‘If a political party can’t gain support it shouldn’t survive’

JOHN McCallister has certainly divided opinion by his resignation from the Ulster Unionist Party.

Some see him as a rebel with a cause, some as a rebel without a cause, others as a rebel without a clue.

So far as I can tell John jumped overboard because he believed that the ship was travelling in the wrong direction at the wrong speed. It wasn’t the ship that he had a problem with. It was the itinerary.

He had tried to influence a change of course but having failed he simply couldn’t stay on board. That seems fair enough to me. How someone feels is something that others will judge but that is of little consequence for the person feeling as they do. Those who pass judgment either critically or in support can’t change much. All folk can really do is move on.

John McCallister does seem to want to move on to a place where being a unionist is about more than just being a unionist. He doesn’t want the unionist brand to be the only thing defining him.

I would guess that a great many people feel the same way. They want to be confident that their support for the union doesn’t define them as only unionist but rather defines them as socially aware, fair minded and enthusiastic Northern Ireland citizens. I have been involved on the fringes of the Ulster Unionist Party for many years and I believe that most Ulster Unionists think this way too. If they didn’t they would have joined a different party long ago when political credibility seemed to depend more on volume.

A political party must have a credible identity and credible policies if it is to gain support and grow. If a political party can’t gain support and grow it shouldn’t survive.

It seems strange to me that the Ulster Unionist Party chooses not to trumpet its identity and policies in the coming Mid-Ulster by-election. Going into the by-election in camouflage may not be wise.

At Banbridge Town Football Club we are in the business of playing soccer. Just now we don’t play it at a particularly high level but we do our best and we always compete for promotion. Players, management, officials, members and supporters put their hearts and souls into the club.

If we are ever fortunate enough to play a home fixture against premiership opposition either in a cup competition or as a friendly we pull out all the stops. We would more than likely paint the clubhouse. Executive committee members would get their teeth whitened and their hair washed.

Our squad would relish the challenge even though the chances of winning would be very small. There would be pride in the occasion and hopefully respect for effort.

What we wouldn’t do would be to see the fixture as something to fear. We wouldn’t borrow half a squad of players from another club. If we did that we would run the risk of looking faintly ridiculous.

Sport and politics shouldn’t mix but that’s not to say that politics can’t learn something from sport.