UU’s response to Sylvia’s announcement…

Can’t help thinking Bobballs is on to something with the UUP’s response to Sylvia Hermon’s intention not to take the Tory whip…

Why did she get so spooked by the expenses story? Is there more to that story that’s yet to come out? What she did today just seems like, erm… (what’s a polite phrase for gaffe-ridden SNAFU worthy of Mr Magoo?)… er…. an asymmetric and disproportionate addendum to a fairly bland expenses story. She had kept her own counsel for many months, could it have hurt to wait another 3 ½ weeks?

He’s not best pleased though with the local party leadership’s response:

The UUP have not censured Sylvia/removed the whip etc. Nope, they’re treating it as part of a debate that’s being held by an open and democratic party. Do us all a favour. Either she is in or she is out – she says out. So why not deal with the situation as it is, instead of burying your head in the sand and pretending this isn’t getting ENORMOUSLY DAMAGING?

Danny has basically let it be known that the leadership will not act decisively against Sylvia. She now has leverage again. She will leave, but now it will be on her own terms. For the UUP, the moment to deal with Sylvia has passed and now she will remain a story throughout the rest of the Euro campaign and into the general election. Nobody is satisfied by this situation as it prevails. Apart from sulking and being disappointed, I’m confused as to how the UUP intends to handle this. (Cameron would certainly have removed the whip from her. Apart from discussions, cups of tea and custard creams – do the UUP intend to apply any sanction at all?)

This goes to the heart of the party’s weakness here. Some speculate that Reg Empey is simply too afraid to confront Sylvia, knowing that it is unlikely that he will ever sit in the Commons at Westminster. But the excruciating reason for not confronting her is that until now she was the party’s only MP.

Cameron can sack people, and even expel them from the party, not simply because he so many MP left in store, but he is also fairly confident that all the damage coming down the pipe is likely to be shipped by Labour. Reg does not have such luxury. The DUP has not even been mentioned in the Telegraph’s revelations, yet. But even if they were, the local project has none of the momentum that he has built up behind him in England.

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

  • AJJM

    If the UUP fail to expel Sylvia, it will show that they are weak, weak, weak.

    They are being too tentative over the Tory link-up – they should either be completely in or completely out.

  • Sylvia boo hoo..

    She kicked them in the balls cos she got left out of the renaming loop. Even though by her own admission they helped her through difficult times, if she’d do that to her friends what would she do to her enemies..??

    She is treacherous with that trait, she could never be trusted in the future, and making the most of her breavement, she ought to have stood down, or something.

    What she did was behave like a scorned woman, treat her like one and boot her out.

    There shold be no room for this sort of personality politics.

  • empire home

    thing is guys she technically hasnt done anything wrong yet, so far is can see, yeah when it come to selection time thats a different issue, but i think she still give Jim Nicholson her endorsement, ok rather luke warm,
    I think she slipped into making the statement in the emotion of the moment, not the most professional thing, but gets it in the open.
    As for the expenses, she probably was sitting back feeling secure in the knowledge there was no dirty laundry to air, and genuinely was shocked when that wasnt the case, the protestations were a bit OTT but think thats more personality than a put on.

  • Guppy

    Sylvia gets £90,000 a year for staff and they can’t even get a one item monthly expenses form right.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Thats a lot of smoke, but without any fire…

  • This is very bad timing for the UUP, and as is suggested above she was in no rush to declare her intentions right now, in the middle of an election campaign. Whether it was deliberate or not she seems to have forgotten that it is still her party contesting the election.

    Reg should have gambled by taking decisive action over Sylvia, reflecting the decisive leadership Cameron has shown this week over expenses. Why not throw her out of the party, right now and show he means business, instead of pussy-footing around?

  • Joe

    Last time I checked,

    Unionist ≠ Conservative.

    Does anything else really matter?

  • Mick, I think you should have posted Sylvia’s press release.

  • Brian Walker

    So perish all those who cross Sylvia?

    “Conservative MP Andrew MacKay has quit as parliamentary aide to David Cameron over what the party said was an “unacceptable” expenses claim.”
    I understand the irritation of the UU leadership but –

    Do you know the sequence? Sylvia deals with allowances first and Tory link after, or vice versa? If the former and she was asked about supporting the link she would feel honour bound to give a straight answer. She had held her peace for a long time.

    The truth is, Sylvia Hermon has consistently been sidelined and ignored by the party establishment for years. Some regarded her as a dangerous liberal. I put this down to a mixture of sexism, overconcentration on the Stormont scene and rotten political judgement in ignoring the UU MP with the highest public reputation who should have been cherished as a prime asset and who is as straight as a die. They must be mad.

  • Columbo

    I have to laugh at some of the UUP supporters here. They really don’t know what they deal with. A few points:

    1. For years through the earlier splits, Lady Hermon was built up as one of the shining lights of new and progressive politics. That has stuck. People are not going to see Lady Hermon as someone throwing a huff and stick with the UUP. You cannot now say she is a dinosaur because she can’t support the “progressive” UCUNF

    2. You have to accept there is some personal element to voting. Would the UUP have held off the DUP tidal wave in North Down if Lady Hermon hadn’t been the candidate last time round? N Down is not an automatic UCUNF win. A good comparison might be Strangford. Taylor hung on to it, but once the longstanding MP left, people felt freed up to vote elsewhere and voted for the continual runner up Iris Robinson who had also been about the constituency for a long time.

    3. Lady Hermon’s performance was excellent yesterday and I don’t even like her. She gave a very plausible explanation and noted that she had asked the fees office to check the figures which they didn’t. There is no scandal there which is why it was overshadowed by the UCUNF remarks. Coverage on the mainland is different because the whole issue has become a hot house over there. This was a couple of grand extra in rent for someone who as an NI MP reasonably requires accomodation. She is not making personal gain out of owning the property and presumably as its rental it is furnished. It may be hard to believe for an MP given the other headlines but maybe she really has honour and genuinely was embarassed and wanted to release this herself to admit she had discovered a mistake and corrected it rather than being thrown across the papers. If there was anything else to come out she knows she wouldn’t benefit from a partial disclosure.

    4. Don’t think there will be a leadership change after these elections unless it is forced. Unless Jim does really badly. European elections have always easily been written off by the UUP as not reflecting the real trend – Jim always comes in for the third seat on transfers and if he does so again there is no disaster to force Reg out.

    5. And finally, though this does raise big questions for the leadership and management skills of Sir Reg’s regime. As soon as the UCUNF deal was mooted never mind agreed, focus switched to what does Lady S make of it. Everyone always knew she could not live with it. When Sir Reg was asked he always said it was up to Lady Hermon to speak for herself, have her own views, and take time to consider her position. Now when she has done so, she is condemned for her view. They have learnt nothing from the Trimble days. Someone says something anti- the official line and they unleash the entire party machinery on them, and put a statement denouncing someone who is still a member on their website. Thats what highlights a split.

    All in all this is what Sir Reg gets for embarking on a strategy which from day one was likely to alienate his one and only MP. Other parties would aim to shore up their Westminster representation but in desperation to distinguish himeslf from the DUP Reg put himself on a collision course with Lady S.

    I wonder does Reg remember that when Trimble first stepped down, all the hype was about whether Lady Hermon would run. She then ruled herself out and all the speculation was about who she would back. That was thought to be McFarland who Reg beat but only just. That doesn’t make her sound like a minor figure who can be easily dismissed but maybe it is in Reg’s interests to have her out.

  • Cushy Glenn

    Er…think back to the year 2000. Union First (remember them?) poster boy Pudge Weir, parliamentary candidate for the UUP in North Down speaks out against the policies of the Trimble leadership. Does his constituency chairwoman, Sylvia Hermon IIRC, say ” these are difficult issues- the boy needs time to work through them, he’s got to be given his space”? Nope- a putsch is launched, and poor ould Pudge is turfed out. ULtser loses another Castlereagh/Canning/..er Sir Douglas Savory

    Fast forward to yesterday, and the most hysterical Trimblista de nos jours is similarly out of step with the leadership, yet expects to be indulged in her failure to follow policy. Somewhere in the Stormont tearoom, a small balding man is sniggering over his egg stained tie into hi fiftieth cup of coffee of the day…..

  • iluvni

    I wonder if the Labour Party would accept her into their ranks?

  • Cushy Glenn

    .. a very cynical friend, commenting on yesterday’s interviews by Violet Elizabeth Bott said

    “10 a.m. main news story :UUP MP in allowances overpayment shock!
    12.00 noon main news story: UUP MP in ‘I’m no Tory’ shock!”

    How twisted my friend is!

  • Guppy

    Blaming the Fees Office staff for not knowing you have stopped renting a flat you are claiming for is unfair. And then slagging off Tories for lesser sins is unworthy.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    I have to say I think Sylvia has been characteristically very straight up about the whole thing. I am a Tory supporter and on the mainland I vote for them. I was supportive of the whole UCUNF (apart from the ridiculous mess that is the name) idea and would like to have seen a closer UUP Tory link up. Now it seems to me the whole idea is in the crapper. I have been underwhelmed by the public reaction to the idea and I am beginning to very seriously doubt that it will do any electoral good in the EU poll and even less in the general election. The idea that the UUP will now sacrifice it’s one and only MP for the limited benefit of the link up seems to me to be daft. It would have been good if Sylvia would have been able to live with it and it could have been given a go but obviously that is not the case. Now it is a matter of the UUP making a straight choice. Either it can have the MP or the pact but not it seems both. Personally given the options and what I have seen of the UCUNF pact so far I would keep the MP and jettison the pact and I say that as someone who would like to see Cameron in No 10 next time out. I think that unfortunately the UUP will now have to make a hard choice.

    Personally I would have liked to see Sylvia take over the leadership after Trimble anyway and I made that clear at the time but I understood that with her family circumstances it was not possible for her to do it, she put family first and that sense of perspective and character is why she would have been such a good choice. I supported Alan and was disappointed by Reg winning. In the event I have been pleasantly surprised by how his leadership has gone and how well he has handled the reform of party structures. He has been a good solid steady pair of hands at a time when the UUP needed it. But at this point the big idea of the UCUNF pact is in ruins and I think his time is up. I seriously doubt that the European election will go well enough to prove that the pact is worth it. The extra money has been very useful but in and of itself it’s not enough to so powerfully change the identity of the UUP. In that case I would hope that Reg would take the opportunity to quietly exit stage left and allow the UUP the space to make a clear choice about its future. It would then be for someone to emerge to champion the pact and I would hope for Sylvia to do what she was unable to do a few years ago and put her case to the party. At that stage it can choose between a future of ever growing integration with the Conservatives and the costs and benefits that go with that or to say thanks for the dance but we will remain an independent force in our wee province and be happy with that. Personally I would like to see the UUP go back to an independent identity. Ulster may be as British as Finchley but it is not as English as Finchley and a party that has a core identity that is so powerfully English as the conservatives will never really understand the heartbeat of the Ulster people. I think that the UUP would do better to recognise the reality that Ulster is a wee place apart and get back to its core identity as a Northern Irish Unionist party. I still believe that there is space for more than one unionist grouping and that the DUP will struggle to integrate its intelligent design wing with the broader views of the (admittedly more conservative/religious) wider public and the UUP has space to make its own case. It is for the party to now make a choice about what it wants.

  • alan56

    Reg should learn a trick or two from Cameron in the last 48hrs. Even though he was dealt a tricky hand Cameron managed to look strong and decisive compared with Brown. Unless Reg does something soon…..he could be in real trouble. Remember no one person is bigger than a party and Lady Sylvia has ‘form’ in terms of being tetchy and not always a team player. Most people think of her as ‘nice’ and ‘intelligent’ but success in politics needs a lot more than that

  • Freeman Europa

    Perhaps Sylvia should be asked to confirm or deny comments made to a certain DUP representative at the opening of Conlig play park recently about her voting intentions in the Euro election.

  • Lidl Richard

    Just goes to show how backward Northern Ireland is. The Natural Party of Government in the Republic had a socialist as leader yet the former Natural Party of Government in NI cannot find room for one. For shame, for shame I tell you!

  • ABC

    Can I just say I’m going to have to go and lie down. DSD wrote a post, the content of which I agree with 100% *****SHUDDER*****

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    19.Can I just say I’m going to have to go and lie down. DSD wrote a post, the content of which I agree with 100% *****SHUDDER*****

    Well even a stopped clock is right twice a day…

  • ABC

    He he!

    Sorry Duncan.

  • Freddie


    “A good comparison might be Strangford. Taylor hung on to it, but once the longstanding MP left, people felt freed up to vote elsewhere and voted for the continual runner up Iris Robinson who had also been about the constituency for a long time.”

    Huh? Is there another Strangford somewhere else because that bears no relation to reality.

    Yes Taylor was shit and deserved to be beaten in 97 if not earlier but Iris Robinson had NOT been around the constituency “for a long time”. Not by any stretch.

    Jim Shannon was the main DUPPER in Strangford since the 1970s, as soon as it became clear that the seat was actually winnable, Iris was dispatched from Dundela to scoop the glory.

    Also the point “but once the longstanding MP left, people felt freed up to vote elsewhere” is also bollocks.

    Taylor was spooked by Robinson narrowly topping the poll in the 1998 assembly elections and by the time the next general election in 2001 came around he bottled it and David McNarry ran instead. I would suggest McNarry gave Iris a far tougher run for her money than Taylor would have.

  • Columbo


    We will have to agree to disagree. What I meant was that by the time of the 2001 elections, Strangford folk had voted for Iris in 3 elections (96,97,98). That is a long enough time for people to establish a pattern of voting for someone and see them as a realistic successor. Similarly North Down voters have had time enough to get into the habit of voting for Hermon.

    Your point about McNarry is bollocks. If he was so much better as a candidate than Taylor then how come Taylor got almost double McNarry’s vote when they both stood for the assembly in 2003 and when Taylor stood down for the 2007 elections, McNarry could only hold one seat for the UUP. Both times he failed to get elected first count.

  • Big Maggie

    I have to say I’m with Columbo and DSD on this one. Lady Hermon is one of the few Ulster politicians I have time for.

    She ought to be leading the UUP (I can’t bring myself to type UC*NF) instead of Reg Empey. There are too many old (male) farts in that party.

    “Ulster may be as British as Finchley”

    No it’s not. Never has been, never will be. There are far more Pakistanis in Finchley.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I would like Slugger viewers thoughts on the phrase “error of judgment”, and what it it really means to them- from either senior civil servants/ and or politicians..

    I know what it means to me:- is “we have possibly criminally fucked up. we’ve been caught but the the stupid peasants will accept our ambiguous apology…”

  • Reader

    DSD: At that stage it can choose between a future of ever growing integration with the Conservatives and the costs and benefits that go with that or to say thanks for the dance but we will remain an independent force in our wee province and be happy with that. Personally I would like to see the UUP go back to an independent identity.
    Even if that was a good idea, Hermon is not the right person to lead it. The natural UUP constituency is populist conservatism. She scarcely fits. And while Hermon looked liberal, she could attract liberal unionists like me in North Down. But Sylvia (90 day detention and ID cards) Hermon is badly tainted by new labour these days.
    She may well have a whopping great personal vote, but the only thing that would get *me* to vote for her outside the UCU would be a tactical vote to stop the DUP.

  • Elvis Parker

    DSD – I thought you were pro Union not a ‘little Ulster’ man. ‘Independent identity’ – total irrelevance!

    I agree with Reader on lack of Hermon’s suitability most in UUP know that she has lied about not being involved in the discussions with the Tories. Once formal talks began she was fully involved.

    Her talk of being ‘hauled’ into meetings with Tory ‘big hitters’ is also rubbish – they were organised around her

    UUP in North Down also horrified that she has revealed to her constituents how anto Conservative she is.

    The focus now is on who will be her replacement – as she cannot be the Conservative and Unionist candidate?

  • Silverline

    Why does no body ever focus on the MEP expenses what does that Turncoat Unionist Voice leader get what has he claimed for, what about that wally Nicholson for the New Force ot that Broom stick character from Sinn Fein, they cant be allowed of the hook?

  • “Turncoat Unionist Voice”

    Is this a phrase you’ve coined, Silverline? It doesn’t register on Google whereas DUPlicity brings up this.

  • Querulous

    Sylvia’s words were “I’m just not a Tory” and this will resonate hugely among the moderate non-Tory unionist voters who form the backbone of UUP support.

    Nicholson polled 17% last time round and Reg will need at least 18-20% to in any way justify the way in which he’s destroyed his party and given it away to the mostly English Tories who were only interested in pretending they’ve got support across the UK when they”ve hardly any support in Scotland or Wales…

    If Nicholson’s vote goes down expect a swift leadership challenge and the thousands of UUP grassroots members who were never asked their view on the Tory merger (which was all put through by the “delegated” Executive) will finally get to have their say.

    The UUP is not and for 40 years has not been an exclusive Tory party and soon that will be made quite clear and the grassroots will take their party back from the greedy upper class English Tories who think they’ve taken it over.

  • Querulous

    Besides, I’m sure a UUP led by Sylvia would make an equal place for it’s pro-Tory members, alongside its pro-Labour and all its other members.

    Unlike Sir Reg Empty who’s gone out of his way to alienate any UUP supporter who’s not a Tory and basically drive them out of the party just to suck up to the Tories…

  • SM


    Why would pro-Labour & pro-Conservative folk want to be in the same party? That seems a really weird idea.


    I agree Sylvia is seriously tainted by all her New Labouring, especially their erosion of civil liberties. Her ploy to change headlines from “Hermon fiddles expenses” to “Hermon slams UUP leadership” shows just how selfish she is and makes her claim to be all for the UUP look silly. Compounding that with claims of being “hauled” to meetings etc. when everyone familiar with the situation has clearly stated meetings were very much arranged around her it is quite clear she is very happy to spin and to screw her party to try and save her neck.

  • John 45

    ‘Keep up the Novenas, Paddy’. (On another topic)
    By Mike Fealty
    Perhaps I am missing something here, but why do Protestants think it is their God-given right to ridicule Catholic prayer practises, while Catholics know that it is counter-Scriptural to do exactly this?

  • Paddy Matthews

    Perhaps I am missing something here, but why do Protestants think it is their God-given right to ridicule Catholic prayer practises, while Catholics know that it is counter-Scriptural to do exactly this?

    AFAIK, the point is moot in Mick’s case.

  • John 45

    I tried to complain to the man so that he would avoid such ‘terminolgy’ in the future but I didn’t know what ‘string’ to put the criticism on. If it’s a brave new world, let’s avoid such n** bashing.

  • Big Maggie

    John 4:5,

    “Perhaps I am missing something here, but why do Protestants think it is their God-given right to ridicule Catholic prayer practises, while Catholics know that it is counter-Scriptural to do exactly this?”

    You are missing something. There’s nothing in Scripture about Catholics, let alone Catholic prayer practices.

  • John K Lund / Lllamedos / Suchard

    Lady Hermon for that is what she is, the widow of a Knight, there is no such person as Lady Sylvia Hermon, that styling and title is not for her. It is reserved for others who have earned the title themselves or given it as a courtesy title through inheritance.
    It would appear to many that money has been exappropriated for two months rent of a non existent flat, this some might say or think might well be a breach of the law. Whether it was paid back and when is merely mitigating the deed after the event. One must bear in mind in all these examples of expense abuse that the Criminal Law has precedence over other matters. Being a lawyer would make this matter worse as I am lead to believe that a good lawyer would have taught students that a claimant is responsible for signing documents and it is also a more serious offence to steal from or defraud ones employer,client,the British taxpayer or anyone else for that matter be it due to sheer wanton greed or adopting a slapdash,carefree irresponsible manner of signing documents.
    One could well further ask whether the landlord was paid the rent? One might well think not. Was the constituency management told of this problem? If not why not. When did this happen?
    If I was a theatrical critic I would say that we were treated to a performance reminiscent of Sarah Burnhardt playing The Dying Queen.This then developed into a total castigation of the Conservatives and Unionists the rendition of which is at total difference to the version I was told by several well informed people.
    I personally think that the time has come for Lady Hermon to be not considered as a Conservatives and Unionists Parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming General Election.She is simply not following the democratic wishes of the Ulster Unionist Party. She should also be suspended and be subjected to a disciplinary procedure as per that party’s rules.

  • Columbo

    John K Lund

    As someone who is not a Lady Hermon fan, I have to say that that your post reads as totally partisan sour grapes. I don’t beleive her rent claim is the corrupt illegal act you paint. But this is typical of the approach of UUP supporters. Regardless of whether someone is a significant figure in the party, their popularity, and their importance as the only MP, as soon as they show any disagreement with the party line, turn the full guns on them rather than trying to reach an accomodation. They did this with Donaldson et al on the right, now they do it with Hermon on the left. They claimed Donaldson couldnt hold his seat if he wasnt in the DUP and they claim the same about Hermon but everyone knows she has a got shot as an independent. Hermon and Sir Reg never saw eye to eye and there are some so stupid in the UUP that they would rather have a bunch of clones regardless of how small the party comes and thw fact that it means throwing the talent out.