December 11th, 2010


Whoniversaries 11 December: Zienia Merton, Daleks Master Plan #5, Scream of the Shalka #5

i) births and deaths

11 December 1945: birth of Zienia Merton, who played Ping-Cho in Marco Polo (1964) and the registrar in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (2009), a 45-year gap between appearances in Who and its spinoffs which is unlikely to be repeated.

ii) broadcast and webcast anniversaries

11 December 1966: broadcast of "Counter Plot", fifth episode of the story we now call The Daleks' Master Plan. Sara, the Doctor and Steven are transported to Mira and menaced by the invisible natives before being captured by the Daleks.

11 December 2003: webcast of fifth episode of Scream of the Shalka. The Shalka activate the other sleeper communities and the end of the world draws nigh.

The Strange Death of Tory Ulster

I've written obituaries for political parties here on previous occasions - for the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, the Newtownabbey Ratepayers Association, and the southern Progressive Democrats. This week, to use a medical analogy, life support was turned off for the Northern Ireland branch of the Conservative Party, though it has not yet quite stopped breathing. From the Newsletter, Sam McBride reports and Alex Kane analyses last week's decision by the Conservative headquarters in London that the party will stand no candidates for the Assembly election next year, but will support the UUP; it may stand candidates for the local council elections on the same day, but they will be expected to work with the UUP once elected. (See also commentary from Ian Parsley and "Chekov".) It's really a best possible outcome for the UUP, which now has essentially unconditional support from the main party in the UK government without the hassle of having to deal with its local activists, and a worst possible outcome for the Northern Ireland Tories, who don't even have the rather minor satisfaction of a decent burial but are being let wither on the vine.

As I've said frequently enough, I never saw any virtues in the integrationist project - the proposition that Northern Ireland should simply be treated the same way as Yorkshire by the UK's central government - let alone its 'equal citizenship' mutation - the proposition that the solution to Northern Ireland's problems would come if only the English political parties would organise and fight elections there. However, it is entirely right and fair that the latter proposition should be put to the test. I expected that it would fail that test, and I am not at all surprised that those who were most closely engaged with it have now reached the conclusion that it has indeed failed. They are of course blaming the fiendish UUP for stitching them up, and the spineless London Tories for rolling over to UUP demands, but the simple fact is that the voters never supported the project in sufficient numbers to make it viable, and so it was doomed.

Oddly enough I bumped into Tom Elliott, the new UUP leader, at a reception in Brussels on Thursday night, and congratulated him on doing in a few weeks what others had been trying to do for years, i.e. killing off the Northern Ireland Conservatives. He grinned modestly but appreciatively. His leadership has had a rocky start, with numerous high-profile defections, but this is a concrete achievement in clearing the undergrowth.