One centre right door slammed shut, but another familiar middle of the road yellow door opened and Paula Bradshaw stepped from the remnant of UCUNF across to the Alliance.
If you had an overactive imagination you might wonder whether having resigned from the UUP a couple of weeks ago, Paula was tidying around the house and stopped to read some of Ian Parsley’s old Alliance literature piled up in the corner of the room.
But perhaps the reality is that Paula’s re-engagement with political structures may demonstrate to other UUP wobblers that Alliance is a potential space for progressive pro-union politicians to occupy. I wonder whether there’ll now be a steady stream of migration in the lead up to the UUP conference in December and the Alliance one in January.
The Belfast Telegraph quotes Paula’s explanation of her shift.
I was hoping that project, with the Conservative link up and the move toward more mainstream, non-sectarian politics was one I could continue work on, but that route was cut off for me.
I thought it was a great idea (the Conservative link up) just poorly delivered, the (UUP) grassroots think it was the wrong decision and want to go back down a traditional route. That is not something I want.
Unsurprisingly, the UUP’s Danny Kinahan was under-impressed with her move.
Paula’s actions clearly indicate that she has personal ambitions to stand for election and to become a professional politician, regardless of party alignment … She was happy to stand for selection as an MLA under the leadership of Tom Elliott – indeed it could be said that her failure to be selected may have spurred her change in political direction. I feel her decision sadly smacks of sour grapes.
But on her blog, Paula dismissed “the distinctly Ulster Unionist notion that someone leaving a political party must be doing so ‘for a seat’, rather than on the grounds of the ideas and principles parties are putting forward”.
Politics must in the end be a battle not of personalities, but of ideas. It must be not about the positions we hold, but about the people we serve. It must be focused not on conspiracies, but on competence. I will leave Danny Kinahan and co to speak exclusively about the former. I myself wish to deal with the latter – and to spend my spare time working for a cause other than candidates simply wishing to retain office for the sake of retaining it. That is why I have made my move.
What was most notable today was the reaction to my move in the marginalised, overwhelmingly Protestant communities in which I work. It was universally positive. They see the “Unionist Party” as serving only narrow, principally well-off interests. They see Anna Lo, Naomi Long and others as representing the whole community – not just in terms of religion, but also in terms of class, family background and everything else.
Alliance have one Assembly seat in South Belfast (Anna Lo) and one councillor elected in the Balmoral ward. They secured approximately one quota in the 2010 Westminster and 2007 Assembly elections. So unless they’re very certain of pinching the UUP vote, there isn’t room for Paula to run alongside Anna Lo for the Assembly in May 2011.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.