No sacred cows for the UUP?

As Alex Kane notes, “reform of the Ulster Unionist Party has been on their agenda for over 30 years”. The question is, is it, as Lindy McDowell fears it might be, too late?By Alex Kane

SATURDAY’S meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council turned out to be a much better one than many people had expected, particularly in terms of turnout and atmosphere.

Media stories of spats and fallouts, along with website rumours of “rebellion on the day from the floor,” did nothing to dampen the spirit of the delegates. Indeed, it is possible that it actually encouraged the higher than anticipated turnout, with the grassroots determined to prove that it wasn’t going to tolerate any more internal wrangling.
The unanimous vote in favour of the resolution to overhaul the party was, as most commentators have noted, a very important decision by the UUC. But only time will tell if it was a genuinely historic decision. Reform of the Ulster Unionist Party has been on their agenda for over 30 years. This was Brian Faulkner’s view of the party in the mid-1970s:

“The Unionist Party had started off as a vehicle for the mobilisation of the entire spectrum of pro-Union opinion and its structures reflected that fact. Within it there was a remarkable range of social and political attitudes. The central party headquarters in Belfast had little control over associations. All of this meant that a relatively small number of dissidents could perpetually harass and embarrass…by calling a series of meetings of the most important bodies of the party to discuss motions of no confidence or criticisms of party policy.”

Yet almost 25 years after Faulkner’s resignation as party leader (having lost a vote at an emergency meeting of the UUC in January 1974), David Trimble had exactly the same difficulties: constantly ambushed and undermined by a minority of internal critics who were exercising the “rights” afforded to them by a constitution which remained geared to the needs of an umbrella organisation rather than a political party.

I have listened to reform motions being debated in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and again, last Saturday. Delegates, generally speaking, are always in favour of the principle of reform. But when a rules committee produces the precise details of that reform the vested interests and affiliated organisations flex their muscles, deploy their delegates and either wreck entirely or massively dilute the proposals.

It will be a Saturday morning in September or early October that will prove to be the key moment in this latest phase of the reform process, for that is when the UUC will be reconvened to consider the recommendations of the review panel. How sweeping and draconian will those recommendations prove to be? As one delegate put it: “There must be no cow so sacred that it cannot be slaughtered; no individual so exalted that he cannot be removed; no heirloom so precious that it cannot be taken to the car boot sale or auction house; no institution so deeply embedded that it cannot be uprooted and dumped; and no part of the existing constitution which will be regarded as immune from scrutiny.”

My sense of the meeting, and it is only my sense, is that delegates really do want to settle the reform issue finally, quickly and ruthlessly. The very worst thing that could happen to Northern Ireland, to the Union and unionism generally would be for the DUP to consolidate and build upon its position as the majority voice of unionism. The DUP lacks political vision, moral courage and any real sense of leading from the front. It has always followed in the footsteps of the UUP.

And those wishy-washy, boneless, pallid, fence-sitting, all-things-to-all-people ninnies of the Alliance Party aren’t much better. They may claim to be nominally pro-Union, but it is a claim which carries the same sort of credibility and conviction as my claim to be an unassuming soul who wouldn’t say boo to a passing leader of the UUP. Yet if the UUP doesn’t get its act together within the next few months then it is those two parties who will be the main beneficiaries, while Northern Ireland and the Union will be the main losers.

Sir Reg Empey’s speech to the delegates reflected the two major problems facing his party; the urgency and necessity of reform and the refashioning of the party into a vehicle which, in terms of policies, candidates and impact, mirrors the real face of the Northern Ireland which has been created by the Belfast Agreement (which, despite claims from the DUP, hasn’t gone away, you know).

His hope, today, must be that the review process is both speedy and suitably draconian. I have some personal reservations about the make-up of the review panel and I think, in the initial stages at

least, it would be preferable if neither he nor any officer was involved. He must hope, too, that the rift which seems to exist between him and a few key players can be repaired fairly quickly. There may well be a battle royal further down the line when some parts of the party discover that a century of autonomy is about to be removed from them, and it is at that stage when the leader is going to need all the friends he can get.

I don’t minimise the problems which still face the UUP and I won’t overstate the apparent success of Saturday’s meeting. But I did detect a sense of urgency and reality that I haven’t often noted before. This is a party that has, at long last, faced up to the fact that it is facing a battle for its very survival. If the mood of the meeting and the endorsement of the resolution is anything to go by, then this is also a party which is determined to win that battle.

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  • interested

    You just get the sense that Lindy is closer to the truth.

  • Bob wilson

    I have for months be asking Alex and other UUPs to explain what the UUP is for.

    The DUP has taken over the market for the ‘Protestant Unionist’ vote.

    The Alliance are there for those who want to vote for an indeterminate ‘centre’

    The Tories – including Lord Trimble – are there for those on the centre right who think there is more to politics than a devolved Assembly. (I notice Sir Reg admited ‘regional’ parties can have no influence in Westminster)

    Labour are now taking members (and I notice Trimble is pushing for them to treat NI the same as the rest of the UK)
    http://news.ulster.ac.uk/releases/2007/3147.html

    So what is the UUP for?
    Waffle about organisation is just a cop out?
    It seems to me that for many in the party Survival is the only purpose – ‘we were important once, we exist and therefore we ought to continue to exist’

  • They should merge with the Tories.

  • IJP

    And those wishy-washy, boneless, pallid, fence-sitting, all-things-to-all-people ninnies of the Alliance Party aren’t much better. They may claim to be nominally pro-Union, but it is a claim which carries the same sort of credibility and conviction as my claim to be an unassuming soul who wouldn’t say boo to a passing leader of the UUP.

    Sir Reg said: “We currently do not reflect the diversity that exists in modern society in Northern Ireland. Women, younger people, ethnic minorities and people from all backgrounds must have their rightful place, representing us and making decisions with us. We need a selection process that ensures talented women and men of all backgrounds can represent this party.

    He’ll find those “wishy-washy, boneless, pallid, fence-sitting, all-things-to-all-people ninnies” have already done that long ago.

    Linde is spot on.

    The UUP is a party whose most read spokesperson, Mr Kane, is an internal sniper who spends all his time trying out pathetic insults rather than dealing with political opponents intelligently.

    Bob

    As a Tory, whose party has precisely zero policies or stances, you accuse others of being indeterminate.

    As they say in Kensington and Chelsea, “aren’t ye the quare geg”…

  • IJP

    They may claim to be nominally pro-Union

    When was this claim made, by the way?

    We recognize there are things far more important than resolving a question which is already resolved.

    I must say, with analysis like this, I’m quaking…

  • Ginfizz

    Alex dpesn’t actually seem to be outlining how exactly a rule change will make the party more electable. Just bitter ranting against the evil visionless DUP and the terrible Alliance. Not good analysis here.

  • Truth & Justice

    Changing the rules of the UUP does not fix the problem, it requires work on the ground and good policys, the UUP have none and so changing the rules is pointless, the best thing for UUP is one of two things mearge with the Consevatives or make one Unionist Party for Northern Ireland by the DUP and UUP joining.

  • observer

    so IJP, are you saying you are in favour of maintaining the Union?

  • mchinadog

    I agree with GINFIZZ there is never any logic to Alex Kane’s rantings, he suffers from verbal diarrhea and likes also to hear the sound of his own voice. Ulster Unionists are a spent force, no amount of reviews about reviews or re-organization will put Humpty Dumpty together again, not sure why they do not give up and go away they are going nowhere fast.

    I suppose if they want to hold on to get further humiliated at the next election well and good. They would do more for Northern Ireland if the members who would support the DUP view, and there is many in the UU party, would just walk across the floor and join the DUP. The rest of the wishy washy UU party could join the all things to all men Alliance Party that would solve their problem don’t you think

  • kensei

    “so IJP, are you saying you are in favour of maintaining the Union?”

    Oh, you couldn’t possibly expect a straight answer to that one.

    Though it isn’t hard to work out. Any influence the Alliance have is based on holding the balance of power between Traditional Unionism and Nationalism. Do Turkeys vote for Christmas?

  • DC

    “Sir Reg Empey’s speech to the delegates reflected the two major problems facing his party; the urgency and necessity of reform and the refashioning of the party into a vehicle which, in terms of policies, candidates and impact, mirrors the real face of the Northern Ireland which has been created by the Belfast Agreement”

    The days of absolute sovereignty are over Mr Kane, and with it goes old-house unionism symbolic of the bygone days. The truth is unionism from the UUP couldn’t reform fast enough to realise this but then it wouldn’t be unionism.

    The multi-sovereign impacts of the GFA and the European Union developments will change Northern Ireland for the better but in the interim it will be slow progress.

    As for arrogant Trimble, well he looked like he had been caught sleeping with the next door neighbour’s wife when he came out to sell the GFA. And since the face of guilt it’s all been down hill except for Paisley, who has climbed it once again in order to try and prove to those who have backed him that unionsim can remain impenetrable when its based on his interpretation of events and backed up Jnr.

    In addition, I can say clearly to Alex Kane, and I know he’s got a bint of squint, so he should therefore look again at the Democratic Centre as it is not a ninnie movement, but one that will quickly put down the pair of hands that tries to throttle both the growth of multi-culturalism within society and policy formation based on pooled political resources across Ireland and the UK.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    IJP

    “We recognize there are things far more important than resolving a question which is already resolved.”

    In what sense is the constitutional issue “resolved”? I admit, I didn’t see the papers this morning, but when I went to bed last night we still had the same pro-union/pro-unity divergence of opinion as ever?

    I would agree that the constitutional issue has been clarified, and that the rules of the game regarding the constitutional issue have now been agreed by all the significant players. But the game itself is only just beginning.

    Propagating the lie that the issue has been “resolved” is clearly an anti-change (and therefore pro-union) strategy. It’s also mercurial nonsense, of the kind that Ulster folk of all persuasions (if I know Ulster folk) tend to really despise.

    Re. the Ulster Unionist Party – it’s increasingly hard to see where the future lies for the party. It was formed to represent, and has traditionally been the representative of “unionism”, but then “unionism was always a very broad movement, in which probably only a minority was ever primarily concerned with the union itself. Today the DUP represents the sinn fein wing of Ulster Protestantism (an element that predates Paisleyism, though has found its personification in Paisley; which has always been concerned with the realities of being the Protestant minority in a largely Catholic Ireland, and to which unionism and partitionism have been strategic responses tailored to anti-republican, anti-nationalist causes, rather than fundamentals in themselves.)

    Alliance, on the other hand, are emerging as a credible option for the “decent people” who would be instinctively pro-union but who, if a united Ireland were to come about, would be opposed to making a scene about it. They appeal to unionism’s cringing demographic, like the IJPs of this world – as obviously pro-union as Mark Allen’s cufflinks, but too embarrassed to admit it, and smart enough to know they are right to be embarrassed.

    Meanwhile there is also the largest group of all within unionism – the stay-at-homes.

    That only leaves those who are “actual unionists” – perhaps “integrationists” is a more accurate word. But is there any evidence of an appetite among Ulster’s Protestants for “integrationism” or “actual unionism”? I can’t see any – on the contrary, I see far more evidence of an Ireland-wide detente. It remains to be seen where that will take us, but I’m betting it ain’t Finchley.

    What future is there for the Ulster Unionist Party
    is an Ireland where the “unionist” people and “unionism” as we have known it, are evolving, alongside everyone else on this island, in an altogether new context, into something unforseeable and exciting?

  • AdamHSouthAntrim

    Trust & Justice is correct in the assertion that changing the rules will not
    fix the problem the UUP continues to find itself in.

    All this news about reforms is all very well but it’s too late. We have no
    hope of attracting the ‘stay at homes’ back to the Party and we can’t reform
    quick enough to prepare for the much talked about elections to the super
    councils, notwithstanding the debate over the number of same.

    The wishy-washy, boneless, pallid, fence-sitting, all-things-to-all-people
    ninnies have taken over the Party and they’re welcome to it.

    Unionism is evolving. I am contenting myself at present with mutterings
    from various sources of how the debate on the future of unionism can be
    moved forward whilst others spend their time on reforms and other such
    utterly pointless measures.

    I have no idea as to where one might be this time next year but I’m fairly
    certain it won’t be as a member of the UUP and with one eye on the elections
    one has to ensure I board the correct ship and avoid a Titanic style disaster.

  • Inspector Clouseau

    The next generation will see more and more power being decentralised from London to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. Scottish nationalism, Welsh nationalism and Ulster nationalism will emerge stronger and stronger. The UUP could never represent “Ulster nationalists”.

  • Porlock

    Why is it taken as some sort of “given” that the UUP cannot reform and recover?

    The average vote for the DUP in the 1989/93/97 local government elections was 105,000—16.8% The common view at that stage was that the DUP would never eclipse the UUP.

    Again, in the early 1990s the Alliance Party was being written off.

    Both those parties have seen improvements in their performances. So why not the UUP?

    I’m not saying that I expect it to recover in the short term, but as a unionist who doesn’t like the DUP I would welcome a real choice. Sorry, IJP. Don’t always agree with Alex Kane but I also regard you as ambivalent on the Union. (BTW weren’t you praising him not that long ago when he opposed the UUP/PUP link!)

    Porlock

  • IJP

    observer

    I’m saying the argument about the Union is resolved. It’ll take at least a Catholic majority for any other outcome.

    Personally, I’m British so it’s obvious I am broadly happy within the British state. But I can think of arrangements for a United Ireland which I would prefer to the status quo.

    In the end, though, it doesn’t much matter. Let’s get on with the task at hand, eh?

    Billy P

    I’ve just stated my preference for the countless-th time. You just choose to ignore it.

    The constitutional issue is resolved because basically Protestants vote for the Union and Catholics don’t. So while there’s a Protestant majority, the Union’s safe (as is obvious from the fact you dismiss realistic debate on the issue with Protestants like me, who are actually obviously open to change). If there comes a time when there isn’t, it isn’t. It’s called “reality” – something Alliance is often accused of ignoring, when in fact it is the only party dealing with it.

    The fact you choose to label me in line with Mr Allen’s cufflinks says more about you than it does about me.

    Porlock

    Where precisely did Alex Kane say we were “ambivalent about the Union”?

    We are realistic about the Union, as explained above.

    The rest of your post is spot on, by the way. Other parties would be making a big mistake if they just assumed the UUP would go away.

    (BTW, I did praise Alex on his stance re the PUP link, but I also think his ongoing failure to do anything about it is pretty pathetic. Mergers with paramilitarism are pretty fundamental – either get it sorted, or leave the party.)

  • George

    IJP,
    The constitutional issue is resolved because basically Protestants vote for the Union and Catholics don’t. So while there’s a Protestant majority, the Union’s safe.

    Protestants are in the minority in every age group below 25 and is make up just 41% of the under fives.

    This in no way means we are moving towards a majority in favour of unification.

    But what it does mean is that unionism needs more than Protestants to survive. For that reason alone, the constitutional issue certainly isn’t “resolved”.

    The days of unionism relying on Protestants alone to secure the continuance of the union are over while the day when Catholics alone will ensure a united Ireland will most certainly never arrive.

    Where the rest will decide to rest their constitutional hat in the coming decades is most certainly not “resolved”.

  • Bigger Picture

    Even at this stage the UUP’s answer to their problems still smack of arrogance. They think that simply reforming party structures is going to get them into the driving seat again?! Instead of actually working for their constituents and re-connecting with citizens at large.

    Instead its the same old arrogant motto, “we will exist because we deserve to exist and do not expect us to do anything to help in the area we are supposed to represent. Instead we will continue to sit back and pontificate and comment on the DUP, and continue to lose touch with the voters and what they need.”

    Even if the DUP and other unionist parties didnt exist i still would never have voted for the UUP as they represent everything i despise in “Big House Unionism”

  • Billy Pilgrim

    IJP

    So you’re saying that the constitutional issue has been “resolved” because …. (wait for it….) there’s still more Prods than Taigs? Is that it? Jesus, that’s weak.

    “I’ve just stated my preference for the countless-th time. You just choose to ignore it.”

    On the contrary: far from ignoring your preference, I’m clarifying it. For all your coyness, you’re unbendingly pro-union, that’s obvious. That’s a perfectly fair position to take. Why not “come out” as the full-blooded unionist your policies show you to be? It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    “…as is obvious from the fact you dismiss realistic debate on the issue with Protestants like me, who are actually obviously open to change…”

    To be honest IJP, I simply don’t believe you’re open to change at all. I don’t believe Alliance is – too dependent on the status quo for its own future, you see. To be honest, I have far greater respect for the “proper” unionist parties, who at least are honest about what they stand for. Ironically, when I think of people within unionism who might possibly be open to change, I see more potential within the ranks of the DUP than within Alliance. And I think Alliance’s virtual non-existence west of the Bann bears out the fact that nationalists aren’t fooled by the intrinsically unionist Alliance Party.

    “If there comes a time when there isn’t, it isn’t. It’s called “reality” – something Alliance is often accused of ignoring, when in fact it is the only party dealing with it.”

    True, Alliance deal with “reality”, in a sense – in the sense that the “reality” has been colonial dependency, and Alliance have provided a front operation for the imperial viceroys, and been richly rewarded for doing so.

    “The fact you choose to label me in line with Mr Allen’s cufflinks says more about you than it does about me.”

    And your reply displays the kind of preening moral narcissism with which Alliance is so frequently associated.

  • DC

    A quick little ramble of the way I view the future of the union is this, and it’s just a little dip in and dip out but:

    Reform of the constitution of the UK would be great in terms of weeding out the monarchy, revise this with increased federalism. Any warring activities ought not to happen unless endorsed by all the federal regions to whom a proportion of the British Army will be responsible to. So, time for Northern Ireland’s kids to start saying no ta to the TA until such times.

    In respect of Northern Ireland, yes there should be MLAs who should sit in the Oireachtas and Sinn Fein should take up their seats at Westminster too. The Republic should have a practical confederal role with Northern Ireland in so far as it is possible in terms of viability. If more opportunities arise for a more integral role to form better governance with the Republic involved then so be it.

    The key here though is ensuring that the Assembly is itself the gatekeeper and all that goes on is endorsed therein and outside influences no longer play a role in deciding directly what is to happen i.e. British and Irish governments setting the agenda – such as the AIA. That said, it’s the way both governments would want it also.

    It could also be argued that over the period of time the Republic, as the European integration process drives deeper in Northern Ireland, it too will be affected exponentially and there may well be a chance for social attitudes to form in unison both north and south.

    The economy should remain strong in order for this to happen because when people have surplus capital to buy nice things then they tend to feel nice and this includes being nice to people. Even people whom they use to think not so nice things about.

    But it’s a democratic process that will create the provisions for whatever may come. At the moment if you’re keen to complete a united Ireland you would think Sinn Fein would be your best bet; but, as mentioned it will take a party that can form a broad political base and consequently reach out to the masses in Northern Ireland in order for any definitive constitutional change to happen successfully. So while Martina Anderson continues doing the outreach I wouldn’t think anything too definitive will take place.

    Anyway one world one race!

  • unionist

    The UUP certainly aren’t a spent force. They are more relevant to NI politics now, more than ever.

    Do not forget they have 55% of the NI budget in their two departments.

    Why did the DUP chose 4 small departments? Poor logic in my view.

    The fact is that the DUP have only done well largely because the UUP have shot themselves in the foot and this is largely because of the loose organisation of associations allowing such internal rifts. That has certainly been the cause of the UUP downfall, without doubt.

    However, the DUP are a party of self interest, they have negotiated very poorly and are guilty of hypocrisy and spin of the highest order. The UUP however, has simply not been in a fit state to capitalise on DUP failing’s and incompetence.

    It is my view the UUP need’s to start by fixing itself from within. Reforming it’s structures, overhauling it’s finances. For only once the party is healthy on the inside can it develop the policies in line with public opinion and more importantly, sell themselves to the public.

    The DUP supporters who write on here calling the UUP a spent force, irrelevant etc… that to me is arrogance of the highest order.

    I look forward to the public seeing the DUP for what they are.

  • John East Belfast

    IJP

    “I’m saying the argument about the Union is resolved”

    The argument about the Northern Ireland consent principle is now resolved but the arguments about the Union havent even started.

    Over the next 20 years or so I look forward to being part of that debate.

    It will cause considerable thought and discussion among all political minds in NI for the rest of my life time – just as it did in the 19th and 20th centuries as well.

    What I dont understand is how Alliance thinks it can sit that debate out ?
    Like how can you be a political party in NI in the early to mid 21st century in NI and say you dont have an opinion on the Union ?

    I think the Alliance Party did valuable work in standing against sectarianism and recognising that there were two communities in this part of the world that needed to share space.
    However the latter argument is won and sectarianism (institutionalised at least) is on the wane but Alliance is fighting the same battles even though things have changed. However the 200 + year dispute about the Union is still there.

    The Alliance Party are now confusing opposition to sectariansim with being neutral on the Union.

    Incidentally I had reason recently to be in the Liberal Club in Whitehall Place in London – palatial neo classical building – very nice. However there was a bust of Gladstone in the foyer and what struck me was the subscription on it which defined the difference between a Liberal and a Tory.
    Of all the things Gladstone said and did what a strange thing to do ?

    However it must be a Liberal/Alliance thing to define yourself in the context of not being what you perceive are the failings of your opponents.

    Very negative – which in my opinion summed up the Alliance Party’s last campaign – ie we are not tribal like the rest of those awful people – very smug, superior and based entirely on soundbites. However that is why Alliance and the Libdems will never be anything other than a minority.

    We should be asking what is the Alliance Party for ?

  • Les

    ” very smug, superior and based entirely on soundbites.”

    John, that sounds like most of the attitudes on a very right-wing unionist blog I’ve visited lately 😉

  • IJP

    That’s exactly my point, George!

    It really isn’t complicated.

    a) if there’s a Protestant majority, the Union is safe;
    b) if there’s a Catholic majority, the Union is unsafe; and
    c) the UUP is a Protestant party.

    An all-Protestant (or, for that matter, an all-Catholic) party can have no say over the future of the Union. Unless we move to cross-community party-politics, the issue is resolved – it will be determined completely by sectarian head count.

    So remind me again, what’s the UUP for???

    Unionists can deny reality if they like – in the meantime they’ll have to excuse me for not taking lessons on being “smug and superior” from supporters of a bunch of electoral cheats with long-standing direct links to terrorists.

  • IJP

    The Alliance Party is a Liberal party promoting integration of public services such as housing, education and leisure, removal of physical barriers to sharing, and providing a clear alternative to politics based on sectarian carve-up and sectarian head-count.

    Again, I await clarification not only of what the UUP for, but what all-Protestant Unionist parties can do about “the Union”.

  • pia lugum

    The main trouble with the UUP is that all of the people who caused its demise and brought it to near oblivion are still running the show.
    They would save themselves a lot of bother and the country a lot of money if they just switched off the lights in Cunningham – sorry – Trimble House and went quietly home – as they will do in the end.
    PS I am only sorry that the good name of Cunningham is still being besmirched by being associated with that long-despised shower.

  • unionist

    pia lugum – what a load of rubbish you speak.

    Switch off the lights and go ‘quietly’ home. It is that sort of chat which enrages me. How arrogant can you be.

    Nobody is going home….

    What is going to happen is a re-build from the ground up. We need the centre parties to come back and dominate once again. This SF/DUP carve up is not good for NI.

    The UUP will be back. It may take a while, but it will happen.

  • darth rumsfeld

    yes but how???

    So you’ve got health with all the headaches attached ( ask Mary Harney whether she’d take it again) and another ministry I can’t even remember. Do a good job in health and you’ll be met with no electoral gratitude, since you’re presumed to have a moral duty to sort it out. Do a bad job, and you’ll have striking nurses picketing Gimp towers. Constant begging letters to Punt will only produce a response that benefits him. Neither ministry will reboot the party.

    All the really big projects will be doled out from DUP/SF ministers with a cynical populist touch. To rebuild from the ground up means the ability to get results and to reward ambitious new bloods with jobs. Please tell me where you envisage this happening.

    The party looks and sounds tired, and the more it protests that it’s fighting fit the more it appears like Tottenham Hotspur- big once, but never going to win the premiership, and dragged down by comparisons with past glories

  • unionist

    Department of Employment and Learning is the other ministry.

    That is the one responsible for all the higher education establishments that tend to be full of young people.

    That is the department responsible for matching these same young people with jobs in the economy and reversing the ‘brain drain’. With an £800m budget and a staff of over 2000 people, it is worth remembering.

    Of course health brings with in great risk, but the rewards are great too. The importance and sheer size of the department keep the UUP central to the political landscape and ensure’s a high profile.

    I believe the people of NI would be grateful to the UUP for improving health for it has been neglected here for so long. It is obvious the DUP and SF did not take it as they are scared of negative headlines.

    As for the party looking and sounding tired, I couldn’t disagree more. Look back to the March election campaign..Who produced the best, most forward looking and most critically aclaimed manifesto? Who came out with a positive message which tried to take NI away from the sectarian politics of the past?

    It seems to me, people simply weren’t ready for ‘normal’ politics. Instead they voted for what they know and with the DUP bullying the electorate into voting for them (‘vote for the DUP or SF will win and you’ll have Martin and Gerry travelling the world on behalf of Northern Ireland’) the outcome was unsurprising.

    The UUP went for the positive forward message, while the DUP went for their usual fear tactics and spin.

    As for the UUP protesting it’s fighting fitness…Again totally wrong. Have a read of Sir Reg’s speech to the AGM. Seem’s to me the UUP are facing the hard truth about their internal ‘fitness’.

    One thing that does worry me is that under the DUP watch, as we all know, the rules changed such that the First Minister was chosen from the largest party, that in every election the DUP is going to use these same fear tactics to force people to vote for it.

    What was that about party self interest?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Unionist

    “It seems to me, people simply weren’t ready for ‘normal’ politics.”

    While this statement is undoubtedly accurate, it still points to one of the problems with the UUP – when a political party starts blaming the electorate for not voting for it, then that party probably still isn’t in the right frame of mind to turn the corner.

  • pia lugum

    unionist

    “Nobody is going home….”

    You must think we are all very naive all of a sudden. Nearly everybody of importance in the UUP was sent home. Willy Ross was chucked out of his first UUP executive meeting after losing the East Londonderry seat, by the UUP chairman (Cooper). After his 27 years solid service at Westminster, this was the arrogant gratitude of Trimble’s UUP.

    The UUP got rid of Donaldson when they should have been listening to their best grass-roots spokesman.

    Junkin, their former vice-president and one of their best vote-catchers in Mid-Ulster was dumped and replaced by two of the poorest of mute politicians that Mid-Ulster has ever seen. The Mid-Ulster UUP constituency is now reduced from the previous 130+ delegates in 2002 to 14 in 2007. What a staggering success story!

    Silvia Hermon is clearly not at home in the UUP (apart from being very lonely at Westminster), and Trimble himself has also bolted through the first hole in the hedge to the Conservatives.

    The UUP is clearly going for good – but no doubt a resucitation exercise will keep its current small crop of MLAs in soft jobs until they dwindle away or retire. Other than that it is difficult to create a genuine purpose for such a dedicated bunch of losers.

  • Butterknife

    If the UUP is so dead why does the DUP consistantly talk about it? Is it to deflect their voters from the fact that the DUP while still thinking it has a fair deal has in fact implemented The GFA of old.
    In fact Paisley said on Nolan or another show that he had to accept power-sharing for there were undemocratic forces at work at Westminster. I always thought Plan B was a fair deal but it seems Plan A was the plan all along. Even if unionists wanted to intergrate more fully with GB we will find it difficult given the self proclaimed leader of unionism’s comments!

  • Peter Brown

    The UUP is dead – only those who still love it despite its many flaws are unwilling to turn off the Life Support Machine. To be talked about in terms of how great it used to be Butterknife is merely an indication how far it has fallen (Btw to cross over from another thread have you any idea where several UUP doctorates come from? And everything has recently become clear about peerages too but no adverse comment on those?). You like me attended many of these AGMs over the years where the UUP acknowledged a few of it many flaws, resolved to do something about them and then failed to put this into practice – one of these missed opportunities will soon be its last!

  • Snaz

    A lot said. A lot to be done.

    Watch this space!!!!!

    Real Unionism (not Little Ulsterisms) will be back.

    And so will the Ulster Unionist Party.

    With more quality female candidates than the DUP
    With more members than the DUP (maybe already does)
    With more money than the DUP working for the whole community as opposed to being asset rich and cash poor.
    Promoting the Union as opposed to Little Ulster.
    Working in Partnership with Nationalism for the benefit of Northern Ireland not a secterian carve up of the jobs.
    With clear lines of communication (Internally and with our people)
    Promoting one person per job so people get real representation.
    Attracting the best in Northern Ireland secular Unionist talent.

  • Peter Brown

    Snaz
    The UUP has talked about doing most or all of those things for decades among many other things – what makes you think this time it will actually deliver what it promises. I spent 10 years waiting for the UUP to deliver on any of its promises, realised I was wating my time and left.

    Is Mark Harbinson your or anyone elses idea of “the best in Northern Ireland secular Unionist talent” although at least he has a political thought unlike many recent UUP recruits! Why will the UUP now select the many possible woman candidates it has rejected in the past? How will it overtake the DUP membership when membership outside a few core constituencies is collapsing? How can a party on the fringes of government work for everyone with more money than the DUP when the Party is almost financialy as well as morally and politically bankrupt? Do Minis and fish and chips promote the union? Didn’t the UUP create the sectarian carve up you appear to be critising? Clear lines of communication appear to once again be the political and letter pages of the Newsletter – something all those now washing the dirty linen in public were very critical of 10 years ago! And there will shortly be only one job and everyone in the Party can then fight for it!

    I suggest your ask your colleague Brian to prescribe you a large dose of reality!

  • Ginfizz

    Snaz

    More members? Possibly. More activsts? Not by a long, long way!

    You see Snaz, loving it up at garden parties laid on by aristocratic supporters does not a serious political party make.

  • Snaz

    Peter Brown,
    The Party is a long, long way from “bankrupt” I wish I was a million behind it and I run a large multi million pound business. A lot of complete rubbish has been written and I cant blame you for regurgitating it but the Party is asset rich and cash poor which is certainly a position of ultimate strength. We need those assets to assist our Constituencies on the ground rather than improving our balance sheet. Like has been said in the original comment by Alex Kane, No Sacred Cows!!

    A lot of your other points are well made and represent the challenge for those of us who still believe in a secular Union promoted with skill and passion by Candidates that reflect the society they seek to represent.

    Enough of my waffle, talking the talk is easy, doing something about it is the challenge. I do not believe it to be insurmountable. Watch this space or better still get involved again.

    Ginnfiz,
    Fair point.

    Activists are motivated by a winning team and success breeds success. My Leeds United Supporters Club used to take 100s every weekend when we were in the Premiership, now its half that and next season in league one ???. Northern Ireland were getting 6,000 at Windsor only a few years ago now we could take 6,000 away.

    Create the vision with the people capable of delivering it and if you have a just cause and a political need it can be turned round.

    In the eyes of our people we have become a tired brand, inward looking at those Nasty Governments and DUP for taking the glory at our hard work.

    Get over it, get relevant and get on with it. Thats what we will do.

    However Rome was not built in a day.