Last week Michael Shilliday wrote this piece in The News Letter, opining that while it was too early to judge Mike Nesbitt’s leadership of the UUP, despite the obvious challenges, he had made a “good start”.
We are grateful to Deirdre Nelson for giving us this response to Michael’s article:
Earlier this week Michael Shilliday assessed Mike Nesbitt’s first 100 days as UUP leader.
While I agree with much of this article I feel that neither Mike nor Michael has addressed one of the main issues facing the UUP. Voters are staying away from polling booths in droves and women especially are opting out of the whole process.
The UUP has seen its vote decline, particularly east of the Bann in urban constituencies. However, it has failed to entice voters back or to regain voters lost to Alliance at previous elections. In East Belfast, the UUP should have been able to capture the seat from a weakened Peter Robinson, but voters in one of the most unionist constituencies in Northern Ireland opted instead for a party at best neutral, and at worst, hostile to the union.
For too long the UUP has attempted to slow the tide by courting rural voters and the Orange Order. Both these groups are in decline in terms of population, yet the UUP appears to see no other group as worthy of its attention. They have failed to produce serious policy which the professional class can engage with and they have ignored the voice of women on an almost permanent basis.
Only if they seriously begin to reach out to this disaffected group in North Down, East Antrim, North Belfast, South Belfast, East Belfast and Strangford and address the issues which concern ordinary voters on a daily basis can they begin to stem the decline and reverse their electoral fortunes. Without strong policies, rooted in day to day life and explained clearly to ALL voters the UUP will no longer be the third party in NI, it will die slowly.
Deirdre Nelson is a “mother of three with a long-standing interest in politics and the trade union movement, including a 6-year stint as a councillor in Ballymena. Recently qualified as a post-primary teacher following a long hiatus from working as a supply teacher. Believes everyone should be politically active as it’s the only way to ensure politicians work in the country’s best interests and political decisions concern us all every day.”
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