Friday, 3 February 2012
AT the sound of the bell the two heavyweight political pounders stalked forward, circling each other as the assembled ladies and gentlemen of the press lean forward for the first of the 15-round contest.
Title holder and Ulster Unionist party leader Tom Elliott is up against the battling Strangford MLA David McNarry. The slugfest has seen McNarry and Elliott trade blows. Elliott dumped David on the carpet with a quick jab to the jaw, resulting in McNarry leaving his post as deputy chair of the Education Committee.
With Assembly newbie Mike Nesbitt settling in to the cosy chair still warm from McNarry’s departing behind, McNarry lost no time in landing a flurry of media blows from left hooks about phone calls through to upper cuts about being the Ulster Unionist liaison officer in 'secret' talks with the DUP.
And this is just the first round…
Where will it all end as the Ulster Unionist party seems intent to journey further down the spiral towards electoral obscurity. When DUP leader Peter Robinson recently attended a GAA match, he must have had a smug wee grin on his face as he walked away from the grounds, thinking to himself that gaelic football wasn’t as rough as the UU's contests.
What must the more moderate Ulster Unionists think, with the party hierarchy seemingly approving of links with the DUP? And, what of those who worked to firm up the “broad church” concept of the UUP in the wake of the election slump of 2011 think?
There seems to be a horrible inevitability to it all now. The broad church has many leaks in its roof and the walls are crumbling as the party slugs out its battles in public.
As to the way forward...with 14 rounds still to go party loyalists must be hoping that the remainder of this contest can be held behind closed doors.