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I'm convinced I've made the right decision

By Cllr Graham Craig

Published 28/10/2016

Comparing the leadership offered by our First Minister Arlene Foster with that of the UUP I am convinced that my decision to join the Democratic Unionist Party provides me with the best opportunity to serve my constituency, Botanic, the Union and the unionist community.

As the outcome of this year's Assembly Election became clear, the leftist media elite who comment on Ulster politics were forced to admit that the clear winners were the DUP led by Mrs Foster.

They were forced to concede that Mrs Foster is much more in touch with the unionist electorate than her principal opponent, Mike Nesbitt.

While this appeared to be a revelation to these media types it did not shock me whatsoever.

I have known Mrs Foster for as long as I have been actively involved in unionist politics.

I first met her the day I joined the Young Unionists at Queen's University in October 1989.

Over all these years she has remained true to what she was back then; a plain, straightforward, honest unionist.

She has a pride, commitment and belief in the key aspects of British and unionist identity.

Like many other unionists, when I look at Mrs Foster I see a reflection of my own political outlook.

That is why Mrs Foster seems to innately know where the centre of gravity of unionist opinion sits.

But she has one other trait that sets her apart from other pretenders. That is her years of selfless dedication to the unionist cause.

While she enjoyed the frivolities of student politics, Mrs Foster was also putting in the hard thankless hours in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

A quarter of a century of hard work has created a leader who can not only articulate the unionist cause in the corridors of power in Washington and London but can also deliver electoral success for unionism.

In contrast her opponent often appears to be a hapless amateur who is not quite sure how he ended up in the job or what to do next. 'That song!' 'That safari suit!' 'That envelope!'

The proposition that 'vote Mike, get Colum' is any more appealing to unionist voters than 'vote Mike, get Mike' has proven to be incredulous. How about 'vote Mike, get Colum and Jeremy too' as a sales pitch in rural Ulster?

When Mrs Foster and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson finally gave up the battle for the soul of the UUP and left to join the DUP in January 2004, they took with them the future of both parties.

It is to the credit of the then leaders of the DUP that they recognised the transformative nature of this transfer of talent, putting it to work and transforming unionism in the process.

When I look among the DUP ministerial team at the Executive table I see talent that has been nurtured in the Young Unionists, I see talent that some in the UUP were once glad to wave goodbye to.

From my experience in South Belfast I am sad to report that those responsible for such a catastrophic strategic decision remain in place and continue to repeat these mistakes. 'The good old boys' as Bob McCartney disparagingly labelled them.

In politics, as in business, it is those parties, those firms who identify, promote and nurture their talent who survive and prosper.

Those who fail to do so simply fade away.

Belfast Telegraph

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