Candidate selection and the lingering death of the UUP in Belfast…

I know, I know… We’ve probably done too much on the poor old UUP and not enough on other parties… But this particular train wreck is fascinating in the detail… For instance, I have just been listening to Martina Purdy on Talk Back, when she picked West Belfast as a place where the UUP could mount a comeback…

You can see the reasoning. Bill Manwaring stood there for the second time in the last year and put nearly half as much again as he got last year (which was a doubling of the last total in 2007). Moreover Bill tells Slugger he’s planning to stand there again next time out.

On the other hand Brian Kingston for the DUP (their third candidate in four years) put barely 100 votes on last time out. They are still in poll position, but stuck.  The search is on for another Sammy Douglas in order to engage with a particularly alienated working class in what was once a cockpit of Paisleyism.

By contrast in the East, the UUP was busy dumping assets rather than investing in them. Despite a disappointing outcome in the Westminsters, my old mate Trevor Ringland took 20% of the vote, and 7,305 votes. That vote total may have been the reason they ran two candidates rather than one.

Ringland was an early casualty after he rowed publicly with Tom Elliott over his assertion he would not attend GAA matches or Gay Pride events.  He spent months trying to clear up the mess in the wake of Ringland’s exit.

Although a former MLA who lost his seat in 2007, Michael Copeland has a profoundly different profile in the constituency from that of the former Irish Rugby International. So in #ae11 that 20% dropped like a stone to 9.7%, and the two candidates between them could not even scrap a quota with just 3,137 between.

And the second candidate, the eminently likeable (and middle class) Phillip Robinson even failed to gain a council seat in largely working class Pottinger…

The two places could hardly stand in greater contrast. Manwaring, left I suspect to follow his own instincts and untroubled by petty power struggles within his own Association is demonstrating that consistency and hard work bring their own rewards.

On the other hand, Ulster Unionism in East Belfast has been all but sacrificed on the altar of whatever the opposite of good sense is. In South, with a drop from Westminster of 17.3% (with a relative unknown, Paula Bradshaw who is now in Alliance) to one of 13.5% Michael McGimpsey has continued successfully to ride the urgent downdraft of his own personal poll ratings.

The party’s old guard Belfast has choked off what had remained of its own successor generation. It will need something close to miracle to prevent its last Assembly representatives, Michael Copeland and Michael McGimpsey, from switching the lights out next time round as they leave the building.

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  • Cynic2

    The UUP has the stench of political death about it and the voters recognise that.

    Its an old party for old people living West of the Bann. The opportunity to build something different was undermined by a posse of Colonel Blimp type characters who hankered fro the old certainties and saw their man in Tom, honest, straight talking and with views that would have been a tad to the right of the average Lodge discussion in1920’s Fermanagh.

    Handed the opportunity to win the Westminster Election in Fermanagh on a plate they blew it with an ‘independent’ candidate who barely seemed to campaign and a local party riven by internal strife. Other much better contenders were driven out or rejected after whispering campaigns. Dear Lord, one of them was even a Catholic!!!!!

    And so they spiral on and down, bereft of vision and with a leadership dragging them yet further towards oblivion.

    In the end it will be the narrow personal self interest of key figures that will destroy the party. I expect Tom to be jettisoned by the Autumn, a convenient fall guy, and the downward slide to accelerate as area by area they are assimilated into the DUP. Castlereagh is just the start.

    Next time we go to the ballot box I doubt that it will mention UUP on the ticket

  • Mick Fealty

    Just try and stick with the detail a bit longer. These were unforced errors. Out of four Belfast constituencies two went with the Westminster candidate they had last year.

    Bill put on a large increase albeit from a low total, and Fred Cobain’s barely changed.

    In East and South, two old stagers ran at the expense of newer candidates who ran last year and took the party vote from substantially above quota to substantially below.

    That’s not just unforced error, that’s mythical Cronos eating his children…

  • Joe Bloggs

    I overheard one UUP council candidate saying his party should stand aside in East Belfast in the next Westminster election to ‘give Peter a clear run to take the seat back off Naomi’.

    And they wonder why their party is in freefall……

  • alan56

    Enter stage left…Mike Nesbitt?

  • Cynic2

    The stalking horse is saddled and ready to go. The only debate is on the jockey.

    Still no sign of any current MLAs stepping up to publicly support the Leader. His only solace is that members in Fermanagh keep telling him what a great job he’s doing. And in their narrow terms he is but this is the 21st century not the 19th.

    To borrow a phrase ‘time to go’ but who on earth would want to replace him?

  • Cynic2

    “two old stagers ran at the expense of newer candidates”

    in party terms they were young!!!!

  • Cynic2

    Eamonn is hinting of defection(s) to Alliance tonight. Any word yet how many? Who?

  • lamhdearg

    can someone please direct me to a site that shows the votes cast for each candidate? and transfers.

  • Cynic2

    So another UUP cock up. The men in suits must be getting dressed almost as we speak

  • lamhdearg

    uup to split 5 ways dup 30% alliance 20% tuv 20% others 10%, the rest to jack it in. manwaring to run as only unionist (dup) west belfast next time around and get elected. also numbers for tonights lotto!.

  • liam charles

    I was interested to note that Bill polled 1471 votes in a small West Belfast protestant area while the Council candidate – ex terrorist Bobby McConnell – polled 395 first preference votes in the Court ward with almost 14,000 protestant voters. These votes Manwaring collected were personal votes and not party votes. If he had of stood as an independent he would have got the Assembly seat.

  • Not another “little list”?
    “Liberal Unionism” can no longer exist within the UUP so it will go somewhere else.
    To some extent Trevor Ringland and East Belfast is not typical. DUP revived and AP largely held the Naomi vote. With respect to Philip Robinson, I dont know him so I cant say how likeable he is. Nor do I know Michael Copeland but Im sure he is just as likeable.
    The implication is that Robinson like Bill Manwaring is liked by the Media. Thats not enough.
    The most interesting and likeable person I met at Kings Hall last week was a very nice UUP lady. Extremely apolitical she was doing a favour for a friend. She felt sorry for McGimpsey and didnt much like Finlay at all.

    But possibly the most energetic tally counter in South Belfast was Paula Bradshaw.
    But essentially “liberal unionism” and “conservatism” cant exist in UUP and both elements will leave.

  • Barry the Blender

    Manwearing really should have stood in Court. I think he could have bucked the trend and bring his party a much needed gain in Belfast City Hall.

  • Mark

    I hear Mike Nesbitt’s (was he in the Monkees?) name mentioned – is he really considered a serious contender for leadership? From a distance, only knowing him from over ten years ago as a TV presenter and only having seen him on telly during the election coverage he seemed to be a bit of dead loss or is that a terrible misreading?

  • Workers got elected, at most simple level. Second biggest reason is profile, even if only as whipping politico for the entertainment value to Stephen Nolan.

    Will take a while to look across the board once full results/transfers available. Not that simple. If the ‘liberal’ narrative where to work, what about McFarland? Why not Finlay as opposed to McGimpsey. As with the SDLP the first place to look is why those who increased or held their vote did so, and then elsewhere. Compare/contrast: learn.

  • Blowinginthewind

    The death of any party shouldn’t be a cause for anyone’s celebration, even one that has been dying for quite some time. In some ways, the UUP was never really a party. Rather they were more like a class of their own. Because they were the only show in town they didn’t really need policies, vision or ‘nous’. They never really got it when they started to be challenged from the left in the Alliance and the right with the DUP. So now they’re really 3 parties in one and others are fast encrouching. Their current difficulties are just the death throes of party that still can’t, as at a corporate level, get just how much they’d need to change to survive.

  • separatesix

    The UUP keep saying they’ll come back to what they were in the future, I can’t see it demographics could go against them and I foresee it’s demise. It may have existed for a century but I can see it becoming little more than an old gentleman’s club that’s completely unelectable.

  • separatesix

    People like Mike Nesbitt are doing the party no favours he seems very defensive in interviews, they need more women and young people involved though I realize they are trying to address that. Basil McCrea and John McCallister seem to wooly, I was relieved when Trevor Ringland left.

  • aquifer

    I expect Tom to be jettisoned by the Autumn, a convenient fall guy’

    He should go now, he does not have the rhetorical ability or imagination to fillet Sinn Fein the way they deserve. After that exchange they ended up looking smarter and more reasonable than him, despite their bloody background..

    ‘The death of any party shouldn’t be a cause for anyone’s celebration’ It is a party, not a person. If its ideas and leadership are rotten it deserves oblivion.

    There was a time when the UUP stood for some kind of Oul’ decency, but the orange ball and chain just drags them down to the lowest sectarian denominator every time. Acceptability in a lodge meeting is no test for the ballot box or TV.

    It has to be good riddance, though tinged with sadness as they would have had a preference from me from time to time.

    Alliance may be smarmy, but if you want the union to work better vote for them.

  • separatesix

    aquilfer Alliance is not actually a unionist party even if some Crossmaglen farmers think it is.

  • separatesix

    Perhaps the UUP need someone more modern and articulate as their leader like the TUV’s Keith Harbinson.

  • lamhdearg


    ? put all the members of alliance in a room, then ask, No force them to decide on union with Britian or an united Ireland. what % would you say would go for union with Eire. Add their voters to the equation and then what %. Me i would say that after you discounted the 10% who would go insane when forced of make a choice, the % would be around 65% rising to 80% when the voters are counted, This is why i see the alliance as a Unionist sorry unionist party.

  • lamhdearg

    that sould read
    not union with Eire, but 80% for union with Britian, in my view

  • Framer

    EONI website now has the Assembly election counts with transfer details.

    I presume all your-UUP haters (who are legion) who are not Alliance/nationalists want the DUP to take over unionism. If not, stop the bitching.

  • I presume all your-UUP haters (who are legion) who are not Alliance/nationalists want the DUP to take over unionism.

    To all intents and purpose it has already done so, in Greater Belfast anyway.

    The urban UUP is now in the same position as the *loyalist* parties on the city council and as rolled up the white flag in N.Down and in Castlereagh it seems that it is the local UUP themselves who want to be taken over. Where now for an Unionist alternative in those areas in particuliar?

  • aquifer

    “I presume all your-UUP haters (who are legion) who are not Alliance/nationalists want the DUP to take over unionism.”

    Hate implies a degree of commitment that I cannot muster.

    I wanted the DUP closed down but faint hope of that presently.

    Anybody can form a new Unionist party. Barristers seem to be good at it. The working class seem to be bad at it.

    And where are the conservatives? People worth over 200k should have somebody to vote for before SFDUP tax their cash away.

  • OneNI

    I hear that Jim Wilson, UUP Director of Elections, Stephen Barr, Head of policy, Davy Sims, Head of Communications, David Fry, Senior Press Officer and Press Officer Emma Stewart have all resigned from the Ulster Unionists!
    Last one out turn out the lights!
    Maybe Dr Crowe can come back

  • StewartFinn

    Mick – some of their decisions certainly seem to be nonsensical, they sometimes appear to lack logic and strategy altogether. They appear not to realise that they are no longer the default choice, have not been for quite some time-and when they do realise, they lurch to the right in panic, pushing voters (and members….and candidates) into the grateful hands of the Alliance Party.

    They are way-way-way behind – but luckily for them there is not an election in sight, they need to use that space to increase credibility again and reclaim the liberal middle ground (in the most basic terms ‘Alliance except overtly Unionist’…but I have not seen anything lately to suggest they can or will.

    Tom Elliott was and is the wrong choice and I think Basil has the wrong skill set to be leader. I would go with John McCallister who is an extremely likeable and liberal MLA who would have years to develop the credibility and strength to lead. They also need to improve their strategy and decision making, as you point out Mick, East Belfast is a case in point – poor personnel choices (they cant even pick the right number of candidates) and a tumbling vote. We might get a hint as to whether or not they have learnt any lessons if Michael Copeland resigns his council seat, (their choice of replacement will be interesting) it is a small chance to reverse the trend, picking someone suitable for the job and the constituency, someone who they can develop for the future – I wont hold my breath – as to the bigger stuff – ditto!….but despite their current state – they have the opportunity and the space to reverse it none the less.

  • dwatch

    OneNI (profile) ‘I hear that Jim Wilson, UUP Director of Elections, Stephen Barr, Head of policy, Davy Sims, Head of Communications, David Fry, Senior Press Officer and Press Officer Emma Stewart have all resigned from the Ulster Unionists! Last one out turn out the lights!
    Maybe Dr Crowe can come back”

    OneNI, is this true or are you taking the mick?

  • Joe Bloggs

    Lining yourself up for a job Stewart?? lol

  • Framer

    Never heard of any of them or of their effect on anything which may suggest something.

  • OneNI

    All true – apart from the bit about Brian Crowe

  • StewartFinn

    @ Joe Bloggs


    It quite literally had not crossed my mind.

  • Joe Bloggs

    Any more news on the alleged resignations mentioned above? Haven’t seen the media covering them anywhere.

  • StewartFinn


    From what I know, some of those people have left, but months ago and separately for new jobs – so basically its rubbish.

  • Looks like the Ulster Unionists and the Conservative party are still cohabiting as this picture taken today, Sunday, shows.