Out-dated conformity and point-scoring: UUP does not know how to save itself

October 20, 2018: Robin Swann at his party conference
October 20, 2018: Robin Swann at his party conference

Unionism being dragged into the gutter, unionist arrogance, foreign holidays at the expense of foreign governments, the power of special advisers, and dubious financial practice.

All these were mentioned by Robin Swann MLA in his speech to his party conference, and suggest unionism needs to travel in a new direction.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

But if you want voters to make the journey with you it is wise to share the detail as to how you plan to get to your destination.

There have been too many false starts, zig-zags and disappointing endings in what seems to be a forlorn hope for New Unionism.

If vision is unclear then you risk going around in circles destined to never turn any corners.

In political terms, you will expend energy managing your own decline.

The leader of the UUP, Mr Swann aspires, as suggested by his speech, to channel his anger into forging New Unionism.

But recent political events in North Antrim and Carrickfergus suggest, when put alongside earlier Stormont and Westminster election results, that this is what he is being required to do and at the moment the decline seems to have set an irreversible trend for a party that does not know how to be saved or make itself relevant.

When you have no means of change, you have no means of survival; so is it realistic to expect any different?

You cannot gain by imposing on a society an old, diminishing and unwelcome conformity especially where there is a party which already serves this constituency. Yet this, expressed as resentful and self-indulgent point-scoring, seems to be the default position. Breaking with outdated thinking to catch up with civic and community unionism would be a better option.

At civic and community level, accountable leadership from within the unionist community – often on minimal resources (band groups and drama groups, for example) – is addressing issues of social justice, mental health, under-achievement and unemployment and exploring cultural heritage in a spirit of reconciliation with other cultural and ethnic groups.

Tired of getting from politics what they don’t vote for, they have taken the initiative, found a voice and promote a pluralist and rights-based unionism synonymous with British values of equality and respect. Socially and community grounded they are not defined solely by cookie-cutter identity loyalism.

They adhere to a distinctive and relevant ethos defined through value for money and meeting the needs of the community. Challenges are faced without rage and confrontation.

Any party that wishes to embark on a fresh direction for unionism would do well to engage. It will find it is catching up with the future of unionism.

Terry Wright, Londonderry

Former deputy chairman of UUP under leaders Reg Empey and Tom Elliott (left party in 2013)