Sunday, 28 March 2010

Let Battle Commence

Attended the UUP's Annual General Meeting in the Balmoral Conference Centre yesterday morning. I was disappointed that I hadn't managed to make it along to the fundraising dinner the night before, but I was genuinely heartened by the large turnout in the hall. I think it's fair to say there was a significant buzz in the conference centre as we all look forward to the election.

It has to be said that Sir Reg Empey, unopposed for the party leadership, was on fire as he tore into the DUP, into the Labour Government (with special emphasis on the Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward) and into the DUP's approaches on Unionist Unity.

Congratulations to the always impressive Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency for scooping the President's Cup (awarded to the Association who raises most money for the party) for possibly the zillionth time, and we wish them well in their efforts to unseat their absentee MP in the coming weeks. Congratulations also to the newly elected and re-elected party officers to serve their two year terms. It was also good to see most of the party's candidates on the stage at the very end for a final salute (as it were) from the leader and the other delegates. The candidates in question were Sandra Overend (Mid-Ulster), Mike Nesbitt (Strangford), Dr David Harding (Foyle), Lesley McCauley (East Londonderry), Ross Hussey (West Tyrone), Tom Elliott MLA (Fermanagh and South Tyrone), Danny Kennedy MLA (Newry and Armagh), Lady Daphne Trimble (Lagan Valley), Trevor Ringland (Belfast East), Bill Manwaring (Belfast West) and Rodney McCune (East Antrim). Justifiably, they got the biggest cheer of the day.

I think all of us in attendance went away feeling a little better about our political affiliations and looking forward to a decent election. The meeting certainly ticked all the right boxes in terms of boosting members' confidence and giving us an aim - placing Northern Ireland politics at the heart of the Union. That is what the link with the Conservative Party offers us and that is what has been missing from the local political scene for far too long. All we have to do now is get as many of the above as possible (not to mention the seven candidates who were not present for whatever reason) elected.

After the Lady Turned

So Lady Sylvia Hermon has announced her departure from the UUP and will fight North Down as an Independent (with or without the backing of the local DUP, but that's another post). This has arguably been the worst kept political secret in Northern Ireland politics for quite a while now and has been inevitable for approximately a year. Lady Hermon's views on the UUP's link with the Conservatives are well known and do not require further rehearsal here. I for one regret her decision greatly. We obviously didn't see eye to eye on this issue (or indeed on a few others) but I always liked and admired Lady Hermon nonetheless. Her reputation as a diligent constituency MP was second to none, and there is little I can do or say other than to echo Sir Reg Empey in thanking Lady Hermon for her contribution to Ulster Unionism in difficult times and in often crippling personal circumstances. I may not wish her well politically, but personally, she has nothing but my good wishes for the future.

The UCUNF candidate in that constituency is, of course, Ian Parsley, former Alliance Party European candidate and Deputy Mayor of North Down. I was very pleased to see Ian's move from the Alliance Party to UCUNF last September; as a young and articulate politician still in his first term as a councillor, and with several years experience in public relations and provincewide campaigning behind him, he is exactly the sort of politician Unionism needs (I don't think it's any great secret to say that Unionism's media image and PR skills are not what they could be). I know from personal experience that the interests of North Down and its constituents have no rival in his political life, and while launching a fight against such a demonstrably popular incumbent as Sylvia Hermon won't be a walk in the park, I'm confident that if anyone can do it, and win it, it's Ian.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Welcome one and all to half an ear. There are many, possibly too many, political blogs out there as it is. I don't really have a grand masterplan with this one, but I do want to take up a few topics of relevance to those with an interest in the Northern Ireland/UK political scene. I'll put my cards on the table - I'm a member of the Ulster Unionist Party and an enthusiastic supporter of our link with the Conservatives, (I'll try and explain why soon) but I don't want anyone to think that I'm going to be religiously toeing the party line all the time; I won't. I hope to blog various happenings over the impending General Election and maybe beyond, and if I can keep it all up and running beyond that, the range of topics covered may be broadened.

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you read and can take something away from it. It may not always be as regular as clockwork, but I'll certainly try my best to post as often as possible. Feel free to comment if the mood takes you.