The NI Conservatives have unveiled a new website, which is currently being knocked into shape.
In the news section you can read about a delegation from Northern Ireland which visited Birmingham last week for the Tory party conference. Irwin Armstrong (chairman) and Dr Paul Megarity (vice-chairman) engaged in high level discussions about future Conservative involvement in Ulster with party co-chair Andrew Feldman and Secretary of State, Owen Paterson.
All parties seem to be agreed that the Conservatives are here for the long-term. Whether that means standing candidates in the forthcoming Assembly election remains to be seen. I detect a gathering sense that there is that possibility.
In parallel with the local Tories’ deliberations, Tom Elliott has been asked to place his proposals for future involvement between the Conservatives and the UUP before the Prime Minister by the end of the month. Cameron, for his part, will consider whether his party is prepared to maintain a formal relationship with Ulster Unionists.
Can Elliott salvage anything from UCUNF?
That may depend upon the UUP’s approach to ’unionist unity’. If the party were to agree candidates in certain Northern Ireland constituencies with the DUP, and talks to that end are believed to be ongoing, then Cameron would find it more difficult to continue the Tories’ relationship with the UUP.
As ongoing divisions see the Ulster Unionists stumble from tragedy, toward farce, and with Elliott electing to boast publicly about putting the Prime Minister in his place, Tory patience on the mainland is wearing thin.
If local Conservatives were to run in next year’s poll, backed by a national apparatus, they would have the capacity to cost the UUP seats, at the very least.