But there’s no such thing as a principled resignation, right?

25 01 2010

So farewell then Peter McCann, Sheila Davidson and Deirdre Nelson. All three are reported to have withdrawn their candidacies. I see the Guardian* and Brian Walker @ Slugger are all over this.

So why did they resign? The Guardian reports a source close to the trio saying:

Peter and others resigned on a matter of principle, that principle being a wholly secular, inclusive pro-union politics untainted by sectarianism.

Okay, that’s the NI Tory perspective but I think it needs some additional context.

On Tuesday lunchtime I came across the ‘Peter McCann for Parliament’ info page. He must have just created it as I was about the 8th person to join (I left this morning!). I picked up on Peter’s impatience to get selected – perfectly natural – and blogged it here. However, smarter commenters to the post noticed his reference to the UCUNF campaign funding on teh info page.

Peter wrote:

“A Tory funded campaign in the European Election returns Jim Nicholson in second place in the count. Nicholson takes the Conservative Whip in the European Parliament. The DUP are well beaten into third place.

The Conservative and Unionist Pact continues for the Westminster Election, again it is funded by the Tory Party.”

This was an error of judgment. And he must have agreed as within a few hours the section was rewritten to say:

“A campaign in the European Election returns Jim Nicholson in second place in the count. Nicholson takes the Conservative Whip in the European Parliament. The DUP are well beaten into third place.

The Conservative and Unionist Pact continues for the Westminster Election.”

I’m quite sure this sort of flub would cause problems inside the Joint Committee. As I said here the other day…

“The funding issue is really a bit delicate and for a candidate not to get it fully right causes unnecessary problems.

I suspect Peter was being a little unkind by not crediting the UUP for contributing financially to their own Euro campaign. What do you reckon – hardly lends itself to demonstrating how tight this new pact is? It looks disharmonious, right?”

This time last week Peter was universally considered as all-but-certain to be the UCUNF candidate for SB. But by Tuesday evening this was in doubt. He had undermined the long-held UUP position that this deal had anything to do with finance. Peter’s ungracious assessment of the finance issue had put him on very thin ice.

How favourably inclined would the UUP be toward a candidate who overlooked something so major as their contribution to its own Euro campaign? What will such a candidate say or do during a Westminster campaign?

The ambassadors for this electoral pact are the people wearing the rosettes – everything hangs on their performance. UCUNF candidates should be expected to personify / demonstrate the strength, cooperation, values – and most importantly the unity – behind this new force. Peter did not. Perhaps he was left with face-saving option of grasping the opportunity to resign on principle; or accept the passive option of waiting to be quietly dumped?

To understand the reasoning behind these resignations I think we need to look beyond noble principle and beyond blaming the UUP. This looks to me like it stems from a problem inside the Tory Party.

* No surprises there. This was how the Guardian headlined the UUP conference in October: ‘Ulster Unionist conference conference riven by row over links with Tories’. It wasn’t. Those causing the row sat around a single table drinking coffee in the upstairs foyet – those united behind the leadership position were in the main hall (ie. that was everyone else). When a row occurs in the UUP, some players and observers do tend to lose their sense of proportion.

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4 responses

25 01 2010
Brian Walker and his amazing bucketful of balls… « Bobballs!

[…] I say in this post, the McCann situation was much more complex than Walker describes. Set aside this Hatfield House […]

25 01 2010
Alan in Belfast

Bob,

Ian Parsley – absent by name but not unmentioned in conversation at yesterday’s Alliance Party conferenceblogged his version of how and why the three Tory candidates pulled out.

25 01 2010
bobballs

many thanks for this Alan. Very interesting – have noted this in the post above. Yip, it seems the departing trio are spinning a line which another local tory attending the same meeting doesn;t recognise.

Cameron fires the election starter gun at the start of January and the NI Tories end up in electoral turmoil by the end of it. Not a great start to 2010 for them.

BTW – great coverage of the APNI conference… wish had been able to get across, though going to your post is clearly the next best thing!

26 01 2010
Ditherer

Peter and Sheila have been on Talkback and basically said what we all know to be true – the Conservatives – all of them including Cameron not just the locals – are fed up with Reg’s failure to get on with candidate selection.
To be fair UUP members are equally frustrated

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