It's been some time since the Conservative & Unionist Party did what it says on the tin. I remember the formation of local Conservative Parties in Northern Ireland caused a great deal of controversy in the 1980s and the national Party didn't quite know what to do. If it recognised them it risked alienating the Ulster Unionists. Of course, the support of the Ulster Unionists was crucial to John Major's precarious adminstration in the mid 1990s. The last decade has seen the Ulster Unionists gradually eclipsed by Ian Paisley's DUP to the point where the UUP is almost extinct. The defection of a leading UUP member, James Leslie, to the Conservatives this week is symptomatic of the decline of the UUP.
This morning Slugger O'Toole published a piece by Alex Kane on the dilemma now facing the Conservatives and David Cameron in Northern Ireland. You can read it HERE. He believes there is now a major opportunity for David Cameron in Northern Ireland now, but he needs to recognise it and grasp it. Of course the danger is that any growth in Conservative support risks diluting the Unionist vote and could hand several DUP seats to Sinn Fein. It's a tricky one and I don't pretend to know the answer. My gut instinct is that the Conservative Party should be seeking to expand its operations and influence in all parts of the country. We belong, after all, to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Conservatives website is HERE.