Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Mike side-tracked from real problems

Mike Nesbitt won an impressive victory for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party. He seems the best chance of invigorating a party which previously seemed hell-bent on self-destruction and certainly is a far cry from some previous earnest, but unexciting leaders.

Yet, only days into his leadership, he is learning that every utterance is subjected to intense scrutiny. Perhaps if he had back the time since his election victory he would have chosen to do a couple of things differently.

Firstly he angered long-time party member David McNarry by saying that it would take an invasion of little green men from Mars to restore the party whip to the suspended MLA. Mr McNarry is not an opponent to trifle with and the new leader's comments opened dangerous wounds.

Instead of creating a vision of a party on the move, the old image of a party at war with itself is rearing its head again. Mr Nesbitt would have been better advised to say nothing about Mr McNarry's future and await the ending of his suspension before airing a view.

Mr Nesbitt's other suggestion that he would like to spend some time experiencing at first hand the life of underprivileged people in the province has been dismissed as a political stunt although some seem willing to take him up on his offer.

There is the valid argument that as a former journalist, Victims' Commissioner and PR consultant he really should know all the facts about poverty, although that is not the same as actually experiencing it.

While it is refreshing to hear a political leader speak frankly - a trait which just might endear him to some of those who are currently disenchanted with local politics - Mr Nesbitt should have been a little more circumspect so early in his tenure of office.

He shouldn't have let what are really side issues deflect him from his primary goal of setting out the party's policy and future direction.

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