Anyone with Icarian tendencies has always ended up burned by the Democratic Unionist Party. Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt should learn the lessons of history.
It is the DUP’s way or the highway.
The Ulster Unionist Party leader has been cosying up to Peter Robinson, breaking bread with him, possibly entering a pact for the Mid Ulster by-election.
He has already purged Ken Maginnis, David McNarry and has now directed his ire at the popular and affable John McCallister (pictured below) for daring to question the wisdom of having an affair with the DUP.
Logically Mike Nesbitt ought to withdraw the whip from Basil McCrea given that he told BBC’s Mark Devenport that the Ulster Unionist Party should stand in Mid Ulster.
Is this not insubordination too?
On the one hand, this might be seen as firm and decisive leadership, but on the other hand, this might be interpreted as a weakness and an inability to tolerate free thinking.
Discipline has always been a problem in the Ulster Unionist Party. That said, how many more of the cornerstones of the UUP will Nesbitt dislodge before the house of cards comes tumbling down around him?
Sometimes it is a manifestation of strength for a party leader to carry mavericks in his ranks.
‘Yes’ men and women are what it says on the tin, and rarely make any meaningful contribution.
Strong party leaders should be capable of absorbing the punches thrown by contrarians in their midst, provided they are playing the ball and not the man.
Mike Nesbitt parachuted into the Ulster Unionist Party. I predicted he would grab power and seize the leadership. That is exactly what he did.
He baulked in the Assembly last week at the SDLP motion, which challenged the utterances of Minister Nelson McCausland, when he refused to acknowledge a Parades Commission ruling.
Isn’t Mike Nesbitt beginning to come across as DUP lite?
There is no logic to either Basil McCrea or John McCallister remaining in the Ulster Unionist Party. They are forward looking, new wave unionists wedged in a party which is in retreat with a leader who appears more at home in the company of the DUP than with fellow unionists like McCrea and McCallister.
One would admire Mike Nesbitt if he would come out and spell out where exactly he is leading the Ulster Unionist Party. On the back of the Covenant Centenary experience, the scene might be set for Unionist unity.
If Nesbitt is trying to be DUP Lite, he’s making precisely the same mistake as his predecessors. It is suicide as certain as would have been the continuation of the link with the NI Conservatives – the UUP needs to be distinctive to survive, and this is anything but distinctive.
The U.P.R.G has made several calls for ‘Unionist-Unity’, a grass-roots based request, that has since been taken up by a few mainstream Unionist voices, albeit some of whom may have an eye fixed more on what they can get out of this as a vote-catching exercise, rather than what Loyalist Communities can get in real terms.
It must be recognised that Nationalist/Republic representatives have been quick off the mark to dress this legitimate grassroots-based demand up as some sort of undemocratic forging of an electoral-pact between strands of political Unionism, and many Unionists have contributed to this analysis by restricting the concept of Unionist Unity across a rigid horizontal framework. However, it must be understood that this demand is for Unity to emerge on the vertical axis, between the elected representatives and the ‘Unionist/Loyalist’ electorate, in a forging of a participative democracy, where ‘Loyalists’ can begin to interact with these representatives’, hold them to account in terms of that representation, contribute to various decision making processes and influence policy.
Whilst some progressive elements in the wilderness of Unionism are embracing that challenge, and forging new relations between the Loyalist/Unionist community, others have been slow to take up the baton and remain to be convinced, and indeed there are still those who downright refuse to consider that Unionist/Loyalist communities can have a viewpoint, voice or articulated thought to share.
Our Challenge to Unionism is simple: we must begin to reconnect the democratic tail and close the gap between the Unionist/Loyalist identity, as they are flip sides of what is essentially the same coin.
Loyalist are Unionists too!
Unionist Unity will consolidate and strengthen the Union, by addressing the democratic deficit experienced between the Loyalist grassroots and its elected representatives, that is currently expressed through political apathy and non-voting patterns in Loyalist districts.
Yet any version of Unity that emerges must deliver on the real issues that are pertinent to working class Unionists, health, education, unemployment etc etc, to give a better quality of life.
Indeed, as the U.P.R.G have indicated in the past, “Loyalists must learn how to make the ballot-box work…we must learn to utilise the ballot-box to maximum effect because dividing unionism is not the way to do that, as some would have us believe.”
The best way to promote the aims of Loyalism is through exercising our democratic right.
To state that Mike Nesbitt is being ‘DUP lite’ will be interpreted as nothing more than an attempt to derail the Unity demand.
Where we should have distinctiveness emerge, is in how the policy of Unity actually plans to connect to the democratic tail and make a real tangible difference in peoples lives.
lets see the policies…. show us how unity is to be acheived and actioned…. what does it look like? and more importantly, identify how it will make a real difference in peoples lives?…
or is it merely a soundbite for a vote-harvest?