Post election, the Ulster Unionist position is like…

…the very last scene of The Italian Job. The party bus is on the cliff, the gold is down one end and the gang the other. One of them creeps too far towards the gold, and they risk falling off the cliff. Any of them make for the door and, the bus goes off the cliff.

What’s the cliff? Well you get a hint when you look at UTV’s map of 1st preference majorities. A reflection of the damage wrought through not having any MPs in Westminster, the Ulster Unionists don’t have a majority of 1st preferences anywhere.

But it is also the fact that too many of that party’s wins came at the bottom end of the count. That means that seats like David McNarry’s will be gone next time round if the pattern continues. The buffer they had going into this election has been squandered. Losses in the council elections may further compound that.

The gold, well, that’s the fairly modest grail of coherence and functionality as a political party. It would be hard to describe Tom Elliott’s much discussed attack on Sinn Fein yesterday as a move. Rather it was more of a sudden and unthoughtful lunge. After being so lucky to get so many MLAs home, he has managed to shift the internal balance in the party closer to the drop.

And the door beckons. David McClarty is already out. Others may be calculating their options. Alliance, or DUP? Or work out a second/third/fourth term and jump with an MLA’s pension for a parachute? Who knows. But Tom Elliott’s outburst was a classic case to snatching defeat from, if not a victory, a respectable opportunity from which to launch a new start.

This cliffhanger may go on for quite a number of episodes…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty