Great piece from Alex Kane on Eamonn’s site looking at some of the realities of politics of Northern Ireland, against which he tries to measure the new leader of the UUP… First the winning team:
The DUP and SF didn’t get to where they are with make-it-up-as-you-go-along ideas. They defined an end goal, put in place a strategy and an agenda and then set out yardsticks by which to measure success. Mike says he has no ‘quick fixes’ or ‘big idea.’ I’m not even sure what his end goal is, other than putting himself in as First Minister ‘at the end of the second electoral cycle.’ He still insists that politics is about ‘getting power.’ Maybe so, but before the electorate entrust you with power they probably need some idea what you plan to do with it.
And the scale of the comeback required:
In the 2003 Assembly election the gap between the UUP and DUP was 20,533 votes. By 2007 it had grown to 104,576. In 2011 (with turnout falling and the DUP losing 9,285) the gap grew again, to 110,905. That’s a startling turnaround: the gap between the UUP and DUP is now greater than the UUP’s vote in 2007. By any definition that is meltdown territory and it is not going to be reversed by a leader who happens to be comfortable in front of the microphone and camera. He’s right about there being no ‘quick fix,’ but he really does need the ‘big idea.’
Now, I suspect that’s not why they picked Mike Nesbitt. A leader who wants the job (even if he’s not yet worked out what he wants to do with it), and won’t wreck the factional harmony of the UUP. He found his way around the power structures of the party and is now looking for something that no party leader has asked for for some time, absolute loyalty.
…since I first met him back in 2009 Mike Nesbitt has displayed a steely determination to get what he wants. He isn’t the sort of politician we are used to in Northern Ireland. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing for the UUP is, at the moment, anybody’s guess.
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