Now it’s time to breathe new life into UUP
Sir Reg Empey this week officially — and finally — announced he was resigning his commission as UUP leader.
The party he passes on to the next man (and this being the UUP, it will inevitably be a man) is a watery ghost of greatness past. But the weird thing is that in recent years the UUP has given the impression that it doesn’t actually believe it has a problem. The party hasn’t so much been dying a sudden, brutal death as quietly passing away. In its sleep.
It doesn’t connect with working class unionists. Not even at a time when it could be capitalising on a voter turnoff from the DUP leadership. (Ongoing — despite what that party might think.)
Resuscitating the party will require something entirely different from what’s gone before. It won’t be about patronising unionist voters with “celeb” candidates or other-party link-ups. It will be about reconnecting with the people they expect to vote for them. Learning about their real concerns (from recession cuts to the airbrushing from history of unionist suffering in the Troubles.) It will be about fighting their corner and taking on the complacent back-scratching coalition of DUP/Sinn Fein.
The legacy of the Empey years is that so many grassroots unionists have disconnected. Before the UUP does anything else, it needs to wake up and smell the apathy.