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It’s Elliott’s party… and his right to impose internal discipline

Part of a letter, purportedly written by Tom Elliott to UUP members, twittered by Stephen Nolan:

“…what should have been a positive party media day on Thursday was spoiled by members contributing to Nolan in an unsavoury manner about issues that should be dealt with through the private mechanisms of the party…..there is no need for this type of public argument and I will not tolerate it.”

I think the potential of a “positive party media day”, post his leadership election, was perhaps exaggerating the reality, but apart from that, nothing really you could argue with there. Part of the success of Sinn Fein and (more importantly for the UUP) the DUP is built on the fact they very rarely wash their dirty laundry in public.

In contrast, UUP politicians and their apparatchiks have been going on solo-runs (either publicly or via whispers to the media) since the days of Trimble and whilst they may have achieved short-term internal victories by those means, it has created externally the perception of a party constantly at war with itself. Why vote for a party which has such publicly expressed conflicting visions of what it stands for?

Which brings us to the main cause of Tom Elliott’s ire, Trevor Ringland’s own solo-run Thursday morning. I’m no fan of Elliott or, to be more exact, his (let’s put it euphemistically) “traditional” attitudes towards such things as “joint” candidates, the GAA and Gay Pride.

The UUP has elected an Orangeman, with all that fact implies to the much wider non-Orange society in Northern Ireland. I suspect his lack of media-savvy will be exploited mercilessly by the UUP’s opponents. To me, he’s a leader who would have fitted in more comfortably to the Unionist Party and the Northern Ireland of the 1960s than to the modern political and media world of 2010.

But move back to two sentences there and you’ll see the whole point that Ringland has missed; ie “The UUP have elected…”.

Elliott has the mandate to lead the party, given to him by the large majority of the party which actually voted. It’s his views on the GAA and Gay Pride which a large majority of the party obviously feel comfortable with, not Ringland’s.

Despite all the reservations about Elliott I mentioned, he has displayed at least one leadership quality in the leaked letter which will be needed if he is to have any success whatsoever guiding the UUP back into any kind of relevance. It’s up now to Ringland to appreciate what Wednesday’s night result is telling him and other liberals and civic Unionists within the party and… basically, shape up — or ship out.


As is so often the case with Nolan, not so much as not telling the truth as bending it in the most sensationalist way possible; this is the full text of the letter sent:

Dear Members

This is just a short note to thank you for the support that I and the Ulster Unionist Party received on Wednesday night at the Waterfront Hall. It was very encouraging to have such a significant number of Party members attend.

Unfortunately what should have been a positive Party media day on Thursday was spoiled by members contributing to the Nolan Show in an unsavoury manner about issues that should be dealt with through the private mechanisms of the Party.

I have no wish to stop members from forming and putting forward their opinion. However I wish to re-iterate that I will make myself available to discuss matters of concern with Party members, therefore there is no need for this type of public argument and I will not tolerate it.

Yours sincerely

Tom Elliott MLA


Filed under: UUP, UUP leadership election, , ,

4 Responses

  1. Dilettante says:

    Fingers crossed they ship out to the Conservatives and let the UUP reach the logical terminus of its current course and merge with the DUP.

  2. fair_deal says:

    “Trevor Ringland’s own solo-run Thursday morning”

    It wasn’t just Ringland but a succession of members. Ringland said his bit Ken Maginnis came on to have a go and then a number of lower level members (including prospective Assembly candidates and wannabe Council candidates) rang in with their tuppence worth.

    So any intolerance of the behaviour needs to cast a wider net that Ringland

  3. randomjoe says:

    Its Toms party and he can cry if he wants too lol the party was broken and the UUP seem to have a perverse interpretation of the saying if it aint broke dnt fix it , they prefer if its broke – vote for the only person brave enough to stand other than Basil. lol i think wee need more old men standing at the next election , we need to stop these young folks and women stealing our retirement jobs.

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