Although the General Election saw the First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson lose his Westminster seat to the Alliance, it is the UUP who truly lost in Northern Ireland. This party was once one of the big two in Northern Ireland and now they have lost the little UK representation they had, have we in the last few weeks witnessed a lurch towards death for the UUP?
Before the election the UUP had one seat in the Commons, the much respected Lady Hermon. Then they decided on a Link-up with the Conservatives and all hell broke loss. With Lady Hermon's abandonment of the party and mini rebellions erupting within both the UUP's Council and Assembly seats Reg Empey was admittedly under pressure.
On May 7th, Reg Empey was in serious trouble.
Having decided to run himself in South Antrim he hoped to capitalise on his position as UUP leader to take a seat from the DUP and make the UUP seem more of a threat in the Assembly elections next year. Instead he may have shot his own party in the foot. Lady Hermon kept her seat as an independent, Sir Reg was defeated in South Antrim and the UUP took no seats putting them on par with the TUV and Green party of Northern Ireland. The TUV were disappointed with their lack of seats but they were the new dog in the yard and were not expected to do fantastically, the Greens can take some comfort in the election of Caroline Lucas in England, but what about the UUP, what possible excuse can be given?
Rodney Connor's loss by 4 seats to Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew also removed the guaranteed Tory Friendly unionist which makes may make the Tories incredibly peeved at their Northern Irish partner's failure and hurt them even further down the line.
Now look forward to the Assembly elections next year. Sir Reg will have to battle unbelievably hard to increase his seat share with the prospect of Sinn Fein taking the top spot, that is ofcourse assuming that Reg makes it to the election, like Peter Robinson and Gordon Brown, Reg faces possible ousting by his party in an attempt to distance themselves from the abject failure of May 6th.
Depending on when the next General election is held (in case of a coalition collapse or weak majority) next year's assembly will prove crucial for the UUP in ensuring their relevance for the next political cycle.