David Cameron has ruled out any pact between the CUs and the DUP at new next Westminster elections.
(From the News Letter) Asked whether his party would stand aside in any Ulster constituency, he said: “None. Out. None. Absolutely none whatsover.
“We’re a United Kingdom party. I don’t stand aside in Glasgow because it might help the Liberals. I don’t stand aside in East London because it might help the Greens.
“This is a UK party and I want everyone in Northern Ireland to have the chance to vote for what I hope will be the next Government of our country.”
This position is logical from an intellectual level; it is reasonable for Cameron to try to present the CUs as distinct from other unionist parties. However, it is interesting that Cameron has made this announcement rather than it being announced jointly. Reg Empey is apparently joining in by denouncing the DUP for hypocrisy over F/ST and South Belfast. Unfortunately at the time of writing the link is not working so we do not actually know his position on this (probably just bad luck with the links but the UUP website’s malfunction could give a subliminal message). Update: link now fixed. It remains unclear if this decision by the UUP has been taken spontaneously or been foisted on them by Cameron.
In the long term Cameron’s project may be beneficial to unionism. However, in the short term it may play fairly poorly on the doorsteps especially in F/ST where there is a high chance that this decision by Cameron will ensure the continued non representation at Westminster of this constituency. Alternatively he may just have signed the death warrant of the F/ST unionist association: there is little doubt that the DUP will mercilessly remind people of this decision come the next Westminster election.
Mr Cameron has insisted he will not abandon the “bold vision” if the European and General elections go badly for the new UUP-Tory alliance. That may well be true and I suspect that the CUs have to accept taking some initial damage in order to make their new project look realistic. The danger is that they could suffer badly in the initial phases of the project and it is possible that they could suffer so much damage as to reach a tipping point from which recovery would be nigh on impossible. In addition I am unconvinced that all or most UUP members really want the radical changes which the Cameron side of the New Force seems likely to demand.
I probably should not make space analogies but leave them to Pete Baker. However, is it possible that the UUP could reach an Event Horizon before they recover and vanish forever into the Black Hole of failed NI political parties? Unlikely but possible?