The king of the UUP-scourging quote is back. David McNarry, the man who gave us the line “the party will close ranks and anybody who wants to be a hypocrite will get their photograph taken” has given up his early Lenten abstinence from the media.
The UUP member and independent MLA at the centre of the party’s most recent fracas has emerged and spoken once again to the News Letter, despite the ongoing disciplinary process and the instruction to all party members from the UUP chairman David Campbell to refrain from public comment on the matter.
In Saturday’s edition, the Strangford MLA urged that the talks between the DUP and UUP should continue.
“the project of unity itself cannot be allowed to fail simply because some have panicked over news of talks either embarrassing them or finding them wanting when push was coming to shove”.
The News Letter suggests that “some” refers to the party leader, Tom Elliott.
This kind of comment is not going to help McNarry’s disciplinary hearing.
However, McNarry’s public explanation of the electoral decline facing the party is what will probably annoy and damage the UUP the most. McNarry comments on recent polling that looks at the UUP’s electoral chances once Westminster and Assembly constituencies are reduced (from 18 to 16) and RPA shrinks the number of local councils (from 26 to 11).
Within the unionist camps the statistics I have seen bandied about make for alarming reading from an Ulster Unionist perspective. They are not brilliant either for the DUP, although they can be satisfied about remaining the single largest party.
In summary, the polling figures suggest:
the game for the UUP is virtually up unless it is able to come to terms with what I appreciate is the unpalatable reality.
They show little or no opportunities to win a Westminster seat, a fair chance of retaining a seat in Europe depending on the candidate, and a dramatic collapse of councillor representation followed through to a serious decline in MLAs at Stormont.
The Letters page of the Irish News is sometimes used to contest differing policy positions within the Green Party on issues around Irish language and Irish medium schools. This public agitation and airing of personality politics is neither seemly nor good for the image of that party.
David McNarry may be telling the truth about the bleak future that faces the UUP if they continue on their current course. But lobbying UUP members and Party Executive via the pages of the News Letter is a brave move if he expects to be able to keep his UUP membership in his wallet for much longer, never mind retake the party whip in the Assembly.
Anyone else catch the smell of more bridges burning?
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.