It made for an entertaining read, but it was an odd way of doing party politics. There was always a suspicion that once Parsley’s work at the Campaign for Social Justice was at an end, he would decide to end his connection with the Conservatives too.
Many of the complaints Ian aired on his blog were perfectly reasonable. Without doubt the UUP election link up was a botched job. It’s also true that the post UCUNF fall-out has taken a ridiculously long time to sift through. Any push to stand Conservative candidates at next year’s Assembly election will be compromised by a short run up to the campaign (in contrast the Tories‘ general election allies have finalised their candidate list).
Still, it is one thing for independent or friendly commentators to offer candid analysis and it’s another for a key party figure to provide a running critique of its internal affairs in public. In actual fact it did Ian no favours, because it enhanced a popular perception that he is not a team player. Rumours about his political future were rife, way before this resignation and the headlines in this morning’s papers had a definite ’Parsley’s at it again’ flavour.
I don’t know whether he will stand for the Assembly or concentrate on retaining his council seat, nor do I know whether he is likely to stand as an independent in any future elections. I would suggest that independence would be the more honourable route to take and, in North Down (so the cliché runs), a strong-mind or an autonomous spirit are not necessarily handicaps for the aspiring political representative.
His resignation blogpost contains overtures to former colleagues in Alliance, but Parsley’s politics are sound economically and they are firmly plugged into the UK mainstream. It would be a retrograde step to rejoin a party which is agnostic on the Union and whose politics may be anti-sectarian, but are some distance from ’normal’ or ’mainstream’.
Yes, Stephen Farry has done a good job of injecting a dose of hard-headed realism into Alliance’s financial analysis, but his efforts at Stormont are undermined by Naomi Long’s deficit denial at Westminster. The party has no credible plan to normalise Northern Ireland’s politics. Its future depends on institutionalising ever further our status as a place apart.
To turn around David Ford‘s phrase, Alliance is a ’blind alley’. Well-meaning, nice, but totally committed to the concept that Northern Ireland is a unique, fragile thing, to be handled with care. The outcome of that logic is that our politics must consequently remain forever in an infantilised bubble; on the UK‘s financial drip, but never playing a full role in British politics, lest the sectarian apple-cart should be upset.
The Alliance party is no home for moderate pro-Union politicians, nor is it a home for anyone who wants to move this place on, rather than simply manage our divisions.