At least now, the UUP’s blinkers will probably come off

The last time a major Unionist party was lead by anyone from west of Portadown it was Harry West in in 1970’s. That was not a happy period of the UUP’s history. The sense of ‘otherness’ that exists amongst border Unionists is well known, researched and documented. It is not a fictional notion dreamed up to further an argument, it is fair to say they are a different sort of Unionist.

It is for that reason that the queston “does Tom Elliott get it?” is probably quite unfair.  Being from his background, he probably isn’t in a position to ‘get it’, just as Harry West wasn’t.

The ‘it’ referred to is of course what Ulster Unionist voters and potential voters believe and think where the vast majority of them live, that being Belfast and it’s environs. It may very well be a commonly held opinion amongst many Protestants that all IRA members and many Sinn Fein members are scum, but it is equally in the ethos and culture of Ulster Unionism that to express an opinion in that way is simply not acceptable, for a rainbow of reasons.  The fact that Elliott’s outburst has generated negative headlines nationally would suggest that this isn’t unique.

Put simply, after a shockingly bad election, Elliott has only succeeded in compounding the reason why the UUP campaign was so unsuccessful. Appealing to TUV voters is not a winning strategy for the UUP.  For that matter it isn’t even a winning strategy for the TUV itself. Asking voters to stop Peter and Martin performing a sequel to the Chuckle Brothers was never going to work because the Unionist electorate simply doesn’t care. They have moved on. Hanging yourself up on who will be First Minister, and declaring that you wont serve as McGuinness’s deputy First Minister is utterly irrelevant, because to a very real extent the Unionist electorate, or at least the bit of it the UUP should be appealing to, doesn’t care enough about it.  If 2010 taught the UUP nothing else, it should have taught it that the Unionist electorate vote for peace over notional principles others think they should hold.

One positive to come out of this election is that Tom Elliott can no longer ignore the growth of the Alliance Party.  In fairness UUP strategy over the past 5 or 6 years has continually done so, but Elliott has been particularly blinkered to this against an increasing tide of evidence. The successes at this election came for the UUP largely in the border areas. The vote was up in West Tyrone (where a seat was rather fortunately won from the DUP) and Newry & Armagh, steady in Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Mid Ulster, so Elliott’s leadership is gaining something. But the vote is down considerably in County Antrim and significantly in Belfast. Elliott’s leadership is hemorrhaging votes to the Alliance and DUP in almost equal measure in the UUP’s eastern heartlands.  Alarm bells should be ringing off the walls that the UUP has two of the 24 MLAs in Belfast City, and had to struggle for both of those.

Where else is the vote up? Strangford, South Down and Upper Bann. While the latter of those is somewhat puzzling given the circumstances, Mike Nesbitt and John McCallister as identifiable and well known liberal UUP flag-bearers have achieved what the party failed to do in the east – give people a positive reason to vote Ulster Unionist. Strong figures are hard to find just everywhere, but against a downward swing and trend, the UUP actually gained a seat in Strangford, in the end David McNarry picking up a gained seat even from incumbency.

Where else is it down? The disgraceful events leading to David McClarty’s resignation have left the UUP with exactly what it deserved in that Constituency.  My feeling is that McClarty will come back to the UUP, but that is dependent on many factors, not least an understanding that he is worth more than those who forced him out.

North Down is another matter.

I commented here that I didn’t get the McFarland thing, and as it happens I was right, he didn’t win a seat. But the UUP vote is down a staggering 13%, only half of which is accounted for by McFarland. The rest is divided between the DUP and Alliance.  But this for me is where the real mistakes of Elliott’s leadership have come. It was one thing to lose Alan McFarland and Sylvia Hermon over a deal with the Conservative Party.  Having done so it is quite another thing to then also lose the Tory link.  In fact it is downright daft. It leaves a position where the UUP in North Down is decimated for no reason whatsoever.

There are those within the party and without who argue that the only future for the UUP is some form of amalgamation with the DUP. The argument goes that Peter Robinson has moved the DUP onto the middle ground of Unionism, and leaves the UUP chasing ghosts, giving rise to the temptation to lurch to the right, and there lies the wilderness.  There is some merit in this, but it is ultimately a bad idea.  It is made at least partly impossible by institutional tribalism that is only to be expected amongst members of any political party.  There are those who have spent far too much time and effort fighting the DUP to simply shut up shop and throw their lot in with them.  But the question has to be asked, is ‘unionist unity’ (whatever that is) good for either Unionism or Northern Ireland?  I have always been skeptical about actual benefits accrued to Unionism in the 1950’s and 60’s when unity was a major focus of Unionist efforts, for reasons that still apply now.  How can one hegemonic entity provide adequate representation? How can taking the competition out of elections on the Unionist side be good for anyone?  For me rekindling, repairing and better forging the link with the Conservative Party is not seeking to push back the inevitable tide, and nor is it ignoring a better option for the UUP.  It is an active and positive alternative to a potential end for the UUP that would not be in the best interests of anyone.  It would provide the electorate with a good choice between parties, and allow for what is to some a true holy grail in Northern Ireland politics – a functioning opposition bench at Stormont.

I fear that the real lesson from this election will be entirely misconstrued by the UUP leadership.  Many will have been taken in by DUP and Sinn Fein electioneering and believe that the pasting is as a result of the disastrous tie to the Conservative Party.  This is of course nonsense.  The UUP took a beating because it was disorganized, wasteful and incoherent. It’s message was at best mixed and at worse entirely misdirected.  Compare that with the election results in 2009 and 2010, which while not exactly resounding successes at least provided the party with a disciplined narrative, a clear focus, and some confidence. What worked about it is what worked about the SDLP campaign in 2005, it was a nice, simple message that appealed to core voters with the potential for expansion.  It is exactly the kind of campaign that has the potential to appeal to those voters in Belfast and the surrounding areas that are leaving the party in droves for the Alliance Party.  Yet Tom Elliott chose to trash it, and now it is dead for so long as he remains leader, particularly after his remarks in Omagh.

That decision to go it alone after the donkey work had been done to tie up with the national party of government for me is the key strategic mistake of the past year under Tom Elliott. That for me is where the UUP’s thoughts must return to if there is to be any long term recovery from this election, and why ultimately, Tom Elliott cannot continue for very much longer.

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  • dwatch

    Michael, couldn’t agree more with your post. Reading the newspapers and listening to radio reports no one has yet asked Tom Elliott would he call the PUP “scum”? After all the UVF which they are still connected to, murdered many Protestant & Catholic citizens during the 1969 1998 troubles.

  • Michael,

    The successes at this election came for the UUP largely in the border areas. The vote was up in West Tyrone (where a seat was rather fortunately won from the DUP) and Newry & Armagh, steady in Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Mid Ulster, so Elliott’s leadership is gaining something.

    I really think you’ve lost the battle East of the Bann to both Alliance and the DUP but I’m interested to hear your opinion as to how the rural element of the UUP electorate would react to a re-ignition of the Conservative link?

  • OneNI

    ONeill – Ross Hussey stood for UCUNF and publicly defended the Con-Lib Govt in the media during the Assembly elections – he was elected and West tyrone was one of the few places the UUP vote went up.
    Frankly I think UUP voters (those that remain) regardless of where they live just want some sane leadership!

  • Michael, Unionism and Nationalism here are broad political churches; they embrace conservatives, socialists, liberals and others.

    As an outsider to UUP machinations but an observer I was surprised that the party developed a link with the Conservative Party; such a link greatly diminished the size of the pool the party was fishing in for votes. The LibDems have formed an even closer bond – and have paid a much larger price when the political heat was on.

    The link also demonstrated a degree of naivety about the Conservative commitment to NI’s continuing membership of the UK. Have they learned nothing from Margaret Thatcher’s decision to exclude Unionists of all hues at the time of the formulation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Mary Robinson resigned from the Irish Labour Party because of it but she was something of a lone voice.

    The UUP Chuckle Brothers 2 billboard looked like an invitation to vote for the sequel. The SDLP went for positive but contradictory messages – 100% Agreement, 100% United Ireland – but these would have given their voters and potential voters a feel good factor.

    Having sort of chosen to fish in a smaller pond the UUP compounded the problem by being, as you say, ‘disorganized, wasteful and incoherent’. Does this indicate a major problem within UUP HQ?

    Candidate recognition is very important yet, because of the Conservative link, there was no UUP candidate in North Antrim in the 2010 Westminster election.

    Extensive constituency office support appears to be rewarded by the electorate. Perhaps the UUP have lessons to learn in North Antrim much as the SDLP do in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

  • OneNI

    ‘Unionism and Nationalism here are broad political churches; they embrace conservatives, socialists, liberals and others’

    Historically true but given 45% of the population didnt vote it is much less true than it was.

    The question unionists, such as those in the UUP must ask themselves, is whether given that it is increasingly obvious that the UUP cannot survive in its present form would a merger with the Conservatives provide a way of re-inventing themselves

  • OneNI, the Conservative Party recorded 0.5% in the 2007 Assembly election.

  • Munsterview

    Michael : good article yet there is a missing dimension; namely the ‘class issue’. I suspect that the ‘scum’ attitude would also apply in certain UUP circles from what used to be referred to as the ‘fur coat Unionism’ to working class DUP supporters and cultural ethos.

    You have also touched on another aspect that jar in the body politic, those UUP who would never accept the DUP for a multiplicity of reasons and not all class issues either, just like their counterparts in the SDLP who run in parallel lines in regard to Sinn Fein.

    We must never loose sight of the fact that the political structures that the Northern Parties are shoehorned into are but the latest in yet another artificial attempt to make an artificial state work. For the present and immediate future both the UUP and the SDLP or parties catering for this specific constituency are necessary if yet another large block of voters are to remain enfranchised.

    Given the already low voter turnout, if significant sections of both of these parties now voting, decide to sit out an election, then we could have an Assembly elected by such low numbers that the authority derived from legitimate electoral representation would simply not be there.

    As to Toms reported remarks drawing a parallel between himself and Enda Kenny some years back…. well as readers of slugger will know I am no fan of FG or Enda but Jezzees Enda did not deserve that comparison !

  • OneNI

    Indeed Nevin – which actually makes the UUP result look even worse

    The UUP vote is down 1.7%. However in addition the Conservatives polled 0.5% in the last Assembly elections and were specifically asked not to stand this time. Apparently it was suggested it would cost the UUP two seats!
    So the vote the UUP was after was actually down 2.2% – from an already dreadful base.
    In North Down the UUP vote is down a massive 16.1% on the combined UUP and Conservative vote at the previous Assembly elections.
    One wonders whether if the UUP had maintained the Conservative link and Ian Parsley (who polled 20.4% against Lady Hermon) run alongside Cree would two seats have been held?

    On the same basis – even with a good candidate such as Mike Nesbitt the UUP vote is only up 1% on the combined UUP and Conservative vote.
    In South Down John McCallister’s vote is up 0.2% on the combined UUP and Conservative vote.

    The UUP need to re-invent themselves to start appealing to the 45% of non voters as much as the 55% who currently vote. If this means merger and the creation of a new Party with the Conservatives so be it.
    Many in the police swallowed hard when the RUC transformed to PSNI. It was painful but for the better

  • George

    What did David Cameron say at the launch of UCUNF?

    ”I will have failed if we cannot attract Catholics.”

    Two years ago during the European election campaign, the venerable Mr Elliot seemed on board:

    Things will not drastically change in a short time period, but given time and progress within Northern Ireland, we will be working to convince voters from a Roman Catholic background that their interests are best served within the United Kingdom rather than an all-Ireland set up.

    Now in 2011, he has progressed to stating in public that the majority of the Catholic voters in FST are scum.

    Of course he has to go but the damage is done and more importantly, shows that the UUP still don’t “get it”.

    There has to be an understanding of and respect for the Irish minority if any reaching out process to that community is to be successful.

    This means finding a way to embrace the culture, symbols and beliefs of that Irish minority group, not to deride them.

    I don’t believe the UUP are capable of delivering on such a lofty ideal because its members simply don’t trust the other side or believe them capable of being true unionists. They are merely looking for Catholics who they think will be more unionist than the unionists themselves.

    The cynic in me says why bother. It’s like a form of liberalism for radicals.

    At least with the DUP you know what you are getting – unionism coupled with a stiff dose of pragmatism.

  • joeCanuck

    Good analysis, Michael.


    I think a key to the continuing decline of the UUP is contained in your last sentence At least with the DUP you know what you are getting . The UUP message has been muddled and they divided as shown in stark relief by Elliot’s ill-tempered outburst. The DUP have moved towards the middle and certainly to the left of the UUP. That has been important to their sustained success.

  • Help me out here: I’ve been trying to access that Henry Patterson article on-and-off all morning: it’ll need a trip to the BL, I guess (and I’m busy this week).

    Does it essentially argue more than others suggested previously (e.g. Todd, J. (1987) Two traditions in Unionist Political Culture)?

    As I recall that thesis it distinguished between “Ulster loyalists” and “Ulster British” as a hit-and-miss description of the “two traditions”. Moreover, isn’t there evidence that the distinction is not just regional (either side of the Bann, for shorthand) but also based on social “class” (again for want of a better term)? Last October’s PSAI conference at DIT produced this as a generalisation (in a joint paper by Tonge, McAuley, Evans and Jeffery):

    Ulster Loyalism tends to be more working-class and emphasise the localised Protestant aspects of their Britishness, whereas the Ulster British may adopt a more secular, liberal and contractual rationality in terms of support for Westminster and British institutions.

    That suggests the divide may be unbridgeable.

    If the age-profiles quoted for the UUP are reliable, the result may also be terminal.

    Lest we forget: Cnut the Great was holding a seminar for his courtiers — not in wave mechanics, but in political realities.

  • david Ford on the RU news at 1.00 today said my piece on elliot for me. The calculation by elliot that he could claim on the media afterwards that he was provoked by heckling, explains why he used the scum reference. He needed to provoke them with the flag comment first, as there was no heckling until he had already stoked the fire. .The line from the UUP that it was emotional, doesn’t compute. and they know it. McCrea tied himself in knots on Nolan earlier trying to avoid the elephant in the room. The party and Elliot are much reduced as a result.

  • Joe, IMO the DUP and SF have encroached on UUP and SDLP ground – with more than a little help from London, Dublin and a compliant MSM. If you lift a few stones you’ll find that they’ve not left all of their bad habits behind.

    AP may have benefited from disillusionment with UUP/SDLP politics/impotency but AP will not curb the DUP-SF carve-up or deliver justice to those who are victims of misgovernance.

  • corblund

    Excellent analysis.

    Overall UUP performance and the scum comment seem to confirm what most people suspected, namely that Tom, while he may be many things, is not a leader and certainly not the man to rescue the UUP from the unbelievably bad situation their currently find themselves in.

    Your conclusion is interesting: “That for me is where the UUP’s thoughts must return to if there is to be any long term recovery from this election…”

    I’m not a UUP member, but would have voted UUP in the past (pre-Empey), now Alliance. I wonder: What difference does the Conservative link-up make to those who have deserted the UUP for Alliance or DUP. Would a stronger tie to the party of national government make them think again? How does this improve what the UUP can offer? I know it was still early days, but it was never clear what the link-up actually meant and how it served the interests of a voter in, say, East Belfast? I understood what it meant for the UUP and I knew what it meant for Cons but what does it do for voters? Politics in NI seems more local than ever, doesn’t the link with the Cons threaten this?

  • otto

    “a more secular, liberal and contractual rationality in terms of support for Westminster and British institutions.”

    Alliance voters then.

    The UUP are Woolie’s. Trading on historic goodwill, underinvested, selling a badly merchanidised, out of date mix of product. Cash starved and reduced to renting policies and branding from the Tories at the last election they’re now bankrupt.

    As with Woolie’s the best option is liquidation. Clear out the old management, appoint an administrator (Basil?) and look to save the best of their assets through incorporation into other, growing, concerns.

    Someone (maybe the tories) might even use the brand as a flag of covenience for a much smaller and more focussed “virtual” party to run Westminster candidates under.

    As the Barclay Brothers did with this;

  • nightrider

    I suspect the bridge with the Tories has been well and truly burned. David Cameron has not been back here, and appears to have zero interest in our little backwater. This episode will reinforce that lack of interest.

  • Banjaxed

    I had the misfortune to hear Tom Elliott on Talkback today. ‘Spade’, ‘digging’, ‘hole’, ‘STOP!!’ were the words ringing in my mind. If ever there was anyone who did not get the import of what he said, Mr Elliott’s performance was a masterclass. Now, I’ve heard many politicians ringing the BBC as a wind-up to stoke up the fires of discomfort – Gregory Campbell does it regularly, and was at it on Nolan earlier – but Elliott had a magnificent opportunity to withdraw his outburst, if indeed that’s what it was, as he himself lit the blue touch-paper in his flag comments. Alas, no – he just kept on digging.

    Elliott’s broadcast was a pathetic exercise in what-about-ery. Everybody was to blame except him. God help us – if he can’t take a bit of heckling *which he initiated*, if he loses control and resorts to political and sectarian abuse, I’m afraid either he or the UUP will fade from the political scene before very much longer. The loss of the party would be a tragedy, but Elliott’s absence would quickly become a faded statistic. He has brought on nothing but embarrassment for the UUP with his ill-chosen decisions and words before this spectacular disaster. His political opponents must surely be drinking his health so that he can keep on with his shovelling.

  • antamadan

    Nightrider has it right. Imagine David Cameron trying to defend ‘his man in Ulster’ Tom Elliott!

  • OneNI

    For clarities sake. Once Tom Elliott trumphiantly denounced the Prime Minister’s offer of a merger (check out the Impartial Reporter) the PM decided to distance himself from the UUP til they came to their senses ……

  • Beware of co-chairmen bearing cheques!

    <nightrider @ 2:57 pm and others are, of course, quite correct in reading the Tory lack of interest in post UCUNF-NI. Not-so-oddly enough, you’ll hear some similar voicings from Scottish Tories.

    This Cameroonie Tory Party, with mega-mind Osborne as chief machinator, is mainly for the shires and the leafy suburbs: after all — it worked for Thatcher. Anyone else can wait in line. That all bodes a lesson, soon, learned the hard way.

    Meanwhile, I did notice that one Andrew Feldman was in town last month — town being Bangor; and not even the die-hard Tim Montgomerie being entirely convinced.

    Feldman? Who he? Well, Cameron’s tennis partner, neighbour in Notting Hill, banker to Cameron’s leadership campaign, donor to the Tory coffers, co-Chairman of the Tory Party.

    Feldman, though, is an operator. In 2003 he was involved in a dodgy operation when his connection to a Macedonian textile firm bought him and Cameron a four-day stay at the Aleksander Palace hotel in Skopje (the England team hotel) and seats at the international game. Later he was present at the celebrated gathering in which Osborne solicited illegal contributions from Oleg Deripaska, aboard that yacht off Corfu.

    A cloud no bigger than a man’s hand? — but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

  • granni trixie

    Its obvious why McClarty might return to his home in the UUP. I can see why leaders in the UUP want him back. But will somebody explain to me please how he has been hard done by originally? He was well established in an area but the local people did not select him. Why are UU people talking about reforming such rules, I think that generally having to appeal to the local branch is a good system – we have it in Alliance.Otherwise members have a sense of being irrelevant. Cant have it all ways. So honestly,what was it that McClarty claimed was unfair?.

  • Cynic2

    Whether the blessed Tom did it by design or incompetence is irrelevant. The fact that it was done shows his unfitness for office

  • DamienMcE

    You don’t go around calling people scum. You really shouldn’t do it on camera. You really, really, really shouldn’t do it if you’re the leader of a political party. Tom really doesn’t seem like he has either the skills or the savvy to lead. A terrified farmer afraid of the future that everyone else is embracing.

  • antifascist

    I agree that the link-up with the Conservatives should be re-established. But this can still be done under the leadership of Tom Elliott. This time it should be a complete merger in order to offer a different sort of party to the electorate. Last time they didn’t really try.

    Terrorists around the world don’t get called nice names except in this part of the UK: we call them Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein Ministers etc. Yes, Sinn Fein now support the PSNI. But they continue to defend the murders they carried out against their neighbours. Their message is not clear especially when it comes to the so-called dissidents.

    Tom Elliott may have been provoked into using such a term as “scum”. But many people in the Republic of Ireland, the UK and further afield would also call Sinn Fein “scum” until they say sorry for the broken lives and heartache they caused to their families.

  • joeCanuck

    A new organization has been formed.
    Society for
    Continuance of

    Membership restricted restricted to people of an orangey hue. Applications are available from Mr.T.Elliot.

  • JAH

    An excellent analysis. But it doesn’t mention the clear fact: does anyone need the UUP anymore? It’s the same Q facing the SDLP. Who do they represent and what do they offer? They appear two parties completely out of time.

  • emanonon

    The chances of a link up between the UUP and Tories has passed, why would the Tories want anything to do with a party that makes excuses for Elliot’s sectarian outburst, whose vote is in major decline, and are in a financial mess. In reality if you scrape our ‘respectable veneer’ a sectarian core becomes evident in many of our members.

    It seems that the Tories however cannot make a breakthrough on their own and are seen as a London party. Maybe the answer is for the local Tories to form an new independent or semi independent NI party that would be attractive to a wide section of the middle ground and non voters, does not rely sectarianism for votes and then get our wing liberal to join. I suspect there is now a long list of disallusioned UU’s ready to leave.

    Funding would of course be a problem unless the Tory party would retain a link and provide support.

  • Greenflag

    This Feldman certainly was an operator 🙂 Here he is telling the truth about the insurance industry and some other shibolleths;)

    ‘banker to Cameron’s leadership campaign, donor to the Tory coffers, co-Chairman of the Tory Party.’ But did he make it to Eton or is he one of those east end Barney Barnatos ?

  • PeterBrown

    I had been wondering how long it would take for me to be provoked to register but I didn’t think it would be point out (again) where the UUP is going wrong….

    This post once again fails to acknowledge that the UUP is mortally wounded – the first wound of the many which were self inflicted was Good Friday 1998 and on its own was probably enough to eventually prove fatal and most of those it has suffered since have also been examples of the world’s slowest ever hari kiri (unless the SDLP outlives the UUP).

    The UUP sold the Belfast Agreement to its middle ground and the middle ground of unionism which in 1998 were exactly the same thing on a series of false premises for which the unionist electorate has never forgiven it and many of those who were UUP supporters at that time will never forgive it – no guns no government, the RUC has been saved etc. If it had told its supporters the truth it might have got away with it but it gold plated the truth and it didn’t take long for the veneer to wear off and the truth to be revealed – indeed the party removed much of the veneer itself.

    So when those of us who at that time from the inside were proclaiming the emperor had no clothes were being blamed because no-one was voting UUP because of its divisions surely when we left the capsized UUP could be righted.

    No it has simply sunk further and will presumably shortly disappear without trace while the band plays on and whilst instead of either taking to the lifeboats or even fighting to save the ship continue to squabble with each other like the East Londonderry Association or even someone who posts about a party colleague “Stephen Warke misses out on a seat by a mere 1542 votes.” When I made smart comments like that when a member certain people called for me to to resign – put up or shut up..the Tories would (wisely) not otuch that with a 40′ barge pole (now where have I heard that phrase before?)

    The UUP is getting its just desserts because while it rested on its laurels post 1998 the DUP delivered and nothing the UUP can do now can change that.

  • Those latest posts (JAH @ 7:07pm & emanonon @ 7:25 pm) come close to what I was assuming this thread is all about.

    There is a “progressive”, East-of-the-Bann (if one must) tendency which craves a consensual, centrist-right political party, with negligible denominational allegiance. When I put that into type, it feels very Alliance.

    Then there is the other lot: for whom Tom Eliot speaks volubly. These are older, more entrenched in their “Ulsterness”, and will vote UUP in the hope of regaining a lost youth.

    Can two such visions co-exist within Nevin‘s “broad church Unionism? Certainly they cannot both be absorbed into a milk-and-water “Conservativism” (which is, currently, a bit of a mythological beast).

  • PeterBrown


    It cannot – this is the not new argument that the UUP should withdraw to The Pale (here we go again Turgon) of S & E Belfast N Down and Strangford and take on the Alliance Party by being more wet than them and abandon everywhere outside this (here be dragons – DUP and Sinn Fein) which for 100 years has been the UUP’s heartland.

    The fight for the middle ground of unionism would be sacrficied in the search for the mythological holy grail of the non voting garden centre prod in these 4 constituencies – ignoring the fact that if they existed they would surely already be voting Alliance!

  • Greenflag @ 7:46 pm:

    I forgot to acknowledge his recent elevation: Baron Feldman of Elstree. His education was Haberdashers and Brasenose (First in Jurisprudence): BNC being his prime contact with Cameron. Feldman is also a regular in the columns of the Jewish Chronicle, which might not help his chances at some golf-clubs.

  • separatesix

    What on earth has it got to do with nationalists who leads the Ulster Unionist party? Too many on this forum have too much to say for themselves on the issue, at least Michael is aware of the party structures and the history of the uup unlike the ignorant individuals posting comments who wish to see the party’s demise.

  • Malcolm, I don’t recognise the east-west divide that’s being portrayed. For most folks here it’s still the border question. Experiences of our troubled past have been very different in different places. For example, folks in Enniskillen and North Belfast would have suffered much greater trauma than those in Ballycastle or Bushmills. I’ve often used the term multifaceted and you can see what a UUP farmer such as Tom Elliott might have in common with a UUP (ex-)businessman like David McClarty as well as how they might differ. David has been in dispute with another ‘townie’ and businessman, the chair of the local UUP association and a fellow councillor.

  • Damian O’Loan

    The question has to be about the identity of the UUP. The absence of one is what’s kept Elliott in post thus far – he would be forced to resign at the point where he was damaging the brand, were there one. He or his replacement will have to address the question, I’d have thought it will become the criteria on which they’ll be judged.

    The post doesn’t go further than analysing the failed attempts tried so far.

    The framing of the question is what offers hope. Both the UUP and SDLP can point to the bigger crisis in politics in NI, Ireland and the UK, if not beyond. By broadening the scope and advancing a fresh assessment of what a, any political party can do, they could offer something interesting and maintain coherency.

    What connects the Elliott outburst and the two parties’ electoral misfortunes is a lack of confidence that seems to paralyse all involved when they really need to move on reform.

  • PeterBrown @ 7:53 pm:

    I don’t necessarily agree with you; but I’m glad you said it, and so forcibly.

    The essential problem, though, is the much-maligned “garden centre” movement is shuffling its merry way westward. I’ve seen Enniskillen in the last month.

    Who represents the garden centrists? It’s certainly not Elliott on a bad day.

    On which note, there’s Michael White (of the Guardian) with his story of the old North-East ex-miner MP, well-settled in Annie’s Bar. [The authorised version of my poor rendition welcomed.] That was, primarily, the haunt of the reptiles of the press gallery; so therefore any MP prepared to gossip was never short of a pint or skinfull.

    Said very-old-Labour MP [hereafter voL-MP] was approached by a Whip to remonstrate that voL-MP had missed a vote.

    VoL-MP was not too distressed (he had a mega-majority after all). Whip went incandescent, and his diatribe concluded “You’re a c***!”

    VoL-MP ruminated, took a long, leisurely draught before replying” “There’ a lot of c***s out there. They deserve someone in here to represent them.”

    Similarly with both the garden-centrists and Elliott’s lot.

    Which brings me back to the essential question: can both be contained inside that mystic entity, “the Broad Church” of the UUP?

    [If that doesn’t earn my yellow card, …]

  • Ooops — insert [-i]

  • joeCanuck


    Are the ignorant individuals you refer to simply scum?

  • Comrade Stalin


    The framing of the question is what offers hope.

    What question ? Hope for what ?

    Both the UUP and SDLP can point to the bigger crisis in politics in NI, Ireland and the UK, if not beyond.

    What crisis are you talking about ? And whatever it is, what purpose would be served by their efforts to “point to” it ?

  • In point of fact, Nevin @ 9:15 pm, from my experience of barely-west-of-the-Bann (i.e. Portadown, Castlerock, quires and places where they sing), I’m none too keen on that simplification either.

    Even so, let’s try it another way.

    The “old” Orange Unionist we knew and could, with difficulty, love was peculiar cattle. As I recall, and I’m not going to check my figures this late in the evening, he was a he, a home-owner, a regular attender at his place of worship, and most likely to be, proudly, a “craftsman” (i.e. he had a trade). NI has a higher than UK-average number of self-employed: that proportion was further magnified in the old Orange Order/UUP. Such were, at least, both “nature’s gentlemen” and “the salt of the earth”. Believe me: that’s meant to be shorthand for respect, not de haut en bas.

    That is, by definition, a somewhat small-c conservative viewpoint.

    Along comes what the Old Groaner (in High Society) describes as “You must be one of those younger fellas.” Enter a world-view courtesy of Sky TV, salaried employment, a sense of upward mobility, and a mortgage which stretches into mid-century.

    Which can the estimable Mr Elliott represent?

  • Sorry: done it again. Insert [/b]

  • joeCanuck

    Presumably the UUP will be forming an Opposition. I mean, Tom couldn’t demean himself or defile a colleague by making him sit at the Executive table with scum, could he?

  • Mike the First

    I’m glad I voted Alliance as first preference in the Assembly elections – first time I’d done so (and I remain a convinced unionist).

    I wanted to vote Conservative but was, quite shoddily, denied the opportunity.

    I voted for the UUP ever since “coming of age” in 1999 (I was keen on the positive, pro-Agreement, pro-Union message), but after 2007 I’d finally had enough. I planned to vote Conservative but as it turned out thanks to the (horribly named) UCUNF project I ended up voting for the Conservatives and Unionists in 2009 and 2010.

    With the UUP ditching the Conservative alliance, and lurching into further idiocy with Tom Elliott’s leadership, there was no way I was going to give them my first preference. I have been pretty impressed by Alliance: ideally I’d like to vote Conservative but recognise that at least Alliance seem to want my vote.

  • PeterBrown


    The Alliance Party and DUP are doing a very good job of representing the 2 wings of unionism – is there anyone left for the UUP to represent? Is it likely to ever regain a siginificant proportion of its lost votes / support from either of those wings? If so why try to capture Alliance’s 20,000 (max) defections inside The Pale and not the 100,000 across the province as a whole who now vote DUP? All questions for those who support Basil (maybe his wee mate could tell us…)

  • Malcolm, you’re attempting to simply something that doesn’t lend itself to such simplification. I’ve had a look at some old Orange Unionists from over a century ago up here on the North Coast in the pages of the Ballymoney Free Press. Elliott farmers were pro-Tenant Right; McClarty businessmen in Coleraine were agin it. Time and circumstances change a lot of things.

    Elliott and McClarty grew up in very different contexts; I think they might be around the same age; they might well both have TV. Parts of Fermanagh will have been a bit like the Wild West with the womenfolk perhaps armed with shotguns when their farmer husbands were working in the fields; Coleraine was a place of relative tranquility – it went downhill after I left, especially during the ‘war by other means’. Coleraine and Portadown both straddle the Bann but the latter has had a much more traumatic history, including during the Troubles.

    How can you represent such broad church groups? I don’t think Elliott is leadership material or a political animal. He’s a quiet decent man who lost the run of himself when he tried to be otherwise.

    I think an effective UUP leader probably has to come from a business background, be a good team player and have a bit of grit about him. The grit would mainly be required to keep the UUP house in order 🙂

  • Damian O’Loan


    You keep confusing me with somebody else.

    The question is that of identity, the hope that of survival or better. The crisis referred to the financial crisis & consequences, viewed politically.

  • Driftwood

    Mikethe first
    The Tories have left the dreary steeples. Owen Paterson has been left behind with a few thousand squaddies and a similar number of NIO bureaucrats to keep guard. Oh and MI5’s home from home at Palace Barracks.
    We weren’t needed in the end, Alliance’s Lib Dem buddies took the job as mudguard.
    The natives are no longer restless, having been given their baubles and trinkets, and subvention of course.
    The DUP ‘heavies’ have been hived off to Westminster, though Gregory remains part time to keep the faith.
    Alliance will take some UUP, the DUP some, most will not vote. I don’t know where the SDLP go, probably not vote.
    We’ve become English at last. Only county council status awaits..’North Irelandshire is my preferred choice.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Peter, at some point you really are going to have to accept that the Belfast Agreement happened, it was a long time ago, and 13 years on not everything is about that anymore. Yes there were many mistakes, but frankly we have more contemporary mistakes to be concerned about.

  • PeterBrown

    I accept that it happened will you accept that that is what killed the UUP? I made more points than that presumably that is the only answer those behind the drawbridge in the castle can make to those outside – go ahead with this plan and the UUP will leave most of the unionists in NI feeling like Cavan Monagahan and Donegal at partition – you are effectively repartitioning NI.

    By the way do you think the increased vote in Upper Bann might be because the UUP was abandoned by someone who wasn’t a unionist, Strangford was boundary changes and how can John McAllister’s increase be new votes when if anything his predecessor was more akin to youtr ideal Ulster Unionist than he was? Or do we simply leave out the facts whch don’t fit your analysis and bend those which are neutral until they do?

    I am the one dealing with facts the contemporary mistakes don;t need to be compounded by misrepresenting the situation and then making it worse – unless you can deal with all the other points I raised?

  • PeterBrown @ 8:14 am:

    Don’t ignore the usual churn and demographic changes: somebody is living in those new-builds.

    Equally, every unionist (big or small “u”) should celebrate the decline in turn-out. It’s a kind of success: it means NI folk are behaving with similar electoral apathy to the rest of the UK.

  • Gopher

    I think Strangford demonstrates where the SDLP vote will go quite succinctly.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    “We’ve become English at last”

    Of course – as British as Finchley.

    Could you just refresh my memory – I can’t seem to locate the list of Liberal Democrat or Labour candidates standing in the North at the 2010 general election – could you point me in the right direction?

    Where could I find the Parades commission headquarters in Finchley if I wanted to organise a local parade?

    If I was born in Finchley, would I be entitled to a RoI passport and/or to play for the RoI even if I had absolutely no family history there?

    The people in Britain don’t give a shit about Unionism and do not consider NI to be as British as Finchley – even Margaret Thatcher didn’t really think so ( if you read Doglas Hurd about her private conversations).

    I don’t delude myself that there is any great fervour in the Free State for Irish unification.

    You need a dose of reality with regard to the attitude of British people to NI. They don’t understand it and don’t give a shit about it – they have never regarded NI as being as British as Finchley and never will.

    What do you think the British govt policy of Ulsterisation was all about? The British people were outraged by bombs going off in Britain. If it was contained in NI, it didn’t effect the everyday life of British people and wasn’t a vote loser.

    Hardly as British as Finchley eh?

  • “What do you think the British govt policy of Ulsterisation was all about?”

    Much the same as the Irish govt policy on the Ulster-6, Wally. Good old fashioned nimbyism. You’re quite right about the desire for the ‘problems’ to be contained within NI.

  • nightrider

    Anyone who has been to London in the last 10 years, including Finchley, would be strained to call it ‘British’. even Kilburn long ago ceased to be ‘Irish’.

  • ‘if he loses control and resorts to sectarian abuse…’
    Banjaxed. My point is that Elliot didn’t lose control at all this ‘scum’ outburst’ was planned all along and all it needed was to use the flag comment to light the touchpaper. He also planned the ‘Ruane is great’ stunrt on Robinson during the debate. As Brian Feeney said. This is the real Tom Elliot. Elliot Mess as he’ll be called now..

  • Banjaxed

    Well, nobody can be 100% sure if it was pre-planned, as I stated.
    But the muse has moved me:

    A Fermanagh pol’tician, Tom Ell-yit
    Whose party was going to hell, yet
    He chose to ignore
    Warning runes on his door
    So he ranted and raved like an eejit.

    Seamus Heaney, please don’t clap…..

  • banjaxed. I wonder does TE remember ‘The Untouchables’ on TV in the 60s. his party is fast approaching qualification for that description thanks mainly to him. Or maybe his rise to the top is a symptom of the malaise therein.

  • PeterBrown

    I have just listened to John Carson pretty much corroborating the its all Trimble’s fault analysis on GMU – but (not) surprisingly nothing from the current group of UUP repartitionists…oh yes that’s right we started talking about facts and they melted like snow off a ditch) or the UUP’s support which is arguably faster)