Thursday, 17 February 2011

If Tom Elliot wants Opposition, he can have it.

Tom Elliot has made clear that he feels there should be a system of voluntary coalition in Stormont and effective opposition. Well, Tom, someone should have told you that both of those things are available to you now.

The DUP must be delighted that Tom has given them yet another stick to beat him with; he is paraphrasing DUP policy. That they have been utterly unwilling to follow through with it themselves is irrelevant. They are proposing from a position of power and Tom is not. No one would expect the DUP to voluntarily leave their place at the top of the table to form an opposition, but the UUP are not AT the top of the table and so are in the perfect position to do so.  It's no good for Tom Elliot to say 'this is what we think should happen' if he can't the answer question; why aren't you doing it?

Granted, for the UUP to give up 2 ministerial posts and the status and financial reward that goes along with that is not overly attractive. Surely though, a party that has just set out a four year plan has someone capable of looking beyond the immediate disadvantage of leaving the executive and envisioning the longer term benefits such a move would reap. It would provide the DUP with a major headache if, after the elections, the UUP actually had the courage of their convictions and refused to take a seat in the executive. Oh, how different a world it would be.

A rejuvenated UUP (no doubt boosted by defections and increased membership) would be able to launch all out attack on the executive and the DUP in particular. Governments do not like strong opposition because it applies added pressure to work, harder, smarter and with more consideration for the consequences. Qualities this current executive has been severely lacking. The DUP would no longer be able to label the UUP as a disruptive and uncooperative partner in government when the UUP have genuine criticisms.

However, none of this is likely. There is still the chance that Tom will recall his ministers before May but it will be, and be seen to be, little more than gesture politics. After the election, the UUP will take their place in the executive and the electorate will be reminded once again that the UUP are mostly talk. For Unionists who haven't bought into Peter Robinson's centre ground claims, it means they will stay largely disengaged from the political arena with the Alliance offering a choice best described as 'all that's left'.

1 comment:

  1. Good Afternoon Ed

    BBC Spotlight Special Tue 1st March is a Question Time format where the audience get the chance to put their points of view and queries to a panel of Politicans, Public Figures and Decision Makers.
    Would you be interested in participating ?

    Please contact me William Kells on 90 33 86 73 and e-mail me on and I will send you details if you are available.