The UUP and how *not* to do it

There are good examples of good practice in political communications, and there are bad examples. Yesterday’s performance by the UUP was the absolutely perfect representation of the bad examples.

In fact, the UUP contrived to oppose banning sectarian chants at football matches, and then its Health Minister managed to find a more pressing engagement than discussion of the Autism Bill.

Now, it is just about possible that Ulster Unionists privately had some reservations about the exact wording of the relevant bills. However, the public at large sees only: “sectarian party doesn’t care about autistic children“.

On top of the already existing “party will only act with Tory money” impression now rigidly impressed in the public imagination, and the “game changer” is now all going back in the wrong direction.

The UUP has to realise, and quickly, that communication with the electorate (in various forms) is everything. Voters going about their daily lives don’t have time to go into the technicalities of legislation; but they do have time to absorb the message of a sectarian, uncaring party which puts money before principle – and it’s not as if any other party has had to craft that message! That that impression is unfair is neither here nor there on 5 May.

9 thoughts on “The UUP and how *not* to do it

  1. NorthernIrishRanger says:


    There is an element of lazy journalism with these reports from the media.

    The Bill seems to have had a few minor flaws which the UUP objected to.

    The UUP are constantly being tarred with this UUP brush yet have no real say in the cuts nor any real clout with the Conservative policy makers.

  2. Comrade Stalin says:

    NI Ranger,

    Actually the UUP didn’t object to it, well at least the UUP of a few weeks ago. The opportunity to sort out the issue over the wording of the bill and thrash out the detail was in Committee. But the two representatives on the committee – which scrutinized the entire bill line by line – voted it through.

    The UUP can’t get its own policy approach straight from one week to the next. It sounds to me like a knee jerked in an internal UUP meeting when someone thought that the party might be able to benefit from opposing this clause.

    • The case for Opposition is a sound one, but I’d have little faith in the UUP actually being able to deliver it. The question I have asked before on this blog is: what precisely would they be opposing? What specifically is it about DUP policy that the UUP as a whole objects to? There is more to Opposition than just disagreeing with the government for comic effect!

      In each case, the UUP does actually have a point: any “Opposition” requires ideally not just funding but speaking rights etc; I’m not sure why you would put an autism centre over an hour away from the major centres of population; I think trying to put “political opinion” into the bill was ludicrous and illiberal. But the UUP consistently loses control – allowing Opposition to become about money, autism to become about its Minister not being bothered to turn up, an amendment about the insertion of “political opinion” into the prohibitions at sports grounds to become about the removal of “sectarian”.

      Yet again, the UUP actually had some sensible points and then failed to follow them through properly.

  3. dwatch says:


    the statement “party will only act with Tory money” is a misinterpretation.
    Just because the Tories funded most towards the failed UCUNF funding an opposition is totally different. The word ‘Tory money’ should be replaced with ‘Coalition Government Money’. Whatever party (UUP) or coalition parties (SDLP & UUP) who were to go into opposition in the next parliament or after 2015 would need government funding for ‘Shadow Ministerial expenses’. Without an agreement to restructure the GFA & StAA) between all parties in the N I Devolved government and Parliament at Westminster there will never be an opposition at Stormont. The recent media reports are nothing short of hyped up red herrings coming up to a election……….DW

    • I fully agree with this, but my point is about *public perception*. For all the technicalities, all the voters hear is “Grubby politicians just want more money for themselves”.

      Had I mean handling it, I would have tweaked the message to read “We wish to have an open, comprehensive discussion with the SDLP about how to deliver a proper, fully resourced Opposition in legislation, and then jointly lobby for that to be included in legislation”.

      But the UUP isn’t completely innocent anyway: simply putting each MLA’s Office Costs Allowance back to its 2006 level would deliver £2.7 million which could be used on resourcing an Opposition. Ask the UUP if it’s raised that point…

  4. The Uup And How Not To Do It…

    […]In fact, the UP contrived to opose baning sectarian chants at fotbal matches, and then its Health Minister managed[…]…

  5. Watcher says:

    At least they do not fake up election photography with political mates posing as members of the public!

  6. Iva says:

    It is very rare to find informed people about this matter, nevertheless, you seem like you no doubt know exactly what you are referring to! Regards

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