A shot administered directly to the foot, or some subtle form of sabotage?

Defections are never easy. Sinn Fein get stick every time for asking for their seat back every time they get hit by one, but it is a double blow to party colleagues. You lose the asset and your opponents gain what you lose. In the case of Christy Burke, there was at least a sense that his Dublin seat was his more than the party’s… With Louise Minihan – who was co-opted, elected and then defected in pretty short order – the opposite was the case. Ian’s rise in Alliance was partly due to his own obvious talent but also due to his exposure in a European election when he was given huge support by a party with barely the means to run a six county wide campaign.

It was a ruthless swipe on the part of the Tories, and one filled with a degree of strategic menace.Forget for a moment that Ian Parsley is still just a councillor, his departure has robbed the Alliance of a strong bet for a second Assembly seat. The Green party’s Stephen Agnew, also ran a good European campaign and managed to stack votes in critical wards in Bangor and Holywood that suggest he would be competitive in the next Assembly elections. At the very least the defection has put paid to that second seat. The party will be hard pushed to find another likely candidate.

The Alliance vote is a key Tory target in their efforts to carve a new centre right out of the ruins of Northern Ireland’s traditional politics of sectarian carve up… Where better to start than with the posher areas of greater Belfast? Copy that onto South Antrim and at least the Banbridge end of Upper Bann and you have the bones of a coherent, and executable Tory strategy emerging.

I say Tory, because that strategy doesn’t fit with some of the recent utterances from the Ulster Unionists. During the summer, David McNarry allowed his legitimate anger at not being able to view the finals’ day of the World Athletics Championship to seamlessly transpose itself into a conspiracy theory about the BBC having a united Ireland agenda. ‘That’, as those martial penguins in the animated film Madigascar say, ‘won’t fly’ with the Tories’ ideal of post sectarian politics.

The UUP have the numbers, but the Tories have demonstrated the kind of pulling power the Ulster Unionists have lacked for some years now to draw talent into the partnership (and that’s even before Ashcroft’s marginal millions hit town).

One question out of all of this remains. Who alerted the press in the first place?

There has been some tough horse trading going on inside the two parties for some time over exactly who will appear on the final candidate’s lists for Westminster. Raised voices, Slugger hears, but in firmly locked rooms. And much muttering over ‘leaked emails’.

It remains to be seen whether this was a shot administered directly to the foot, or some subtle form of sabotage.

As for Parsley, and defectors generally: well whatever their fate across the water, in Northern Ireland the UUP’s last high profile defectors, Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene Foster haven’t done so badly… IJP’s fate is in his own hands from here on out…


  • North Down Alliance Voter

    The suggestion of Parsleys defection means that alliance will not win the 2nd seat in North Down is nonsence.. the fact is that Allaiance is well established in North Down and has been a major party on the council for the past 30 years. There are a number of councillors more recognised in the constituency than Parsley. In fact Parsley polled 343 votes and finished 200 votes behind the Green candidate John Barry and was elected only on the transfers from the DUP.
    There are other long established councillors such as the present Mayor Tony Hill and Anne Wilson who have much higher profiles in North Down than Parsley. In fact Anne Wilson could benefit from the fact that her husband the present Green Party MLA, Brian Wilson will not be standing at the next Assembly election.
    While Parsleys defection is disappointing it will not effect the alliance vote in this constituency.

  • frustrated democrat


    What does Alliance offer the voter that the Conservatives can’t?

    What do the Conservatives offer the voter that the Alliance Party can’t?

    When you answer those two questions you will see how irrelevant the Alliance party has become.

  • YelloSmurf


    1)No links to the UUP, the party that, in recent weeks, has brought us a conspiracy in the BBC and a justice ministry whcih MUST be lead by a unionist. A genuine committment to a shared future backed up by action since 1970. Also, for me, Alliance offers links to the centre left, socially conscious Liberal Democrats, rather than the Conservatives, who I, as a Lib Dem, could never bring myself to vote for.

    2)The Tories are still the crazy party of the right in the UK. They may smile and they may have had thier hair cut, but very little has changed, fundementally, from the last Tory government. In fact, I would go further and say that at least the Tories had firm policies before. Now it is all fluff and spin of the kind that New Labour has employed over the last 15-20 years. That, honestly, is what I beleive the Tories offer voters.

    Alliance is still relivent, Alliance is still the party for those who genuinely want to move NI society forward to the shared future that everyone claims to want, and beyond the shared future.

  • Mick,

    The ruins of our sectarian politics?

    Do you know something we don’t?

  • Coll Ciotach

    I agree that sectarian politics are not finished or indeed approaching their demise however the political landscape is changing.

    FF is moving in and so are the tories. neither want to be weighed down by sectarianism and both are parties of national and international influence.

    The days of provincialism are over.

    So is the provincial mindset.

    As for shared future. That is a none starter. It is a euphemism for partionism and is an anaethema to nationalists. the only shared future nationalists are really interested in is the future shared in a Ireland as an undivided political unit. as else is a sham.

  • Coll Ciotach,

    I’m tempted to ask if your contribution is a clever exercise in satire, but I suspect that it isn’t. You proclaim against sectarianism in one breath, and then denounce strategies to build a shared future with the next.

    The shared future I’m interested in is the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. Building that will provide an independent and united Ireland.

  • DerTer

    This is the fourth thread initiated by you in one day on the same broad topic area. I’m sorry you didn’t see fit to respond to my previous query about this (entered under the second thread: “Weir wants to know if Parsley will replace Hermon?”) Is there a Slugger policy on this matter?

  • jone

    The email that Parsley inadvertently sent also had corporate shill Shelia Davidson down as a potential candidate.

    The Tory bit of UCUNF fancy her for South Antrim which would explain her involvement with the hysterical NIMBY anti-incinerator stuff in that neck of the woods.

    Where do they want Tim Lewis to stand?