John McCallister and Basil McCrea have left the UUP. So…the middle ground is now bigger. So this is good news for the Alliance Party, the brand leader in middle ground politics.
Well…seemingly not. For John and Basil have NOT joined the Alliance Party but are intent on forming a political party of their own…a liberal unionist Party.
It might well be the case that they can attract Catholic votes…but are these new voters, former nationalist voters.
I think it is I unlikely that any pro-union Party can attract nationalist votes. The clue is in the name. No matter how “pragmatic” the unionism…NHS, economics…it’s a unionist party.
There is disappointment in the Alliance Party that McCallister and McCrea have not joined them. Are they really so different from Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley who jumped ship from UUP to Alliance…and were as avowedly unionist as McCallister and McCrea in 2010, when they all fought the Westminster Election as party colleagues.
Now members of a Party which claims to be agnostic…a designation which has suited it…agnostic as a Party but with a membership who are unionist (likely), agnostic (likely) and nationalists (not very likely).
The Alliance Party will have bad memories of the last time they had to compete for votes in the centre ground. …with the Women’s Coalition. The Alliance Party as always been vitriolic about the Women’s Coalition. And certainly the attitude to the new Party will be interesting.
The Alliance Party was founded as a liberal unionist party and is…I would argue a coalition of liberal unionists and letsgetalongerists.
McCallister, McCrea and others may well try and start a new party….and it might be one without overt unionist symbolism but McCallister and McCrea will have difficulty shaking off the British flags on their UNCUF election posters….but then so will Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley…in the AllIance Party.