Lord Maginnis attacks rivals
Rancour and recrimination between former electoral allies the Ulster Unionists and Conservatives has intensified, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
In a no-holds-barred attack, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis lambasted the Northern Ireland Conservatives for "feeding bulls***" to their counterparts in Britain.
His eyebrow-raising letter, sent to the top of the Tory party in London, admits Conservatives and the UUP have made "too many blunders" in their attempts to co-operate in recent years.
But he said it was largely the result of Tories in Britain being misinformed by local Conservatives, who he described as "out of touch and self-elevated".
Last night Conservatives in London and Belfast decided to snub the senior UUP figure's letter. His strongly-worded criticism, sent to Conservative Party chairman Lord Feldman, also revealed the former MP has already voiced concerns over Tory attempts to "merge or subsume" the Ulster Unionist party - and insisted he is not "for sale" or "lobby fodder".
He also claimed that Lord Feldman failed to follow up on a request for a meeting just days ahead of the negotiations between the Conservatives and UUP joint project falling apart.
Current leader Tom Elliott rejected outright Lord Feldman's proposal to dissolve the UUP and amalgamate with the Tories.
Lord Feldman called the decision "a mistake", and plans first unveiled last year were confirmed for a semi-autonomous Conservative Party in Northern Ireland.
NI Conservatives chairman Irwin Armstrong, who has criticised the "narrow one-community politics of the UUP", was not available for comment yesterday.
Repeated calls to the NI Conservatives office in Bangor, Lord Andrew Feldman's office in London and to the NI Conservatives president, Emma Pidding, also failed to elicit any comment.
In his letter, seen by this newspaper, Lord Maginnis referred to a conversation with Lord Feldman a few weeks earlier.
"(I) expressed my concern at the Tory interference and presumption in their attempts to merge/subsume the Ulster Unionist Party - not least in view of the fact that they perpetuate the 'bribery' of Sinn Fein and the DUP initiated by New Labour.
"It is not what I envisaged when I worked with DT (David, now Lord, Trimble) to achieve the Belfast Agreement.
"You indicated that you would meet me the following week but not only have you failed to do that - I have neither seen, nor heard from you."
The letter, sent just after Christmas, went on: "The UUP during its lifetime has been the backbone of principled politics.
"While I write purely on my own behalf, I have been a subscribing member since 1963 and politically active since 1981 (almost 29 years in Westminster).
"I am neither 'For Sale' nor 'lobby fodder'!
"Tories and UUs have made too many blunders in our attempts to co-operate and it is largely because London is being fed a great deal of bulls*** by out-of-touch, self-elevated and locally detached Northern Ireland Conservatives. NI is not England and here politics are still 'local'."
Signing off "Ken", he asked whether Lord Feldman would be agreeable to a "sensible conversation as soon as we get back" (from the Christmas/New Year recess).
A Conservative spokesman would only say in response: "We are not making any comment."
The Ulster Unionists and the Conservative Party formed an alliance to fight the last election. The agreement started in 2009 and was known as Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force (UCUNF). The first candidate to stand for election using this description was Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson in the 2009 European Parliament election. UCUNF failed to gain any seats in the 2010 General Election. The UUP lost its only seat in North Down to former member Lady Hermon's independent campaign, which spelt the end for the alliance.