Well, at least we now have a contest for the leadership of the UUP. I do not propose to go into the political differences between the two candidates. Others will do a better job than me.
What is important to recognise is that neither candidate is interested in a pact with the Conservatives – at least one which involves Conservatives standing in Elections. So why doesn’t the Conservative leadership say, “That’s fine. We will continue to pursue Conservativism in Northern Ireland without you.”?
In fact, there has been hardly a peep about the link with the UUP since the General Election. All that has happened is that a letter has been circulated by a senior conservative official indicating to the UUP that their candidates will not be standing in Assembly Elections. Furthermore, the remnants of the UCUNF connection are still on the Conservative Website – as if the pact remains. So what is really going on?
Could it be that UUP politicians have complained to the Conservative hierachy that the Conservatives are a hindrance to the joint aspirations of the two parties? Could it be that the UUP have asked them for a free run, without contest by the Conservatives and the Conservatives have granted that request?
The silence from Conservative Officials is almost deafening.
Many Conservatives in Northern Ireland appreciate that there are huge differences between them and the UUP. There are some who would disagree with that suggestion. Nobody should be fooled. Conservativism is not an ideology of the UUP despite what you might find written on Wikepedia. When was there ever such a suggestion from a UUP politician?
Furthermore, Protestantism, which is still a feature of the UUP is not a feature of the Conservative Party. I say that with the greatest respect to Basil McCrea who would like to completely de-sectarianise his party. Good luck to him on that. I wish him every success.
In the meantime, what do Conservative activists in Northern Ireland really want? Are they happy to just sit there and be told that there will be no opportunity to vote for a Conservative in the Assembly Elections?
There is too much control freakery inside the Conservative Party. It is one thing to have good internal party discipline and to stick to the policy line even if you do not personally agree with it. However, it is quite different if your rights of representation are being violated.
If you are a member of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland, do you really wish to be moved about like a piece on a chessboard? What is really in this for you?