A SENIOR Ulster Unionist has launched a broadside on "liberalistos" who may wish to dilute the party's relationship with the Orange Order.
Former UUP chief whip David McNarry, who is also Orange Assistant Grand Master, made his barely-veiled attack on the newcomers during a speech to the Ulster Unionist Party's Women's Council.
In comments which will come as an unwelcome distraction to the UUP-Tory project, which has so far moved fairly smoothly, Mr McNarry coined his own term for the people he denounced, colourfully describing them as "latent wide-boy liberalistos".
I feel obliged to tell the latent liberalistos wanting to inject their particular parlance into the coming together between Ulster Unionism and the Conservatives – don't bother," he said.
"Until the struggle is over, until the Union is safe, there will be no room for politics seen through the bottom of a cocktail glass.
"So I make no bones about saying this – keep a distance
from the wide-boy liberalistos but do not shut out the Orange
Thirteen UUP Assemblymen are members of the Orange Order and, linking his attack to the recent UK-wide debate about repealing the Act of Settlement – which excludes Catholics from the Throne, Mr McNarry said that David Cameron, "as the most likely next Prime Minister", had to realise the level of opposition to removing the law, particularly among members of the Orange Order.
Ironically, the women who Mr McNarry addressed his comments to, and whom he said received them "extremely well", stand to gain most from the Tory link-up as the new combined force searches for women candidates to stand in upcoming elections.
In an interview with the political blog Slugger O'Toole last week, Shadow Secretary of State Owen Paterson said that the Tory-UUP project was keen to recruit both women and Roman Catholics in a bid to broaden its appeal beyond the traditional UUP base.
Mr McNarry confirmed to the News Letter that he believed the offer of a link with the Conservatives was something which was "too good to refuse" and that he fully supported it.
But he said it was because he believed in the link that he wanted to ensure the party "got it right".
One member of the UUP executive said that the visit of Mr Cameron to the UUP conference last November had been an enormous boost to the party, bringing in business people who "wouldn't have touched politics with a barge pole".
And, at a Tory-UUP dinner last week where Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve addressed guests, several of Northern Ireland's leading businessmen were in attendance.
In his speech, Mr McNarry also said: "In a way, and ironically although I was firmly against the breaking of the link between the Orange and the Ulster Unionists, it has to be said that both the Order and the party stand stronger today individually than for a long time."
Six months ago Mr McNarry rocked the UUP-Tory boat by demanding a public apology from the Conservatives for an "offensive" remark about the Orange Order which appeared on their website.