Transforming Unionism: David Trimble and the 2005 General Election


Michael Kerr

A controversial evaluation of the Ulster Unionist Party’s decline that opens up a fresh debate over the future of Unionism.

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The 2005 Westminster general election left the Ulster Unionist Party politically decimated in what was  its centenary year. The historic party of the union has but one remaining seat in the House of Commons and as was predicted, Northern Ireland’s electorate has abandoned the political centre ground in favour of the extremes.

So how did the UUP lose touch with mainstream Unionist opinion? What could the party have done to hold its vote in the 2005 general election? Why did the British government abandon Trimble after he led Ulster Unionism from international isolation to being the driving force behind the Belfast Agreement?

In Transforming Unionism Michael Kerr examines these questions, telling the inside story of the UUP’s electoral meltdown and the last days of Trimble as the party’s historic leader. Seen through the eyes of the campaign team, Michael Kerr’s daily journal, and interviews with all the key players, this book dissects the 2005 campaign and the end of the Trimble project.

Michael Kerr’s controversial evaluation of the UUP’s decline opens up a fresh debate over the future of Unionism. Transforming Unionism challenges Ulster Unionists to rethink their political strategy as they enter the post-Trimble era and offers a constructive analysis of what Ulster Unionism must do if it is to survive the fallout of the DUP’s 2005 landslide victory.

Table of Contents

1. Maintaining the Union

2. ‘Doing the Decent Thing’

3. Flogging a Dead Horse

4. Is This Bus Going to Westminster?

5. Spun Out

6. The Man Who Fell to Earth

7. The Trimble Project

8. His Master’s Voice

9. The State of the Union

About the Author

Michael Kerr has worked for the UUP since 1999, was involved in both the party’s 2001 and 2005 general election campaigns and has been its Westminster Officer for the past two years. He is also a Tutorial Fellow in the London School of Economics and Political Science’s International History Department, where he completed his PhD in 2003. He is the author of Imposing Power-Sharing: Conflict and Coexistence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon (also from Irish Academic Press).