DESPITE his blunt assessment of the UUP’s blunders, Terry Wright’s report offers hope for the party and suggests that with reorganisation and clear policies it can be rebuilt.
He suggests that a greater involvement by ordinary members could help revitalise the UUP.
He said: “Membership can no longer be passive. If the UUP can get its house in order, then the electorate may begin to believe that we can do the same for the country.”
He warned that the UUP was in danger of being perceived as having “middle class positions” but said that the party needed to consider how it could address benefit dependency and some of the deprivation and exclusion which in some housing estates is leading to hopelessness.
He also urged the party to set up a network of regular discussions with key community figures from churches, business, health professionals and those with experience in education.
Mr Wright unfavourably contrasted UUP MLAs and councillors with their DUP counterparts and urged the party to learn from its larger unionist rival how its representatives worked with their communities.
Many UUP elected representatives “particularly in the Assembly do not have a high regional public profile”, he said, adding that “the DUP have many more recognisable personalities who if they are not in the news make some”.
“Even though in some cases they are known for their infamy rather than their fame, this seems to act as a plus for the DUP.
“They appear less aloof and elitist with more of a common touch and rapport with media.”
The report also said that “where an MLA or any elected representative is a member of an organisation which engages in politics and may take a line which runs counter to party policy as established or requiring determination, the individual must decide where his/her greater loyalty lies”.
“It is not acceptable for individuals to run maverick agendas which imply self-interest above all else, to say nothing of lack of judgment, but which, more importantly, undermine the morale of party members, ‘wrong-foot’ the party leader and candidates during an election campaign, detract from the core messages and waste effort and energy.
“Action needs to be taken and be seen to be taken.”
The report added that the UUP needed to understand that “in spite of the hypocrisy and lies of the DUP” a sizeable proportion of the electorate remains loyal to them “and sees the DUP as ‘their’ party”.
The report said: “We have been angry at the DUP for moving on to our ground and seemed to pin hope on the TUV pulling some of that ground from under them so that we could reclaim it.
“This now seems a forlorn hope and we need to move beyond our anger and develop our own agenda and strategies.”