Thursday, 2 September 2010
Are cracks beginning to show in Elliott's coalition?
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA has poured cold water on rumours of merger with the DUP and kept his options open on the Conservative link. Yet Ulster Unionist Chief Whip, and Elliott supporter, Fred Cobain, couldn’t resist attacking the Tories, suggesting that the UUP would be forced to make an alternative electoral pact with Peter Robinson and his party.
Meanwhile rumours persist that discussions with the DUP about 'unionist unity', at senior levels, are ongoing.
The contradictions don’t end there. An intriguing little tussle is tucked away in the comments zone of an otherwise innocuous post on Mike Nesbitt’s blog.
Nesbitt, the leading moderate in Elliott’s team, congratulates the Down GAA team on their success in the All Ireland Gaelic Football championship. Reasonably enough a reader asks how his generous sentiments sit with support for a leadership candidate who reassured UUP members that he wouldn’t attend ’gay pride marches or GAA matches’.
The former Victims Commissioner is quick to deny the allegation on Elliott’s behalf, but it is substantiated by a senior UUP member who provides details and a direct quote. The statement clearly doesn’t sit well with Nesbitt, but it’s meat and drink to a traditional Orange unionist like Elliott.
In Monday’s News Letter Liam Clarke wrote about inconsistencies which are becoming evident in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA’s campaign. Tom Elliott’s attempts to be “all things to all people” could become the rock on which his leadership chances flounder.
He has assembled a broad coalition as the basis of his bid and his position suffers from all the flabbiness which that entails. It’s up to Basil McCrea to ensure that his campaign is tighter and focuses on big ideas, rather than internal party politics.
After all, if Elliott were to become leader on the back of a patched together alliance, what are the chances that he could hold it together, or provide purposeful leadership and a clear message for an Assembly election?