There is a part of me that feels I should do the McUnionists…the breakaway liberal unionist party…allegedly started by Basil McCrea and John McCallister….the simple courtesy of taking them seriously.
Alas I feel justified in treating them as a joke because they themselves dont seem to be treating themselves to seriously. It is now months since they announced their new Party and nothing has happened. They dont even have a name. Perhaps a motto “Manana , Manana” (sp) is the Spanish phrase that speaks to their sense of urgency. Yet…someone appears to be poking Basil and John with a big stick. They seem to be going on a charm offensive with our local university Politics Societies. They got a feature on the BBC “The View” and coincidently a longish post on Slugger O’Toole where coincidently a core member of the Slugger team (hi Alan) was on the guest list when they spoke to students at the University of Ulster last week.
Whats going on? I have of course absolutely no idea but that wont stop me speculating. Defectors from the liberal wing of UUP have usually gone to the Alliance Party and there does not appear to be many left to defect. The arrival of a new Party in the so-called “middle ground” is of course good news for people who like that kinda thing but curiously bad news for the Alliance Party.
The Alliance Party is a coalition of liberal unionists and letsgetalongerists (with varying degrees of sincerity) who have labelled themselves as “agnostic” to share the gerrymandered trappings of power. It is therefore damaging to them electorally if they leak votes to a credible liberal unionist Party.
Alliance face a dilemna. If McCrea and McCallister had joined Alliance, like fellow defectors Parsley, Bradshaw and Hamilton…David Ford would introduce them to the media as men of vision….he would of course have to deal with the fall out that Alliance would be less attractive to nationalist voters and would barely be able to hold on to that “agnostic” designation which has served them so well.
McCrea and McCallister seem less willing to give up their overt unionism. If Alliance cant absorb the McUnionists, the only other course is to destroy them.
This makes the official launch extremely interesting. There is nobody left to defect from the Assembly Party…and not much opportunity for serious councillors to jump ship, especially with so many council seats already scheduled to be abolished under re-organisation.
Liberal unionist Trevor Ringland has already declared himself “Conservative”. And not likely that Felicity Huston or Alex Houston will throw their lot in with Basil and John…or maybe it is? And even if the McUnionist Party is a better fit for Ian Parsley, Paula Bradshaw and Harry Hamilton…surely they could not defect from the Alliance Party without looking opportunistic or silly.
So who can they attract as high profile members. They are both MLAs and thats a good start and signing up QUB and UUJ students is useful but they need recognisable people to give the Party substance.
The good folks at Platform for Change is a useful avenue. Signatories include Nuala McKeever and Robin Wilson and a fair share of academics. But ultimately the chattering classes are unlikely to do much more than chatter….or blog. Are we likely to see a high profile blogger or Sluggerite throw his or her weight behind Basil and John?
But WHY the delay? Is it Finance? Are the McUnionists waiting for a grant to be processed by a Foundation or Trust…..”innocent money, chocolate money, Quaker money”. Perhaps the Alliance Party would not like that.
Or are negotiations still ongoing? Is the Alliance Party wooing the McUnionists? A crowded “middle ground” of Alliance, McUnionist, Conservative and Green is a mixed blessing for the chattering classes. I wonder if someone is mediating discussions.