Conservatives and/or Unionists?

logo for Conservatives and Unionists - UCUNFSaturday’s Ulster Unionist Party Executive meeting will make important decisions about the party’s continued relationship with the Conservative party.

The Council meeting should be the opportunity for Sir Reg to bring some clarity to his leadership. Will he stay or will he go? The Newsletter and Belfast Telegraph both say he will go. But I’ll not be holding my breath as the UUP often seems to favour indecision and delay!

Will the UUP members steel themselves and cut loose from their 18 month old relationship with David Cameron and in order to either jump into the DUP’s unionist unity bed or else undergo a makeover and rebrand as the all new soft cuddly unionist party that doesn’t like to say no? While firmly at the front of many members’ minds, the wobbly relationship may not be on the formal agenda for Saturday’s meeting.

Visiting NI during his last minute dash around the UK on Tuesday 4 May, David Cameron promised

If I become Prime Minister, I’ll be back in a week.

I do half wonder whether he’ll keep his promise by turning up on Saturday at the council meeting?

There are big questions too for the NI Conservatives. Their own Area Council meeting is due on Saturday 22 May, with the Area AGM held soon after. (Should add that Weavers Court HQ weren’t forthcoming with the date for either the council meeting or the AGM.) And before that, the executive and constituency chairs will be meeting tomorrow to review the election.

Area chairman Tim Lewis has now held the position for 12 months, but his tenure may be coming to an end. In a recent email to local Torys, he comments:

Many thanks to Irwin Armstrong and Ian Parsley and all of you who worked so hard on the doorsteps to achieve a positive outcome. There is still a strong basis for a positive future and you have all made a major contribution to achieving long term success.

There is a clear commitment from the Executive to an open and frank process of consultation in order to learn from our experiences to date and to make plans for the way forward as soon as possible.

As I write, the sands are moving beneath our feet and already media speculation driven by elements of other parties is stoking the bonfire: be assured that this is a time for clear heads and steadiness under fire- there are no plans by the Executive to engage in any discussions on so called Unionist Unity by the Party in Northern Ireland unless it transpires to be the wish of our Party locally. I will certainly not canvass for it.

Though that last paragraph was later amended from “there are no plans by the Executive to engage in any discussions on so called Unionist Unity” to say “there are no short term plans to engage in any discussions on so called Unionist Unity“.

The remaining Conservative NI members may be reluctant to engage in direct political activity. Will many Conservatives be persuaded – or even volunteer – to stand as councillors at next year’s local government elections? Or will the party become a token presence for a few years while they recharge their batteries in the wilderness? Update – Ian Parsley is quite upbeat about the Conservatives on his blog though is “not hopeful about the direction the UUP will now take“.

A far cry from the 1992 General Election when Laurence Kennedy polled 14,371 votes (32% share) and came a very credible second in North Down.

Referring to the UUP/Tory linkup, Jeff Peel suggests:

The whole Conservative Project has been set back 20 years because of this folly. I suspect that most Conservatives will choose to take time before getting actively involved again.

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