Lucius Winslow is an MA student at Queen’s University Belfast, who takes delight in being described as a Unionist reactionary, and hardline Tory. He also writes things.
With the defection of former minor-somebody Fred Cobain to the Democratic Unionists, and the whole Basil McCrea saga about flags and whatnot, I am bound to ask; what is the point of the UUP?
Pursuant to my ticket-splitting article of some days ago, I am obviously in favour of mainstream parties. Failing that, however, a united unionist party would be helpful. Thus in the 1980s I would have been inclined to see the UUP absorb the DUP. But it’s not the 1980s. We are Trimble’s children, and the UUP is now little more than a band of unsuccessful political street urchins, picking little nuggets here and there, but generally struggling to survive in the big bad world.
That the Ulster Unionists are politically inept has been common knowledge for some years; it’s one of the reasons why they have been churning through leaders so quickly. Time after time after time they have failed on several fronts; from a public relations perspective they are woefully incapable of projecting their image, from a policy perspective there is ambiguity and vacuum, and from a human resources perspective they seem utterly in chaos, like cats in a bag.
Notwithstanding the pragmatism of the tactical vote and so forth, when it comes to politics I tend to categorise the reasons why voters support parties and politicians into three distinct strands; personality, competence, and ideology. For my own part I place ideological purity first, competence second, and personality a fantastically distant third. (The reason I place competence below ideology is the rather self-evident point that a competent enemy is far more dangerous than an incompetent one).
Unfortunately the UUP seems to be failing in all three. Apart from Basil, who is now on his way out it would seem, and in fairness Mike Nesbitt to a certain extent, the UUP are quite without star power. What could illustrate that more than the well-meaning but cardboard-esque Lord Empey, and the staggeringly unappealing Tom Elliott.
On the next rank up my ladder of importance comes competence. On this score the UUP just fails miserably. One would have thought that the fewer elected members they have (and each election is certainly helping with that regard) the easier it would be to control the party. Not so. They cannot control their ranks at all, they cannot agree on a common message. They seemingly can’t do anything right. Like I said, cats in a bag.
And then there comes ideology, which is an ethereal word which for our purposes here can be synonymous with policy. And on the policy front the UUP is just utterly pointless. On no major area of public policy do they disagree with the Democratic Unionist Party. And given that any political party is a coalition of slightly divergent interests and views, the idea that such divergences as do exist could not be contained in one party is just daft. This absence of divergence makes the existence of two parties a pointless, even counterproductive, occurrence. No wonder London ministers think they are going to Lilliput when they touch down in Belfast.
As the two parties have, more or less, the same policies (and don’t anybody below try to talk about penny and shilling policies or the reorganisation of local bus services in Ballyslapmuckery; catch yourselves on, these are not justifiable differences!) this factor cannot be judged as a criterion in which to cast a vote. Which leaves personality and competence. The DUP’s personality isn’t exactly all-encompassing, so we could give that as a draw if I am being generous. So that leaves competence: final score, DUP 1-0 UUP.
As a conservative I find it rather difficult to dispose of things which are so old, and the UUP is certainly that, with its legacy of Craigavon, Carson etc. But by this stage the Ulster Unionists are not so much venerable as senile, decrepit, and imbecilic.
Fred Cobain may have been a fairly non-entitative mediocrity, but he was certainly correct when he said that the Ulster Unionist Party was ‘politically exhausted’. If one had a dog like that one would shoot it. And I’m not talking about Cobain.Share on Facebook