The worm has turned…

2 06 2009
The topsy turvey world of the Two Ronnies... which is very much like the topsy turvey world of NI politics

The topsy turvey world of the Two Ronnies... which is very much like the topsy turvey world of NI politics

DUP Defections

Less than three years ago, the UUP were suffering defections to the Tories. In September 2006, Bob Little joined the Tories and there were rumblings about Empey’s leadership.

Fast forward less than three years and the UUP have absorbed (er… almost all) the local Tories and are now receiving incoming defections from the DUP. And no doubt Reg is being warmly congratulated for the quality of his leadership.

It’s 33 months since Little’s defection. It’s c.48 months since a political tsunami in the form of the DUP swept the Ulster Unionists aside at the general election.

I think that’s amazing. When you consider how bad it was for the UUP, how close they were to the end, and now… Cameron joins Reg on party platforms, Hague stops by for a chat, the party RECEIVES defectors (!). It’s only 48 months since brave Sylvia survived meltdown – only to now become an unpopular figure for saying she bears no philosophical affection for a political party with which her political party has not yet merged. Politics is a topsey turvey world all right.

Of course, the UUP campaign has suffered serious setbacks but overall the effect is positive. How much of this is good leadership, good fortune or just good timing?

Put it another way – the UUP have produced a media friendly defection. They’ve been sitting on this for weeks and (just like the Tory pact announcement), they locked it up, took control and waited for the right moment to arrive. So in answer to my own question, the explanation does not wholly lie in leadership, fortune or timing. The simplest, most complete explanation is that the UUP has finally got professional.

The effect of these defections will be to galvanise and get people thinking about the UUP in a way they haven’t done for some time. And all just 10 days before polling. Few things impress more than constructive politics smartly executed.

PS. The last time I was this impressed was when the SDLP PEB got screened. Put a ring on it Alban!




6 responses

2 06 2009

Bob your analysis is not correct. There is little talent in the UUP. Neil Johnston is a consummate politician and is highly media savvy. As Campaign Director he is pulling all the strings. I may have had my disagreements with him but to suggest the UUP is getting professional in nonsense. The Conservatives are beginning to very effectively get rid of the UUP. And that is to be applauded. They may not say it but that is the end game. Plus the most important councillor defection was to the Conservatives – not the UUP.

Jeff Peel

2 06 2009
Shuffling Geisha

Yes Jeff, all UNCUNF needs to become more electable is to get rid of the 1 MP, 18 MLAs and 115 councillors across Northern Ireland, THEN it will be a runaway success…Jeez its the Adolf Hitler approach to party politics, craaazzy

2 06 2009

What nonsense. What I am suggesting is that if the Conservative Party is ascendant there is no need for a single issue focused “Party” like the UUP. The UUP will dissolve and its membership and elected representatives will all become Conservatives. Some will also go away – which is no bad thing. What purpose does the UUP have if the Conservative Party is pulling the strings?

What purpose does the UUP have long term if the Conservative Party is organised here, has staffing here and provides the bulk of resources? By definition the most astute elected representatives will realise on what side their bread is buttered.

3 06 2009
Carson's Cat

I actually don’t disagree with much of the ‘high’ theory idea that eventually there is no need for the UUP. Trouble is, I know of very few people, apart from a small cabal which inhabits the new Cunningham House who see it that way too. The vast majority of members and Cllrs which the UUP have see themselves still more as UUP than UCUNF.

They’re prepared to accept and even support the current arrangements mainly because they see it as the only way to fight back against the DUP. However, if their party slowly dissolves into itself there will be many more who’ll leak across to the DUP than who’ll ever go to the Tories.

In the medium term that pits an even stronger DUP against a much weaker Tory party than the UUP is now. Maybe in the verrrry long-term the grand plan will all come together in terms of the UCUNF project, but I suspect there are just too many risks and too many elections for them to lose for it to work out.

3 06 2009

Carson’s Cat,

Maybe you are right. Who knows. Suppose I’m just trying to be optimistic about a very, very flawed situation. During my time in the joint working party/joint committee I met some really fine people from the UUP side. But also an awful lot of political dead-wood.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a big shake-out. But I don’t reckon Jim Nicholson is the quality of candidate to lead the shaking out.

7 06 2009

Hi Jeff – sorry took me a while to get back to you here. Good to hear your perspective on these things.

i do agree with you that the UUP is full of dead wood. It still operates like a mafia – you need to be considered a ‘goodfella’ to get promoted (its definitely not decided on ability). However, what talent they do have in there they tend to make most efficient use of it. they make a little go a long way.

Like you I am crossing my fingers for a big shake out.

But having seen the UUP from all sides, their approach this time out definitely is more professional. Their backroom is more focused and streetwise than previously. When bitten, they bite back. their use of media is more sophisticated than ever. There were still some terrible screw ups, but i sense a more professional outfit. (The Euro election is a test of the centre, the big test is a general election when the constituency parties get involved. Then we’ll see how professionalised the broader party is/isn’t.)

But i don;t agree that the Tories will subsume the UUP. I really don’t. I think Carson’s Cat is correct on this – the new force has been created to keep the UUP fighting elections. Its a work of self-interest as opposed to conjoining ideologies. Reg has said time and again that he could walk away from the deal if it didn;t work. Hardly sounds like an ideologically committed Tory. (though i suspect, when you get beneath all that paranoid claptrap about ‘defending against threats to the Union’, that he might be One Nation Tory at heart??)

I would like to see more politics/ideological texture to the UUP, but i doubt this new force will illicit such a response. Sheer bloody mindedness brought the UUP together with the Tories, and that is precisely what will keep them apart in my view. Think Carson’s Cat is right here too, the new force will last into the next election but its such an unlovely carbuncle of a construct that i doubt there’s much longevity to it.

What do you for active politics now Jeff? Is the Tory party def closed off to you now?

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