Jim Allister is as pleased as punch… his latest Press Release is headed Unhappy Valentine, was trumped only by Danny Kennedy’s Valentine’s Day Massacre. Indeed, Kennedy and his party have some reason to crow since they were written off by many observers as not having a pup’s chance in this one. The summer re-organisation, and sheer hard work locally, tipped them into the lead. On the other hand, Allister’s statement may cihll the blood of some in the DUP since he’s clearly after their base.
“My message to the very many DUP activists, councillors and others, and some Ulster Unionists, whom I know to be unhappy about what has been done in their name, is to urgently reassess their position and ponder whether by their presence and acquiescence they are not propping up the very thing which concerns them. Its time to draw courage from this result and follow your conscience.
“I note some DUP spokesman have promised to listen to the people though the leader has thoughts only of defeating the messenger however, its not only the personalities at the top which need changed, but the policies of unrepentant terrorists in government and partnering a Party with a military wing and an Army Council.”
It may also afford some second thoughts to those voices within the party that presume local councillors are unimportant. The DUP seems to have been underprepared for this fight: the debacle at Banbridge Council in the middle of the council campaign was apparently completely unforeseen by party headquarters.
Clearly the spirited and well focused on the ground campaigning of the TUV gave this fight a frisson it might not otherwise have had. Indeed one party election agent was heard to say earlier today he had never seen transfers shift in so many different directions at once.
But Councillors are the bedrock of any party’s political support. They are what keep a party close to its base. Underinvest and you run the risk of serious disconnection. It so happens that Paul from www.councillor.info is visiting a whole range of local councils this week, and getting a very positive response.
In the flurry ofhard work and committment to the new Stormont institutions, perhaps its time for a radical return to roots, and begin to take local councils and councillors more seriously in future?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty