Twelfth Musings

Fair_deal has mentioned his twelfth below. I also had an excellent twelfth in Maghera marching with the accordion band, which I have not had much opportunity to do recently, since I have been working away from home. The twelfth is a good chance to meet and chat to friends you do not see that often. I took the opportunity to confess to several people from home that I was now a member (even if a lowly one) of the TUV. I also met for the first time ever in the flesh a fellow sluggerite. Unlike me he seemed quite a normal person blessed with social skills and the ability to speak without rambling pointlessly. Anyhow my discussion with normal people set me to thinking about unionist realignment.

One thing I did notice was the degree of sympathy which many UUP supporters and indeed members have for Jim Allister and the TUV. I suppose my part of South Londonderry might be somewhat atypical being quite hard line yet having been represented at Westminster by the UUP for many years, albeit in the form of the highly non liberal, Willie Ross. The extent to which UUP members and supporters would consider voting for (or giving a preference to) the TUV surprised me. I suppose many UUP types still harbour a degree of resentment that (as they see it) the DUP complained continuously about the Belfast Agreement and then accepted the (again as UUP supporters see it) barely changed St. Andrews Agreement. I suppose they feel that the TUV and Allister have not shifted their position and give them some respect for that.

Of course DUP supporters will claim that St. Andrews represents a considerable advance and will say that the idea of the TUV and UUP being friendly represents an unholy alliance of malcontents angry that they lack political power and bitter that they failed whereas the DUP succeeded. That may well have some elements of truth in it but I thought it interesting and surprising to see the lack of antagonism with which typical UUP supporters viewed the TUV. This probably does not explain much of TUV to UUP transfer seen at Dromore but it would be interesting to see how UUP first preferences would have transferred at Dromore.

This idea of attracting TUV support to the UUP may seem bizarre in “The Pale” around Belfast where the UUP face a challenge from Alliance but might have greater relevance in the rest of Northern Ireland. Such an analysis might help explain some of Reg Empey’s latest ideas about a UUP comeback and it is noteworthy that Sir Reg avoided any attacks on the TUV. His and other party leaders hard line on the devolution of P+J might also been seen at least partly in this context.

I have previously suggested that the “Crossing the T” strategy (with the UUP ending up to the right of the DUP) was extremely unlikely as a plan for the UUP but one would wonder, looking at recent UUP utterances whether or not such a strategy is being considered. Many traditional UUP and new TUV supporters might find such a concept incredible but it is worth remembering that the way in which the UUP rebuilt itself and eroded DUP support in the 1980s was by adopting Jim Molyneaux’s strategy of “out righting” Paisley.

I personally remain extremely doubtful that the UUP has the leaders capable of pulling off such a manoeuvre and I very much doubt that TUV members and its leader are about to embrace the UUP. Much more likely is Alex Kane’s assessment that the DUP are the ones more likely to be interested in realignment in order to offset potential further losses to the TUV but I thought it was an interesting way of looking at what the UUP are doing at the moment.