Belfast Telegraph

I will be standing by the Union and not the U-turn

The local electorate deserves politicians of real conviction, not self-publicists, says UUP member Colin McCusker

In February 1974, my late father Harold fought his first election for the Ulster Unionist Party. He had been chosen ahead of the sitting MP, Jack Maginnis, and former Stormont Minister John Taylor.

Back then, the losing nominees accepted the will of the membership and backed the chosen candidate. Hissy fits and tantrums were not the norm. Ulster Unionist members were democratic; they were team players.

Almost 40 years later, after much soul-searching, I decided to seek the UUP nomination to be one of three candidates to fight the Assembly election in May. My aim was not to top the poll, but merely to poll enough points to be among the top three nominees.

That night in Banbridge, in front of nearly 180 Ulster Unionist members, each nominee was asked if they would support the decision of the party and every candidate made a public pledge that, in the event that they were not successful, they would support the three candidates who were chosen.

The values, beliefs and ethos of Ulster Unionism are the same in January 2011 as they were in May 2010. Nothing has changed.

The party has not become a bigoted, sectarian party because delegates selected one candidate over another in an agreed democratic selection process.

The Alliance Party has now recruited two former members of the Ulster Unionist Party, Paula Bradshaw and Harry Hamilton, who were General Election candidates for UCUNF last May. The is the same Alliance Party which states that it is neutral on the Union.

The question must be asked of the two former UUP members: if you were passionate unionists last May, how come, eight months later, you no longer care whether Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, or part of a united Ireland?

Another fundamental policy U-turn by those individuals is the question of whether or not the UK should join the euro.

In May, they were opposed to the UK entering the euro, yet, again, eight months later, they are members of a party which fully supports entry into the euro zone.

Are they really asking us to take them seriously as politicians when they can change their views on such a fundamental issue for the UK?

The UUP believes in the need for normal politics in Northern Ireland, evidenced by its link with a mainstream UK party. We want to concentrate on the everyday issues.

Devolved politics should be better than direct rule politics. We appreciate the Assembly will not resolve every problem, but it must ensure direct and local accountability if parties get it wrong. We are tired of the constant them-and-us battle over ancient squabbles. Normal politics will be better than the experience we've endured here for decades during which the UUP gave leadership to all the people during the most difficult times.

Normal politics, in time, will allow parties to form genuine coalitions and move away from the tribal, divisive politics of the past.

The UUP has helped to make Northern Ireland a better place for all of us and will continue to do so. Nationalism and republicanism have accepted that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland can only be changed by the will of the people.

In the event that the people are asked for their view on the Union, we will support Northern Ireland remaining an integral part of the United Kingdom.

Politics is not a stage performance. It's about delivering a difference for the community through hard work and commitment.

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