Wednesday, 8 December 2010

UUP defectors and Alliance

Whilst Harry Hamilton is yet to decide where he goes next, it wouldn't be a surprise if he ended up in the ranks of the Alliance Party. They seem to be a good fit though there is one niggly little political position that doesn't quite square up. Harry is a Unionist and the Alliance Party are not. 

It didn't stop Paula Bradshaw heading that way and may yet see Ian Parsley return to the fold. It gives cause to stop and wonder whether the issue of being a Unionist in a party that remains agnostic on the subject matters at all. For me, I think it will prove unworkable in the end for both Alliance and it's new recruits from the UUP. Does anyone believe that had the UUP actually provided the right platform of secular, inclusive and moderate unionist politics, that Alliance would have looked attractive? They are the only option available, nothing more and nothing less. 

It could be argued that it shows that the big issue that has dominated Northern Irish politics for generations is now less of an issue for today's politicos who place the rest of their political make up above it.  At first that seems a welcome development but the fact remains - the people of Northern Ireland have demonstrated time and time again that it is still an issue important to them and one that to a certain extent still defines them. Were it not the case, Alliance would already have wiped the floor with the UUP and SDLP, given that their ideology would appeal widely to voters of those 2 parties. 

With that being the case, Politicians who choose to compromise on the issue in order to focus on other political ideology are taking a risk. It will come to the fore again. I hope that in Alliance they find their ideology can be accomodated but I somehow think that eventually, they will clash and at that point the jump from being a Unionist to being agnostic will be regretted.

For the Alliance party, I don't know how long they can continue to pass themselves off as a cross community party while happily accepting high profile Unionists into their ranks.


  1. Hi Ed - again, it's really not for me to defend Alliance, but it's not as if all its recent recruits have come from other parties.

    Recently coopted Holywood Councillor Andrew Muir defected from the SDLP, and in February Antrim Councillor Oran Keenan joined having also been originally SDLP. Billy Webb in Newtownabbey also joined from the presumably centrist Ratepayers' Association.

    It is not symptomatic of a more "unionist" bent, but rather a growing awareness that our politics should not be defined by a constitutional question which is already settled.

    It is a pity that the NI Conservatives were never able seriously to compete on that basis, for a bit of competition may well have expanded that vote further.

  2. Ian, my frustration is not with Alliance as such nor is it particularly with Paula or Harry (should he end up at alliance) but rather that their particular flavour of Unionism has no natural home. This isn't their fault of course but I would have preferred some patience to be exerted in order that a new grouping could have been discussed with a view to providing that home. What has happened however is that with each disaffected unionist that goes to Alliance, the harder it will be for any such grouping to come about because the talent and profiles needed to make it a success will not likely leave the Alliance. As you are aware, jumping parties too many times is not considered politically prudent.

    I would like to see Alliance remain as the genuine 3rd option for those who do not want to be defined as Unionist or Nationalist, rather than a party where those definitions of political leaning are just kept out of sight.

    Thanks for being the first to comment on my blog. No prizes though, i'm afraid.