Ex-UUP vice chair Terry Wright says pacts deny unionists a choice

An ex-UUP vice chair who resigned over a pact with the DUP says unionists deserve a choice at the ballot box.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 12:14 pm
Terry Wright

Terry Wright was a life-long member of the UUP until Mike Nesbitt agreed to run a unionist unity candidate in the Mid Ulster by-election in 2013. He tendered his resignation in protest. Six-and-a-half years later he believes UUP leader-in-waiting Steve Aiken is right to promise candidates in all 18 constituencies in the December General Election.

“Apart from any degree of self-interest pointing to a position of what we have we hold, fabricated Unionist unity indicates a lack of confidence and courage in being able to offer policies and candidates who might attract votes from the electorate who vote, and indeed the many who have ceased to vote, in sufficient strength to make inroads into DUP and Sinn Féin representation. Is it this fear, self -interest and lack of confidence that proposes electoral pacts?

“There is no doubt that the UUP needs an MP at Westminster. Apart from showing electoral progress it would bring financial benefit lost to the party when it lost seats at Westminster. The treasurer who has guided good financial management would surely welcome additional resources. Administratively it would enhance research and publicity possibilities. But what would it do for electoral choice? Is democracy now a disposable commodity within unionism? Can anyone point to the recent success of electoral pacts within unionism?” asks Mr. Wright.

After the disastrous UUP and Conservative pact in 2010 Mr. Wright was asked by the then leader Reg Empey to conduct a review. Today he insists pacts are not the way forward.

“As an electoral strategy it is an appeal to territory and bonds of blood wherein the past casts too long a shadow. Only those who forlornly hanker after a past where unionism was united and influential, if not entirely fully representative, would find the argument compelling. In so doing they opt for a fraternity of aging warriors wedded to old ideas

“Many within the unionist electorate have moved on and want to re-define their politics in terms of positive social engagement and radical actions that focus on economy, unemployment, health and education. These are the priority and successful solutions to many of the underlying problems related to these areas would help to solve issues arising from latent sectarianism, bigotry, segregation and fractured community relations.

“They have their eyes fixed on different goals and a different finishing line. Unionism does not think as one. Better that this was reflected in the existence of clearly identifiable parties with clearly identifiable policies. To deny this choice is to disenfranchise a growing number of the unionist electorate. It is not what they wish for.”