In his review of the week in politics over on Geoff makes an interesting observation about how the two main Unionist parties have managed the Unionist Unity debate:
"PS. Interesting message from the DUP in the ‘unity’ links. Looks to me like the DUP are nimbly making their ‘unity’ appear broad and pluralist, while branding the UUP’s ‘unity’ as narrow and sectarian. How will the UUP (and Tom Elliott’s campaign) respond? In my opinion, the DUP has managed to appear big and generous throughout the ‘unity’ debate. The UUP on the other hand seem to have fallen into the trap of largely selling ‘unity’ on an anti-nationalist (sectarian) platform. The DUP’s strategy is clear – but what strategy has the UUP been following?"
In the UUP's defence it isn't an easy to have a clear approach in the midst of a leadership election, although clarity of position wasn't better before it began. The amount of focus on the FM issue by the UUP and the media is a bit curious. If the UUP think it is a potentially harmful electoral issue for them then highlighting it repeatedly gives it more profile. As for the media, it has given them something to talk about during silly season but it demonstrates that for all their talk of 'new' politics they'll happily focus on the 'old' politics.
Included in the list of articles is one by Alex Kane (that I'd managed to miss up until now) where he picks up the theme of neither leadership candidate getting it. However, when you see his definition of the task you can undestand why it could be overwhelming:
"to unite the party; create a very clear and separate identity for it; replace the almost 100,000 votes it has lost in the last decade; get it taken seriously again by the media and the electorate; rebuild it at constituency level (where half of a dwindling membership are members in name only); make some very tough internal decisions on discipline, finance and administration; deliver — in a matter of months — some hard proof of political and electoral recovery; and, most difficult of all perhaps, instill the sort of confidence and enthusiasm which will encourage the canvassers to return to the doorsteps again because they really do believe they can win."