Jude Collins

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Big Tom's a-cold

What's David McNarry up to? He was on TV last night and it's not often you hear a politician speaking so plainly in public as he did. The unfortunate part, from the UUP's point of view, was that he was talking about his leader, Tom Elliott. "I feel betrayed by him" McNarry said, or words to that effect. Well you would do, wouldn't you, if you'd been dumped off your party's Assembly team, and then Basil McCrea were to leap in  and say that that meant you were ejected from the party itself.

What's going on? One of three things: a leadership struggle, a leadership struggle or a leadership struggle. A lot of UUP people feel they've been sold a rural cart-horse when they were hoping for a leggy thoroughbred. It's all very well for Big Tom to play tough and rebuff the overtures of the DUP -  even the dimmest cart-horse knows an alligator when it confronts one. No, the UUP have that sinking feeling and they want not just someone who'll save them from being chomped to bits but someone who'll show them a way to make some political headway.

The trouble is, in their heart of hearts, they know it's impossible. They know they're in a lift with just one button and it's marked "Down".  It's a long way from Harry West to Tom Elliott, and the UUP would prefer, as they hear ominous lift-whirrings,  to see someone in charge who at least looks the part. Someone with a bit of oomph and character, built on the Boris Johnston lines, say. Which might explain why Basil McCrea was in the Shinners' lion's den in Derry on Saturday, cheerfully socking it to them, and why he's been saying David McNarry should be out of the UUP completely, not just out of the Assembly team.

He's a lively public-schoolboy-type, is Basil., and he appears to have his twinkly little eye on Big Tom's job. But why in God's name would he want it, keeping in mind that one-button lift? Well, maybe Basil has  been thinking of those other two former UUP luminaries, Arlene Foster and  Jeffrey Donaldson. Build up political capital before jumping into the arms of the DUP. What better way for Basil to display his political muscle than by replacing  Big Tom? He might even take a few fellow-members with him when he makes his leap. Whither then the UUP? Ah. In that case think not so much  "Down" button as severed lift-cable.


  1. I'm not sure the only button is 'down', I think there may be an 'across' option too.

    Not every unionist is keen to vote for the DUP, we haven't all forgotten the Paisley days. Not all of us take such a hardline viewpoint, not all of us are just quite so prejudiced against the nationalist community.

    For me the DUP combines orangism-protestantism-unionism and a twinge of loyalism. What if i'm not an orangist or a prod-fundamentalist? What if I just am northern Irish and like the idea of staying part of the UK? What if I see a place within the UK for me and my fellow Irishmen? What If I support the idea of greater cross-border cooperation with our brothers and sisters in the south? I've been all over these isles and we're closer in mind with the south than the English. There isnt a political party that is unionist and liberal enough to attract my vote, so I vote alliance.

    I think the likes of Freddie, Paula Bradshaw etc who were forced to join alliance had the right idea, co-operation, break down barriers etc.. I dont think them joining alliance was the right thing for them or the right thing for that party. But there was nowhere else.

    I'm sure there are a lot of non-voting folks in NI would agree with that, perhaps Basil see's a populist movement who would come out and vote to give a 'sense of reason', an alternative to extremes in politics.

    Yes you could argue Robinson is trying to get Catholics to vote for the DUP.. every catholic I know will never vote for the DUP, they may vote alliance or some softer inclusive liberal grouping in places like Lagan Valley where there is no credible Nationalist candidates. So I think there is scope for something in the middle ground.

    Tom managed to blow any chances of him leading that charge after his outburst in Fermanagh.. people, unionists in particular do not all want bigoted politics.

    If you look at the 1998 results, people were voting for the agreement, they voted for the UUP not the DUP, yes things have changed but do you believe that there are a lot of decent people out there who have suddenly gone mad?
    A bunch of free-presbyterian, homophobic, sectarian and anti-intellectual people will hardly attract the votes of the sane unionists if there is a sensible option. UUP just need to realise that.

  2. I think that the Tories have already sussed that and hence the forth coming new Conservative and Unionist Party (N.I.) they will mop up the disgruntled UUP elected reps & supporters. It will also put an end to any form of Unionist unity pact

  3. I cant see Basil building up his cv so he can join the DUP he is more on the Alliance or Tory type side of the UUP. I think more defections to the Alliance party and DUP are only inevitable. In reply to Ryan I think harry hamilton and paula bradshaw are good assets for the Alliance party but I do agree that they cant take in too many liberal unionists as it will tip their own party from a neutral party to a small u unionist party (many would say they are that already)