Monday, 1 February 2010

Kane's resignation presages a stormy UUP executive meeting.

The sudden resignation of Alex Kane, the UUP’s Director of Communications, is an unexpected blow for the party. Kane has a column in the News Letter and only this morning he was in invigorating form, demolishing any notion that the party should consider forming a pact with the DUP.

Given the nature of his post, Alex’s articles were often a useful barometer to gauge the official UUP line. His attack on the DUP seemed to represent an unambiguous repudiation of ’unity’ rumours which surfaced over the past fortnight, timed to coincide with a meeting of the Ulster Unionist executive, due to take place tomorrow evening.

Now we know that Kane quit, rather abruptly, on a Sunday afternoon, can we interpret his piece, not as a bravura rallying of the troops before a crucial internal meeting, but rather as a parting shot?

It’s difficult to reconcile either interpretation neatly with the timing of the article. I’m sure that it was filed on Friday, rather than Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless, this resignation will make a difficult meeting for Sir Reg Empey and his party chairman David Campbell even more complicated.

I am led to believe that both men are set to get a rough ride from grass roots executive members. There is acute concern that recent party strategy appears confused and contradictory and there is widespread incredulity that a deal with the DUP seems to have been seriously considered.

Local activists are only too aware of the history between the UUP and the DUP as well as the level of enmity between the two parties. Many are extremely suspicious that ulterior motives underlie the Democratic Unionists’ overtures.

It is feared that talks undermine key UUP messages and threaten the Conservative alignment. The DUP is being let off the hook for dysfunction within the Executive which Ulster Unionists have previously highlighted. The critique of double jobbing which forms an important element of UCUNF policy is also being obscured by this game of political footsie.

But most critically, it is felt that the emphasis on a pan-UK strategy, promoting the secular British nature of unionism is being forgotten.

The ‘unity’ message might have a definite emotive pull in certain areas, but there are plenty of Ulster Unionists with difficult questions to put to their leaders, and they want reassurance that a deal with the DUP is not being considered. They were excited by the Tory link-up and they want the party to concentrate on that arrangement.

I understand that there are likely to be calls, tomorrow night, for the UUP to reaffirm the Conservative pact as its primary focus and get on with candidate selection. Tory impatience with that procedure might be more evident, but constituencies which months ago put forward their nominees are becoming equally frustrated.

And there will be strong opposition to further approaches to the DUP or flirtations with a form of ’unionist unity’ which is considered bogus.


Anonymous said...

"demolishing any notion that the party should consider forming a pact with the DUP."

Indeed the second part was but the opening section was hardly a ringing endorsement of Cameron & Co.

Phil said...

I take it you've read Henry McDonald's diatribe in the Belfast Telegraph today, where he reaches (I won't dignify it as a "conclusion" as the term "conclusion" implies something derived from the facts) the idea that any UUP / Tory pact plays directly into the hands of (so-called) dissidents. There's even a picture of Peadar Heffron to enforce the point.

Anonymous said...


There is an interesting correspondence between Trimble and Kane, posted on Trimbles page.

See here

Anonymous said...

Alex has got a better job. His departure is not a political statement.

And yes, Unionists want to see Unionist MPs elected, especially in South Belfast.

And no, despite Peter McCann's remarks on Newsnight tonight, the DUP is not the same as the BNP.

It was something of a disciplined religious sect in politics. But the TUV and Iris have done for that.

It is on the turn, becoming malleable, with its MLAs behaving more and more like UUP politicans, which a fair number were once.

Chekov said...

Phil it's typical of McDonald's output lately. He might detest the provisionals but he retains the Republican assumption that the government's job is to persuade unionists into concessions. Now they've got no guns the "dissidents" have to be the lever.

Chekov said...

Well this is being billed as his resignation letter anon. I can't pretend to know whether it's genuine or not but it certainly reads genuinely enough and it fits in with what I've been hearing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Alex Kane as director of comms was never told what to comm. He was going anyway and has managed to indicate obleakly that he wasn't happy with being out of the loop.

But that is the problem of the UUP - there is no loop as there is (and can be) no discipline amongst its MP and MLAs.

Get used to it and empathise with Reg.

GavBelfast said...

Anonymous, interestingly, your views appear to coincide almost exactly to those expressed by former UUP adviser Stephen King - interviewed on Radio Ulster at tea-time yesterday.