What a great 12 hours for the UUP… PtII

14 05 2009
Sylvia responds to expenses row...

Sylvia responds to expenses row...

Well, Sylvia, we knew it was coming, but like this? During an election campaign?

One view as to ’why’ she did it like this seems to be that Sylvia got spooked by the expenses row then, displaying her usual flare for media management, decided to create some misdirection by blurting out some eye-catching rubbish about not being a Tory.

Oh dear. Bad enough that her original, long, rambling statement in response to the expenses allegation may have had the effect of expanding (and not minimising) the story somewhat. But to compound her problems by willingly introducing a second negative story is just incomprehensible. That one will follow her for some time to come.

What is the end result of her day’s work today? Well, the electorate may well think she’s on the take and the Party may well think she’s a traitor.

It didn’t have to be this way. Why did she get so spooked by the expenses story? Is there more to that story that’s yet to come out? What she did today just seems like, erm… (what’s a polite phrase for gaffe-ridden SNAFU worthy of Mr Magoo?)… er…. an asymmetric and disproportionate addendum to a fairly bland expenses story. She had kept her own counsel for many months, could it have hurt to wait another 3 ½ weeks?

Setting aside what she’s been telling the media today, the Reg statement can be read to imply that she won’t be selected by the UUP for the general election anyway.

“The leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party is disappointed that Lady Hermon, in the middle of an election campaign, has chosen to give a series of interviews in which she has challenged Party policy and the collective decisions taken by her colleagues.”

It goes on:

“Her own position is not an issue in the present campaign. She was assured last year that she would not be required to take the Conservative Party whip in the lifetime of the present Parliament. Candidate selection for the General Election is not yet underway, meaning that any decisions regarding her own selection process in North Down do not have to be made at this point. This makes the timing of her statements all the more disappointing.”

Or in others words, nothing is guaranteed. How do can she be selected after this? Ah well. Farewell then Sylvia. Bobballs also hears that the vast majority of her constituency party are happy to remain within the party. So when you go, you go it alone.

Everyone will fancy a crack at North Down next year. DUP/APNI/UUP are all strong there. But how will Sylvia’s voters respond to the expenses issue and to the fact that she betrayed her own party during election time?

She bit both the hands that feed her in the same day (electorate, then party). That’s quite some feat and kinda unnecessary. It’s a very great pity. Liked Sylvia a great deal. What a shame.

The silver lining is that this issue needed to be dealt with. And now it’s sorted. The way Sylvia has gone about playing her hand has ensured that the UUP assumes the role of victim to her headstrong attack, and that the UUP leadership appears firmly in control by reacting so completely and so promptly (fancy that!). Sylvia has jumped early and inflicted damage on herself. There were very many worse scenarios than this…

UPDATE: Well, it looks like the UUP wants to explore all of the worst possible scenario. DAnny Kennedy has been on the radio telling everyone that Sylvia is entitled to her views, that he will continue to persuade her about the Tories, that he hopes Sylvia will… Oh dear. So this isn’t  sorted.

The UUP have not censured Sylvia/removed the whip etc. Nope, they’re treating it as part of a debate that’s being held by an open and democratic party. Do us all a favour. Either she is in or she is out – she says out. So why not deal with the situation as it is, instead of burying your head in the sand and pretending this isn’t getting ENORMOUSLY DAMAGING?

Danny has basically let it be known that the leadership will not act decisively against Sylvia. She now has leverage again. She will leave, but now it will be on her own terms. For the UUP, the moment to deal with Sylvia has passed and now she will remain a story throughout the rest of the Euro campaign and into the general election. Nobody is satisfied by this situation as it prevails. Apart from sulking and being disappointed, I’m confused as to how the UUP intends to handle this. (Cameron would certainly have removed the whip from her. Apart from discussions, cups of tea and custard creams – do the UUP intend to apply any sanction at all?)

Given the media management abilities of both the UUP and Sylvia, the only thing I’m certain of now is that another swirling media cock-up is right round the corner. Anyone with a lingering affection for the UUP should look away now…

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6 responses

14 05 2009
Daithi

Ah Bobballs, couldn’t disagree more. Where other supposedly Labour-leaning members of the former-UUP have sucked it up and gone along with the Old Etonian Cameroonians swallowing up the party, Sylvia’s had the backbone to stand up and say no – and to do so in a dignified way.

Her words as quoted by the BBC were “”If my party chooses to move to call themselves by a different name, I’m terribly sorry and terribly disappointed by that, but I remain an Ulster Unionist,”.

I’m sure they reflect the sentiments of a great number of voters for what used to be the UUP and what is now, judging by Nicholson’s campaign, merely a provincial franchise for the right-wing Tory party, pledged to cut funding to Northern Ireland’s public sector upon which 70%+ of the economy depends.

Electorally, I’m sure she could stand in North Down as an Independent Unionist and win pretty much no matter what.

The arrogance and pomposity of the knee-jerk UCUNF response seems to make such a prospect more likely.

14 05 2009
bobballs

Ah Daithi – there you are!! How the hell are ya?

Surely everyone will see how opening up this debate during an election campaign is just plain stoopid?

The UUP would say that they’ve got an electoral pact and not an merger. So everyone who called themselves Ulster Unionist last year, are still Ulster Unionists this year. So what’s her problem? But the daft thing is saying that she won’t stand under any Conservative banner – fine, but why not tell everyone after June 4? Then, well, resign?

But yes, there are problems with the JN campaign – that slogan for a start. But there is no question that Cameron is wedded to this project. For a unionist, being linked to the next government of GB and NI can’t be such a bad thing right?

Agree on Sylvia. Very strong ND candidate (who has been operating an a de facto independent for a long time anyways). She might even hold her seat as an independent. Lots of respect for her, but her talent for causing chaos is beyond toleration.

Okay, you could argue that Sylvia has demonstrated backbone. But having heard a very vague and woolly interview from Danny Kennedy, I think the UUP leadership are failing stress tested n their own backbones at the moment. This type of catastrophic disloyalty must result in a final and complete resolution of the Sylvia problem.

Anyhoo – how is Aotearoa these days? donned the purple chicken suit recently?

14 05 2009
Daithi

Well I’m wearing the purple chicken suit in Sydney now. It’s great! Hot in summer but the days are finally getting cooler!

Under 20 degrees here counts as cool and it seems the local spider beasties don’t like purple chickens….

Aye I know it’s the middle of an election campaign – but why assume that former supporters (or indeed senior elected representatives) of what used to be an independent UUP are compelled to slavishly toe the line of what’s now reduced to the provincial wing of the Tories?

The Tory merger was a fundamental change in the character of the Party – it’s no longer any kind of independent force. And it wasn’t even put before the party members – just nailed down at meetings of the Executive which the vast majority of party members weren’t even a part of.

The slate of candidates the supposedly ‘new and centre-right’ Tories are lining up for the general election are mostly unreconstructed Thatcherites.

And in Europe they’re lining up with far-right Waffen-SS supporting eejits from Eastern Europe, so desperate are they to find like-minded types after leaving the EPP.

Unionists are equal and full British Citizens many of whom are as likely to support Labour or the LibDems as the Tories, so they shouldn’t feel the need to be “linked to the next govt of the UK” as though that in some way adds extra validity to their citizenship. Tory voters in England aren’t any less British because they’ve been out of power the last 12 years.

Anyways I’m sure the Tory wolves will be out for Sylvia now and she must have known that before speaking out. I wish her well and I wish that others in what used to be an independent free-thinking UUP had the spine she has.

14 05 2009
corb

Interesting analysis. But the implication that the UUP should remove the whip from the Lady seems unrealistic!

“Cameron would certainly have removed the whip from her. Apart from discussions, cups of tea and custard creams – do the UUP intend to apply any sanction at all?”

Remove the whip and I’m afraid it’s only good for hanging up in an empty stable. Cameron wouldn’t miss one of two MPs and would probably be glad to get rid of a few of them, but the UUP would certainly miss the only MP they have. Surely this is part of what is motivating the more cautious intervention from Danny K?

14 05 2009
cublue

Sylvia has to go she is a destructive force and the knives will be out for her. She should have resigned and then made her case not the other way round.

There is a lot more of this story to be told.

15 05 2009
bobballs

Hi Corb – understand that removing whip from only MP appears like a kamikaze effort, but if what we’re told is true then the UUP’s links with the Tories ensures they could continue to claim a voice at Westminster.

The Tories and their 190-odd MPs would seem to provide ample compensation for a small regional Party who have come to the end of the road with their lone, quasi-independent maverick MP.

Yes it would be a brave move to caste her out, but then Sylvia is halfway out the door anyway. If the UUP are effectively the Tory party in NI now, how do you come back from a position of ‘can’t stand the Tories/can’t stand as a Tory’? That cannot be rationalised within a Tory-linked party, surely. And if Sylvia is a straight shooter then she hastens her own passing with this statement.

Danny’s caution is one thing, but prolonging the inevitable is another. It seems to me that the relationship with Sylvia is fated to end badly.

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