Another defection from UUP shows politics is not business

I do not wish to comment directly on Harry Dunlop’s decision to switch to the DUP, as he and Roberta have both been very good to me during my time on Council. One thing I would say is that they have both proved themselves loyal friends to those close to them and, even when that wasn’t to my advantage, I saw the merit in their case when they chose to prove it!

However, there is a general trend here. The DUP is being ruthless in seeking out new members; having moved towards the centre ground of Unionism while also maintaining a general pledge to “Unionist Unity” (under its own definition), it is preparing to broaden its support using every conceivable route to do so and on the back of an organisational culture which puts the party first. The Alliance Party doesn’t do “ruthless” in quite that way and is more inclined to wait for people to approach it, but it too seems prepared to broaden the ground upon which it stands to the extent that it is undergoing a process of change which could be bumpy but will almost inevitably result in a significantly larger (and notably younger) party. The UUP, on the other hand, is being picked off one-by-one; its leadership is in a state of denial about this (although it is now reaching near “Comical Ali” proportions), but insofar as it thinks about it at all, it has completely the wrong analysis – the issue is not so much policy, but rather a combination of a return to old-fashioned values and, even more relevantly, horrendous organisational incompetence.

It has been stated before on this blog that the UUP seems close to unique in the way that it seeks out a market, rather than positions itself to sell its case. I believe it is not coincidental that so many people in the current Leadership are businessmen (including farmers), for whom “seeking out a market” is the natural way of things. It is in business, but it is not in politics. This is the reason for the sheer mystification that while the UUP Leadership fiddles while seeking out its market, its operations staff are disappearing to its competitors who already have one.

Politics is in fact quite the contrary to business. The UUP needs to seek out its ground (state what it stands for), and then sell it to the electorate as the best way forward; to continue on this flawed quest to seek out a market and only then take any political position will only see the gaps closed.


26 thoughts on “Another defection from UUP shows politics is not business

  1. NorthernIrishRanger says:


    Another defection that went largely unnoticed was the defection of the vice-chairman of Castlereagh council who introduced the UUP conference.

    The UUP resembles a victim of a shark attack but with all the blood in the water attracting in more and more sharks taking a bite here and a bite there. The Alliance party are getting the nice headline defections whilst the DUP are getting more of the engine-room types taking key council level types.

    The UUP has an old membership which is desperate for new blood but there is nothing to attract this new blood in. The new leadership is has resounding support from membership but that membership is of the older generation, rural population and from the Orange sector of the population. This was resoundingly heralded as democracy in action but on reflection it is more reflective of oligarchy.

    All is not lost though as any young member of the UUP has the chance to be pushed into the public sphere much quicker than they would be in the DUP

    • Unfortunately I’m not even sure that last point stands up to scrutiny. Judging by past record, they’ll be pushed into the public sphere only to be shafted when they get there.

      This is the fundamental point. The DUP offers a career map (be it a Council seat or whatever) – and is quite unashamed about it because it wants the best people. The UUP offers chaos and internal wrangling. For a politico of any age, it’s not much of a choice, really.

      • NorthernIrishRanger says:

        The final point was just an attempt not to be fully negative. As somebody subsequently has posted the younger Westminster candidates were, to borrow Premiership term, field a weakened side before the men in grey suits rolled out what they see as their main team for the big game in May.

        Out of interest Ian where would you direct a broadly centre-right libertarian?

      • Good question. I guess we can assume that that centre-right libertarian is also broadly pro-Union but doesn’t really want to define their politics by that?!

        It still has to be the Alliance Party. Certainly, some of its candidates come close to that description (one at the last General Election filled it almost exactly but he’s not running this time); there is a “liberal” (if not necessarily “libertarian”) wing to the party certainly.

        You can rule out both the DUP and SF as over-authoritarian. The SDLP likes to pretend it is socialist but most of the time it is chasing SF (Irish road signs being but the latest example). The UUP has no libertarian bent that I’ve come across, but it is probably the strongest challenger on the grounds some of its candidates at least are sensible and centre-right.

        You could look at Independents depending on where you live, but I would advise against them at Assembly level. They cannot achieve anything (ask Kieran Deeny) because they are outside the power blocs (and thus also actually outside the relevant information channels too).

        Laughably, the other option would appear to be TUV. Certainly some of its members have a strong libertarian streak. The grasp on reality may be another thing, of course. Bizarrely, my guess is you’ll find yourself in agreement with more of its literature than that of any other party. The problem is delivery – ask Nick Clegg about that!

  2. George says:

    The UUP is resembling, more and more, a dead duck.

    And as someone once said, who watches a dead duck?

    Not even its mother.

    She just flies away looking depressed.

  3. Anon says:


    The DUP has been very proactive in pushing younger people to the fore of their line up. The UUP doesn’t have a single ELECTED female councillor under the age of 45 in Northern Ireland. Take Basil, Elliott and McCallister out of the Assembly team and if everyone else isn’t over 60 they are damn near to it. The old codgers were perfectly content to let the new blood in for Westminster elections they knew they couldn’t win, but when it comes to letting them anywhere near Assembly tickets, they close ranks (i.e. South Belfast). The old guard: the same clique who have presided over every misfortune to have befallen the UUP in the last 15 years backed Elliott and now he is a prisoner to them.

  4. Richard says:

    I hate to use analogy of rats leaving a sinking ship but can’t think of any other.
    I predicted on this blog months ago that eliotts election was the nail in the coffin, and the arrivals from Fermanagh to the waterfront were oblivious to that. But it was rubbished.
    The Conservative Party are awakening to this to. The arrangement with the UUP is doomed as everyone will also see very soon

    • I don’t think it was rubbished, Richard, other than by Paul. In fact, what is most noticeable is how few UUP supporters come on and offer any serious defence – they are not stupid, they will not defend the indefensible. Until now, the UUP has been reliant on there being no better offering – the DUP was, well, the DUP and Alliance was, well, not Unionist. To see people going one way would be alarming, but for both flanks to collapse at once…

      I don’t think the change of leadership was the problem so much as the non-change of leadership. The face on the door marked “Leader” may have changed, but actually nothing else did. The promise offered by the younger, less communal, more professional candidates in May has (with the odd exception) been shattered.

      You’ll excuse me for noticing the Conservative Party has supposedly been “awakening” for the last 15 years! There are a few things I said on here abotu that which were “rubbished” by more than just Paul but which subsequently came to pass. The Conservatives are not players in NI politics and there is no evidence they will be any time soon. I still suspect, for many of them, my aforementioned idea of a link to the Alliance Party is the only conceivable route to change that.

      • Paul says:

        i never rubbished ian i just sais time will the moment things look very bad and i think if to be honest we will get a thrashing in may.

    • Paul says:

      i never rubbished what you said richard i mereley said if basilhad got elected leader things would of got a lot worse which they would of we have had about six leaving.thats nothing compare to if basil had got elected you would of being talking 15 mlas 30 odd councillors and hundreds of the party went for the least worse option.trouble is the party just cannot hold it together.if you go over my comments several months ago i said the uup would be better of splitting disbanding in other words those that want to go off and join alliance and those that want to go off and join the dup go off and do it they are doing it anyway and those that any others go off and do there own thing.anybody can see things cannot go on as they are we are now losing people from allsections like i predicted to alliance and the dup and that will be reflected in the voting patterns i am sure.

  5. Richard says:

    It’s hard to disagree with what you are saying Ian. I didn’t mean that you rubbished my comments on Elliott and yes the rot had set in before him.
    Regarding the change in the Conservative Party, I refer to recent comments I have heard from some very strange sources who would have been regarded as the UUP’s strongest allies

    • I can certainly see the appeal in backing Independent candidates and it’s not necessarily a bad idea.

      However, be absolutely certain you are not creating short-term gain for long-term pain. Firstly, none of them will get elected. Secondly, they are a sporadic group who may be able to say things local Tories like for five months, but when it comes to proving themselves in terms of mainstream, non-sectarian politics in the long run you may be disappointed. Thirdly, don’t forget the UUP started like this – bringing together different groups under a common (but inevitably temporary) cause doesn’t work in the long term. If all you achieve from this is making it difficult for more sensible candidates (some of whom you backed in May) to get elected, you’ll just end up looking even more ridiculous.

      I still suspect the better route towards gaining experience and information (and achieving a good result) is the route I suggested. I hope that has at least been fully considered.

      I also wonder just how many Independent candidates there will actually be in the end, with the DUP and Alliance still hoovering – nothing to do with me, but for the next installment, watch the news at lunchtime today…

  6. Paul says:

    if people go over my posts when tom got elected i said this was make or break year for the uup and i stand by those comments.The uup is in a mess i agree but lets see what the elections bring i am one who wants closer ties with the dup.And the sooner the better the liberal wing have held us back they cannot be allowed to do so any longer.As for hary dunlop he is a good man and a fellow colleague and i wish him well but i have no doubt we will be working together quicker than people think.

  7. Richard says:

    In a strange turn of events Paul you and I could be canvassing for the same man!
    I think the Conservatives here will support independent candidates. That’s what I’m hearing

    • Paul says:

      yes indeed richard i will be canvassing for david mcclarty.who i hope will soon be announcing he will be contesting the assembly election and i will support him 100 percent in canvassing knocking doors as will many many people.and i predict will be re elected ahead of any uup candidates

  8. Clare says:

    I’ve got to say it’s a joy to watch!
    The tired old fossilised and backward looking UUP finally being brought to its knees.
    I sincerely hope Alliance can capitalise on this.

  9. Richard says:

    Yes Ian I take on board your comments.
    I personally think that tactical voting is the key in every constituency.
    You don’t think Harry Hamilton has a chance? Ive heard he is popular in Upper Bann. Hard to tell. It’s very hard work without a party label.
    Nothing on God’s earth would have me voting UUP, pointless wasting a vote on an independent if Alliance has a chance.

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland said: Ian Parsley: Another defection from UUP shows politics is not business: I do not wish to comment directly on Har… […]

  11. Paul says:

    ian you said he meaning mcclarty could he be running for the dup mcclarty not a chance david will run as an indepdent.

    • I would be surprised if the DUP has not approached McClarty.

      You may well know more than I would about what his response would be, of course.

      If he runs as an Independent he’ll be lucky to score 1,000.

  12. […] the whole article here This entry was posted in Harry Dunlop, Harry Hamilton, Ian Parsley, Unionism, UUP. Bookmark the […]

  13. Redbeard says:

    Hmm. If Alliance is to retain and expand it’s position of a non sectarian unaligned party, it would need to Hoover up the disaffected within the SDLP for balance. If not, the Alliance could emerge as a de facto liberal unionist party and bury the UUP forever. Nothing wrong with this per se but it would then need to reach out to RCs as the acceptable face of unionism as a big tent multiple ethnic multi religious unionist party.

    If you think about it, you are either unionist or you ain’t. Alliance may support consent but surely it can’t house pro union and pro Irish unity members simultaniously? I could be wrong, just my opinion.

    In short, I believe the Alliance will finish the UUP off but it has one helluva responsibility once it does so if it is still to be perceived as a party everyone can join

    • You have a case, but I personally see it slightly differently.

      Firstly, the central issue is not whether parties take a position on the constitution, but rather whether they seek to represent the whole electorate. Although parties will all claim this (and present anecdotal evidence), in practice four of the five Executive parties seek votes from only one “side”, regardless of constitutional position. That is what makes Alliance distinct.

      Secondly, I think you have a point about you’re either Nationalist or you’re not (I’d be specific about that phrasing – in effect, either you wish to change the constitutional position, or you don’t). Nevertheless, I’d guess a considerable number of those voting “Nationalist” are not particularly bothered about the constitutional position, it is a communal (or perhaps even tactical or personal) vote.

      Thirdly, the large switch in votes from UUP to DUP was accompanied by a large number of defections; however, the similar switch on the Nationalist side was not.

      I wouldn’t over-state the likely switch from UUP to Alliance, however. It will be localised and limited, the UUP will be around for a while yet.

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