Tom Elliott’s first post resignation interview…

Tom Elliott, who resigned as Ulster Unionist leader last night, says he quit because of growing tensions within the party. He also says there has been an “uneasy atmosphere” in the Ulster Unionist Party in recent days and claimed that some of his colleagues have been making life difficult for him by briefing journalists “lies”.

In an exclusive interview with The Impartial Reporter, Mr. Elliott says he has “no regrets” about his time in charge, adding: “I would have liked to have done more, and I would have liked to have done better. I didn’t achieve all I could have and that is disappointing”.

Exclusive Audio: Tom Elliott (mp3)

And he criticised those Ulster Unionist members who have stepped out of line.

“There are people who are constantly trying to make life difficult for me by briefing journalists – this is a serious issue. Yesterday for example, Danny Kennedy phoned me because someone within the party told him I was planning a reshuffle and there was a possibility he would lose his Ministerial position. So you see, we have people [in the party] who are determined to cause unease,” he said.

Mr. Elliott’s leadership hasn’t been without its problems; from refusing to attend a GAA match to calling Sinn Fein “scum”, it hasn’t been an easy ride for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA. But he has hit back at what he described as “negative coverage” in the press.

“There are journalists who are constantly against me and the party. They never have anything positive to say; they just want to pull me down. It doesn’t matter if our party has something positive to announce; there are journalists who wouldn’t want to know that – they just want to focus on the negatives. And there are some members of the party who want to feed lies rather that truths to these journalists,” he said.

Mr. Elliott made the decision to quit yesterday afternoon following a difficult week “behind the scenes”. The first person he told was his wife. He says a “build-up” of problems and issues within the party cemented his decision to leave.

“I blame the continual build-up of collective issues and the small number of individuals who wanted to make life difficult for me. It wasn’t easy but I looked at the party and thought if I was the one that was bringing it down then the best thing to do was move on,” he said.

Mr. Elliott said he has attempted to “progress the party” and added: “I just wanted to be an honourable leader. I have no regrets – I don’t believe in having regrets.

“My personal message to those who criticise me within the party and those outside the party is: I gave it my best. It’s up to you to decide how I have done”.

The politician wouldn’t comment on who he thinks will succeed him but some UUP sources believe Danny Kennedy would be a suitable replacement.

This account was first published in the print version of the Impartial Reporter

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  • cynic2

    A Leader might have led through this – ie exposed and sacked those undermining him.

  • See how far behind the times our politicians are.

    Even in Syria people know they have to resign on YouTube.

  • chewnicked

    Whine, whine, whine-its all the media’s fault …….zzzzzz……

    Elliott had no fight in him at all. A pathetic excuse for a leader.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Danny Kennedy is a solid constituency MLA, but electing him leader would just lead to a repeat of the Tom Elliott experience.

    You could write the script of a Danny leadership already. Just like with Tom, there’s just no way on earth he is going to seize the imagination of stay-at-home voters, or the moderates the UUP have lost to Alliance.

    What’s worse is that Danny is on the record saying he wants the UUP to stay in the executive and his vision of the UUP’s future is basically just to be a junior partner or vassal to the DUP.

    The UUP supporters and grassroots members deserve much better than that – a leader who’s not afraid to take on the DUP – somebody who can strike a clear, forward-looking contrast to the DUP

    – who can bring back the thousands of lost moderate voters, especially east of the Bann, who although they are unionists feel they have no alternative than to vote Alliance, given how detached from the centre ground the UUP has become (particularly given Tom Elliott’s comments on the GAA and gay pride and ‘Sinn Fein scum’ etc etc)

    It’s embarrassing that even Peter Robinson has managed to outflank the UUP on the moderate side (e.g. by actually going to a GAA match!) – if the DUP succeed in taking over (or carving up with Alliance) the moderate pro-Union electorate, it really will be game over for the UUP.

  • Progressive Unionist

    The UUP also need a leader willing to grasp the nettle of opposition. A healthy democratic society needs an opposition to keep the government of the day on their toes.

    Going into opposition doesnt mean opposing the institutions or the Agreement – a future UUP leader just needs to say:

    1. We support power sharing.
    2. We will work in a power-sharing government with whichever party nationalist voters choose to support, including Sinn Fein.
    3. We think we can do a much better job of that than the DUP, and here’s why…

    Danny Kennedy will basically be the candidate of managed decline as a junior partner to the DUP, and probable eventual merger.

    The Ulster Unionist Party deserves much, much better than that.

    But to have a viable future, it needs to define itself to voters as a clear, more progressive alternative to the DUP while there’s still time left to do so.

    This leadership election will really be the UUP’s last chance for survival. It’s adapt-or-die so let’s hope UUP members consider their vote carefully before they opt for managed decline under yet another ‘safe pair of hands’. (Sir Reg + Tom + Danny = no more UUP in a few years)

    Positive, progressive, forward-thinking leadership candidates who actually believe the UUP has a future as an independent party separate to the DUP – please step forward!

  • Comrade Stalin

    PU :

    The first two out of your three points are easy. The third one is very hard. I don’t think anyone in the UUP knows exactly what they would do better than the DUP. Pushed, people like Elliott have little more to say other than that they managed to get parking charges in towns stopped. That’s not really world changing stuff.

    (here in Whiteabbey, we actually suffer quite a bit from the absence of charging – getting parked is extremely difficult due to the number of commuters and local residents parking in the free DoE car park. This keeps custom away from traders!)

    Aside from that you are on a hiding to nothing with the idea of leaving the executive. When the UUP helped to design the institutions, they set them up deliberately so that any party choosing to stay out of the executive would find themselves locked out of the system. Walking out is not a straightforward decision.

  • IJP

    Progressive

    A lot of sense in what you say, but here’s the rub:
    – the Party membership elected Elliott heavily after his being the architect of Unionist Unity in FST just months before;
    – the Party membership has consistently elected David Campbell Chair, a man open about his absolute support for Unionist Unity;
    – the Party membership de-selected candidates who showed clear differentiation from the DUP in a raft of constituencies in 2011.

    The party membership is a lot more pro-Unionist Unity and a lot harder line than the Commentariat cares to believe. It is fundamentally not a Progressive party.

  • IJP

    Comrade

    Indeed, Elliott’s main policy “achievement” was to get around, finally, to the DUP’s and Alliance’s view that we should have fewer MLAs and Departments. Far from “leading the field”, he was following and then being dishonest about that fact.

    Of course, another “achievement” is the A5 expressway from Ballygawley to Omagh. Inspired.

  • Progressive Unionist

    CS:

    Completely agree about the 3rd part – actually convincing enough voters that the UUP is a

    better choice to lead unionism in the executive – that’s the real challenge of going into opposition.

    And it’s immense. And it would take a leader with real skill, and an ability to connect

    with voters (especially through the media) to tackle it.

    That said, it’s the same challenge facing opposition parties in democratic countries

    everywhere. It’s their job to challenge government and keep it accountable to the

    legislature and that’s essential for democracy.

    You wouldn’t get the German SDP, or the UK Labour Party, to abandon opposition or their role as an alternative governing party just for the sake of a minor ministry or two.

    In terms of how the institutions were designed, that was done in 1998 and things have

    moved on a fair bit since then. I think it’s a real weakness of the Stormont institutions

    that there is no provision for an opposition on the model of Westminster or Dail Eireann.

    (In fairness, back then it would have been difficult to imagine ‘opposition’ in the sense of a ‘loyal parliamentary opposition’ on the Dail/Westminster model – and easy to assume that any opposition would just want to tear the whole structure down. But that’s not the case 15 years on.)

    I know that many SF supporters probably think any change to the existing arrangements is a plot to dismantle power sharing – but I think you could set out cast iron guarantees to nationalists, preserving power sharing 100% and continuing to have the NI executive require majority support among both nationalist and unionist MLAs.

    That would mean a guaranteed place in government for Sinn Fein for so long as they are the lead nationalist party. In which case, what do they have to fear from having an opposition at Stormont?

    Would you agree in principle that having a ‘loyal opposition’ in the legislature, while preserving power sharing, would be ‘A Good Thing’ for Northern Ireland? (thinking ten, twenty, fifty years going forward)

  • Progressive Unionist

    IJP:

    Yup, it would be a real challenge for any progressive-minded candidate to win over a majority of the UUP membership.

    The membership are, without a doubt, more hardline than UUP voters (and potential UUP voters) – but I don’t think the membership, as a whole, are quite as hardline or closed to alternatives as you suggest (there were quite a few progressive-minded MLAs elected at the last election for example)

    By this point, with the UUP facing continued decline, and the main ‘safe pair of hands’ candidate, Danny, offering the thin gruel of a future as, at best, a subservient partner of the DUP, there are many quite traditional-minded members who recognise that the UUP can’t just continue going along as it has under Sir Reg and Tom, that it needs a real change in direction.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Progressive Unionist

    ‘…to have a viable future, it needs to define itself to voters as a clear, more progressive alternative to the DUP…’

    Fair comment, but I think you overlook the major stumbling block here.

    The DUP did a deal with nationalism, and did it with a smile on their faces. That deal has stuck, and the whole atmosphere of NI has been transformed as a result. They did this deal within a few short years of assuming the leadership of unionism.

    The UUP, on the other hand, had the leadership of unionism for the century beforehand. Its record during that time requires no further comment.

    So it’s going to be difficult for the UUP to position itself as the progressive wing of unionism, when the truth is that the UUP simply isn’t progressive and never has been, even relative to the DUP.

    Now, there are nice, decent, well-meaning souls within the UUP, and they’re usually exasperated, because they can’t understand why there are so many people in their ‘moderate’ party that are anything but. I’d suggest they are victims of a popular misapprehension about who’s ‘extreme’ and who’s ‘moderate.’ (Hugely ideological terms, by the way)

    But I’d also suggest that the electorate does not share their confusion.

  • Comrade Stalin

    actually convincing enough voters that the UUP is a better choice to lead unionism in the executive – that’s the real challenge of going into opposition.

    Your tone does suggest just a wee bit that you think this is a matter of getting a leader with some sort of charisma or charm to woo the voters. It is rather wider than that; there is a huge policy development job to do. The party would have to accept that perhaps its current set of ideas (a lot of which are simply to be the not-DUP, especially from the McCrea department) may need to be radically overhauled, not simply explained in a slightly more flashy way.

    In terms of how the institutions were designed, that was done in 1998 and things have moved on a fair bit since then. I think it’s a real weakness of the Stormont institutions that there is no provision for an opposition on the model of Westminster or Dail Eireann.

    My point is that it seems like opportunism for the UUP who were perfectly happy about the way the institutions worked whenever they held the First Minister seat and are only complaining now that they are one of the minor executive parties. The electorate can sniff that sort of goalpost shifting stuff out.

    You are right to say that part of the motivation in setting up the structures as they were was to ensure that the DUP could not pull it down by interfering in the executive. But it was extremely convenient for the SDLP and UUP that the d’Hondt system also acts to disproportionately allocate more power to larger parties.

    The UUP and SDLP are both, by the way, taking the line that the 1998 agreement shouldn’t be changed. Your suggestion requires changing that line.

    I know that many SF supporters probably think any change to the existing arrangements is a plot to dismantle power sharing – but I think you could set out cast iron guarantees to nationalists, preserving power sharing 100% and continuing to have the NI executive require majority support among both nationalist and unionist MLAs.

    I wouldn’t jump too quickly to the conclusion that it is a matter of persuading SF. Think about it; what exactly is there to gain for the DUP in making voluntary coalition a reality ? They get a (slightly) freer hand in the executive. In exchange they hand to the UUP and SDLP the rather important sounding title of “(deputy) leader of the opposition” and you suddenly end up with a shadow executive, all of whom become instant rent-a-quote sources for the media to go to any time they want to hear someone criticize an executive policy. Why would the DUP act to make that situation happen ?

    And why would the DUP want to do anything that could end up granting research funding to Jim Allister to ask even more irritatingly well-targeted questions ?

    Nah, the DUP will talk about voluntary coalition and blame SF for it not happening, but won’t lift a finger or offer any carrots to try to talk SF into it. Then they’ll go to their own voters and say “no more concessions to Sinn Fein”. Correspondingly, SF voters will be happy that their party is standing up to those nasty unionists trying to disenfranchise them.

    Accordingly I think we should forget this official opposition idea. It’s not going to happen. The choices are either to stay in and lump it, using the ministries as a way to build up key up and coming people, or to walk out and stay in the wilderness.

  • OneNI

    “Positive, progressive, forward-thinking leadership candidates who actually believe the UUP has a future as an independent party separate to the DUP – please step forward!”
    Of course they did under UCUNF;
    Mark Finlay – sidelined by McGimpsey and has bowed out
    Lesley Macaulay – left to join Conservatives
    Trevor Ringland – left due to tom and has bowed out
    Bill Manwaring – fought hard and ignored. joined Conservatives
    Harry Hamilton – left and joined Alliance
    Rodney McCune – abandoned NI joined Conservatives?
    David Harding – gone quiet
    Paula Bradshaw – left joined Conservatives
    Daphne Trimble – gone quiet – husband said Tom was ‘Stupid’ to turn down the Conservatives offer of a merger
    Countless other members have either joined the Conservatives or simply let their membership lapse

  • OneNI

    Sorry correct Paula Parsley has joined Alliance apparently

  • Mark

    Thanks OneNI , I was hoping someone would give a list of the runners and riders in the upcoming election for party leader .

    This is an outsider’s view but based on Elliott’s performance since he got the job and the various public fallouts within the UUP because of it , this is a blessing in disguise .

    The UUP need soneone to put it up to Robinson . As has already been mentioned on this site , Robinson beat Elliott to every punch .

    If I was a young protestant student with an ambition for a career in politics and was looking for a vehicle to fulfill my dreams , I know who I’d be lookin to join …………………The Alliance Party .

  • IJP

    PU

    You make fair points but my point was really this: even if a “moderate” did become Leader, he would be unable to lead, because the party isn’t moderate but it is – as a matter of culture and heritage – factionalised and indisciplined.

    OneNI

    Ahem, Paula Bradshaw is a member of the Alliance Party. In the 21st century, successful professional women wisely return their own identity!

    Mark

    … where you will be made very welcome! Good to hear it.

  • IJP

    Billy

    Great post.

  • Mark

    Their heart seems to be in right place Ian .

  • ‘making life difficult for me’

    Well Tom Elliot sought the job, so has he never heard of the old adage about heat and kitchen? Has he never heard of denis healey’s rule of holes?

  • Apparently he had heard of said rule but he was undermined. Sometimes you just can’t win. Well most of the time actually, in fact not at all if truth be told.

  • The yokel

    So that’s that. UUP RIP? Protestant heritage firmly in the grasp of working class types and born agains. It would be serious if it wasn’t so funny.

  • IJP

    Mark

    That’s a good start.

    It was in fact a recent UUP-DUP switcher who remarked that the immediately noticeable difference was that DUP meetings focused on politics rather than money.

    Likewise, Alliance has as its aim the achievement of a vision – you may agree or disagree with that vision, but it is at least a clearly defined purpose. What is the UUP’s vision or purpose?

  • Progressive Unionist

    You make fair points CS, except I don’t think it’s “opportunism”, 15 years after the Agreement, to see providing for an official opposition as a logical evolution of the 1998 deal (and the St Andrew’s deal, which in itself was evolutionary and built on 1998).

    The government in any democratic society needs to be held accountable in the legislature. Your analysis of why the DUP wouldn’t want to create an ‘official’ opposition is spot on – of course they wouldn’t! Oppositions are pesky, annoying things from the POV of government. (so are elections for that matter!)

    On the leadership – yup, the best leader in the world would have a tough challenge with the UUP’s current position. But at least having a leader who can connect with voters, who has a dash of charisma and media-savviness would be a starting point (but only the start).

    The real challenge will be when that leader is standing up, on the opposition benches, and trying to strike the right balance between challenging the governing parties on the issues of the day, and developing (transforming!) the UUP into a party that can be seen by voters as an alternative governing party from the unionist side.

    At this point I wouldn’t wait for the opposition to be given ‘official’ status, with titles and funding a la Edinburgh or Cardiff. I would just cross the floor and do it on the ‘if you build it, they will come…’ principle. After all, there’s nothing to lose except a single, junior, peripheral ministry with no influence whatsoever.

  • Dewi

    It’s quite a strange time to resign. He blames “Behind his back briefing”. He should name names.

  • ‘Behind his back briefings’ And yet he claims in the same breath most of the party are behind him, but as Humphrey in Yes Minister put it, they have to be fully behind you to stab you in the back. Back to the hills for Thomas.

  • alex gray

    Has anyone seen the News Letter poll ?
    It has Danny Kennedy on 20%, Basil McCrea on 20%, John McCallister on 0%, Mike Nesbitt on 13% and,wait for it, David McNarry on 47%.
    I think this shows ordinary unionist voters want McNarry and, by inference, his policy of closer links between UUP and DUP.
    The main policy line of McCrea and McCallister – go into opposition – won’t work because they have no partner to go into opposition with. The SDLP have said they will not go into opposition. There are also no Assembly structures for opposition.
    At least you know where you are with McNarry and I reckon most rank and file unionists would prefer him, as the poll suggests. So he could probably rebuild the fortunes of the UUP, as far as that was possible. I doubt if the others could.

  • Mick Fealty

    Alex, that’s based on four people voting for him.

    IJP,

    And David Campbell raises a lot of heckles. He’s been a fixture in that position since Trimbles time. He’s counted them all out and counted them all back.

  • Jim White

    And I was one of those McNarry voters!

    We could talk about this all day, but the reality is that the only future left for the UUP is in joining up with their fellow unionists and creating a united unionist party. The appeal of this to the thousands upon thousands of unionist non-voters sick and tired of the inter-party, petty fighting between the two parties is tremendous.
    This will happen by default at a future point anyway, by which time the UUP will be no longer viable and forced to wind up, leaving the future of unionism in DUP hands. Better to have unionist unity now, allowing current UUP figures to have some influence within a new unionist coalition and shoring up those disenchanted UUP voters who have lost faith in the ability of the party to have any influence within the Executive. This lack of UUP relevance in the NI assembly was discussed at length on this site just recently, in light of a poll recently published by QUB. Surely it is better to be an integrated part of a greater unionist whole, than a small, bitterly-divided party with zero sway in the Sotmont corridors of power?
    Thats is why McNarry is the only option if the UUP are not to face total destruction in a day not too far into the future.

  • NOT NOW JOHN

    Perhaps someone advocating ‘unionist unity’ (whatever that is) could clarify for the rest of us what actual benefits such unity will bring in respect of:

    a) unionists voters;
    b) the UUP; and
    c) the Union;

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jim White,

    allowing current UUP figures to have some influence within a new unionist coalition and shoring up those disenchanted UUP voters who have lost faith in the ability of the party to have any influence within the Executive.

    Unionist unity has a certain logic to it, but the crux is the point above. The DUP aren’t going to let the ex-UUP have any influence at all inside their party. Why would they ? They’re losers. Why would they give Basil McCrea or David McNarry anything even vaguely important, having had ample time to see them acting like clowns in the Assembly ?

  • IJP

    Mick

    Indeed.

    So again I posit the question: if the UUP membership is so opposed to Unionist Unity, why does it keep re-electing a Chairman who is an overt proponent of it?

    Let’s face it, it’s hardly because of the party’s electoral triumphs under his reign!

  • Granni Trixie

    I never thought I would be defending Tom Elliot but despite his awful gaffs I think I agree with him that he did his best. He also had the guts to take on the leadership when more obvious candidates did not.
    This situation suggests a lack of planning and organisation by the party. The reluctance of the likes of Danny Kennedy or other long standing leaders to put themseleves forward last year suggests lack of commitment and puts them in a weak position to do so one year on.

    Reading my way around the O’Neill era recently I was struck by how similar the internal struggles in the UUP of today are from then ..struggles between those who want to modernise (including having a culture welcoming diversity) and those of a more traditional/conservative bent. Links with the OO were more problematic then than now but lack of clarity today as to where UUP stands vis a vis other parties such as the DUP and Conservatives is not helping their image.

    All political parties seem to have internal wrangles. People join a party,find that even with core beliefs in common they do not agree on,say, policies or strategies and so have to work to find consensus. What is unusual in this case however is the amount of bad feeling which has leaked into the public domain. Hard to recover in the publics eyes from that kind of disloyalty. But not impossible.

  • Red Lion

    Need to elect Basil McCrea as leader and allow a truelly more liberal path to be followed – the many thousand liberal unionist voters who exist may actually be moved to vote in the first place or return from alliance. With Basil on board much more progressive and likeable people might come with him – Lady Herman, and hopefully Harry ‘10,500 votes’ Hamilton might return. Have always liked Dawn Purvis wonder if she could be enticed by a liberal UUP with Bazza at the helm?

    Or, they follow the path to unionist unity. This is actually a natural path for them to follow – unionism was one party before thje dup broke away, and after tumultous times over the years a softening dup and current mess of the uup are ideologically very similar as to be accomodated in one party. Such a unionist unity party would need a new name though ‘The Northern Ireland Union Party’ as a fresh start.

  • I really find Elliott’s statements on his resignation fairly impenetrable. There may have been briefing against him; but the way to deal with it – indeed, to pre-empt it – is to ensure that someone is briefing for you, preferably the party employee who is tasked with precisely that duty. This never quite seemed to be happening. One gets the sense that Elliott was never quite right for the job, and came to the point of realising that himself and took appropriate action.

    I am coming to agree with those who think that ‘Unionist Unity’ (or at least the DUP swallowing most of the UUP’s current support, whether formalised or not) is pretty much inevitable. I can’t be the only person to have noticed that if you ask two UUP activists why the party continues to exist, you tend to get three different (and contradictory) reasons.

    Opposition may not work in the end – ‘vote for us, because we’ll be a better partner for the Nationalists than the DUP, despite the historical evidence to the contrary’ – but it is probably the only trick left worth trying.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Red Lion:

    the many thousand liberal unionist voters who exist may actually be moved to vote in the first place or return from alliance.

    I am not sure that many liberal unionist voters switched to Alliance, given that Alliance’s vote has dropped right behind that of the UUP.

    No, most of the UUP’s vote either stopped voting or went to the DUP. I don’t think it was a straight question of Paisleyism suddenly seeming attractive; I think it was all about competence and effectiveness. The UUP are and were simply too lazy, and they still are.

    As for the modern versus traditional debate within unionism, I’m not even sure that is as big as it once was. The election results have shown rather consistently that most unionist voters are quite prepared to tolerate doing a deal with nationalism and indeed with Sinn Fein. The switch from UUP to DUP was, to me, more about competence and style rather than policy.

    With Basil on board much more progressive and likeable people might come with him – Lady Herman, and hopefully Harry ’10,500 votes’ Hamilton might return.

    I see that some UUP supporters have been passing the UCUNF crack pipe around.

    Such a unionist unity party would need a new name though ‘The Northern Ireland Union Party’ as a fresh start.

    Dearie me. The DUP have shown that they can continue to grow their vote, despite all the odds. Why change what works ?

  • Jim White

    Red Lion:
    ‘and hopefully Harry ‘10,500’ votes’ Hamilton might return.’
    Is that the same Harry Hamilton who was comprehensively beaten by David ‘14,000 votes’ Simpson?
    That’s the crux of the UUP’s problem. In any unionist-majority seat (and most of the rest, accept for Newry and Armagh I think) The Ulster Unionists are cleary behind the DUP, often by a wide margin, particularly in the Greater Belfast constituencies.
    Nicholas Whyte:
    You are absolutely correct. If the UUP do indeed continue on their current course, unionist unity will happen organically anyway. I absolutely believe their only chance of bringing some form of stability and order to the party is by cultivating closer links with the DUP. Let’s not kid ourselves: this is what Joe Soap ordinary unionist voter wants, they don’t care about the bitter past history between the two parties in the way some party activists do.
    Now is the time to bring an end to the divisions, the splits and the in-fighting which has plagued unionism for almost half a century. Let’s hope that our unionist political representatives grasp the nettle and act on the groundswell of unionist feeling.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    IJP

    I would agree that the majority of Unionists would be in favour of Unionist Unity. However, in the long run, I can’t see this benefitting the Union.

    As a moderate Nationalist, I have to laugh at the faith so many Unionists here place in the NILT “survey”. This was the same survey that concluded the SDLP had more support among Nationalists than SF – funny how that (clearly laughable) “fact” isn’t mentioned by those beating the drum for the NILT.

    I would accept that a greater number of Catholics than ever would vote for the Union – I also think that is largely explained by the economic situation in the Republic.

    However, in the medium term, say 20 – 40 years (as David Trimble foresaw) the Union will be dependent on Catholic votes.

    I truly believe that a large percentage of those Catholics who would be prepared to vote UUP would have a hard time voting for a United Unionist party that had the likes of Campbell and the McCreas in it. Peter Robinson is making some good moves and I applaud him for that.

    However, I believe the DUP Catholic vote is negligible (at best!) and not likely to improve while some of the current generation of DUP representatives stay around.

    A United Unionist party may benefit in the short term by gathering in some of the “Garden Centre” unionist votes but it would almost certainly nip any fledgling success with Catholics in the bud. In the medium or longer term, I believe it would prove to be a flawed decision.

    The big winners, in my opinion would be Alliance, they would pick up the majority of Catholic Unionists, now and in future.

  • carnmoney.guy

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/307353/307353

    This article proves that Col Tim Collins still wishes to serve in public life.
    A candidate for the leader of UUP ? the fact that he doesnt live here or is a member of the UUP is a bonus.
    A uniting figure with none of the baggage of any the other candidates .
    Unfortunately his military training will have taught him to pick his battles carefully, which will mean he would run a mile

  • vanhelsing

    One NI posted an interesting list yesterday which [Mark] was quite clever about.

    This is one of the UUPs problems, to quote – “Positive, progressive, forward-thinking leadership candidates who actually believe the UUP has a future as an independent party separate to the DUP – please step forward!”

    You don’t fight elections on celebrity or financial backing [although the latter helps] and this was part of the mistake made in putting together that quite ridiculous list.

    You win elections by hard work at a Council level and getting known on the ground and then people will vote for you when the assembly elections come around. To be quite honest I laughed when I saw the list.

    You also need loyalty, something that list also clearly didn’t attract. I question people leaving parties so readily [did they want to be in the UUP or just get a job in Stormont]. I actually think that the defections are one of the few good things for the UUP – I wouldn’t want them in the Alliance or the Conservatives as they have previous ‘form’ and if they seek election the same way they tried in the UUP good luck to them!!

    Tom is a good example of a man who has worked on the ground and is an excellent cons rep – he got a poisoned chalice when he took the leadership. As a Unionist with a capital ‘U’ it gives me no pleasure to say the above but it is the case.

    It would take humility to learn from DUP or SF in this regard but its not rocket science…

  • Billy Pilgrim
  • carnmoney.guy

    Good point Vanhelsing
    An example locally, news report detailing Danny kinahan visiting tenants who had waited years for an upgrade of their home electrics, had occasion to talk to other residents who reported that the local UUP were only seen at election time, and DUP had closed their nearest advice centre

  • IJP

    Red Lion

    Since Harry Hamilton has just been elected to the Alliance Party Executive…

    Comrade

    A rare note of disagreement…

    Contrary to what you say, I think it quite clear that voters have switched directly from UUP (and indeed SDLP) to Alliance.

    Alliance was the only Assembly Party to increase its actual vote (as opposed to vote share) at the last Assembly Election, attaining 14,000 more first preferences than at the previous election (when it had attained 11,000 more than the previous one). Although some of those were “tidying up the centre ground” votes, the vast majority will have come from somewhere.

    My own poll taken on the day of the 2011 Assembly Election suggested 8,000 people were switching from UUP (actually UCUNF) to Alliance. Looking at the outcome, I’d say that was pretty much spot on. It’s a sizeable chunk of the electorate – more than the total who voted Green, for example.

    MDWDH

    To be clear, I said that the majority of the UUP membership (though I agree also that a majority of self-define “Unionists”) supported Unionist Unity. I did not say that Unionist Unity was a good idea.

    On the contrary, it’s a very bad idea (for “Unionists”, anyway, maybe not for the rest of us).

    Nevertheless, Nicholas is right that it is what is going to happen, by stealth.

    The result could be a more competitive, and more issues-based, centre ground. That’d be a good thing, as I think that competition would expand the overall “Centre” vote and make politics a lot more relevant to a lot more people here.

  • Jim White

    IJP:
    What you say is undoubtedly true. But looking at the figures, it would appear to me that the vast majority of UUP to Alliance switchers occurred in two Belfast seats and North Down.
    The Ulster Unionists are now at such a low ebb in these constituencies (around 10% of the vote just) that I would suggest they represent a hard core UUP voter base and thus unlikely to switch to Alliance, or anyone else, in any significant numbers.
    Therefore, where are further ‘unionist-lite’ voters going to come from for Alliance? Not west of the bann, where Alliance records votes of around 1% and the UUP base has proven fairly resilient. In protestant, rural seats like EL and NA they are likewise very limited in appeal with votes around or below 5%. Alliance has a problem of being competitive in certain areas of NI in the east, and are totally out of their depth any where else, to put it politely.
    Alliance had a very good last election in terms of votes and percentage vote gained, don’t get me wrong. They deserve credit for that. But the party’s appeal is always going to be geographically limited to the Greater Belfast ‘pale’. They have no viable base elsewhere in the province. Further gains for the party from the Ulster Unionist direction are going to be extremely difficult to achieve.

  • Mark

    Ian ,

    Re your post yesterday @ 11.34 am .

    What is the UUP’s vision or purpose ?

    I would imagine if they themselves don’t know , what chance the rest of us . From the little I know about Unionist politics , I would say that as a party the UUP peaked at Good Friday and haven’t been able to replace someone with Trimble’s passion . Whether or not that’s a good thing only time will tell .

  • Comrade Stalin

    I would say that as a party the UUP peaked at Good Friday and haven’t been able to replace someone with Trimble’s passion .

    On the contrary, Trimble often gave off an air of someone who was being told to say things he didn’t really believe in himself. There was no passion there.

  • IJP

    John

    Certainly the biggest UUP-to-Alliance swing was in the three “Greater Stormont” constituencies, but it was still marked elsewhere. 30% v 8% in South Antrim became 18-14; 24-11 in East Antrim became 17-16; all noteworthy swings to say the least in constituencies which are by no means all suburban.

    For all that, it would be foolish to deny the threat to the UUP comes at least as much from the DUP as anyone else. My point is that, among the commentariat, the fact that thousands of UUP voters are going to Alliance is too frequently missed.

  • IJP

    Mark

    On the contrary, the first post-Agreement election was regarded as a disaster for the UUP, winning a mere 28 seats…!

    I really think it is more that the world has changed but the UUP would rather it hadn’t.

  • Mark

    Mabye replace passion with excitement . He certainly came accross as excitable to me . Whether or not he believed in what Stephen King was saying , who knows ? but he put himself out there and paid the cost because if it . But them the breaks as they say !!!! ….

  • OneNI

    “news report detailing Danny kinahan visiting tenants who had waited years for an upgrade of their home electrics”

    Where these Danny’s own tenants or HE?