Last week, it was reported by Mark Devenport and subsequently confirmed by other bloggers, including Chekov that the UUP is now asking the Government to provide finance to enable it to go into opposition.
At the moment, there are two UUP MLAs with ministerial posts on the Executive, which they were allocated under the D’hondt system. From the way this request is being made, it looks as though the party has become partially economically dependent on the salaries of the two Ministers. There is, of course, an election looming and that has to be funded. So how much has this request to do with finance and how much has it to do with political principle?
Jeffrey Peel has already illustrated here and here some of the incidents which appear to have arisen as a result of the UUP’s internal financial difficulties. At the time of his resignation from the Joint Committee two years ago, he made explicit reference to the UUP’s financial problems stating it as a prime reason for going into partnership with the Conservatives:
“… I have come to the conclusion that the UUP does not have the interests of Conservatism at heart. Rather, as the UUP is facing a severe financial crisis, it sees the Conservatives as a means out of its financial and electoral woes.”
That puts into context a story that I was told recently about a financial incident between the Conservatives and the UUP regarding UCUNF.
It had been agreed between the Conservatives and the UUP that they would set up a joint fund of £100,000. The Conservatives put in their initial £50,000. The UUP did not come up with its share. In the end, senior Conservatives withdrew money held by Northern Ireland Conservatives. It was a sort of “i.o.u.” except that the money has never been repaid by the UUP to the Conservatives.
This brings me to an important point. The credibility of any political party depends, to a certain extent, upon the degree to which it sticks to its principles. Now I appreciate that it is very hard, these days, to find any political party that has a polished halo. Nevertheless, how can anybody trust a political party whose policies and political actions are primarily driven by the need to raise money?
Following Mark Cosgrove’s comment below, I have written a follow-up post here