Belfast Telegraph

The UUP’S spin doctor is right to spurn new pact

By Lindy McDowell

His may not exactly be a household name. But in unionist politics (small u — and large) Alex Kane has long been a central figure.

Until this week he was the UUP’s Director of Communications — the wordy title most political parties now confer upon their leading spin doctors.

Until this week, that is, when he resigned ...

This resignation may not strike some observers as a major blow, one on a par, say, with the standing down of an elected representative.

But actually it is much more than that.

The likes of Alex Kane represent the soul of unionism. Dedicated backroom workers who have hung on in there despite the once powerful party’s electoral humbling.

This man isn’t a quitter.

So why did he finally decide this week he’d finally had enough?

The question, when you think about it, should perhaps be — how did he manage to stick it for so long?

In a scathing newspaper article this week Kane pointed to the UUP’s latest proposed electoral link-up a pact with the oul enemy, the DUP.

“Let me tell you exactly what the DUP mean by unionist unity. They mean a cobbled-together marriage of convenience to get themselves out of the hole that they have dug,” he spits.

“Oh yes, they will spout the grand words of co-operation and maximising opportunities; and for good measure they will also drag in the Orange Order and ‘consultation with the pro-Union family.’

“But this is about nothing more than the preservation of the DUP ”

You have to admit the man has a point. The DUP moved in swiftly for the near-kill when it finally got the upper hand over the UUP.

Why is the UUP even contemplating grasping that hand now?

The UUP is talking unity because Sir Reg and the party leadership appear to be confusing political link-up — any political link-up — with actual strength.

In recent months the UUP has been getting into more beds than John Terry.

First there was the bizarre (and frankly shameful) relationship with the political wing of the UVF.

From there the party segued off towards the Tories and an alignment that gave us UCUNF. Even the name was squirm-inducing.

It also led to rejection, very public rejection, by the party’s only MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon who, shockingly, was not consulted beforehand.

Once on the same team, the Tories understandably, inevitably, wanted a say in who the UUP would be hanging out with in future.

Cue Conservative consternation when it was revealed that the UUP had been holding “secret” (there is no such thing in politics) talks with the DUP. And the Orange Order.

Reg is presumably now envisaging something along the lines of UCUNFDUPOO.

The Tories under airbrushed Mr Cameron do not want to be in even loose electoral link-up with what is still the Paisley party.

So on one hand we’ve had their local representatives erupting. On the other, there’s been Lady Sylvia making her distaste for Tories clear. And, in the middle, faithful Unionist party workers now recoiling at a potential pact with the DUP.

What next?

UCUNFDUPOOTUV?

It seems an odd way to run a party — to be focussed more on contradictory pacts and alignments than on re-building your own core strength.

“I have never voted DUP and I will never vote DUP,” says Alex Kane.

The same also applies to others within the UUP. Supporters who have stood by their party through thick, thin and dubious pact.

Any surprise then that some may now be asking themselves why they’re still voting UUP?

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