The Tories make little secret of the fact that John McCallister, the UUP MLA for South Down, is a recruit they would most value from the UUP.
They like his personality and his ability in the Assembly.
They believe that with their support he could go far and raise their fortunes.
Tonight he will be addressing their Strangford Branch’s Christmas reception, spelling out his vision of a civic, non-sectarian pro-Union movement. “Our politics failed,” he will tell the Tories. We have shared institutions but tribal politics.
“When our politics becomes an ‘us' versus ‘them' zero-sum game, do we really think this will have no implications for our society?”
It may seem a little pointed to his UUP colleagues, and he posits an alternative. “What has been missing in the current controversies is the voices of moderate, civic nationalism and moderate, civic unionism”, he will say, calling for the creation of “a greater space for pluralist politics, a shared society and an understanding of the common good”.
He rules out joining Alliance.
And he laughs off suggestions that it is a pitch for Tory backing, pointing out that he also spoke at a Sinn Fein gathering.
Still, if it was a pitch, it couldn’t fail.