As a 32-year-old from a traditional unionist area, I think that the biggest question now for UUP is this – if you can’t attract the electorate at this point in Northern Irish history, will you ever attract them?
For as long as the number one factor in unionist voting is ‘keeping the others out’, the Ulster Unionist Party will always flatter to deceive.
What then does the future hold? Is there a future? Come with me briefly as I ponder a post-UUP political landscape.
What do we know about the UUP voters – and why are they not voting for DUP/Alliance/Other instead?
First and foremost we can assume they are in favour of the Union. Perhaps some want to see unionism represented by politicians who are more accommodating and pick less fights.
Perhaps individual MLAs get votes because of their personal stances on ‘matters of conscience’.
Looking at transfers from some relevant constituencies it still appears that the majority of UUP voters are transferring within unionism. Alliance and SDLP both receive substantial transfers from UUP voters.
If however, the UUP no longer existed, I suspect most of their voters would not place their vote for SDLP as first preference.
There would be a tough choice for the UUP voter if the UUP closed up shop.
Do I concede and support the bullish heavy-handed DUP despite years of campaigning against their attitude and inability?
Or do I put my faith in the more liberal Alliance party who hold a neutral stance on the Union? Is it possible the Alliance party could one day challenge the main parties if they sweep up voters from the increasingly irrelevant UUP/SDLP?
Ultimately, the Alliance Party are a long way off gaining the most seats, and the UUP/SDLP will most likely continue further in decline as the impotency of their mandates dawns on their faithful.
The forecast unfortunately for the foreseeable future is a power-STARING contest where every item on the agenda will be approached on the basis of not appearing soft to their electorate – because keeping up the appearance of a political battle is what ensures the votes.
If not us... them... and you don’t want them, because then there will be no more us.
Clive McLaughlin, Coleraine