“the overall sense within the party remains one of drift and confusion”

Lisburn South - UUP councillor Alan Carlisle defecting to join the DUP and pretending to sigin a blank membership formFive months after the local government elections, and a few weeks before his party conference, a Lisburn councillor has today jumped from one shade of unionism to another.

The leaving remarks by defecting councillors are often curious pieces of prose. There are some essential elements.

Firstly, there’s a restatement of your sense of purpose to serve the people who elected you despite switching party colours – to help them understand why you didn’t simply resign and allow someone else from that party to replace you.

Politics must be about making a difference in peoples’ lives and helping to improve the area you represent. I have recognised that within Lisburn, the Lagan Valley Constituency and right across Northern Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party has the positive vision and strategy to take the community forward.

Secondly, there’s the acknowledgement that you’ll be sitting in the same council chamber as your old colleagues for another three or four years, and you want to limit the jeering.

Whilst I have many good friends within the UUP …

Thirdly, you have one chance to make some disparaging remarks about the group you’re leaving.

… the overall sense within the Party remains one of drift and confusion. In-fighting and sectional interests are endemic within the UUP, meaning it cannot look outwards to the needs of the people but is solely concentrated on its own survival.

Fourthly, you need to set out a vision to explain why your new friends are worth hanging out with. The new party’s press office will probably help you write these bits.

During these difficult economic times it is vital that people have a party with a clear direction and a dedication to get things done. I have seen this on the ground within Lisburn and I know that right across Northern Ireland the policies and strategy of the DUP is backed up by first-class constituency representation.

I want to be part of a team that is focused on building a strong and vibrant Northern Ireland within the Union. Coupled with that I know the importance of issues such as keeping Rate bills low, the lead taken by the DUP on deferring water charges and the efforts to build our economy for the future.

Councillor Alan Carlisle (Lisburn Town South, ex-UUP) will shortly be taking up position as a DUP councillor in Lisburn … shortly after the ink dries on his membership form and the party process it.

Lisburn South - UUP councillor Alan Carlisle defecting to join the DUP

His defection leaves the UUP with no elected councillors in Lisburn South. The UUP ran two new candidates in May 2011 but Carlisle was the only one to be elected, gaining his seat on the last count a little under the quota. Ten years ago, the UUP held three of the six seats. After today’s switch, the DUP now hold five out of the six Lisburn South seats.

PS: Alan Carlisle is holding his pen above a blank membership form in the staged photo with DUP Leader and deputy Leader above.

, , , ,

  • Cynic2

    Drift and confusion?

    He’s being charitable.Drift still implies some movement

  • Wonder when the young turks will announce their departure?

  • Obelisk

    The UUP only exists to these days to fill out the news headlines as they lurch from one internal disaster to another.

    There just isn’t the room in the North for two centre-right Unionist parties and the UUP has moved past the point of No Return being nibbled on the left by the Alliance and devoured on the right by the DUP.

    The only chance they have is to go into Opposition where they would be free to criticise and hold the executive to account whilst renewing themselves. Instead they cling to their sole ministry, allowing the DUP to grind them under through collective responsibility and by consigning them to irrelevance.

    If I were a Unionist I’d think Councillor Carlisle had the right idea…

  • between the bridges

    5. it worked for Arlene and Geof…it worked for Arlene.

  • There is of course a fifth element……the party which has been dumped ritually calls for the defector to resign.
    And defend his seat.
    Given the mathematics in the DEA, its a bit academic. Mr Carlisle would be safely re-elected. But you have to feel a tad sorry for the people who actually voted for him……as a UUP man (although no doubt a personal element also) just five months ago.

    Frankly I have zero respect for Defectors.
    The question has bee asked……will the Young Turks now jump ship. Presumably this is a reference to Basil McCrea and John McCallister.
    They wont jump ship.
    Both are signatories to Platform for Change.
    PfC needs a foothold in three camps to advance its agenda. If McCrea and McCallister leave the UUP, then PfC will have no meaningful platform in UUP.

  • FJH – if he resigns, won’t it be automatic co-option from now on. So if he resigned, UUP would be asked to nominate another UUP member. No chance to defend his seat until the next election.

  • Re: ‘young turks ‘ – big difference between a first time councillor and two sitting MLAs.

  • Where would McCrea and McCallister go?

    Certainly not the DUP and I would find the Alliance very unlikely. Only other possibility is another Unionist party and they are far too smart to do that.

    They aren’t going anywhere.

  • “During these difficult economic times it is vital that people have a party with a clear direction and a dedication to get things done.”

    I understand Paul Porter, the then DUP Lord Mayor, and his DUP colleagues had a bit of a splash back in April this year and just before the election.

    I wonder what Alan Carlisle had to say then about bringing the carnival parade forward – presumably for DUP electoral benefit in Lisburn and Stormont – and spending a large wad of ratepayers money on the ‘talents’ of Jedward and Joe McElderry.

    This ‘getting things done’ obviously had scant regard for ‘the difficult economic times’.

  • Indeed. AlaninBelfast. Automatic Co-Option.
    But Defectors are basically cheating.
    Was not this “drift” perceived before May?

  • [contd]Just located the alleged size of the wad: £50,000.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Ah the slow death of the UUP. If it wants to survive, it has has to make a radical change at this point and completely rethink itself. It has to become unapologetically the party of liberal and even cross-community unionism – that’s the only long term positioning it can sustain against the DUP. They need to slay some old dragons on the way – not only cut off the OO but really be frank about what an embarrassment they are and disown the Conservatives. Play to the outward-looking, pan-British, modern multi-cultural side and against little Ulsterism. Get some votes back from Alliance, get reluctant DUP voters believing again there is an alternative. The opportunity is to transform into a young party that is about 21st C issues – the issues of the ‘squeezed middle’, of readjusting our lifestyles, work-life balance, developing a high value-add knowledge economy etc.

    It’s smaller territory than the DUP occupies, true, and it would be accepting a secondary position for the foreseeable future – but frankly it’s that or complete oblivion. Pootling on by trying to be an umbrella unionist party isn’t working and isn’t going to work.

    They ought to be in a great position to start building in that direction as they have virtually nothing to lose. Fat chance of it happening though: they just don’t seem to have the personalities and the calibre of people. Failing that, just split and one part join the DUP and the other join Alliance.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    Looking in from the outside, it seems like your vision for what the UUP could be, while admirable, is unrealistic. I think you’re right that the party doesn’t have the people who might make such a thing happen. It never did.

    Can I let you into a secret, from the green side of the fence? (A fence, the significance of which is receding fast, back here on the ‘island’.)

    You know that old canard about how the Ulster Unionists were the moderates within unionism? Nobody in the nationalist community ever believed it. It was a polite fiction that the ‘decent people’ of unionism told themselves, so they could, in good conscience, vote for a truly deplorable party.

    The UUP today is where, and what, it has always been. The much-maligned Tom Elliott is no more a hardline reactionary than any of his predecessors. In fact, he isn’t in the top five. It’s society here that has changed, and there’s no particular reason why this society requires the continued existence of a party with such a poisonous legacy. And there’s no reason why unionism requires it either.

    In fact, the Paisleyites have a much less poisonous legacy, believe it or not, and they are proving to be far more moderate than the UU. It is they who are leading unionism out of its old cul de sac, along with SF on the nationalist side.

    The fact that middle unionism didn’t cringe every time Faulkner, Molyneaux and Trimble appeared on the BBC national news, as they cringed when Paisley appeared, doesn’t mean they were any less extreme than he.

    There have always been people in the UU like Basil McCrea and John McAllister; genuinely good people, who genuinely hope they can change the party into something better than, they admit, it presently is. There is no tradition of such people being successful, but there is a long tradition of such people eventually walking away, bitterly frustrated.

  • AGlassOfHine

    ‘You know that old canard about how the Ulster Unionists were the moderates within unionism? Nobody in the nationalist community ever believed it. It was a polite fiction that the ‘decent people’ of unionism told themselves, so they could, in good conscience, vote for a truly deplorable party.’

    That’s a bit rich,when we consider who nationalists vote for.

  • BluesJazz

    Billy Pilgrim
    So….Terence O’Neill was just as religiously bigotted as Ian Paisley? John Carson was as hardline as Willie McCrea?

    The UUP is as doomed as Faulkner’s UPNI. It’s irrelevant, and so is the SDLP. Indifference to politics by the middle classes (who by and large don’t vote or vote Alliance) and indifference to past violence and incitement to violence by the proles who vote for the populist agenda propagated by SF/DUP.
    Westminster just doles out the money and hopes they don’t have to send the Army back in.
    What passes for debate at the Stormont talking shop is to pretend we’re no longer ruled from London. that’s ok. It’s easy to pretend.

  • lamhdearg

    I have said it before (yes i know, who cares) their members should dissolve themselves, the uup and the sdlp that is. three main partys and a lunatic fringe is enough.

  • Eglise en bois

    Opposition calling, only role left for the UUP, that would give them a purpose, but I’m not sure they would make any better job of that than being in Government

  • Drumlins Rock

    The basis of Democracy is when you tire of a particular party’s rule you vote for an alternative one and therby achieve a peacefull change of government, providing the alternative is broadly in line with your views. Essentially without the UUP or SDLP you have no real choice left, obviously SF voters are not going to vote DUP & vice versa, or if your an idealist and believe they have come that close together that vote transfer is possible then it makes little odds which you vote for. That leaves the Alliance, which barely exists in most of the country, has completely bought into the DUP/SF pact and is not Unionist or Nationalist enough for most people.
    The UUP & SDLP might not be the force they once were, but they remain essential to the democratic process at all levels, as do the DUP & SF, untill such times as normal left/right/liberal/conservative/socialist politics evolves.
    I for one do not want to join a political party where being a member of a fundamentalist denomination is a distinct advantage.

  • RyanAdams

    This latest development now gives the DUP a veto on Lisburn City Council, with 15/30 seats.

  • “some disparaging remarks about the group you’re leaving.”

    Alan, what you’ve quoted amounts to little more than a DUP press release. I’ve already rehashed a few disparaging remarks about the party Alan Carlisle has decided to join, remarks which I published on Slugger about six months ago.

    Here are some more. I see Carlisle is in the same DEA as Paul Porter, the previous Lisburn DUP Lord Mayor. Information I’ve received asserts that the DUP took the estimated £50,000 from Corporate Services after Leisure Services refused to cough up. I also understand all discussions were held ‘In Committee’ on the proposal of the DUP meaning the costs etc would not be revealed in the minutes. This means the electorate were not privy to who did what and were not in a good position to decide who could best represent their interests.

    As you can see from this letter to Moyle Council IMO it’s not in the best interests of democracy to discuss public interst matters in committee. Perhaps journalists should shed more light in these dark corners.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ryan, we shall await with interest to see what price the DUP paid for this majority.I don’t know Cllr. Carlisle and have never heard him mentioned in UUP circles till today, it seems he was a more recent recruit to the party as well as the council.

  • Comrade Stalin

    There was a time when the UUP would have been called “moderate”. Back then, when SDLP and Alliance voters transferred to UUP first to help shore them up, “moderate” meant that the party’s leadership (as opposed to its grassroots) understood that they couldn’t avoid the need to talk and do deals, especially with respect to Sinn Féin.

    Since things have moved on to the point where the need to deal with Sinn Féin is no longer a serious point of contention, it is not really valid to use the word “moderate” in this way anymore.

    Since there is effectively no difference between them in ideology, the distinction between the UUP and DUP can essentially be summed up in one word – “competency”. The DUP is well organized and well run where the UUP is not. The DUP has coherent and intelligent people on its front bench who, within the confines of their own beliefs, make sense most of the time and seem to have a good grasp of their briefs.

    The fact that the party is better disciplined means that the leadership can be a bit more flexible and can fly a few more kites than they otherwise might without having to continuously look over their shoulders.

    The UUP are like that island they found out in the Pacific full of Japanese soldiers who still thought there was a war on. They think and act as if they are the establishment party, they take votes for granted, and there seem to be no representatives within their ranks who are willing to put the party’s interests before their own. This is a party which is in its death throes.

  • Red Rob

    The UUP star has been on the wane for some time and until it decides if it is to the left or right of the DUP then I fear it will continue into meltdown. It needs to unite behind a clear ideal and the failure of the TUV has shown that it cannot succeed to the right of the DUP, despite the best efforts of its leader and others.

    For me the ill-concieved strategy to link-up for the Tories was an act of desperation and the final straw for many past UUP voters in Northern Ireland.

    Its only hope in the future is to unite behind a liberal, progressive leader and there are obvious candidates in McCrea, McAllister and Nesbitt. Whether they can ever overcome the dominant Elliott/McNarry wing of the party remains to be seen.

  • BluesJazz

    It doesn’t matter, apart from the gross salaries to the borough councillors/mla’s.
    Power resides at Westminster, the money, the infrastucture, tax, the things that matter.
    London Rules OK, albeit with a Dublin caveat.
    The present DUP/SF alliance at the village pump makes no difference to people’s lives here than the previous UP/SDLP parish council.
    No difference at all.
    NI is run by Whitehall and the NIO, with Dublin input as far as HMG allows.
    If the UUP and SDLP were to gain control of Stormont parish concil tomorrow, no-one would notice. But we have to pretend it matters in case people think (correctly) HMG are still in charge.
    That might annoy a few old armchairs, so we keep up appearances. Worked so far. And will continue to do so, until the subsidy gets too low.

  • Cynic2

    “Whether they can ever overcome the dominant Elliott/McNarry wing of the party remains to be seen”

    They just have to wait. The disintegration is accelerating.The UUP is already seen as the Fermanagh Unionist Party devoid from the real concerns of most Unionists who aren’t farmers. Its band is toxic and the DUP will continue to pick off defecting MLAs and Councillors around the edges.

  • The sense of confusion has existed since they lost the powers to dispense patronage back in 1972. They want that power back and just can’t seem to realize that society has moved on, bypassing them; and that they are stuck in the past. It’s a bit sad when a grand political party is brought low but is not worthy of sympathy when they brought it upon themselves and kept electing people who can fairly be described as clueless as party leaders. They are in real danger of becoming a laughing stock.

  • “The fact that the party is better disciplined”

    CS, that’s a point you could make about the DUP and SF. I’m also in agreement to an extent with your comments about coherence and competency. However, when you set all of this in the context of the operation of the Executive you might observe that the Executive is being run as a dictatorship through the OFMDFM. Why does APNI remain largely silent about this anti-democratic tendency?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Comrade Stalin,
    I think you have it right there. If ‘moderate’ in unionism used to be defined by the approach to nationalism, then it lost its meaning once the DUP started working with SF. And I think the only possible positioning for a revived UUP would be a new kind of moderate – a progressive one. If that’s too much for it, then it should really be consigned to the dustbin of history – and I write as one who found it pretty much the only party worth supporting in the 90s.

    Drumlin’s Rock
    I agree with you also, that people do still vote in ethnic blocks and need to have a genuine choice within that, for the sake of democracy. Going down to three main parties would not be a good thing.

    Billy Pilgrim,
    Your argument seems to amount to saying all unionists are the same. The UUP behave like a ‘DUP-Lite’ now, but it was not always so. The UUP was, in my formative years in the 80s and 90s, the home for the more reasoned and outward-looking brand of unionist politics. It attracted some smart, able and good people, while still trying to own the whole panoply of unionist tradition (which was short-sighted, IMHO).

    It’s easy to forget how out-manoeuvred the DUP were in 1998 – that sad Paisley press conference in the tent – and what a fantastic job David Trimble did for unionists and everyone in Northern Ireland in the GFA. That he didn’t then sell it persuasively to more unionist people was his big failing.

    Of course he was let down badly by Republicans’ (sadly predictable) bad faith in the years immediately after the deal; but he showed a long term vision unionist leaders rarely display and which we need to recover. He could see a huge risk in his party being made fools of by Republican bloody-mindedness; but he saw the greater prize in the GFA of pinning Republicans down to the reasonable standards of behaviour everyone else abides by.

    Only the UUP had the sophistication, realism and flexibility to be able to out-think the Republican negotiators as comprehensively as Trimble’s team did – and put SF, as one commentator put it, “in the dunce’s corner” during the negotiations. The DUP were so prone to own goals, we were better off without them in the team.

    That UUP did a huge service to everyone in Northern Ireland; it did show that this once deeply flawed party could be saved and do some good. It was a historic achievement and is a legacy worth building on, if they can find a leader with the ability.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘Your argument seems to amount to saying all unionists are the same.’

    I absolutely am not saying that. The actual people who make up what one might broadly refer to as the ‘unionist tradition,’ are vastly heterogenous. They are poorly served by their political class; they are far from alone in this.

    ‘The UUP behave like a ‘DUP-Lite’ now, but it was not always so.’

    But it’s the DUP, and society generally, that has changed. The UUP’s relative position has shifted, but its absolute position is pretty much where it has always been.

    ‘The UUP was, in my formative years in the 80s and 90s, the home for the more reasoned and outward-looking brand of unionist politics. It attracted some smart, able and good people…’

    I agree. I only disagree with what you assume it means. As I said, the UU was always the natural home for genuinely good people within the unionist tradition, because of what I described earlier as the polite fiction that it was the ‘respectable’ party, for the ‘decent people.’

    And these genuinely good people shared their party with vicious, deranged thugs like James Craig, Basil Brooke, Dawson Bates, the younger Brian Faulkner, Bill Craig, John Taylor – the list goes on. And it was always the latter category that steered the ship, despite the best efforts of the ‘decent people.’

    Post 1972, the UU’s circumstances changed, but attitudes didn’t. Faulkner saw the writing on the wall and so signed Sunningdale, for which he, and the sane wing of the party, was flayed alive.

    You credit Trimble with vision, but it’s hard to square this with the man that many people in this small town knew. Of everyone knows about Drumcree; less well-known was his attempted mutiny against the new Vice Chancellor during his days at QUB. The new Vice Chancellor was Mary McAleese, and his cassus belli was that she was the first Catholic to occupy the position. No weasel pretexts, just an honest-to-goodness No Pope Here campaign.

    I’ve heard it said, more than once, that on that fateful Good Friday night, Trimble was all set to reject the Agreement, but was quite literally pinned against a wall by one of Blair’s staffers, while the PM made threats, sufficiently dire to wipe the smirk off Trimble’s face, and force John Taylor to put down his 40 foot barge pole. This may be apochryphal, but when Trimble went around ‘selling’ the Agreement, he certainly looked like a man acting under duress.

    Paisley was quite up front about why he had, finally, reached the same conclusion, nine years after Trimble. He said, straight out, that the British government had threatened dire consequences if he didn’t get into bed with SF. What was remarkable was the gusto with which he did it, in contrast with Trimble’s miserable surliness. (Of course I admit Trimble had difficulties Paisley didn’t, not least Paisley himself.)

    In laughing off the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ stuff and forging a visible relationship with Martin McGuinness, one that looked rather like a friendship, Paisley had a profound effect on the atmosphere in society here. His last year in public life was actually a very healing experience for this society, in contrast with his whole life before that. Robinson came in, acting the hard man for a while, but post-Irisgate, he has continued where the old man left off.

    So I credit Trimble with signing the Agreement, but I doubt whether vision had much to do with it. On the contrary – I can scarcely believe I’m saying this – it’s the DUP that has shown vision, and that has led the healing, from the unionist side of the fence.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I’m not sure about the reason you state for Trimble’s objection to Mary McAleese – if you’re right, it would be inexcusable of course – but if it’s not true (and it doesn’t sound like Trimble to me, even early Trimble) his objection to her has to go down as far-sighted.

    McAleese is a nasty piece of work and a barrier to reconciliation between the two peoples. She showed how far she hasn’t come on in her disgracefully petty and irridentist speech for the Queen’s visit to Dublin this year. She may have smuggled it past a dopey media but I’m afraid I’m another lawyer by training … takes a thief to catch a thief as they say.

    The DUP has outflanked the UUP, I don’t disagree with you. And there were some horrible people in the UUP over the years. But I think you’re wrong about Trimble. What you describe sounds really, re-reading Endgame in Ireland, like it was at the time when the Irish almost scuppered everything with their massive list of cross-border bodies and/or the final negotiations over decommissioning, with the Blair side letter. I’m sure Trimble was a pain for the rest of them; but he was negotiating on behalf of, let’s not forget, most of the actual NI people, with the DUP absent. What Alastair Campbell got so angry with Trimble for was asking for the side letter from Blair about decommissioning. It’s generally accepted that that letter in fact helped Trimble carry the unionist vote and thus the GFA. So he was wrong to be angry and it showed that many at that stage just wanted any kind of a deal, even one that realistically was not going to stick with the voters. Trimble made the right call there, Campbell and indeed most of the other parties got it completely wrong and could have scuppered the deal.

    My point was whether the UUP was worth saving. I’m in two minds. But I do think what it achieved in the 90s was admirable – and the DUP couldn’t have done it. It took the UUP to set the political landscape that the DUP then to their credit accepted and worked with.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    I think we’re in agreement about what actually happened, our disagreement is probably around what it all meant. I suppose only those in that room can really know what was in their own hearts at the time, and even then, they can only speak for themselves. I respect your take on the thing, though my take is different.

    As regards your comments on Mary McAleese (to quote the President herself):




  • My final photo definitely has that WOW factor, Billy P 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin

    However, when you set all of this in the context of the operation of the Executive you might observe that the Executive is being run as a dictatorship through the OFMDFM. Why does APNI remain largely silent about this anti-democratic tendency?

    I cannot speak for Alliance, only myself. I have a few things :

    – I’d not quite call it anti-democratic given that the DUP and SF are the largest parties who between them represent >56% of the vote – it’s not like they are a minority dictatorship;

    – Voluntarily participating in the government, while simultaneously complaining about the way the largest parties run it, is rather pointless and only annoys voters, who want to see politicians rolling their sleeves up and getting on with things rather than carping all day.

    – related to the last point, moaning about the government while not participating in it does not work, because the institutions are designed to drown out the voices that are outside the government.

    – fundamental reform of the institutions is, in my view, necessary but will only happen when people vote for it. The time to persuade them to do so is during an election.

    It should be plain by now that Alliance made a judgement call. The choice the party was presented with was to be irrelevant outside the government, or relevant as a (somewhat hamstrung) participant within it. The party chose relevance. This is the same reason why you are not seeing the SDLP and UUP walk out of the Executive despite the conditions. It is because they both know that they would be consigning themselves to that same irrelevance.


    [Paisley] said, straight out, that the British government had threatened dire consequences if he didn’t get into bed with SF.

    I do not think it is quite as simple as that. Paisley must have known that Trimble was subject to those same threats from the British – so why did he go around calling him an evil traitor ?

    No, Paisley’s game was simply to supplant the Ulster Unionists. Once they were gone, he could do the deal way he liked on the terms he liked. Once that was done it was a simple case of selling the deal to his supporters. And quite frankly, DUP voters are not especially disposed to being told that they should support a deal because the British were threatening them.

  • http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/uup-man-jumps-ship-to-the-dup-in-lisburn-16059325.html#ixzz1jknD3D4P

    UUP man jumps ship to the DUP in Lisburn

    But the 55-year-old said he is paying back around £400 in election expenses given to him by the UUP because he was unemployed.

    Did he have to declare this?