…it strikes me that the UUP is in the same position as Clegg: it cannot be true to itself and carve out its own identity (which makes it hard to attract new votes) and it shares the general unpopularity of the Executive (which means it may lose people who voted for it last time). Mike is right when he says that the UUP’s structures and organisation still need work (and that’s been an ongoing project since the mid-1980s, don’t forget!); but organisational improvements will mean very little if the UUP remains trapped, un-influential and jointly culpable for the dithering, incompetence and disconnect of the Executive.
I’m not as sure as Alex that the Executive is as unpopular as he suggests. Few of the big cuts have really bitten yet. The journey through the eye of the Belfast Agreement’s needle has left all parties in Northern Ireland politically identikit copies of one another.
The stranglehold the two big parties – which to be fair to them is probably as much of a necessary evil in order to prevent the thing from cowping as much as anything else – makes it tough for any individuals who sit on the Executive.
But if you are going to try to disrupt you need a good political reason to do it…
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