingness to share power has to be cleared first.

  • BonarLaw

    Comrade Stalin

    we most certainly do not have proper cabinet government with collective responsibility. We have individual departments uncoordinated in policy terms run for sectional advantage not to any common purpose. St Andrews has improved the position but reform needs to go a step further.

    Power sharing and voluntary coalition are not incompatible. If a majority of 2/3 of voting MLAs was required to endorse anexecutive and its’ programme you would have a cross community government with colective responsibility facing an official opposition.

  • John Farrell

    David Burnside talked about opposition in an interview with Wendy Austin but he acknowledged that this was unlikely as most of UUP want to go into government.
    and according to Burnside the only other place in world without an opposition is Lebanon……but as Burnside said it, Id try verification on Wikapedia or whatever.

  • game is up

    Comrade – I used the small “t” tory – for the uup that they all but tories is a given and with non-existant local impact of “Tories” they cannot afford to be that far right.

    The sdlp although espousing labour affiliations are at heart conservative with a small c nationalist / catholic and i’d say have not that far to politically journey to be small tee tories.

    The alliance were uup-lite so I’ll still class them as small tee tories.

    Predominately NI is a conservative locale akin to scotland circa 1950-60’s.

  • Yokel

    I’m not a fan of Burnside but fuck me this is an idea that deserves consideration.

    Best result of this election if they, SDLP and Alliance took such a stance in practice.

  • Observer

    Basil McCrea out-polls outgoing MLA and UUP Veteran Billy Bell.

    I’m sure this won’t go down too well in LV UUP.

    Wonder if McCrea will defect to Alliance, since it appears to be making gains at their expense?

    The UUP is finished!

    They should shud form an alliance, the UUP Alliance Party.

  • It seems Burnside is the one person in the UUP with an idea of a distinctive direction to go in.

    Now has he got the courage to stand for the leadership and settle it once and for all?

  • George

    David Burnside has come a long way from his suggestion after the last Assembly election in 2003.

    At that time he said the political process had reached a stalemate and called for the Assembly to be closed down in 3 months unless the UUP, DUP, SDLP and Alliance Party could agree a voluntary coalition which would exclude Sinn Féin from government.

    Now four years later he wants a voluntary coalition to exclude the UUP from government.

  • pith

    The D’Hondt mechanism provides for a roughly propotionate allocation of posts but it also allows for its players to pass the parcel. Can we look forward to the UUP/SDLP insisting that DUP-SF have the dancefloor to themselves or will be have lots of noble talk having a duty to take our seats in these executive cars?

  • Rory

    I do so love Bonar Law.

    He demands that those political designations that he favours, and, I presume sincerely believes in, are in his,and therefore the whole world’s, interests as “proper”as in “3) for proper cabinet government with collective responsibility “. Which is nice, But where, I wonder, could one find such a rare beast? Certainly not in London, neither Washington, Beijing, Moscow nor even, alas the mother of city of modern republicansim, Paris. My friends in Hanoi also confirm an apparent absence.

    Things, dear Bonar, are not as they once were. They are only as they are, and then so fleetingly, soon to be be what they will brcome.

  • Diluted Orange

    Eh … I think you’ll find that there already is an Assembly opposition – the DUP.

  • BonarLaw


    love and affection is always appreciated regardless from whence it comes.

    I’m somewhat confused by the rest of your post though. In terms of the NI Assembly I am firmly against designations. As for your assertions that collective responsibility at cabinet level doesn’t exist in London, Washington or Paris it will come as a surprise to members of those respective executives.

    What follows from you is pure poetry.

  • Truth and Justice

    What an idiot Burnside is!

  • newboy

    What does “go into opposition” mean? If they stand back and let the big 2 take all ministries, will the big 2 stand back and let the little 3 take all 22 Committee offices? Naaaa!

  • Henry94

    Diluted Orange has a point. 38 DUP MLAs ambiguous on the restoration and 70 other MLAs committed to it. If anyone should sit in opposition then it should be the DUP.

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Basil McCrea would seriously be wise to consider defection. Currently he’s a non-tribal politician who should be going somewhere in a tribal party that’s going nowhere.

    Where in the world DOESN’T have an Opposition, official or unofficial?

    Switzerland for a start.

  • Crataegus

    If I were in the UUP I would take seriously Burnsides’s suggestion. Assuming there is a functioning Assembly there will be all sorts of thorny issues ahead to make gain from, if in opposition. That said I don’t see a rosy future for the UUP or indeed any long term future in their present form.


    I agree with the points you raise; the designation is odious.


    If anyone should sit in opposition then it should be the DUP.

    That is what the Unionists once said about SF, strange old world.

  • páid

    Aye, the game is up for the UUP, as it is for the Scottish Tories.

    Caught in the tides of history and all that.

    The bulk will go, warily enough, to the DUP, some to Alliance, and the ones who really think about it, to the Tories.

    Now, who’s next?

  • Crataegus


    Now, who’s next?

    The SDLP similar problem?

  • Aisling?

    As one who disagrees with the current path taken by the SF leadership, I have said since the 1998 Agreement, that being in constructive opposition within an administration which is dependent upon a budget set by “New Labour” in Britain would cause us difficulties. I still believe that. Against party policy, Bairbre de Brún and Martin McGuinness had to sign up to PFI initiatives because that was the consensus within the Ministerial Executive. The same will happen agaain this time around. Despite the housing crisis in the North, if SF were to gain the ministerial post for Social Development – would housing policy be changed for example? not without an independent budget for that dpartment free from “mainland” fiscal policy constraints.
    The same applies to water charges, if Sf were to gain that ministerial post, etc.

  • darth rumsfeld

    you have to say that the UUP must be devastated by this election. They fought a relatively competent campaign, put up quite a few young candidates- but insufficient women. In general they have had a ‘mare, and are now probably past the point of recovery.

    The only good news is the failure of alternative homes for new talent to emigrate to- the Tories,PUP, UKIP etc are now clearly irrelevant. Possibly the new cuddly pro-agreement DUP will commend itself to wouldbe career politicians as much as it has to their electorate

  • blondemoment

    just watching the results and it is a disgrace that candidates who work their socks off for the poeple they represent are not repaid in votes. Ken Robinson(uup)is always out and about, there is hardly a week goes by that we do not see him in the local papers and for all his hard work he only gets 1881 fpv,i would rather give my vote to someone who i know will work to make things better for me than someone who is never seen.

  • Disgusted!!!

    i agree with blonde moment, there are a small handfull of those who stood in the election that are seen within their elected area’s working and doing something then there are those that only come out if the tv camera’s are there.
    i feel sorry today for the likes of ken robinson(hope he will get in on the next count)then there is pat convery who also works but was unlucky in this election.
    the only candidate that was in the area i live in was nigel dodds considering that there was at least 14 names for me to choose from on wed i wonder what the other 13 spent the last three weeks doing.

  • Crataegus


    i know will work to make things better for me than someone who is never seen.

    I wish more thought as you do. I keep running into Ken Robinson and agree with you he is a good representative. He thinks well ahead and does work that is not the sort that gets immediate attention or a few column inches. Thinks strategically about business etc. Good guy, capable representative(and I am definitely not a Unionist) He should get a fair number of Alliance transfers.

    Unfortunately in NI the electorate don’t care a dam about ability and are more interested in putting it to the other side. Idiotic and the road to nowhere.


    the UUP must be devastated by this election.

    That is probably an understatement.

    The problem for Unionism and the UUP in particular is how they present a positive vision of the future for Unionists. They have made a start on the bread and butter stuff and they should keep at it but they also need to be a lot more inclusive and self confident in their relationship with the Republic.

  • Keith M

    I think Burnside has a point here. The UUP have clearly been outmanouvered by the DUP. The Westminster seat is gone based on these results and they are now en route to a slow painful death.

    By going into opposition, they can at least detatch themselves from the unpopular decisions that the executive will have to make. A capable opposition of the APNI, the UUP and perhaps even the SDLP would bring real politics back top N.I.

  • Crataegus


    I agree it is strategically the clever move. Both the SDLP and UUP should go into opposition for the good of the country! Get out from the middle between SF and the DUP and see how effective the two main parties are in government and just how well they get on. Lots of thorny issues coming up.

    If they go into the Executive they will lack clear definition and will not be able to criticise the other parties as freely as they would in opposition.

  • páid


    in your heart you must know that there is not a hope of an SDLP / UUP link up. The NI identity struggle is between Orange and Green, not Moderate and Extremist.

    I think the Alliance / UUP zone is where the future is as regards change. Significant and increasing numbers of prods are up for better relations with Nationalists, which was always going to happen once extreme Nationalists stopped shooting them.
    There’s no way I’d write off the SDLP. They might be in for a name change, or link-ups down South, but as republicans have to take the poisoned chalice of power, and put their equality and respect theories into practice, the folks on the hillside who watched o’Neill and O’Donnell leave, and yon stranger move in, will get restless.

  • In response to the original question, I’ve done a quick d’hondt calculation on an estimate of DUP 39, SF 27, SDLP 17, UUP 17, AP 6, Grn 1, PUP 1 (just to clear up the argument about what would happen if UUP were only fourth largest, and DUP got bucket-loads of seats).

    Anyway, assuming an executive of 11, Alliance would be a long way off (they’d be entitled to the 15th cabinet position), while DUP would get 4 (including first minister), SF 3 (incl. dep. first minister) and 2 each for SDLP and UUP.

    When faced with the possibility of holding onto four ministries between them, I doubt UUP or SDLP would go for opposition – both parties will be anxious to prove to voters that they’re better managers than their counterparts in DUP/SF.

  • Forrest

    Keith M-You need to detach yourself from fantasy.What hope in hell would the sdlp and uup have?as the elections prove they have no mandate.Both parties seriously need to reassess their strategy to have any hope of surviving

  • Stretch: Alliance look likely to have 7 seats. How does that affect the figures?

    (For that matter, what if one or two others were to take the Alliance whip? Could they get close to qualifying for a ministry?)

  • Wilde Rover

    (For that matter, what if one or two others were to take the Alliance whip? Could they get close to qualifying for a ministry?)


    Would a “re-designation” as “Alliance” by PUP and Greens (and perhaps some far-sighted UUP MLAs in constituencies where there could be future vote haemorrhaging to AP) edge them to within shouting distance of a ministry?

  • Crataegus


    Not for one moment do I think the UUP and Sdlp would or should link up. What I would question is the wisdom, for those parties, of going into an Executive dominated by the DUP and SF.

    I agree about links with a party in the south and have said previously that that is something that the SDLP should actively pursue and it would certainly radically change the Nationalist – Republican equation.

    What is totally beyond my comprehension is that Nationalists who want a united Ireland should vote for SF. As you say, “significant and increasing numbers of prods are up for better relations with Nationalists”, and I agree, but some seem to think the poking them in the eyes at every turn is the best way forward. I suppose we have to go through this phase before we can move forward. Like a bad curry it has to work its way through the system. Lots of gas and unpleasantness ahead.

  • blonde moment

    crataegus thanks for agreeing with me, it is a pity that the electorate used their vote the way they did. i do not pretend to understand all the in’s and out’s of politics but i do know that when you have somebody that is will to go the extra mile to do his very best then you should give him your support. it is sad that he should need the alliance cast off’s(no offence to the alliance voters).listening to “big ian” last night was doing my head in between singing hymns and not agreeing to sit in goverment with gerry and co on the 26th march,was in not the dup that called for this election in the first place? why waste all that time and effort not to mention what it must have cost those who stood for election if he never had any intention of trying to make a go of things.
    i think there was far too many candidates which only confuses people when they look at the ballot paper they panic and just stick 123 willy nilly.

  • Keith M

    Forrest; both the SDLP and and the UUP have the same problem. They are seem as pale, out-dated and pale replications of SF and the DUP. The only way that they can carve a niche for themselves is by finding separate territory on which to fight.

  • Alex S

    Burnside’s idea was floated by Alex Kane as well, it has merit, thing is does anyone seriously think a DUP / Sinn Fein dominated executive will work effectively, will one UUP Minister make any difference, no doubt the DUP will ‘hog’ the power but do their utmost to distribute the blame if it goes wrong, better to take a position of opposition so as to capatilise on the failure, now if the DUPes and the Shinners suceed????????

  • Two Nations

    Having been a traditional UUP voter(I voted DUP on Wed), I’m torn about what I would like to see now.

    1. The UUP folds and leaves one unionist party (DUP). Better able to maximise the unionist vote at elections. Plus I think the real flat-earthers of the DUP have been pushed out after StA and therefore I would expect the DUP to become more moderate and progressive with time. Especially, once the Doc departs the stage.

    2. A new leader takes over the UUP and rejuvenates the party making it a progressive, centre right, non-sectarian unionist party that is able to attract Catholics. From his performance this morning, I think Basil McCrea may be the guy.

  • Inspector Clouseau

    The idea that the the UUP can morph into quasi Alliance type party is a non runner. The Alliance have gained real confidence from the election results and wont allow the UUP to infringe on their target electorate.

  • Funnyface

    Who is going to stand in opposition to Sir Reg if there is a leadership challenge? Will it be Burnside or maybe Armstrong? Are any of these characters big enough or should I say foolish enough to take on the challenge? What about the UUP members who don’t quite know where they stand. What will they do now that the party has slipped in the polls again with many MLA’s only getting in on the coat-tails of the DUP!
    O I forgot about Sylvia? Will she be man enough to stand against Sir Reg – or is she considering jumping ship to try to secure her position as MP in North Down? Where will it all end?
    It’s better than a soap opera? Who needs Corrie and Enders when you have the ungoing drama within the declining UUP.

  • slug

    Two Nations

    The UUP shouldn’t merge with the DUP. That wouldn’t increase unionism at all. Further, for the unionists, I think its useful for them to have a party to turn to once the DUP run into trouble with their strategy, just as it was useful for the unionist electorate to have the option of the DUP when Trimble’s strategy was going nowhere.

  • páid

    I agree with you Crat. And poking them in the eye is not nice, but infinitely preferable, I imagine, to strapping mercury tilt-switches and other accessories beneath their cars.

    As for link-ups, well the Southern election may be interesting.

    After it, there may well be old socks looking for old shoes.

  • slug

    What positive can be taken from the UUs campaign?

    They were very bad in their election strategy in terms of number of candidates. That is perhaps a sign that things can improve for them with a bit of thought and effort.

    In terms of marketing I thought they had a clear message – ready to stop the preconditions and go into government – and they were consistent in their presentation. They didn’t emphasise the loyal order membership of their candidates in their literature. They had some consistency there.

    It was a message that probably lost a few voters to the DUP but the UUs also lost votes to Alliance. So its not clear what else they could credibly have done. Perhaps they could have rowed along with the DUP’s criteria, but not clear that would have changed anything. At least (from their point of view) they didn’t lose out to the Tories very much so that is something.

    The UUP have brought some good candidates forward. The unsuccessful Kenny Donaldson is an excellent good prospect for them and hopefully he will stop this habit of trying to win unwinnable seats. They have the successful Basil McCrea in Lagan Valley who seemed rather good on TV this morning.

    They definitely need to lose Jim Nicholson, who was past his sell-by date a long time ago, for the next Euro election.

    The rumour that Tom Elliot is to stand for MEP and make way for Kenny Donaldson as his replacement MLA is probably just that – a rumour. But Kenny would be a great person to boost the West and keep the UUP going there. It’s important that the UUP don’t become a Greater Belfast party like Alliance is.

    Will the UUP be able to rely on the DUP to mess up? Well maybe but only if they position themselves well to do so. The DUP were very clever in how they repositioned themselves in 2002-2003, ready to pick up votes of those unhappy with the UUP’s direction. And of course the DUP have then actually to mess up.

    The comforting thing here is that their potential electorate east of the bann don’t exhibit that much loyalty. The broad non-nationalist electorate has changed allegiances from the ealy 1990s from Alliance and UUP to Conservatives in 1992 to UUP in 1997 to UKUP in 1998 and then to the DUP in 2005, and some now back to Alliance. So there are a lot of voters out there susceptable to an argument.

    How might the DUP mess up? This is important because the optimal repositioning of the UUP will depend on the manner of the DUP’s eventual mess-up. For the UUP it must be hard to predict at this point. Maybe their handling of the executive might fail in some way, maybe they split. Who knows? But its certainly possible that something will go wrong.

    The UUP should watch the problems that the DUP start to face in the new Executive and work out what the DUP’s not-so-loyal voters are unhappy about.

    They need a clear message and they need to loes the appearance of being weak and lazy.

    A big question for the UUP is the Ian Paisley replacement and how smooth that is. This is presumably not far off now, perhaps a year away. This leadership change will change the dynamic of politics hugely, depending on who takes over.