Who would be in the poor UUP? Alex Kane noted in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, it is the gift to journalists that just keeps on giving, regardless of who is in charge. And the new leader does not have his troubles to seek:
The problem is that there is no sign of the better policies, better organisation, or the better communications.
Indeed, an opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph last week put the UUP – at 11% – on its lowest-ever level of support.
One bad news story has followed another and, last Friday, the party’s officers actually over-ruled Nesbitt’s public call for an executive meeting to discuss the Maginnis debacle, then made matters worse by issuing a statement which didn’t even come close to criticising the peer.
It was an embarrassing and humiliating setback for Nesbitt. Ironically (albeit very typical of the UUP), he didn’t have the power to call the meeting, he didn’t have the approval from those who did have the power and, consequently, he should not have contacted the media to tell them he was calling the meeting.
In essence, he was breaching the very rules he has criticised others of breaching. Hmm: only the UUP.
In in the midst of all of this, rumours abound and gain traction. One tweet sent to me and to several others this week suggested that there would be defections of UUP MLAs. Well, so far none have.
From the BelTel poll it’s clear that they are drifting like some grand but gently deflating earlier century air balloon. At the same time, their former voters are prime targets for Alliance DUP as well as the ever aspiring, never quite arriving Tories.
Any re-organisation of the constituency boundaries would make a rebound tough for any leader to achieve.
Three rather than four Belfast constituencies could end of their tiny foothold there. And a general crunch from six to five member constituencies will spell the end for several more of the party’s dwindling band of MLAs.
The UUP was always a dangerous contraption to fly even in the best of times, and the inexperienced Nesbitt is still struggling to read the manual.
That final remark of John McCallister at the of the UUP’s leadership election must resonate with the winner, “it’s Mike that’s in trouble now”. Having gone through the whole party pack looking for a plausible leader, no one else in the party looks like they even want the job.
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