The TUV are a surprisingly animated bunch. Someone rocked up with the kind of clacker you’d see at a football match. Laughter was free-flowing and genuinely felt.
These aren’t stern-faced refuseniks – these are people who’re enjoying their politics.
The TUV are criticised for not having a solution or an alternative to the present devolved structures. They are mocked for having no vision to offer. But it might be easy to deride the TUV as going nowhere. Heck, maybe they’re not going anywhere – but the only great certainty, to my eyes, is that they’re not going away.
Today’s conference contained a sense of community and togetherness which is uncommon. The opening line of Jim Allister’s speech suggests something of what binds them.
‘You can always measure the level of your success by the depth of the discomfort of your political enemies.’
That’s Jim’s big message – he also used it on Hearts and Minds this week. (There are of course other ways to measure to success – erm, cllrs, MLAs, MPs, MEPs?)
Sure, one might disagree with the premise behind Jim’s line, but it is clear that the TUV revel in the discomfort they create for others. Said Jim:
‘Upsetting DUP/Sinn Fein is an accolade, not a slight.’
The TUV are enjoying life at the minute. Allister did say that it’s bad to see politics generally maligned, but then Jim’s best lines are reserved for the malignin of politics. Eg.
‘Terrorists in government, spongers in parliament.’
The stuff about Peter Robinson’s 42″ TV and Iris’s Mont Blanc pen is a masterclass in Schadenfreude.
So the TUV might have a defiance and unifying spirit that’s rare among political groupings. But where do they go from here? The TUV say they have no quarrel with grassroots Unionists – just the leadership. Okay – so the leadership of Unionism is yours… what would the TUV do with it?
Well, by the sounds of things they would:
- implement the DUP’s 2005 manifesto;
- they would pull down present devolution structures and implement voluntary coalition;
- they would only form government’s without SF.
From a TUV point of view – they might say… how much more detail do you need?
This is the real strength behind today’s TUV. They have the gift which all political communicators crave – simplicity of message. Also, they appear only to want power enough to dispossess people in power. The political environment is ripe for protest against the status quo. The TUV are united, committed and focused. They will be successful in capitalising on that next year. But what happens beyond that?
In regular society ‘the good book’ is a euphenism for the bible. In TUV land, ‘the good book’ might also refer to the 2005 DUP manifesto. It’s held in similarly high esteem and to err from it is to commit sin. But running a political party on the basis of a rival’s outdated manifesto is not a sustainable policy platform.
What I saw today indicated how united the TUV presently are, and how simple / attractive their message of opposition presently is. I don’t think they care about things like sustainable policies, and why should they?