Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: UUP looks set for a new wrong turn

The latest UUP moves to hold a disciplinary hearing on Basil McCrea, and the possible vote of "no confidence" in the Lagan Valley MLA, are bound to end in tears. Mr McCrea has often shown a healthy streak of independence within the UUP which increasingly is unable to handle any dissent.

His recent comments about the flags issue were bound to lead to a stand-off, and his departure from the party seems almost inevitable.

This would set up the intriguing possibility of Mr McCrea becoming the rallying point for a group of disenfranchised younger unionists who regard the UUP's views as too right wing.

The other interesting question is whether there would be enough in this group to join the centre ground, along with the Alliance Party.

Basil McCrea is a liberal within the UUP, and he is bravely sticking to his principles when he claims that the party is shifting from the essentials of the Good Friday Agreement.

Only time will tell whether or not he can take enough people with him to form a significant group to challenge the UUP in its current strategies.

Meanwhile there are clear indications that the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt is favouring some form of unionist unity.

In contemplating a joint approach with the DUP and others to develop a "really unified voice" over the flags controversy, and possibly other issues, he may be moving in a new direction which both Basil McCrea and former deputy John McCallister warned him not to follow.

Such advice has already fallen on deaf ears, and Mr McCallister was sacked as deputy leader for merely claiming that the UUP was "sleepwalking" into unity with the DUP.

The Belfast Telegraph has consistently opposed an over-arching unionism. We believe that a modern Northern Ireland needs a pluralist political system, and not one that forces people to choose starkly between Orange or Green.

We must all move towards a time when there are more ideas to choose from. Any form of rigid unity, whether unionist or nationalist, would inevitably be a backward step.

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