Monday, 12 April 2010

Trouble Down South

Can't help but notice that there's a clamour for a Unity candidate in the mould of the aforementioned Rodney Connor in Belfast South. I suppose that's understandable, given the circumstances that allowed Alasdair McDonnell to win the seat (on his seventh attempt) in 2005, as well as the seat's history, which frequently saw Robert Bradford and Martin Smyth running as the sole Unionist candidates, but I would argue that South Belfast is a rather different case to Fermanagh and South Tyrone. First of all, there doesn't appear to be a mass clamouring ('open letters' from Sandy Row District LOL and RBDC excepted) for a Unity candidate as there was in FST. My distinct lack of enthusiasm for McDonnell aside, at least he takes his seat in Westminster, and thirdly, it's a tad rich for the DUP to be calling for Unionist unity when their entry into a seat they had only ever contested once before (in the 1982 by-election after Bradford's murder, where no less than Dr William McCrea was the candidate) ensured the loss of the constituency to McDonnell in the first place.

Now, let's not beat about the bush - in the best manner of inter-party rivalry and competition (not to mention democracy) I would quite like to see McDonnell defeated; that, after all, is the art of electoral politics. The difficulty I have here is thus - there already is a Unionist candidate in the field with posters erected across the constituency and an active campaign on the ground - and it ain't Jimmy Spratt. I know Unionist Unity plays well on the doorsteps, but I don't buy it in this format, where the DUP appear to be interested in it only to save their own political bacon and, fundamentally, push a wedge into the Ulster Conservative and Unionist alliance. Find me a Unionist who doesn't believe that all in favour of the Union should be united. I always have. History has shown that a fragmented and disunited Unionism has delivered poorer and poorer dividends (although I'm fully aware that the governing Unionist Party of yore was not the monolith it appeared to be, it still provided a useful rallying point.) The DUP have dropped their old claim that ''Unionism is Uniting Around the DUP.'' I fully support Jimmy Spratt and his campaign for Unionist Unity - let him and the South Belfast DUP Association put their money where their mouth is, stand down and back Paula Bradshaw for the seat.

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