The ‘UUP line up Nesbitt’ story is a really strange one.
More than a few people in the UUP are surprised about it. However, I hear though that it has been kicking in the constituency for at least the past few weeks and that some people were talking about Nesbitt prior to the recent selection meeting.
To some people in the party, there is a certain logic to Nesbitt going forward. As Aaron Tinney reports, the UUP think Strangford is winnable and they think they need a big name to carry it. And a UUP source has coyly told the BBC that a third nominee could be added to the list in Strangford.
But as hand of history points out, there’s a whiff of the Tim Collins’s about this. Lots of chat and rumour, but nothing very much happening. And that is the bothersome bit.
Selection took place two weeks ago. UUP people in Strangford took time out to go to the selection meeting, listen to the speeches, cast their votes and make their decision. They chose Philip Smith and Colonel Colin Heron. But a senior party source now tells Tinney that Nesbitt is the party’s first choice (in the absence of any confirmed intention from Nesbitt).
Will this not:
- Piss off the local members who thought the decision was theirs – and who have made their decision.
- Piss of one influential UU member in particular – Philip Smith is a Party Officer and must have fancied his shot at the grand prize.
Also, what if Nesbitt decides that he doesn’t want to do it (or what if he had never wanted to do it)? If that happens then whatever candidate they run will look like a second choice. If the candidate is UCUNF’s second choice, why should that candidate be Strangford’s first choice?
The DUP are in turmoil, and to emphasise the disparity between the parties it would useful for the UUP to demonstrate clarity of purpose / deftness of touch. If they don’t capture Nesbitt then all the UUP will have managed to do is divert media attention from the DUP. For the sake of sound media management, I do hope the UUP get their man.