Belfast Telegraph

Jokes are thin on the ground as Jim faces squeeze

By Noel McAdam

Jim Allister strides up to his conference podium to the strains of 'I Won't Back Down'.

But it's the Johnny Cash version of the song rather than the original by Tom Petty.

Though some would say that when it comes to cash, Jim can be accused of being petty.

And many of his opponents would use the same term for the TUV that Tom Petty called his band - the Heartbreakers.

Thus, for example, party chairman Ivor McConnell has to explain the party paid for the mints on the top table out of its own pocket.

Though he quips: "We did inquire if they could be covered by Jim's expenses."

The jokes don't come thick and fast at the TUV's annual shindig because as veteran party president William Ross put in, "politics is a serious business".

Nevertheless Bannside representative Timothy Gaston - a potential second TUV MLA for North Antrim - liked to inject a little panto-style audience participation.

Tim: "Did the revelation that the IRA was still in existence shock you?"

Audience - "NO".

Tim - "Did the revelation that the Provo Army Council directed Sinn Fein come as a surprise to you?

Audience - "NO" - with no-one asking how a "revelation" could be other than a surprise.

Even his most severe critics admit that Jim Allister punches above his weight in the Assembly, and he is arguably the best speaker among the current party leaders.

Nonetheless he is facing a double squeeze, not just from Ukip but from the Ulster Unionists who now claim to have become the 'opposition'.

The UUP is moving its tanks on to the TUV lawn and leader Mike Nesbitt will argue only his party can provide a real alternative to the DUP.

Ironically the man who achieved Ukip's impressive vote in the European election, Henry Reilly, is now in the TUV.

He took a sideswipe at his former leader David McNarry, pledged undying love for Jim and said he always thought he would join TUV "eventually".

Belfast Telegraph


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