Monday, March 12, 2007


Don't panic Mr Empey!

I've commented quite a bit on the recent Assembly election in NI but it dawned on me that I hadn't really looked at things from the UUP's perspective.

With that being the case I thought to myself, where better to get an Ulster Unionist perspective than from my good friends the Young Unionists!

And while the site has about as much colour as a Klan rally in Alabama, my stars do they have some colourful views!

As I listened to them scrutinise their hammering at the hands of the electorate, why it reminded me of the classic episodes of Dad's Army. "Don't panic Mr Mannering!"

I actually think the writers of the blog should consider penning a sitcom. I couldn't help laughing out loud just from reading the blog's titles. The first one reads 'Where we go from here' (insert your own joke) and the next one reads, 'We can't rely on luck next time'. Hahaha. Maybe voodoo might work, guys? It beats working to provide a decent alternative eh?!

Young Unionists - The blind leading the blind

If you scroll down further you'll find some more hilarious posts including one in which the author goes into some detail explaining why he can never support the GAA because quote:

"It is either sporting or it is political. The above quotation states in explicit terms that the GAA wishes not to engage in sport for its own sake, but to further Irish Nationalism."

Interesting comments eh? Especially in light of the newly elected Ulster Unionist MLA for South Antrim, Mr David Burnside, who recently revealed his plans to
take over Glasgow Rangers! You couldn't make this stuff up you really couldn't. Comedy gold I'm telling you.

But for now let's take a look at the first post on the site, 'Where we go from here' (hey stop snickering!) written by one Thea Stitt. Ms Stitt writes (try saying that name three times fast)...

"With the assembly elections giving us fewer seats than expected, we need to waste no time in deciding exactly what we want the future of Ulster Unionism to be. As we look towards the shadow council elections next spring, it is important that we come to a conclusion as to the basis on which we ought to contest them."

Yes! Hear, hear! Someone who finally gets it. We don't need to hear the same tired cliches we always hear from parties who take a drubbing such as "party reform", "united party", "a platform", "coherent message" etc. Instead let's be brutally honest and pinpoint the major problems to help the future of Ulster Unionism. Take it away Thea...

"I was encouraged by Reg, speaking on UTV, when he said that he was determined to see through the reforms of the party that he had promised. It is more important now than ever, that we create a united party, rather than a party of individual associations; this will give us a platform from which to deliver a common and coherent message during the next campaign, and help us to convince the public to put their trust in us again."

Aww. And I had such high hopes that we'd have a brutally honest account of what went wrong. Instead all I get is the A-Z of party cliches. She continues...

"I am encouraged by the fact that, although none of our 3 YU candidates were elected, that they managed to hold their own in compression to the more established candidates – this is certainly an encouraging sign for next time round."

They managed to hold their own? What does that mean exactly? This is another one of the common political spin terms. None of the candidates got elected but not to worry - they held their own. Whatever that means...

"And, I think it is important for our party to put forward more young candidates (and also female candidates), particularly in the coming council elections, as this will help to change the perception the public has of us (and indeed other parties) as constituted exclusively of middle-aged men."

Yeah why change the tired old policies that the public reject when you can change the candidates instead eh? Hahaha. Oh dear. You see it's not about substance remember - it's about presentation. The unionist electorate will take to the UUP's policies if they are fronted by a 21 year-old woman. If only they had figured this out beforehand! It makes perfect sense!

"I will admit that this election result has shocked me, I was expecting us to do far better"

Really? Why? No wait forget that, it all becomes clear with the following comment which I believe sums up the entire flawed mentality perfectly...

"and I am worried about the fact that overall Unionism has lost seats, while nationalism has gained them."

Bingo! Now we hit the nail on the head, folks. Tribal politics rears its ugly head once more.

"If this is replicated in the council elections, then it is quite possible that, whether in the end there are 7 or 15 councils; nationalism will hold a majority of them, including Belfast most worrying of all."

Remember when the Ulster Unionists lambasted the DUP for saying that unionists should vote for them in case Sinn Féin became the largest party? Funny how they seem to have the same sort of siege mentality deep down. What I find funny, as well as sad, about all this is how this woman has witnessed her party take an absolute hammering and yet she is more concerned with focusing on the alleged threat posed by nationalism instead of analysing, realistically, why unionists abandoned the sinking ship that is Ulster Unionism.

"The sad fact of the matter is that unionist voters didn’t turn out; we have to do all we can to find-out why, and to make sure that we can enthuse them enough to go to the polls next time."

So are you actually going to tell us why then? There's no point in enthusing unionist voters to go to the polls when they'll go and vote DUP! Try some self-reflection first of all.

"The decisions on the changes which we make to the party in the coming months must be substantive and not simply cosmetic."

I agree - but you seem to think the very opposite. 'Middle-aged men' as you put it could do very well if they were men with a meaningful agenda. What will the substantive changes encompass? This just reads like more spin.

"We must change, and make sure the public see that change – if we plan to still be around to defend the Union for another 102 years."

Bloody hell you're planning on living a long time aren't you? 102 years? I've heard those Ulster Frys take years off you! But joking aside, I don't see the Union being around in half that time - certainly not in its present form anyway.

Overall I feel very disappointed that the Young Unionists can't come out and give an honest opinion on the disaster that was March 7th. All they are offering is spin and bluster. "We need to make changes" they say without even touching on what this will involve. My gut feeling is that they are utterly clueless on their next step which is why they are coming out with these boring cliches.

I would genuinely like to see the UUP sort themselves out as I feel they are much more reasonable than their DUP rivals but I'm sad to say it looks like the UUP are finished.

My honest take on matters is this - the political machinery of NI runs primarily on a tribal basis that preys upon the fears of "the other side". Secondary to the tribal aspect of this machine is the "bread and butter" issues which involves the various policies and whatnot. The DUP and Sinn Féin have learned how to master and operate this machine better than anybody else. The SDLP have good policies but are unable to operate the tribal aspect of the machine which leaves them weak. The UUP, alas, are not only poor at successfully operating the tribal aspect of the machine, but are also poor when it comes to offering good policies - unlike the SDLP. This is why they are, in my eyes, the party in the most difficulty in NI. Bereft of decent leadership and an adequate vision for the unionist electorate, they are doomed to remain on the sidelines to watch the DUP juggernaut roll on.

This has been evident in recent elections where they have found themselves trying to imitate the hardline approach of the DUP whilst trying to position themselves as a voice of reason - and ultimately doing neither.

Thea and the rest of the Young Unionists need to realise that the reason they were stuffed at the election was because they have no VISION. They have nothing to offer the unionist electorate. In many ways I think the DUP are absolutely vile but one thing they undeniably have is a vision. In my view it is a vision that is warped, but it's a vision nonetheless.

History shows us what happens next. The Ulster Unionists' historic rivals in Ireland were the Home Rulers. The Home Rulers found themselves annihilated by de Valera's Sinn Féin in the 1918 General Election. To the Irish people they had become out of date, past it, and a weaker version of Sinn Féin. For example during the conscription crisis they ended up adopting the policy of their rivals and chose to abstain from Westminister. Their time was up.

The UUP have found themselves in a similar position. Forced to adopt the DUP attitude and stance of dealing with Republicans, in the eyes of the electorate they no longer have a worthwhile vision.

It's funny because Irish republicans brought about the demise of the Home Rulers and it looks like Republicans may have now brought about the demise of the UUP too. Trimble fell on his sword already, Empey may soon follow, but it seems to me that the party overall will be the ultimate casualty.

Without a vision, without confidence, without trust and without a clue. Panic, Ulster Unionists! Panic big time!

Your Dad's Army of politicians look set to go the way of the RIC. The bulk of the blame lies solely with yourselves.


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