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

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