Thanks to Pete Baker over at Slugger I can feature Mark Devenport’s round-up of the political week from last night’s Hearts and Minds.
Incidentally, Mark references a “Conservative on the airwaves” making reference to Lady Sylvia’s socialist credentials. He was referring to me on yesterday’s Good Morning Ulster.
OK Mark, I admit that perhaps she is more New Labour than Socialist Workers Party – but allow me some poetic licence!
Lady Sylvia now seems to be enjoying stirring it up and is getting more aggressive and definitive in her media interviews. Where yesterday, in her interview with Gareth Gordon for the BBC, she gave a conditional answer to the question would she stand under the Conservative flag, today she’s making it much simpler and easier to understand:
“I’m not a Tory…never have been and never will be,” she tells Ken Reid in this interview.
Thanks Sylvia, that’s a lot clearer.
It looks unlikely, therefore, that Sir Reg will be able to convince her otherwise – despite his clear intention to do so in this interview over on the beeb. However, he hasn’t actually got round to calling her yet, it would appear.
Yesterday I revealed that one of the reasons that the Conservative Party logo does not feature on Jim Nicholson’s election posters is because the UUP members of the joint committee had a big problem with the Conservative Party “tree”. It’s green. Unionists don’t like green.
However, in an article in today’s Belfast Telegraph it is implied that part of the reason that Lady Hermon has a bad feeling about the Conservatives is that David Cameron “wore a green tie to a Unionist event.”
Now I was under the impression that the RUC wore green ties and even green uniforms. As the wife of the former Chief Constable of the RUC I would have thought she would be rather impressed with a green tie. Apparently not.
So, at last, the news we were all waiting for…Lady Hermon doesn’t like Conservatives and won’t be standing as a Conservative and Unionist. Surprise, surprise.
As Mark Devenport notes over on his blog Lady Hermon is not one to give media interviews if she can avoid it. But today, keen to clear her name of any expenses impropriety, and to have a go at Tories claiming for chandeliers and moat cleaning, she blurted it out. She’s an Ulster Unionist and always will be so.
(Mind you, I get the impression that the Lady is not too keen on her own Party leadership either. But that’s another story).
I moderated several focus groups in her constituency a few months back (for her benefit, but she didn’t make the effort to attend any) to hear what a cross-section of constituents thought of her. Most respondents felt she was a hard-working MP. Many were impressed that she was a woman politician among a sea of old male farts. Quite a few seemed proud of her. Most thought she’d be even more attractive as a candidate if she stood as a Conservative.
But that appears unlikely to happen. Instead it looks as though she’ll run as an independent Ulster Unionist. Perhaps, if she does, UCUNF will be reluctant to put up a candidate. Who am I to say?
But it makes one wonder what there is left in this relationship with the UUP for the Conservative Party. It doesn’t even look like there’s an MP in the bag.
Just out of curiosity, you understand, I hopped over to TheyWorkForYou.com to check out the numbers on Lady Sylvia Hermon – the UUP’s only MP. Lady Hermon, you’ll be aware, is keeping everyone guessing as to whether she will jump the brush with her fellow UUPers into the arms of the Conservatives.
Now let’s assume she does join in the love-in. Will the Conservatives get good value for money from their new-found reluctant Tory? (Assuming she is re-selected and re-elected).
The Lady, it appears, doesn’t say much when she turns up at Westminster. She has only voted in 28% of divisions in this parliamentary term so far (that means she doesn’t bother to show for most votes). She hasn’t spoken in a debate in the last year. Perhaps this explains why she’s so tight-lipped.
The voting record is even more interesting. In her previous term she was much more prolific on the voting front – perhaps because she had a few more buddies and, presumably, there was some type of UUP parliamentary whip. From 2001 to 2005 she voted in nearly 70% of divisions. But now that she whips herself, so to speak, she rarely votes. As her own whip, she doesn’t rebel. But in the last parliamentary term she voted against her own whips 57 times.
So there we have it. An MP who rarely shows, rarely speaks, and always agrees with herself – but often rebels against her own Party colleagues. Worth having as the Conservative & Unionist MP for North Down?
Seymour Major has his reservations too…