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…

  • Joe Bloggs

    Unionism needs realignment. The TUV are now a one man band, the PUP seem to be gone, Alliance continue to hoover up UUP votes and yet there are still hundreds of thousands of Unionists who will never vote DUP.

    The UUP need Basil in as leader asap to allow him three years before the next election in NI. Only he can stop the flood of voters to Alliance. Any hardliners need to be controlled or expelled.

    This will leave a moderate, liberal Unionist party and the DUP to split the Unionist vote between them. Despite claims the DUP are now in the centre a quick scratch of the surface shows they still have the nasty, sectarian, homophobic, Christian fundamentalist cult-like opinions they’ve always had.

  • joeCanuck

    Mick,

    You’ve never openly stated your political position but I’ve always suspected that you leaned towards the UUP. If so, you must be awfully disappointed in Elliot.

  • Mark

    A very interesting post – do you think that if there was a smaller assembly – say of 72 members – the end of the UUP (and I suppose the SDLP to a lesser extent) might be hastened?

    I haven’t really looked into this but if the SF/DUP vote holds up will it prove even more difficult for the UUP to get elected?

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    If we all have one really top analogy in us, you’ve just played yours and should feel content it was a mighty fine one.

    I’m now humming the UUP song.

  • Mark McGregor

    Yeah Mick, Joe always suspected you leaned towards the UUP.

    Clearly never heard you sing the Broad Black Brimmer pissed after the Slugger Awards!

    😉

    (the above is not true)

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve another decent one for the SDLP, it’s the successful teams I am struggling with…

    Joe,

    Don’t give up the day job… 😉

    And here’s Ben Quinn’s response on Twitter, classic:

    “Seem to recall at that point Michael Caine says something like “hang on lads – I’ve got an idea.” Tom Elliott?”

  • As I recall, Charlie Croker’s “Hang on, lads; I’ve got a great idea”, should be to keep the bus engine running, burn off the fuel, which shifts the centre-of-gravity forwards, which … etc. etc.

    But then the UUP tank is already dry; and short of McClarty throwing his weight in (and the “take” elsewhere is not quite so definitively negative as Mick Fealty’s seems to be), it’s a matter of waiting for the far-less-successful remake.

    Still with Charlie Croker: “You wouldn’t hit a man with no trousers on, would you?”

  • Blowinginthewind

    The problem for the Ulster Unionists is not only that they’re leaching support at an increasing rate, they need a reason to exist, a vision that would encourage people to vote for them. Ideally they and the SDLP would merge into a business friendly, conservative with a small c type of party–a bit like Fine Gael. Can’t see that happening in the near future as the current party curls in on itself and its core vote. But with no vision and with the core vote getting older there doesn’t seem to be anything that can or will drag them back from falling over the cliff.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Is it true there was a sequel planned where the gold slid out the back of the bus only to be “rescued” by the mafia at the bottom of the cliff, with Caine and co. them plotting to steal it back…
    come to think of it we have passed that stage already… any suggestions for Italian Job Part III ?

  • Alf

    Mick,

    Well it’s nice to be back. Though I have absolutely no idea why I was censored for two weeks.

    I don’t see why people regard what Elliot had to say as being some sort of game changer. I regard him as not being the leader the UUP needs, as they need to carve out a position of moderacy, but I don’t think you will find many unionists who consider a howling republican mob as anything other than scum.

  • Blissett

    On a point of pedantry, I dont think any party got a ‘majority’ in any constituency 😉

  • wysemann

    Just a newbie here – what I can’t work out, who is providing the intellectual input to the UUP thinking? I mean, if they really feel their future lies in moving towards the ‘right’ (whatever that means in Ulster politics) they’ll end up with a very small rump.

  • “David McClarty is already out.”

    Will he remain out, Mick? The role of independent hasn’t much going for it.

    Just to repeat the quote from the Coleraine Times 19 Jan 2011:

    “It has been suggested that, with my moderate views, I should go Alliance like Harry Hamilton in Upper Bann.

    “But Alliance are luke warm on the union and I will be fighting as an Independent Unionist.”

    Tom Elliott wasn’t afraid to take on the SF hecklers, even if he did make a bit of a hames of it. Perhaps he now needs to take on the East Londonderry UUP Committee(?) who made a hames of the selection process, a hames that appears to have been rooted in a ‘family quarrel’.

    To widen the focus, IMO a further reduction in UUP and SDLP support will be bad for what passes as democracy here. I don’t see a cliff; I see a continuing slide towards more autocracy.

    To borrow from Laurence MacKenzie: “There are some sensitive souls in here. ..— they tell me I am being autocratic — I say — get used to It!”

    Is ‘getting used to it’ really a sensible option?

  • latcheeco

    MMG,
    You beat me to it. It’ll be like the chicken song for the rest of the night. Although Mr.Elliott might be more likely to be singing one of an Baird’s old favorites. To further crucify Mick’s metaphor (sorry couldn’t resist), if there’s a party remake, which UUPer is going to be Charlize Theron?

  • separatesix

    Joe Bloggs scratch under Sinn Fein’s surface the other day and what did we find, their supporters gleeing at victims of atrocities then when Tom Elliott rebuked them he was branded a “bigot”, was very insensitive of SF with the venue being Omagh.

  • separatesix

    Can’t understand McClarty having a problem with what Elliott said. Perhaps Mr McClarty should stay an independant.

  • separatesix

    Joe Bloggs wants the UUP to expell it’s hardliners, that makes no sense the UUP has always been a broad church, with a whole range of views. I’m no fan of the DUP now they’ve gone soft, but I don’t think it’s worth bothering rebuilding the UUP, it’s out of touch.

  • separatesix

    Joe Bloggs I’m a former DUP supporter and I’m not a fundalmentalist or homophobic perhaps those things come from the influence of protestant churches which pre-dates NI even existing.

  • separatesix

    I don’t know why Tom Elliott would even want the job off UUP leader if he’s not allowed to speak his mind, they’d be better off with some watered-down unionist waffler who walks around Sinn Fein on eggshells lest he or she upsets them. There’ll be a coup and Elliott will stand down and some moderate halfwit will replace him.

  • “The gold, well, that’s the fairly modest grail of coherence and functionality as a political party.”

    Well, the DUP and SF have plenty of gold but it’s fools’ gold; only a fool would imagine that the consolidation of this duopoly will lead to better governance and less corruption.

  • OneNI

    ‘some halfwit will replace him’
    Are you suggesting this would an improvement or worsening of the situation

  • Comrade Stalin

    Joe Bloggs I’m a former DUP supporter and I’m not a fundalmentalist or homophobic

    To paraphrase Ali G, “Waz you on ‘oliday ?”

    I don’t know why Tom Elliott would even want the job off UUP leader if he’s not allowed to speak his mind, they’d be better off with some watered-down unionist waffler who walks around Sinn Fein on eggshells lest he or she upsets them.

    It’s not just Sinn Fein who have problems with Elliott’s comments. He is a party leader and used the base language of a thug. Several unionist politicians have been moving quickly to disassociate themselves from the remarks for that reason.

    And anyway, I don’t think anyone is “upset” as such. The comments came as no shock or surprise to me, as I know full well that the UUP are not a moderate party and Tom did express his views in the sectarian and partisan terms that not all, but many people in that party use in private. And it is clear that Tom was not provoked; he decided to introduce provocation with his “foreign flag” comments which as far as I can see were completely unnecessary.

  • separatesix

    OneNI I hope you’re not suggesting Elliott is a halfwit.

  • Gopher

    I think the UUP need the most ostentatious display of decision imaginable. Elliott and that Castlereagh farce tonight dont stand up to any scruntiny from a party with pretentions of government. I think they need a cabal to take the party by the scruff tell it how it will be from now on rather than waiting on the genuises who brought them to this disaster to come up with the next cunning plan.

  • Skinner

    Comrade Stalin:

    “Tom did express his views in the sectarian and partisan terms”

    How do you work that work out? Clumsy and too colloquial a choice of words yes, but it is not sectarian to insult Sinn Fein, despite what the mopers would have you believe. This sort of post confirms my view that people really are blowing the comment out of proportion.

  • carl marks

    separatesix
    Joe Bloggs scratch under Sinn Fein’s surface the other day and what did we find, their supporters gleeing at victims of atrocities then when Tom Elliott rebuked them he was branded a “bigot”, was very insensitive of SF with the venue being Omagh.

    im sorry i must be slow today why was it insensitive of sf because it was omagh, if memory serves the omagh atrocity and constable Kerrs murder were commited by groups not aligned with sf perhaps we all look alike to you (im not a shinner by the way) what gleeing at victims are you talking about having watched the scumgate clip again i see tom was being allowed to speak without being heckled until he decided that bringing flags up was the way to go, I seen another clip of tom waving a union flag by your logic this would be offensive to victims of loyalist actions as this flag is waved by all the pro british terrorist groups

  • Mr Crumlin

    No-one else seems to have said it:

    “This is the self preservation society!!”