McNarry: “the party will close ranks and anybody who wants to be a hypocrite will get their photograph taken”

Tom Eliott wielding scissors at the opening of David McNarry's Saintfield Advice Centre OpeningIt’s the story that keeps on giving. And that looks to be David McNarry’s intention.

Now free of having to notify the UUP press office about media interviews and statements – something that Tom Elliott has adhered to as Party Leader – David McNarry is everywhere. This morning’s News Letter. The Belfast Telegraph. Though nothing fully authored by him in the Irish News. [Ed: Maybe he’s saving that as a treat for Thursday?]

In recent days he has appeared on UTV Live, Stormont Today, and this morning gave a remarkable thirty minute interview to the Nolan Show. He opened with the statement:

McNarry: I haven’t really wanted to be making the headlines. I’m not really concerned about me when you put it into perspective, Stephen, from what I hear on your programme about sick babies, about the economy, and dissidents and job losses and vulnerable families. They’re all more important to me.

McNarry then went on to discuss at length the talk, his involvement and his impression of the UUP leader, suggesting that Tom Elliott dithers.

He said that “other senior figures” agree with him that “[Tom Elliott] has a problem” with how he was dealing with the DUP/UUP cooperation talks (before McNarry gave the interview and resigned).

Nolan: Are you suggesting that there are senior members of the Ulster Unionist Party who agree with your assessment of Tom Elliott?

McNarry: Yes.

Nolan: Are there many?

McNarry: Yes

Nolan: Would they be in the majority?

McNarry: In terms of senior members? Yes.

Nolan: So you’re suggesting this morning that Tom Elliott does not have the support and confidence of the majority of the senior members of the Ulster Unionist Party?

McNarry: Not to the same extent as I have. People react in different ways. It’s quite possible that the Ulster Unionist Party will organise a photocall today or Monday and they’ll have all MLAs and senior people around Tom and they’ll be smiling. That’s all it would be, a photo.

With bridges well and truly ablaze, it would be amazing if McNarry could ever take back the UUP whip.

Nolan: Could you see yourself joining the DUP?

McNarry: No. [later] I don’t jump ship. My heart is in the Ulster Unionist Party.

Also writing in this morning’s News Letter, DUP MP (and UUP escapee) Jeffrey Donaldson remarked that “the plight now facing David McNarry is one with which I am very familiar”. Yet even if McNarry softened on jumping ship, would the DUP be able to control David McNarry’s fury? Numbers-wise, McNarry’s exit from the UUP assembly group helps Sinn Fein (in terms of extra committee positions) more than it impacts the DUP.

More likely that a career as an independent unionist beckons, sitting beside David McClarty and Jim Allister in front of Alliance in the Assembly chamber.

Stephen Nolan asked what would happen next?

McNarry: I think what will happen – and it will happen because this is what parties do – there’ll be more disinformation and bad mouthing circulated, briefed about me David McNarry and the party will close ranks and anybody who wants to be a hypocrite will get their photograph taken. But it is quite amazing what people say to me in private and then say in public.

At times, it feels like more of a human interest story than a political one. It’s very one sided at the moment. Over the weekend, there were those within the party who viewed McNarry’s resignation as “one of the best things to happen to the UUP”, expressing “[relief] that he’s finally done it, as he’s threatened to enough”. The bad mouthing in public has yet to begin.

In the meantime, David McNarry is eeking out Tom Elliott’s punishment. What started of as “panto” is becoming more damaging.

By only revealing a few details at a time about the UUP/DUP talks, and by being so available to the media, he is singlehandedly keeping the story in the news agenda. Think what it would be like if McNarry could use twitter!

Only time can tell whether McNarry can claim his leader’s scalp.

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