So it's official – the UUP's common-law marriage with the English Tories will be known as the 'Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force'.
The announcement of the new name – not the name of a party, yet, but a banner under which joint candidates will stand for election – was reportedly delayed for weeks because of difficulties in deciding whether the word 'Ulster' should appear in the title. The Tories didn't want it, while the unionists did. It seems that the unionists got their way, and the poor Tories will have to pretend to be happy to be called 'Ulster Conservatives'.
For once the Tories were right. The word 'Ulster' is loaded with connotations, and carries a lot of historical baggage. By dispensing with it, the new partnership could have sought moderate, non-sectarian support. But by keeping it, they have virtually ensured that the new partnership will remain trapped within the slowly dwindling 'Ulster Protestant' community. I expect some Northern Irish Tories will be sufficiently disgusted that they will not fully support the partnership. As for the middle ground, or Catholics, the partnership has just ensured that it will receive very little of their support.
Ironically, Reg Empey, UUP leader, said: "We don't believe in a little-Ulster mentality. [ …] We believe in promoting a vision and version of the union which will be attractive to everyone in Northern Ireland." So why, then, was he so insistent on keeping the offensive term 'Ulster' in the title?
And what on earth does that tag-on 'New Force' mean? What purpose does it serve? It sounds like some tacky 1970s paramilitary organisation. It is part of the name, but in reality it is just a poor slogan, combining the clichéd and over-used word 'new' with the vaguely militaristic and threatening word 'force'. Why did they tag it on to their name instead of, for instance, one of their other failed slogans, like: 'simply British' or 'for all of us'? While parties elsewhere in the world are using simply, snappy, easily-remembered names, the media-unsavvy backwoodsmen of unionism have saddled themselves with a long, offensive, and partially pointless name and acronym. The UCU-NF … it really runs off the tongue, doesn't it?