Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Opposition may favour the UUP

Jim Allister of the TUV is a man whose policies find little favour with the Northern Ireland electorate, yet many people admire his virtual one-man opposition stance at Stormont.

He is something of a maverick in the mould of Dennis Skinner or Tam Dalyell who plagued parties at Westminster with pertinent and provocative views and questions. And there is no doubt that he is a thorn in the side of the Sinn Fein/DUP coalition. His views are not entirely negative, indeed they could be said to be good for the democratic process here by upsetting the cosy cartel at the heart of government.

This is a role which the Ulster Unionist Party could - and some would argue - should also perform. While no one could accuse the UUP of being maverick, it could add a powerful voice to those in opposition.

One of the leadership contenders John McCallister appears keen for the party to take on the role, even before structures are agreed to allow for an official opposition at Stormont. Currently there is no funding for an official opposition. That would require new legislation, although the notion of an opposition was accepted in the St Andrews Agreement which led to the current power-sharing administration.

The other contender Mike Nesbitt wants the UUP to have more power in the Executive and wants to delay any move into opposition until formal structures are established.

Yet there is no doubt that the UUP could be seen as more relevant as an opposition party, challenging the main power bloc and putting an end to the deals done behind closed doors which seem so prevalent in the current administration.

Life in the opposition benches could be the making of the UUP. Like the SDLP, it is seen as a necessary, but very junior, partner in the power-sharing administration.

Its power to create real change at present is extremely limited, but it could become a very effective voice for those disenchanted with the way government here is run.

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