Belfast Telegraph

UUP will have to prove it's cut from a different cloth

By Liam Clarke

Mike Nesbitt has his work cut out to establish a new identity that will stop the UUP being slowly absorbed by the DUP. Mike Nesbitt set his face against unionist unity during the leadership campaign, but saying he's liberal and distinct is not enough.

To survive long-term, he needs to actually show voters that there is an unmistakable difference between the two unionist parties.

The DUP are now wearing many of the UUP's discarded clothes and look pretty well in them.

Last month Peter Robinson assumed the mantle of Sir Edward Carson, the UUP's founder, with a major speech in Dublin.

The DUP left the UUP trailing on engagement with the GAA. Mr Nesbitt wants to attend Irish party conferences including the ruling Fine Gael one which unionists have attended before.

The DUP was there last week when Junior Minister Jonathan Bell used the Fine Gael gathering to call for greater co-operation between Britain and Ireland.

A Nesbitt proposal to go to next month's Sinn Fein conference drew a cool response.

If he applied, it would be considered, a spokesperson said.

It is getting harder by the day for the UUP to show why it is separate from the DUP. The task of establishing a distinct brand is made still more difficult when it remains in government with the larger and more successful party.

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