When Paula Bradshaw (and then Harry Hamilton) left the UUP ……there was an exchange of views on the Slugger O’Toole (partner of Stratagem who advises Rowntree which funds the Alliance Party) as to whether they would be fast-tracked by the Alliance Party……if they joined……….which they eventually did.
I suggested that they would be (and indeed possibly should be)……but I took the counsel of Alliance members who suggested that they would not. I suppose “fast tracked” is a relative term. But a matter of months after leaving UUP Harry Hamilton fought the 2011 Assembly Elections for Alliance. And now I note just eighteen months after leaving the UUP, Paula Bradshaw has been elected to the Alliance Party Executive, where her portfolio of skills are obviously valued.
As I have said “fast tracking” is relative. But I see no harm in it. Hamilton did well running for the Alliance Party in tandem with party stalwart Sheila McQuaid from Banbridge who I tend to believe was on the ticket with Hamilton to deflect from his fast tracking. After all the local Alliance Party is hardly very visible. Seemingly the Upper Bann Alliance folks did not know Brendan Heading was their candidate for the Westminster Election in 2010 until they saw him in a TV debate.
The problem with new recruits from other parties to the is that it impacts on the second tier of Alliance politicians. People like Heading, Andy Muir, Michael Bower and Cathy Curran are pushed down the pecking order. And of course there is the additional problem that Hamilton and Bradshaw have joined Alliance from the UUP……..a conservative party……..and naturally their instincts are to the right of most Alliance people. Presumably if more liberal unionists (a risible term anyway) join Alliance t will drift to the right……arguably to the advantage of Stephen Farry when he takes on Naomi Long for the leadership of the Party.
In a sense Bradshaw can claim that she has not been fast-tracked at all. She has merely offered her portfolio of skills to the Party and they have elected her. But surely her place on the Party Executive is but a stepping stone to a place in Stormont. Obviously she is associated with South Belfast ……Director of the Greater Village Regeneration Trust ……..and stood there as a UUP candidate (Westminster 2010). She is or has been a member of the Newtownabbey District Policing Board which gives her connexions to South Antrim, East Antrim and possibly North Belfast……which means that veterans David Ford and Stewart Dickson might bequeath her a seat in Stormont. Or maybe Billy Webb, the former tax inspector will be stepping aside.
Bradshaw even has connexions thru hubby Ian Parsley to North Down. Parsley himself has canvassed for the Alliance Party in six or seven constituencies in 2011……..which is certainly praiseworthy……until its noted he was an Alliance candidate in 2009 European elections, UUP-Conservative in 2010. But surely his rehabilitation with Alliance cannot be much longer delayed. A grateful Party rejoices?