While waiting for the working group

The UUP and Tories are keeping their new relationship in the news by drip feeding the results of their YouGov poll. In response to the new developments the DUP seems to be adopting a little bit of everything response. Today Edwin Poots challenged Sir Reg Empey about an attack on Orange Order and UUP MLA David McNarry placed on the local Conservatives website (now removed). Despite its removal it was defended by the local Conservative responsible for policy (pdf file) complaining about:

“the tribal swamp that masquerades as Ulster/Protestant Culture”

UUP MLA Tom Elliott issued a firm denial of any break in the relationship:

“the DUP was relentlessly trying to interfere in the UUP-Tory talks and would not be ditching its support and links with the Order.”

Previously Nelson McCausland asked about the impact on left-leaning UUP members and voters. Fred Cobain welcomed the moves in the interests of the Union but added the caveat that:

He has reserved judgement on what talks could mean for policy, until they are concluded.

Alastair Ross queried the UUP stance on academic selection. The local Conservatives undermined the ‘national politics’ narrative when they responded:

“Party policy for the rest of the UK has to reflect different situations in other regions. Unlike Northern Ireland most parts of GB do not have a selection based post-primary system. Therefore Party policy has to reflect different local circumstances.”

They have also shone a spotlight on the re-emergence of Lord Trimble, under whom’s leadership the electoral damage was done to the UUP. Also the issue of abortion could be brought into the mix if the NI amendment is accepted when Parliament meets again.

While the big idea may be attractive to both the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists, the detail of policy and organisational relationship will make for some tough decisions. Will the UUP opt for a wholesale alliance and the policy shifts that will involve or a looser relationship to allow for some key differences, which weakens the national politics narrative? Will the local Conservatives be willing to be silent to suit UUP needs? While these questions are being mulled the DUP is attempting to make hay and the Conservative and UUP public responses seem to be narrowing their options towards a looser relationship.

UPDATE Recently Peter Robinson has attacked Tory plans on the Union but left the door open for a deal in a hung parliament (H/T Oneill).