cast herself into the political black hole called Alliance. The party is awe inspiringly pointless and its pointlessness was underlined by Naomi Long’s refusal to take up a seat in government alongside her Lib Dem allies.
Alliance had a perfect opportunity right there to make itself relevant and be something other than a bunch of nice people, whinging about dog dirt. The party flunked its test spectacularly. It remains a mere function of Northern Ireland’s divided society, with no vision for politics here, beyond a kind of perpetual suspended animation.
Yet, I wonder whether Paula had any credible alternative just at the moment? As O’Neill mentions, on Unionist Lite, Tom Elliott has so far failed to hand in his homework, set by the Prime Minister at the Tory conference.
That leaves the Northern Ireland Conservatives in limbo as they await the go-ahead from CCHQ to begin an Assembly election campaign here. The situation is beginning to have a look of chicken and egg about it.
There are some very prominent party figures whose patience with the Ulster Unionists has been exhausted and who are ready to back the local Tories. But there are also dissenting voices, Jonathan Caine rumoured to be among them, urging patience with the UUP and its new leader.
There is also some understandable anxiety in the Conservative ranks that the available candidates for next May are not particularly high profile, as things stand.
Potential defectors to the Tories are unlikely to jump without assurances that the party will run and CCHQ will provide funding, while London is less likely to back an Assembly campaign unless local Conservatives can guarantee some new names.
Into the bargain, as last May’s debacle showed, a unfamiliar slate of Tory hopefuls will need a reasonable run up time, otherwise any chance of making an impact in a Stormont poll will be negligible. So the UUP’s purposes are best served by delaying its verdict on the Conservative connection for as long as possible.
If David Cameron and Owen Paterson still intend to bring the full political entitlements of British citizenship to Northern Ireland, a bit of firmness will be needed. The Ulster Unionists cannot be allowed another round of endless procrastination. Otherwise more politicians like Paula will be lost to unionism and to meaningful politics.
The UUP must either put forward a credible plan for an enduring relationship with the Conservative party - which will deliver pan-UK unionism - right now, immediately. Or the local Tories must be given a chance to relaunch and fight May's election as a revitalised force. CCHQ, it's over to you.