Waiting for Reg to make up his mind on the big push…

We’ve been picking up a fair amount of frustration in and around the UCU – NF, that new force that seems reluctant to speak its name. Chekov gave pretty gentle vent to some of the frustrations being felt inside the party at Reg Empey’s reluctance to actually make a decision. So far the Tories have committed money and are building capacity at the Central Office end, with the addition of heavy weight Jonathan Cainer to Owen Paterson’s NI team. But as we head towards the end of the year whilst the Tories have long since chosen their candidates, neither the party leader nor the Minister for Health have made it clear where they stand on their own possible candidature in East and South Belfast respectively.There is a lot of residual annoyance amongst some parts of the UUP not so much with the London end of the party with what they see as a presumption of seniority by some of the Northern Ireland based Tories. And, as Chekov points out, there are still some who are still thinking they may hold out for an electoral deal in south Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone; regardless of Cameron’s promise to run in all 18 constituencies.

The feeling is not exactly reciprocated, but there is a growing sense of frustration amongst the Tories that they have lined up their ducks in a row and are ready to go. Yet they can’t until Reg makes up his mind of course.

There also seems to be a difference of opinion within the party about just how much the Tories have contributed to the collective pot in relation to how much the Ulster Unionists have managed from their recent downsizing of assets. There are some who claim that nearly 2/3 comes from London to 1/3 from Belfast; a claim it has to be said which is strenuously denied by senior party officials.

Here’s the problem. The game of politics as played in Northern Ireland is different from the varity played in Britain. In Britain Ashcroft’s money has gone as much into backend research on who the swing voters in any given constituency as in the front line material. In Northern Ireland the long term effects of PR have fragmented the parties, and then you have to factor in the sectarian divide. Here, that kind of research effort is of limited provenance. What counts is getting the candidate known and getting them as far into the party friendly spaces as they can for an election date which is rapidly approaching.

And they go in a man (their only man, well woman) down. To come out this in any shape at all, they have to even the score or preferably go up one. Strangford and South Antrim offer them that possibility. Even a narrow defeat in one would be an asset going forward.

But as the waiting goes on the party is losing vital time on the ground getting their candidates valuable face time with voters. Worrying about East and South Belfast, which at best (under Cameron’s terms at least) are only secondary targets, is to lose sight of the real game.

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  • disintersted observer

    Surely Reg and McGimp would have to resign their Ministerial positions to be at all credible?
    You can’t run on a ticket of being anti double jobbing while being a Minister and an MLA, a Cllr and (in Reg’s case) a Party Leader?

  • even more disinterrested observer

    Reg and decision doesn’t usually feature one sentence – as far back as the UUP Donaldson’s days Reg was the fence sitter writ large.

    So nothng new there – the UUP has begun its resurgence it may not be spectacular but with decent leadership it could make a real go of it!

    But like decision – leadership and Reg doesn’t usually feature inthe same sentence

  • DR

    I think a little bit of voter research would be of enormous benefit here if they are serious about breaking out of the sectarian headcount game, find out what issues are big enough to sway at least some Catholics to vote UCUNF while not alienating their core supporters, we dont even get opinion polls here! ( Mick how could we get a campaign for Gallup Mori etc to do polls here?)

  • alan56

    Time really is running out for UCUNF to get agreed candidates in place. I think everyone knows there is bound to be some ‘blood’ on the floor but the thought scares Reg.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    With PoshBoyDC having already got one Cast Iron U turn* under his belt over Europe it is reasonable for the some in the UUP to await another on the fielding of candidates in every consituency.

    So Wee Reggie has to just sit on his hands whilst taking a buffeting from all sides. He is also sitting on his hands waiting to see what the DUP are up to over the transfer of police and I suppose it is a forlorn hope that a party still smarting from it’s Lundification by the DUP will have anything other than revenge on its mind when they are deciding their political strategy.

    *Will PoshBoyDC become the first PM to break a promise even before he got into office? This guy seems to have got real class.

  • I was in the company of Reg, Sean Farren and Tom Parlon seven years ago when the previous Executive collapsed. Reg didn’t didn’t strike me then or sense as leadership material.

  • andrew white

    the only seat the UUP have a real shot at is keeping north down, that can only be down with Sylvia and it is widely known that hte Conservatives want their new boy, IJP, to be the one who runs

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    next time you see him ask him what he spent his time doing when he was in Vanguard? Did he actually man the barricades or did he have a desk job?

  • Greenflag

    ‘but the thought scares Reg.’

    I see this ‘image ‘ of Reggie standing on the 5th floor ledge of a burning building from which he can see a tornado or tsunami a few miles off heading directly in his path . As he looks directly below he sees a circle of Ucunfers and Tory HQ types each holding on to the rim of the safety blanket that will stop him from committing reggiecide . Now if they would only hold still for just a moment but alas one minute the Ucunfers pull the blanket one way and then it’s pulled the other way and then there’s the fur coat brigade urging him to ffs jump now . But the concrete pavement looks distinctly unwelcoming should he jemp the wrong way or worse should the lads below tug a little too much one way or the other before he hits the blanket .

    A good man Reggie – too good for NI politics methinks but there you are . As I prepare to depart to worship the God – Sol -on the annual pre winter visitation I leave this doggerell as a reminder of the perils of indecision. It’s oft the case that a bad decision taken decisively does less damage than an excellent decision made to jump on the horse’s back after the horse has bolted so to speak 😉

    Humpty Empey
    Sat on a fence
    Which way to jump
    None make any sense
    Now all the Kings horses
    And Tory headquarters
    Are waiting for slaughter
    As electoral consequence
    Of UCUNF diffidence

  • Sammy, did Vanguard ever get near the barricades? I’ve just read the Bill Craig wiki entry and I see wild-eyed bluster from platforms.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I thought they helped organise the Ulster Workers strike and in terms of bluster they threatened that if the Englezes fecked off they would fight for Ulster i.e. kill all the Catholics they could get their hands on.

    Wonder what Wee Reggie’s role was ? He could cut quite a figure in combat trousers and matching beret.

  • Bernadette Devlin is the only politico who comes to mind when it came to ‘manning’ the barricades, Sammy.

  • “getting their candidates valuable face time with voters.”

    That seems to be quite a long standing trait in the UUP, Mick. The party also seems to keep a low profile when it comes to operating constituency offices.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Itwas SmellyMcNasty,

    Maybe you should ask another party leader whether he personally left a bomb at La Mon or just ordered others to do so? Or maybe ask if he personally murdered Jean McConville or just ordered her murdered?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    It’s Caine, not Cainer, and he’s a heavyweight solely in the literal sense. Given that Jonathan’s gifts to Ulster boil down to, being more Turtlish than the Turtle at his worst (remind me, how did that work out for the UUP?), and, SPADing during what was possibly the NIO’s feeblest moment, colour me unconvinced about what he’s going to do for UCUNF via Woodentop.

    Pace the slabber about Vanguard: all they were were a bunch of idle fantasists who made stuff up, spouted inordinate amounts of p*ss, and had far too much time on their idle, unemployable hands. Who on earth could possibly be interested in them after all this time? Ah, I see . . .

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Intestinal Disorder,

    But the boy Grizzly has been asked repeatedly surely it is only fair to ask Wee Reggie as well?

  • Two points that jumped out at me:

    First off, the Tories have a much easier task in selecting candidates because the exercise is largely one of fantasy politics. Half of the selected Tory candidates won’t actually stand for UCUNF, and very few of those who do have any chance of winning. And the Tories have no significant party infrastructure with vested interests to be satisfied.

    By contrast the UUP are the oldest party on the island, which held more than half NI’s parliamentary seats before 2001. It is reasonable that they should take a bit longer over candidate selection, because historically there has been more at stake. (In reality of course the stakes are lower because as with the Tories half of the selected UUP candidates won’t actually stand for UCUNF, and very few of those who do have any chance of winning.) It is possible that the UUP are dragging their feet for other reasons too but one should not discount sheer historical inertia.

    Mick, I am really astonished to read your comment that “that kind of research effort is of limited provenance” (I guess you meant “utility”). It’s a long time ago now but when I was involved with NI politics, “that kind of research” was the meat and drink of election campaigns, not only for my own party but for all the others who took canvassing seriously (which did not, for instance, include the UUP in North Down in 1995 or the SDLP in many many other places). I find myself wondering a) who has been spinning you this nonsense and b) if they believe it themselves?????

  • granni trixie

    Nicholas! so good to hear from you. Sorry, but from my perspective, you and a few other anoraks had a touching belief in “that kind of research” – it never did it for me. What really influences the voter really is a moot point.

  • harry

    The UUP need to get to terms with this deal with the Tories. There is no point backing out of the alliance now. Many voters would ask “What was the point of saying how you want N Irish unionists to be able to form next govt of UK if you then decide to severe ties with Tories”

    I beleive Empey just needs to say that the alliance is staying and if those who can not support it leave then so be it. At the moment, there is growing agitation within the UUP about this alliance and the Tories are getting fed up too.

    I want to see a new type of unionism in Northern Ireland – a unionism which appeals to both Protestants but also to the important minority of Catholic unionists. For N Ireland to remain part of the UK in the long-term, unionism needs to reach out to Catholics – relying simply on Protestants won’t work since the Catholic population is growing. And as a young unionist, I do beleive that unionism appeals to Catholics then we may well see a united Ireland in my life time which I do not want and I’m not even a Protestant! The Tories “unionism” is the kind of unionism we need, and the sooner the mainstream unionist parties realise that, the better the state of unionism in N Ireland will be.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Most Unionists believe the Tory party have consistently betrayed them (and they have a point) and even the DUP as the largest party are effectively stating (as per the other thread on the DUP) that – you cant trust the British (Tory or Labour) government with the union – because they will betray further them by allowing Ireland an even greater say in their affairs.

  • grtanni trixie

    Harry: yes, the unionist party has backed themselves into a corner,making a major mistake – they will be tied to the policies of the conservatives at the expense of being locally relevant.

    They have also demonstrated to the electorate that they are incompetant and undemocratic – not to have worked out with their own members where they stood on the deal is incompetant and it is undemocratic in not allowing their members to participate in such a major decision.

  • Elvis parker

    I suspect the UUP’s annoyance at the NI Tories ‘presumption of seniority’ is mirrored by the Tories annoyance at UUP misinformation about the financial set up and the UUP trying to suggest that their deal is with the London leadership not the local Tories.
    Both sides need to grow up. The Ulster Tories need to recognise the experience of the UUP and the UUP need to realise that if it was not for the local Tories they would not have this exciting opportunity to re-invent themselves.
    For God’s sake get on with it campaign for pan UK unionism, national politics – and against double jobbing hypocritical Paisleyite bigots
    There is more that unites you than divides you

  • Mason Powell

    As a natural Tory who won’t be voting UCUNF in the forthcoming election(s) I have a few thoughts on the current situation of Reg & Co.

    First, while one or two seats in the forthcoming General Election is a possibility (depending on Unionist voting splits) the most likely outcome is no UCUNF seats.

    Second, the only way to square the circle on the Cameron pledge and the talk of agreed candidates is for a Conservative no-hoper to be (technically)on the ballot paper in F & ST, with “agreed” mainstream Unionist candidates in both F & ST and South Belfast. Has any thought been given to this?

    Third (and Reg and co. really must grasp this nettle) they must realise that many Unionists in South Belfast would rather gouge out their own eyes with a rusty knife than vote for Michael McGimpsey. (It was the Belfast Telegraph which described McGimp as “a politician of limited electoral appeal” and the results of the last election demonstrated that well).

    Fourth…actually there is no fourth. Spending too long thinking about Reg & Co makes me begin to lose the will to live….

  • What if

    Rumblings from both tory and UUP quarters are starting to make it look like the alliance will not even make it to the elections, if they do split will Cameron have the resources to stand 18 conservative candidates in NI?

  • laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Elvis, it’s time to get back on Shergar: the ‘local Tories’, far from being responsible for the Tory leadership linking up with the UUP, were in fact the people most cehemently opposed to it. Indeed, much to their chagrin, Slugger serves as a fabulously entertaining monument to their hatred of the ‘sectarian’ UUP. But as for dear ould Slabbery, never mind how much Unionists can trust anyone with the Union, I think even their dimmest supporter (bar your good self of course) can see just how much you can trust Sinn Five with the Republic. Here’s a hint: it’s the Union McMurderous draws his pulic salary from. Funny that. Though not, I admit, as funny as you: keep dem plastic stylings coming!

  • furstrated deomcrat


    I used to think you knew very little about the Conservatives, now I know for definite.

    It just proves the old saying:- “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”