I cannot think of another political party that would spend the money and effort on a candidate in one election, only to dump them in the next. And Paula Bradshaw could be forgiven for wondering whether Reg Empey meant it when he promised the Ulster Unionist party would prioritise bringing women into the Assembly party.
To be fair to Sir Reg he is no longer leader. And by all accounts he will shortly be giving up his ministerial post. But his great ambition for bringing new faces just two years ago now lies in tatters.
Last night the South Belfast Ulster Unionist Association unceremoniously dumped their impressive Westminster candidate Paula Bradshaw into fourth place, making it unlikely her name will be one of the three to go forward to party headquarters to be put on the candidates list.
It means that Michael McGimpsey will have a free run for the only seat the party is likely to get in next year’s Assembly elections. Bradshaw was the only other candidate with sufficient exposure and traction with the voters of south Belfast to make it past the winning post.
She’s not the only Westminster candidate to be dumped by the party. Harry Hamilton has been dumped, ostensibly in favour of Harold McCusker’s son, Colin. And with a recount pending in East Londonderry, the odds may be turning against Lesley Macaulay in favour of the incumbent, David McClarty.
It creates the impression of a party now in full flight from the future, resiling to the names and faces they (and we) have known for several generations. Accordingly it is likely to remain what it has been for some time now: a dwindling and aging gentlemen only club. Until death (or the Alliance party) do it part.