UUP leadership responsible for missing votes
Published 16/05/2011 | 08:00
Danny Kennedy MLA is quite right to point out the consequences of David McClarty's decision not to rejoin the Ulster Unionist Party.
He is quite right to highlight that, for the first time in our country's history, we now have an Executive with a non-unionist majority, but David McClarty is not the actual villain of the peace.
The failure of the UUP to effectively manage its own selection procedures, the crass failure by the DUP to gift the Justice Ministry to the Alliance Party and the total failure of the collective unionist family to increase the number of voting unionists all played a role.
What Mr Kennedy may well have been better highlighting and addressing was the UUP Assembly election performance, especially when compared to its local government election. How come the UUP gained 13% of the Assembly vote and 18% of the local government vote? Likewise he may have given us his thoughts on the low turnouts in the unionist heartlands east of the Bann.
I'll give two contrasting suggestions. First, clearly there was an issue with UUP candidates at the Assembly Election that was not reflected at the local government election. The bizarre mixed messages, personal egos and non coordinated campaign lost the UUP votes, compounded by a relatively negative and self indulgent central campaign.
Secondly there was also the issue, clearly outside the UUP's control, of the flawed, politically motivated appointment scheme for the First Minister, culminating in the normal fear-driven slogan of the DUP, that only one unionist Party can win. This, I suggest, influenced sufficient voters in the likes of East Antrim bolstering the DUP vote but letting final seats go to Sinn Fein, all in an effort to keep Martin McGuinness out of the top job.
Finally, there remains the elephant in the room that no unionist wishes to talk about, the failure by the political parties to inspire a majority of the electorate in some east of the Bann constituencies to vote. Ultimately the seats that went to non-unionists in East Antrim, South Antrim and North Down were gifted by non-voting unionists. This is not the fault of the non voters; this is the fault of voters, the fault of corporate unionism giving uninspiring and ultimately weak leadership.