Mike Nesbitt MLA, Leader of the UUP is probably the politician I understand least.
Some thirty years ago, he seemed a harmless enough young man who presented the Sports Results on a Saturday evening on BBC Norn Iron.
The most memorable thing he ever said in those days was “Glentoran Reserves 2 …Linfield Swifts 1”. An undemanding kinda job but he was quite good at it.
He seemed pretty apolitical.
Except in the sense that to succeed in local TV, it helps to be apolitical in a vaguely letsgetalongerist way.
He moved to Ulster Television and as I recall did the same job before getting the job of anchoring the main News Show in the 6pm slot.
He always seemed to me to be a bit of a lightweight. Hard to take seriously when interviewing our 1990s politicians because I could never really get past the whole Sports Presenter image. He did give the impression of being impatient with political dinosaurs…certainly all BBC and UTV and the Media generally was on board with the whole Peace Process.
Nesbitt was to my mind at times over-compensating. A little too aggressive.
But he always seemed at his best bantering with “Logie” on the Sports Desk and “Frank” at the Weather Map.
Leaving UTV, he had a job on a Quango.
One of four (count them!) Victims Commissioners advocating the rights of Victims.
It was generally assumed that each of the four commissioners was “close to the thinking” of one of the four main parties…DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP…and that Nesbitt was close to the thinking of the UUP…a mainstream unionist.
By 2010, he was fully signed up to the disasterous link up between the British Conservatives and UUP and it even seemed possible that he would win the Strangford seat at Westminster as the DUP was seen in freefall after the Iris Robinson Scandal.
Nesbitt, educated at Norn Irons only real “exclusive” school (Campbell College) was perhaps more identifiably Conservative in the British tradition than any of his colleagues.
In the event, he polled poorly.
And the Tory-UUP coalition fell apart. People such as Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley (again) took their portfolio of skills to the Alliance Party.
And Nesbitt threw his lot in with the UUP.
Blessed with a certain star dust and charisma he became a MLA for Strangford in 2011. And by 2012, was actually Leader of the Party.
There was some early talk that TV Mike was reaching out to Catholics but that actually all fell apart with the Flegs Controversy.
Mike Nesbitt was competing with the DUP to be more “hardline”.
In fairness, his Party did well in the recent European and Council Elections, confounding the general thpught that UUP was in terminal meltdown.
But yesterday…all shades of Unionism…DUP, UUP, TUV, PUP …all walked out of All-Party talks about Flegs, Parades and the Past.
The cause …the Parades Commission decision on the Ardoyne Parade next week.
Unionists are talking about a graduated response to the Decision…beginning with several protests tonight…road blocking seemsinevitable.
No doubt the ground is being tested.
If the protests get little support, they will be scaled back.
If they get support, there will be more…all stretching PSNI (police) resources and no doubt there will be some violence. The object of the violence might be to put pressure on the Parades Commission…or more likely to put pressure on the PSNI and the British Government to put pressure on the Parades Commission.
Either way, it is exactly the kinda thing that UTV Anchor, Mike Nesbitt would have got aggressive about when interviewing some unionist dinosaur.
Nesbitt is now a fully signed up resident of Jurassic Park.