Conservatives in Northern Ireland are divided over whether to continue the electoral link-up with the Ulster Unionists, the BBC has learned.A public *revelation* that there is a difference of opinion over the matter? That sure is dynamite. Other "information" destined to rock the N.Irish political scene:
Confidential minutes of an internal party meeting leaked to the BBC reveal striking differences about the direction the party should take.
Some party members wished to end the relationship with the Ulster Unionists.
1. There was a strong desire to see Conservative candidates selected for forthcoming elections soon.
2. There was no support for participation in unionist unity talks, with discussions between the Conservatives and Unionists and the DUP prior to the election described as "damaging and demoralising".
3. The electoral name - Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force (UCUNF) - was dismissed as "weak".
4. It was felt that coffee purchased from Tescos rather than Safeway should be served at the next meeting.
OK, point 4) may or may not have been discussed, our source was unusually coy on the subject when questioned... I know it's the quiet season but really, the Beeb thought the public wanted or needed to know all that?
Concerning the basic question apparently under review (the continuance of the pact with the UUP) there are two unpalatable, factors the local party need to ponder on. Firstly, the UUP has the current bums on the seats of the Assembly, the party network, workers on the ground and the voter loyalty to be able to operate as a party capable of achieving its targets (when it finally decides what those targets are); the NI Conservatives don't. Secondly, if the UUP do decide to continue with the arrangement and Conservative HQ is happy enough to supply the logistical (and oh yes, cash) support to enable that to happen, I suspect that the views of the NI Conservatives on the matter will (once again) be of little consequence.
The Scottish Conservatives are presently undertaking a root and branch review of the party and its future there; the NI Conservatives should be doing the same, independently of their HQ. Without at least some UUP support, it's highly improbable that a Conservative is going to be elected to the Assembly next year. In my (admitedly completely unpragmatic and idealistic) opinion that is perhaps of lesser importance than whether or not the views the party locally espouse are capable of being filtered into and influencing the mainstream; at the minute without some kind of "game-changer", I don't believe they are. Rather than wasting time with "leaking" nonsense to a completely disinterested public it's that latter fact that they need to be addressing, otherwise what really is the point in having a Northern Irish Conservative party?