Sunday, June 11, 2006

Peter Bowles joins the Conservative Party

Peter Bowles, a councillor on Down District Council and a current Ulster Unionist Party Officer (and a former chair of the Young Unionists) has joined the Conservative Party. He has responded to the party's links with the Progressive Unionist Party/Ulster Volunteer Force in light of continuing UVF violence. It seems he may not be the last person to leave the UUP and indeed speculation will only intensify about the position of Sylvia Hermon, the party's only MP.

To expect an immediate ceasefire and decommissioning would have been widely overoptimistic to say the least. But the nature of recent events has made it harder to sell the UUP-PUP deal as achieving anything more than the numbers game in the Assembly - hardly a point to justify being linked to a party linked to a paramilitary group. The UUP's past is not lillywhite (nor for that matter is the DUP's but it's hard to justify something just on the basis that another party did something) but if their recent action doesn't even convince a member of their own officer team, who will it convince?

By joining the Conservative party, Bowles becomes the first elected representative in the province in some years. Party membership in the province has increased significantly since David Cameron became leader and there have been growing calls for the party to step up its effort in the province with wholehearted central support. Whether anyone will try to join the Labour Party over this (and there are people in the UUP who would naturally fit on that side of the blue-red spectrum) remains to be seen (and what would Labour's response be?) but a stronger force concerned with issues such as taxation, health, education, the environment, the UK's place in the world and so forth can only help both Northern Ireland and the entire United Kingdom.

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