INDEPENDENT East Londonderry MLA David McClarty – dropped by the Ulster Unionists for the 2011 Assembly poll – confirmed last night that he, Basil McCrea and John McCallister were planning to meet soon and map out the way ahead for disaffected members of a party “that seems determined to commit hari-kari on the sword of tribal politics”.
“Whether it’s a new grouping or a new party remains to be seen,” said Mr McClarty.
“But the decision to select a unity candidate in Mid Ulster, where the unionists haven’t a prayer of winning – what with a two-thirds nationalist-republican majority – seems a strange way of doing things.
“UUP de-selected me last time and I gained more votes than the other two UUP candidates [Lesley McAuley and David Harding] combined.
“But the party has saved me the trouble of having to resign, for I’d have quit along with John and Basil, given these unacceptable circumstances.”
The Assembly’s sole independent to make it in 2011, Mr McClarty added that he found any prospects of unity with DUP unacceptable.
“They represent tribal politics – just like Sinn Fein – but they are working with McGuinness and company with the sole ambition of sewing up power.
“DUP espoused the ‘never, never, never, never’ principles before they were elected, and then things suddenly changed. We can’t trust them, and UUP have now become the fly being invited into the parlour by the DUP spider. The electorate is beginning to cotton on.”
Mr McClarty added that others within the UUP – “I know this through the corridors of Stormont” – were reassessing their position, and he would not be surprised if they, and others not directly involved “in what passes for politics” – make the quantum leap.
“There is much talk of a proper opposition being formed, and perhaps that will happen,” he said.
“Much foundation work has to be done before the way ahead is determined.”
He admitted that he was taken aback by the speed of former UUP deputy leader John McCallister’s decision on Thursday, which the deposed UUP deputy announced within minutes of Nigel Lutton being confirmed as the unity candidate in Mid Ulster, but not with the fact that Mr McCrea followed suit yesterday morning.
“However, I have known that John has been teetering on the brink for many weeks now, while Basil’s disenchantment with the Ulster Unionists is well documented. It was only a matter of time before they left. It looks as if Mike Nesbitt has lost the plot.
“I could have understood, had they chosen a margin seat to unify, but not in Mid Ulster.
“Sandra Overend [UUP] and Ian McCrea [DUP] must be disappointed that they have been overlooked and denied the chance to get into the contest.
“If a unity candidate had a ghost of a chance, I could understand, but not in a safe ‘green’ seat like Mid Ulster.”