Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 4 October 2015

Lindy McDowell: It’s time for unionists to stop digging

Published 21/10/2010

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Tom Elliott has criticised Stormont education minister Caitriona Ruane for funding Irish-medium schools
Ulster Unionist Assembly member Tom Elliott has criticised Stormont education minister Caitriona Ruane for funding Irish-medium schools

The difference between the Ulster Unionists and the Chilean miners is that the Chileans have managed to get out of that hole they were in.

Hopes among the UUP faithful that new leader Tom Elliott would be just the man to successfully steer the rescue capsule that would see their party resurface as a force in local politics already seems wildly off the mark.

No sign of that particular Phoenix rising anytime soon.

Of course every new man deserves a bit of time to prove himself. But it would be safe to say that since his election Mr Elliott hasn’t exactly hit the ground running.

He is variously described as ‘safe’, ‘solid’, ‘conservative’, and ‘traditionalist’.

All those things, in fact, that would make him a great Unionist Party leader.

Circa 1956.

In the UUP leadership battle he was up against MLA Basil McCrea who, by contrast, is regarded as a moderniser.

McCrea is sharp, media-savvy and clued in to 21st-century politicking. All of which presumably told against him.

Knows how to handle himself in a TV debate and is au fait with popular culture? We’ll be having none of that nonsense!

The UUP 2010 is a throwback. It is a typewriter of a party in a time of Twitter.

So is there a niche in the market right now for a new centrist unionist movement with particular appeal to the younger working class?

Not so much a niche, more a gaping hole, you might say.

The burning question of why so very many intelligent, savvy, open-minded unionists have disconnected from the political process here isn’t actually such a mystery after all when you consider how they‘ve been “served” by the parties that take for granted their votes.

You don’t have to be an oul’ hand at the political coalface to recognise that there is a rich seam of unionist disillusionment out there for somebody to mine.

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