Bright young things of Ucunf are now unpersons

Although I know little about them personally, I feel sorry for the former Ucunf couple Ian Parsley and Paula Bradshaw. Ian is more widely known than his political record as an Alliance and now an NI  Conservative would suggest. Theirs seems to be the only successful bit of the partnership left. I noticed him as a minor star at last year’s Conservative party conference with Sir Reg.

Paula as UU candidate in south Belfast was the victim of an Alliance surge by Anna Lo. Ian was predictably wiped out by Sylvia Hermon’s personal vote and DUP abstention in  north Down but not so badly as to make him an automatic reject for another tilt at the Assembly – were it not for the fact that he carries the taint of party switcher and modernity about him. You could say they’re both being punished for failure. But if that rule was applied consistently the UUs would be annihilated already. And are the NI Cons about to declare themelves dead?

From their profiles, Paula and Ian are just the sort of youngish people the Unionists ought to embrace. Perhaps it was Ian’s mistake that the NI Conservatives sought to reform the Unionist party from outside and appeared as opportunists to many of the old guard who went along with Ucunf only for the money. Or is  that too harsh?

How ironic that it was a standard bearer from Ian’s old party Alliance that made it to Westminster first. (Events, dear boy!)

With Ucunf, they had been groping towards a clever idea both recalling the glory days of unionism a century ago and forming a strategy for today to outflank the DUP and strengthen the Union at the same time. Their perception is correct, that Northern Ireland is not a part of the Union that matters almost as much as the constitutional link. It is not represented in the main parties who alternate the government, as Daphne Trimble likes to remind us. Here was a way of achieving it – if not yet, then on another day perhaps, when the idea and the relationship had matured.

The trouble was that Ucunf always seem like a quick raid of  a reverse takeover by a tiny bunch of tyros who had few roots in the ageing plant of UU party. For the Conservatives, the wheeze suited Owen Paterson ticking the empty Northern Ireland compartment of the box marked ” the Conservatives, “party of the Union,” even if it was the longest of long shots.

Novelty, speed, outsiders… daring to pose as the saviours of the Unionist party… all of these doomed the Ucunf kids from the start.  And “RC” here and there didn’t help, whatever Reg’s protestations .  Now I fear, the couple are being punished for their temerity. Ian now sounds rejected but right, the fate of so many other saviours of  Ulster. (Remember the younger Bob McCartney, Frank Millar, Peter McLachlan, Robin Bailie… . I could go on … )

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    An herbaceous young chap called Ian,
    became a garden centre UCUNF has-been,
    for a seat he hid hunt,
    the silly young cunf,
    perhaps Parsley will now become Green

  • Brian’s warm words about the UUP / Tory alliance must be set against his accusations of Reg Empey in move to shaft Catholic candidates. a few months ago. These were claims which Walker made on the basis of supposed sources which were specifically denied by the supposedly “shafted” candidates. Indeed Mick ended up having to give Reg Empey a public right of reply to Walker’s untruths. Then interestingly Walker replied to the reply but strangely that blog entry is no longer accessible. The only people to my knowledge who can remove blog entries are Mick and the blogger themselves: I will leave you all to work out who is the more likely to have removed Walker’s blog.

    For Walker to now laud the two CU tie up is gross hypocrisy and indeed I am sure that Ian Parsley will not mind me relating that he was utterly disgusted by Walker’s previous lies.

  • Sorry typo and horror of horrors a split infinitive. The last paragraph should read

    For Walker now to laud the CU tie up is gross hypocrisy and indeed I am sure that Ian Parsley will not mind me relating that he was utterly disgusted by Walker’s previous lies.

  • John East Belfast

    There is something not right about slagging your party off on your blog

  • Comrade Stalin

    You really need to get over this Walker obsession you have. It clouds your judgment.

  • JEB,
    I would agree and I think it is a mistake. However, I do feel a bit sorry for both; Ian Parsley whom I have corresponded with seems a pleasant bloke. Bradshaw seems to have reasons to be very disappointed about the selection meeting for MLAs. It may be that she has suffered from McGimpsey’s supporters trying to avoid a high profile UUP candidate other than him being on the ballot paper. It is worth remembering that McGimpsey only got about 3,000 first preference votes at the last assembly election. A strong alternative UUP candidate might have seen him beaten.

    On the Paula Bradshaw issue a case might be makable for Tom Elliott to ensure Bradshaw is on the ballot paper. She might be a bit of a unicorn tamer but it would probably be worth giving her another chance. She did, however, somewhat blot her copy book by writing to the News Letter in the immediate aftermath of Elliott’s election.

    I suppose I feel a bit sorry for both Parsley and Bradshaw: they both clearly had an interest in politics and in being elected representatives and now a combination of maybe poor choices and some bad luck may see both frustrated at least in the short to medium term. I guess that is the way it is: politics is a pretty brutal business.

  • Comrade,
    I am flattered that you regard me as having any judgement to cloud.


  • Comrade Stalin

    Actually I think it is probably appropriate to go public about a grievance on some occasions, but only when the normal party mechanisms aren’t functioning as they should. This matter reads to me a bit like a last-ditch effort by Parsley to get the Conservatives to make a decision about matters over here. Doesn’t bode well though – Parsley can’t campaign as a one man band.

  • John East Belfast


    It is a brutal business and the electorate dont give a damn about your past sacrifices – I always admire anyone who stands for public office.

    However if there is any fundamental mistake they make it is to believe your own publicity and also to think you have some divine right to be elected – you cant take anything for granted and you always need to be prepared.

  • Alan Maskey

    I think split infinities make a lot of sense. Not splitting them is artifial.

  • Granni Trixie

    As one who has been around the block long enough and done much that I now regret along the way, at a human level I took have sympathy for IJP whose professional world appears to have gone pearshaped.

    But looking at it objectively, can we not also say that despite appearances, this is not because he has been treated badly or made mistakes so much as exercised extremely bad judgement and lack of integrity.

  • Alan Maskey
    Yes you are correct. I can only quote the book I hold in third highest regard after The Bible (Authorised version obviously) and then the Westminster Confession of Faith: Fowler’s Modern English Usage. I will quote the relevant passage on the split infinitive:

    “The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish. Those who neither know nor care are the vast majority, and are happy folk, to be envied…”

    I try to reach the giddy heights of (5) but I fear am more likely to be in (3) or worst of all (2).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    What goes round comes round.
    He is a very unconvincing martyr.

  • Mark McGregor

    Strange. I was doing a blog on much the same thing and it turned out so different.

  • Mark McGregor

    I have to admit, as a political idealogue, seeing the car-crash of a careerist like Parlsey was a small encouragement to my shrinking belief that the bad guys don’t always win.

    May many more like him sink into oblivion.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Harsh…..but I agree 100%

  • Alias

    Parlsey was a generation ahead of his time, so give it another generation and all your hacks will be the pacified middle-of-the-road types that will progress the engineering of the Northern Irish nation that forms the basis of your shared future.

  • Anon

    I like Ian but his judgement has been woeful over the last year or so. He has learned to his personal cost what we all knew: you simply cannot trust the Tories. Recent blog posts on his website concerning the way the Tories in Scotland are treated by Cameron show exactly what sort of treatment would have been meted out to any UCUNF candidate who happened to be elected. The question of hype is important too: they actually believed the piffle about UUP bums round the cabinet table: an absurd proposition that any student of history could have told them was never going to happen.

    As for Paula: what the McGimpsey cabal in SB did to her was brutal, but she can’t have been so ignorant that she didn’t see it coming. I suspect she calculated that all she had to do was get in to the top 3 out of 4, get her name to HQ and hey presto, a slot on the Assembly ticket. McGimpsey would also have been making the same calculation, hence she came fourth and now her name doesn’t go to HQ.

    Ian has left himself high-and-dry, whilst Paula was cut off at the knees. Sad in a way, but also a salutory lesson on the danger of believing your own hype.

  • Belfastconfetti

    Where next – Alliance? Greens? Fianna Fail? The world’s their oyster.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Sometimes politicians can be too clever by half.
    Michael Portillo as Leader of the Conservatives.
    David Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party.
    And when it goes wrong, its hard to resist a smile.

    For Pasley just 18 months ago, he was the great hope of the Alliance Party. His Euro result certainly enough to mark him out as a likely MLA in future and seeming to have enough political nous to climb to the top of that party.
    While principled or opportunistic he jumped ship to the unwieldy UCFPU (arrange them into a former political party) as it was being talked up as the next best thing.
    The 21st century version of Conservatives and Unionists. A new non-sectarian day dawns and with much publicised division and scandal in DUP …….journalists who really should have known better talked the “new party” up.
    Now Parsley is Norn Irons only Tory.
    He could have been a contender….maybe he will be yet. But he seems like no Winston Churchill or Richard M Nixon who will make a comeback in years to come.
    Hes just a bit too careless with the feelings of party colleagues and voters.
    Its possible of course that he might actually pick up a seat in North Down. I doubt it. Damaged goods who will need to lie low before the voters have “forgotten” him. Three parties in two years seems too many.
    But if he does actually make it to Stormont….maybe picking up another defecting UUP person along the way, he has no real political future.

    “To lose one parent Mr Worthing may be regarded as a lose both looks like carelessness” (Oscar Wilde)

  • Granni Trixie


    Your narrative of what happend is spot on,except that you leave out (as far as I know) that IJP initially left to take up a job with Ian Duncan Smiths research org (named Institute of socil policy or something?). Although prior to IJP being a Conservative candidate, the ‘opportunities’ seem to have been connected. With hindsight they were also each short term opportunities.

    A wee aside, “I could have been a contender…” (said a la On the Waterfront) is a wee in-joke in my house.

  • bob wilson

    Political obituaries been written too quickly here.
    I suspect Ian will run for the Conservatives in North Down and should be in with a good chance of winning

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    yes Ive acknowledged that……but actually getting elected as a Tory in Norn Iron IS a political obituary.

  • Anon


    Yeah because “the Tories did really well in 1992, blah, blah, blah…..”

    Flip me, obituaries may have been written early too often but nowhere near as often as talk of a Tory break-through in North Down…

  • Rory Carr

    I find myself in the unusual, yet not unpleasant, position of being in agreement with both Mark McGregor and Alan Maskey on the fate of these two sweet young failures – middle class wannabes with a sense of entitlement but no discernible programme.

    So they don’t geddabe what they wannabe, so who cares already? Apart from their mummies that is.

  • Rory Carr

    Apologies. That should be Fitzjameshorse and not Alan Maskey that I found agreement with.

    I should perhaps add that I found Alias’s prediction that it is the Parsleys and Bradshaws who in the near future will inherit the political earth as we know it to be troublingly worrying.

    “Beware the anodyne!” as my mother once warned me, they are more dangerous and more unscrupulous than anyone supposes. How right you were, mammy, just look at all those sleazy LibDems today.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Not surprisingly I agree with Rory Carr for agreeing with me. The headline “Bright Young Things are now Unpersons” is of course hyperbole.
    As events have shown these “bright” young people are not actually very bright at all. And in fairness to them they were hyped by journalists…over-anxious to find a way of making Unionism respectable……and worse making Conservatism respectable.
    But worse the headline invites us to have a degree of sympathy for these bright young things. They are not the loss to the political landscape that they or their cheerleaders imagined.

  • Rory Carr

    Do stop it, Fitzy. If we keep being so agreeable to each other people will begin to talk. And I am already spoken for.

  • cynic47

    Ho Ho Ho Bob!

    When Lady Hermon endorses two candidates for the Assembly all the predictions will go out the window.

  • cynic47

    Mr Parsley has too much to say and actually thinks that people hang on his every word. The reality is that he has written his own political obituary in many ways. There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak. He still has to learn which one to put in gear and when.

    Had he just sat where he was in the APNI he would be in a strong position now. Just like the defector from the DUP who could now be a North Antrim DUP MLA if she had sat tight. Opportunisim sometimes works and sometimes not. When it backfires there is no way back. You roll the dice and take your chance!! It is so easy to become yesterdays man and woman.

    Failed opportunists get little sympathy from their colleagues or the public.

  • Big Bad Bob

    It does seem odd that the same people who accuse Parsley of thinking people hang on his every word are the ones who, well, hang on his every word…

    I think Granni Trixie has it right. You can hardly accuse him of being careerist when he actually left a more stable job. A political misjudgement it may have been, but I can’t help but feel everyone here is missing the point of Brian’s blog. Isn’t the whole point thaT Parsley’s decision was obviously influenced by Bradshaw? Was it really feasible for them
    to remain senior players in separate parties?