UUP must get over its permanent identity crisis…

Alex Kane’s column from the News Letter today in which he tells the UUP (and the Tories) more than a few uncomfortable truths:

Putting it bluntly, the UUP needs a convincing answer to one simple question: what is the point in voting for the UUP rather than the DUP?

If they don’t have a convincing answer to that question then the DUP vote will remain steady, non-voters won’t be attracted and some of the UUP’s own voters may choose to either stay at home or switch to the DUP.

This is a crucial period for the UUP and it strikes me that they are in danger of running out of viable options.

In choosing to support the DUP/Sinn Fein decision to shut down the Department of Education and Learning and trap David Ford in the justice role (a decision that the other parties had no input to) the UUP seem to have completely ruled out an Opposition role and stranded themselves in an Executive in which they have little or no influence.

It’s a particularly sharply drawn point. What do they have to offer other than best supporting role so long as they work quiescently inside the system? The problem though with most of the arguments advanced for walking out of the Executive is that they tend towards the purely Athenian appeal that ‘the people must have good government’.

What’s missing in both the UUP and the SDLP cases is the answer to Alex’s first question, what they are they for? Which may prompt a second: who needs them? For either party, their biggest problem is that the current system will give a certain number of politicians a decent living. It’s what Patrick Murphy scathingly referred to as the comfort zone of the SDLP.

David McNarry’s complaint that the Tories were trying to poach two of the UUP’s MLAs is indicative of a party grown too comfortable to work out that it needs to be up and figuring (as the NI Tories clearly are) how they might grow rather than keep the ageing assets of what they already hold.

Last word to Alex:

Now that the Conservative link has been closed down the UUP needs to concentrate on deciding to whom it wants to market itself.

It also needs to hold open the door to all of those members who seem to still want to belong to the Conservatives rather than the UUP and send them on their way with a smile and a handshake.

If there are UUP members who genuinely believe that a Cameron-centric Conservative Party is the best way to normalise politics here, then maybe they should join it and market that brand rather than constantly persuading the UUP to become something it isn’t and doesn’t want to be.

One thing is for certain, the UUP cannot make electoral progress while it remains in the grip of what sometimes looks like a permanent identity crisis. [emphasis added]

 

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  • seanobriain

    The UUP are largely irrelevant. All is left for them now is to shout and heckle from the sidelines, while the rest of society moves on from their archaic nonsense.

  • ThomasMourne

    So “the rest of society moves on” and votes for the sectarian DUP with its very questionable “Democratic” past instead of the sectarian UUP. Great choice, isn’t it?

    When will the electorate leave these orange dinosaurs [along with the green ones] where they belong?

  • john

    The UUP is perfect for anyone looking for a party that has two factions one a western rural super orange faction making the TUV look green and an eastern liberal faction charading as the Alliance party throw in a few closet Tories a few who want a new centre right party and a few who secretly wished they joined the DUP when Jeffrey and Arlene left. Confused about where they stand politically? Dont be daft I reckon millions of voters out there share this UUP vision for the future, obviously.

  • john

    Just to make another point when we look at all the divisions and problems within one party do people out there still believe that a single Unionist party can exist accommodating all the shades of Unionism? I would give such a party 6 months before it tears itself apart again.

  • cynic2

    Not so much an identity crisis as a delirium that precedes political death

    The party has no raison d’etre, no leadership, no distinct policies, an ageing and falling membership with a geographic bias towards Fermanagh and no money. It is dead on its feet and internally is beset with factionalism and infighting by people whose motives are personal and micro local and who don’t have the skills or vision to see beyond their parish boundary. They may hate the DUP but, in general, they often hate their own party colleagues more.The few good people left are in despair at what they see happening but have no one to follow to change things

  • SK

    They had the chance to put Basil McCrea in charge and promote themselves as a truly progressive, moderate alternative to the usual tribal nonsense. Instead they opted for the halfwit Orangeman who can’t seem to go a few days without being overcome by the urge to offend somebody.

    They’re finished. Good riddance.

  • dwatch

    SK,
    I think the problems that the UUP have is much more insurmountable than even Basil McCrea or anyone else as leader could overcome. The rot had already set in back in 2005 when Empey took over the poison chalice from Trimble.

  • andnowwhat

    It’s quote an achievement for a party to make another, which is populated by young earth creationists, look like the progressive party but the UUP under Elliot manage it heroically.

    The UUP took a dive in to a seamp of blue rinse and are drowning in ot gloriously. I don’t think the anawef lies in turning to the tories or trying to out DUP the DUP but turning back in the direction they were travelling ten years ago or so and llook to the moderates already within their party such as John Mc Callister as well as those now outside the party.

    Such a move must be sincere and consistent for, as Robinson’s party members recently showed, everyone neefs to be onboard

  • andnowwhat

    Quite, not quote.

  • GoldenFleece

    It seems talks are going on behing close doors between the DUP and UUP on unity at least in the electorial sense.

    The fact that Tom Elliott hasn’t come out and spoken out about these claims are telling.

  • JR

    I don’t think a new joint party could achieve the combined vote of the DUP and UUP. The 800,000 Protestants in NI have a broader appetite than that.

  • Obelisk

    “It seems talks are going on behing close doors between the DUP and UUP on unity at least in the electorial sense.

    The fact that Tom Elliott hasn’t come out and spoken out about these claims are telling.”

    If that’s true then they may as well as shut up shop and merge into the DUP. After all, if they don’t even have the courage of their convictions to fight for their seat and are content to allow for some massive electoral pact to hand them a few scraps, then the One Unionist Party of old will have been recreated in all but name.

    They are bereft of identity for they are no longer THE Unionist party.

    They are bereft of purpose, for another party fights the fight they can’t.

    They are bereft of vision, for when given the choice… at the last roll of the dice, when they could have selected Basil McCrea who at least has a plan to do SOMETHING, they chose Fermanagh Tom.

    They are bereft of imagination, for they couldn’t see the tory link towards its logical conclusion and grasped instead clung to the safe ground they’ve clung to like a limpet.

    They are bereft of leadership, for Tom Elliot is without charisma, without a plan. When the leader of your biggest opponents talks about how he has a good relationship with you in warm tones, its because he sees you as not even the least bit threatening.

    They are bereft of Unity, and John put it so well I’ll quote it again
    ‘a party that has two factions one a western rural super orange faction making the TUV look green and an eastern liberal faction charading as the Alliance party throw in a few closet Tories a few who want a new centre right party and a few who secretly wished they joined the DUP when Jeffrey and Arlene left’.

    And they are bereft of a Future. The bright young things they scrounge up for the TV or during election periods are drowned out by the parade of grandads and grannies who make up the bulk of their support.

    And yet for all they limp on. Why? They are ideologically bankrupt. They are intellectually bankrupt. They have no prospect of power. Their old electorate beyond the diehards have moved on.
    They are the party people in the SDLP look at and pity it’s that bad.

    The harsh truth is, history has passed this party by and it should proceed to where political parties go to die.

  • Neil
  • Obelisk. The UUP is now the victim of Karma. When they were in power for fifty years, they used it to turn the colony into their own fiefdom and in the end they were deservedly stripped of powerin 1972 when the British govt finally woke up to the opprobrium of the world as to what went on in their back yard. History wonm’t be kind to this now greatly diminished excuse for a political party. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Have fun dealing with the DUPers !

  • john

    Sorry its a few days old but i have just read this article in the BT

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tories-trying-to-poach-our-mlas-claims-david-mcnarry-16106287.html

    The Tories are trying to poach UUP MLAs. No this isnt the IFA/FAI debate again it is actually David McNarry informing us about the nasty Tory party trying to kidnap poor naive UUP MLAs – 2 in fact or was that buy them, he cant quite make up his mind. Im sure these MLAs can make up their own mind about politics without David McNarrys help. The thought of a UUP MLA switching to the Tory party for financial gains doesnt quite add up seeing as they would almost certainly lose their seat at the next election so I would have thought they will be leaving for political reasons.
    As for David McNarry championing the UUP cause, is this not a joke. This is the guy who wants the party to unite with DUP threatening a split in the party and the loss of far more than 2 MLA’s. Word of advice David if you are that worried about your own seat would it not be simpler for you to join the DUP rather than splitting the party, that is after all where you want to be!

  • GoldenFleece

    “The thought of a UUP MLA switching to the Tory party for financial gains doesnt quite add up seeing as they would almost certainly lose their seat at the next election so I would have thought they will be leaving for political reasons.”

    Don’t know about that John. NI politics is heavily personality based. For example hypothethicallly if lets say Basil McCrea joined the NI Tories, he would be probably be re-elected on the basis that the electorate know him, know his face and is a big personality at Stormont. Same maybe with Mike Nesbitt.

  • dwatch

    ” History wonm’t be kind to this now greatly diminished excuse for a political party. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch.”

    madraj55, The same could be said about De Velera’s Fianna Fáil in the ROI.

  • john

    Not so sure Golden Fleece about the personality vote. Harry Hamilton is a good example – a really nice gut and popular local celebrity. In 2010 he got 10700 votes for the UUP in the general election (Highest number of votes for the UUP for that election) but the following year in the Assembly election he got 2000 votes for the Alliance Party. Sheila Mc Quaid stood for the Alliance party in Upper Bann in 2007 and 2011 and got virtually the same number of votes( just under 800) so the 2000 for Harry was a personality vote but as we all no 2000 is a long way away from a quota.
    Another example is to look at Basil McCrea himself – again a really nice and popular guy but looking at previous elections he has polled the same vote as Daphne Trimble but not improved on it. My point is the majority of people in Northern Ireland seem stuck in their ways regardless of the personality and will nearly always vote along party lines.

  • john

    oops meant nice guy not nice gut lol

  • Drumlins Rock

    been looking at too many Flash Harry posters John?

  • dwatch. You may be right about that but two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • dwatch
  • RyanAdams

    “will nearly always vote along party lines”

    Not always the case John. People certainly weren’t voting along party lines in East Londonderry, or indeed in North Down.

    On your point about Lagan Valley and Basil McCrea, In 2011 the UUP ran two candidates and Basil took nearly 80% of the UU vote. He also improved upon his personal vote from 2007 with it rising from 9.6% to 16.3%. And in 2007 its worth noting he was up against councillors who have been sitting on Lisburn Council for decades, one of whom was also an outgoing MLA.