There isn’t really an upside to the UUP’s problems at the moment. Although they were never what you might even remotely call political friends, Mr McNarry’s exit bears a lot of resemblance to the early departure of Trevor Ringland. Already the consequences are closing in.
So early in his career as leader to have lost allies or potential allies from both the right and the left, is a little more than careless. His problem is – not dissimilar to the SDLP – is whilst that his party is more open, gregarious and sociable, they are not really fit for the new political game.
Elliot is leader partly because he is all those things. His constituency association almost along can cheerfully outgun almost any other in the party. HIs instinct, as an innately small ‘c’ conservative is to swing to the right. But there is no political space for his party in particular to exploit out there.
And any credentials he might have won on the left (by going to a GAA match for instance) have now been collected in magisterial style by the First Minister. The best analogy I’ve heard (pre Tom) is that the UUP is like a boxer who genuinely doesn’t know which fist to lead with.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty