In the Guardian today, it is reported that Danny Kennedy, an ally of Tom Elliot, has stated that he wishes to retain ties with the Conservatives at Parliamentary level. The model that he aspires to is similar to that which existed between 1921 and 1972.
“A new arrangement would not be as tight as the UNCUF [Tory-UUP] project and would only relate to Westminster. When it comes to assembly elections I believe the UUP should fight on its own, as a party without anyone else.
“But it’s better at a national level that we maintain such influence on national power. The pro-union people in Northern Ireland would be conservative with a small ‘c’ and would see any link-up at Westminster as part of the British link. It should return to the way it was between 1922 and 1972 when our MPs took the Tory whip in the Commons,”
It is right to point out that between 1921 and 1972, there was no such thing as a power-sharing constitution. One of the biggest political failures of successive British Governments during the earlier part of the 20th Century was the neglect of Northern Ireland. Any idea that the Conservative Party is not going to interfere, in some way, to move Northern Ireland away from sectarianism is entirely fanciful.
The trouble is, Tom Elliott is almost certainly the wrong person to entrust with bringing about the changes necessary to make the UUP non-sectarian. His leadership campaign is incoherent. He has graphically demonstrated his inability to build bridges between his own community and that of the Catholic community. When he or one of his allies speaks, they seem to dig themselves deeper into a muddy trench.
Recently, Fred Cobain threatened that the UUP would do a deal with the DUP if they did not get their way on a change to the St Andrews legislation so that Sinn Fein would not gain the office of First Minister. As Ian Parsley observed:
“He also tossed out the window any prospect of the Secretary of State amending the First Minister election system – the Conservatives, particularly in a coalition government, are not about to yield to daft ultimatums.”
It does not matter what the Elliot camp says between now and the UUP leadership election. Elliot may win the UUP leadership contest but his success would pose a greater danger to the survival of the UUP than McCrea. Within the blogasphere, there has been some mocking of Tom Elliot as the candidate better suited to managing the decline of the UUP towards its extinction. How ironic, then, that a certain Tom Eliot wrote this:
“…This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”