Tom Elliott hands the poisoned chalice on

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As referred to extensively below Tom Elliott has announced his decision to step down as UUP leader and Danny Kennedy has now announced his decision to stand. There has been much analysis both in the press and in blogs about the decision: as ever the best to my mind is Alex Kane’s in the News Letter.

Tom Elliott was elected by a considerable margin over Basil McCrea even if one leaves out the votes from Fermanagh. At the time I suggested that Tom Elliott was by far the better option and that McCrea might well have split the party.

From the beginning the signs were far from auspicious for Elliott’s leadership. His initial problems regarding his refusal to attend gay pride events or GAA matches seemed for some to set the tone. There were a few gaffes such as calling Sinn Fein’s supporters scum. He was portrayed as an old fashioned, anachronistic out of touch culchie leader with nothing to offer save managed decline.

There is some truth in some of the criticism but in reality much of it seemed to stem from having decided Tom was the wrong leader and then viewing everything he said or did through that prism. Elliott was far from atrocious on the media but his slow Fermanagh style was not particularly media friendly. Furthermore he did not seem to relish the media the way modern politicians need to (the likes of Peter Robinson are vastly more media friendly than they were twenty years ago). He stuck loyally to the Impartial Reporter for a number of announcements and interviews which did look a bit odd and overly Fermanagh focused from a politician offering to lead the whole of unionism. Elliott did not look “trendy” to the largely Belfast based regional newspapers and broadcast media and the problem seems to have become a vicious circle hurting Tom Elliott rather than the media. It must be remembered that David Trimble made quite a number of gaffes and lost his temper on television a number of times yet he did not get the level of media contempt Elliott tended to receive: that said Trimble was leader of the largest party in Northern Ireland at that time.

Internal problems also seem to have beset Elliott with a cabal of supposed modernisers opposing him: certainly he has commented on that in his resignation interview; though as Alex Kane has noted Elliott did have a bit of a cabal of his own exploring links with the DUP.

Again, however, within his own party it seemed at times that Elliott was not given an entirely fair wind or the levels of unquestioning support which UUP leaders have tended to get from their membership practically no matter what they did. Even Trimble received overwhelming support until he actually signed up to the Belfast Agreement. Part of Elliott’s problems may have been his style and the way the media tended to view him. Again, however, there seemed at times to be a degree of snobbery from assorted pseudo intellectuals and liberals within the party. There is a bit of a history of snobbery both social and intellectual within the UUP which has frequently seen it treat its grass roots with contempt and the Fermanagh farmer may have looked to culchie-ish and too stupid to be regarded as a good leader. For the record when I met Tom Elliott to discuss specific policy issues he grasped complex concepts completely unrelated to party politics or his own profession with remarkable speed and asked relevant questions more pertinent than I have had from most media or political types, including a number of supposed UUP intellectuals. Furthermore Elliott was no bigot: his blunt at times stubborn country attitude, however, allowed him to be painted in such a light. Those trendy UUP types who wish to carp might, however, reflect on the experience of Fermanagh Prods of Elliott’s generation whilst they sleep so contented in their beds within the greater Belfast Pale.

Where Elliott did have problems, arguably his greatest, was in presenting a vision alternative to that of Peter Robinson’s dominant DUP. Elliott wanted to unite opposition to the current position of the DUP and present an alternative way forward. He was, however, too slow to present an alternative and moreover had no effective counter to the DUP’s devastatingly effective narrative of moving Northern Ireland forward. In addition Elliott had no answer to the succession of progressive suggestions Robinson has been able to make from his position of impregnable power and authority as DUP leader. Ever since he survived the scandals over Iris etc. Robinson has been so dominant that internal dissent has never had the nerve to mount any campaign media or otherwise against him.

Elliott also suffered from being possibly too nice and too consensual and in too weak a position, all of which produced a vicious circle to undermine his authority. When Trevor Ringland threw his hissy fit over the GAA, Elliott was initially reasonably conciliatory at least in public; when Ringland continued I believe Elliott did tell him to stop making a song and dance yet Ringland continued, flounced out and then gave media interviews. Yet after all that Danny Kennedy still suggested that he (Ringland) might be welcomed back. If one changes the party to the DUP the impossibility of such a situation occurring is illustrated. If a failed parliamentary candidate had directly contradicted Peter Robinson, failed to keep quiet after being spoken to by Robinson and then left the party; it is highly unlikely that any senior DUP figures would say any nice things about him.

The Ringland saga and that of the other civic unionists also illustrates another of Elliott’s problems. Elliott was not seen as a civic unionist and although possibly a harder cross community worker than many of them (his advocacy for both sections of the community in Fermanagh is well recognised by all) he did not come across as terribly “civic”. A further problem for many of the civic unionists who jumped ship may also have come back to the snobbery angle. Most of them are frightfully well educated with many more letters after their names than Tom Elliott (or myself I hasten to add). For them being ordered about by the Fermanagh farmer may have rankled a bit. More importantly, however, Elliott’s main prescription for recovery for the UUP was hard constituency work. That is far from the entitlement to political power which so often seemed to be the dominant if unspoken motif of so many civic unionists. They were so clever, educated, urbane and sophisticated that of course the electorate would vote for them and not the ghastly DUP (or Alliance). That unlike them, Tom Elliott got himself elected time after time and worked hard for his constituents did not seem to result in respect: rather in contempt for Tom and at times his constituents.

Many of these civic unionists and many others in the UUP still seem completely incapable of understanding that the UUP is the lesser of the unionist parties. Many in the party still seem to feel that there is some sort of alchemists formula of conservatism, civic-ism, liberalism and general “trendiness” which when sprinkled on the UUP will once again make them the obvious home for unionists along with being the pheromone which attracts the Catholic unionist unicorns and the garden centre unionists (should we call them gnomes as they supposedly live in gardens?).

More than anything Tom Elliott would not or could not pander to the media, to the civic unionists with their entitlement complex or to the urban and suburban unionist electorate who defected to the DUP during Trimble’s disastrous leadership. Furthermore he had no way to out right or even out left the enormous powerhouse of a party which Peter Robinson has created. As such in a party with so many people still thinking that they are only a few clever ideas away from once again being the dominant unionist party he did not have enough to offer. The fact is as Alex Kane has suggested that in the current scenario the leadership of the UUP is a poisoned chalice. Tom Elliott held it and although damaged has not been killed, nor allowed his party to be killed by it: how the next holder will get on remains to be seen.

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  • vanhelsing

    Great post T,]

    “More importantly, however, Elliott’s main prescription for recovery for the UUP was hard constituency work. That is far from the entitlement to political power which so often seemed to be the dominant if unspoken motif of so many civic unionists. They were so clever, educated, urbane and sophisticated that of course the electorate would vote for them and not the ghastly DUP (or Alliance). That unlike them, Tom Elliott got himself elected time after time and worked hard for his constituents did not seem to result in respect: rather in contempt for Tom and at times his constituents.”

    In a nutshell. I wonder how many of those UUP ‘types’ got elected in the Westminster or Assembly elections :) duh

    Some high minded UUP ex-candidates [now to the NI Cons and Alliance] need learn it is through the constituency up that people get elected not because they ‘just deserve to’.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    A long but very measured and analytical post. If people skimmed it,it’s worth reading it all.

    There are problems of discipline and snobbery within the UUP. High handed entitlement produced the ‘decent people vote ulster unionist’ slogan. A pose of civic unionism produced ‘simply british’.

    IThe UUP faces two real problems – a hollowing out of its vote in greater Belfast-which could be ameliorated if not reversed by sleeves up constituency work.

    But much more importantly, it lacks any identifiable purpose now. It needs to find out what its for and sell that to the electorate and the media. The DUP points out that it is disciplined and unified, has a ‘moving NI forward’ narrative that undercuts appeals to civic unionism, but can also point to a history of communal stridency to settle traditionalist nerves. In the last ditch, they can also play the prods together card – ‘only a vote for the DUP can prevent a Sin Fein First Minister’.

    The UUP needs to find some space on the political scene – it’s head is above water because of residual distaste from people who remember the tub thumping and the supernaturalism of the old paisleyism. That won’t last for much longer.

    PS ‘Gnomes’- not bad. I can’t think of anything better to describe the brotherhood of the leylandii.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “For the record when I met Tom Elliott to discuss specific policy issues he grasped complex concepts completely unrelated to party politics or his own profession with remarkable speed and asked relevant questions more pertinent than I have had from most media or political types”
    Turgon, your not the first one to say that, its is somthing I have always been impressed with.

  • Alex Kane

    Hi Turgon,

    Thank you for the kind comment.

    That said, I did get it wrong on Danny: I genuinely thought he wouldn’t stand.

    But McCallister is a definite.

    It will be interesting to see what Nesbitt does. If Danny goes for the safe pair of hands, stay in Executive ticket; and John goes for the let’s go into opposition immediately platform; I’m not sure how Mike squeezes himself between the two.

    I remain of the view that Opposition is the best option for the party and have made the case in today’s column—although I have no idea how to put the link up. (You have linked Saturday’s column)

    Anyway,may yet prove to be an interesting election!

    Regards

    Alex.

  • tinman

    Alex – here’s the link to the Newsletter column arguing the UUP should go into opposition. (Don’t mention it.)

    I tend to agree as Stormont should benefit from an opposition broader than the one man show that is Jim Allister. But Turgon’s point above is sound: Where Elliott did have problems, arguably his greatest, was in presenting a vision alternative to that of Peter Robinson’s dominant DUP. Other than saying ‘black’ when the DUP says ‘white’, is there a UUP narrative to provide a choice to voters? I haven’t noticed one.

  • Alex Kane

    tinman:

    Thank you.

    I think there is a narrative: so let’s see if John McCallister sets it out in next couple of days.

    Regards,

    Alex.

  • Dewi

    I just found it strange that there seemed to be no vision, no plan for shared living and almost an extreme approach to confronting nationalist aspirations. You were left waiting for coherence – whereas what you got were daft soundbites.

  • andnowwhat

    Nice post Dewi.

    I was thinking about a quite recent of Talkback where Mike Nesbitt completely lost it was an old lady who had called the programme. He hung up in a completely childish huff only to come back on half an hour later still quivering (judging by his voice) with anger. How in the hell would he handle it if, in the unlikely event, a local journo challenged him?

    The UUP are consumed with internal matters and are left for dead. The comparisons with the SDLP who, despite a 3rd bad choice for leader, still have some relevance.

  • Mark

    There was some strange comment from McNarry a while back about McGuinness mentioning cricket ……. anyway cheers Turgon , you learn something new everyday ( quite a lot in this case ) .

  • London_Irish

    Alex,

    I’m sure there is a narrative that could be teased out from whoever is elected leader, but it is highly unlikely to be one that the entire parliamentary party could truthfully sign up to and sell to the electorate, such is the nature of the broadchurch that is the UUP.

    In Westminster, MPs – particularly Labour and Tory ones – can get away with having fairly contradicting views from their colleagues and superiors. I’m sure Dennis Skinner wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the destruction of Clause IV, New Labour and Cool Britannia, and even new MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg can flout the party line and vote against the government with a degree of impunity. The Assembly (and the Dáil, Scottish Parliament, and the Senedd for that matter) are simply all too small for members to rebel against their party leaders, and the North is too small a place generally for MLAs to go back to their constituencies and criticise their own party leadership. Moreover, in the age of new media, a speech given in a community centre in Belleek can be online and listened to in Belfast in seconds, which can enforce greater discipline amongst parliamentarians than ever before.

    Tom Elliott was elected leader and the so called ‘liberal’ wing of the party chose as their litmus test the attendance at a GAA match. Tom Elliott failed said test, and as a result was outflanked by Mr Robinson. Had Basil McCrea been elected leader, the ‘traditional’ wing of the party would have chosen their own litmus test, and even the populist Basil McCrea would have probably failed it, because in the early days of leadership, he would have wanted to stick to the guns that saw them rise to the top of the (depleting) pile. Party spin doctors understandably try to pass such incidents off as an example of the ‘broadchurch appeal’ of the UUP’s brand of unionism, but one cannot mask the indiscipline within the party, or the lack of vision.

    The UUP elected 16 MLAs, some of whom could easily appear one day on the Alliance benches and nobody would notice, and some of whom could slide on over to the DUP benches without a word spoken. Couple the permeable parameters of the party with its history on indiscipline, and the situation is a perilous one. Whilst I’m not for one second condoning the approach of the DUP in the 2007 election where there were contracts and financial penalties hinted at for unruly candidates, the DUP is able to plot a strategy – led by Peter Robinson – and they can safely count on their members to follow it, which is why you can count the number of TUV representatives with your fingers. The UUP on the other hand, cannot plot a forward strategy because it can’t agree on one. When it does, it will either be unpalatable for one of its camps, or it will be more watered down than the Programme for Government.

    The Assembly is not Westminster –MLAs cannot defy their leaders, hide on the backbenches for a while and expect to get away with it. Major differences of opinion within the party are brought to light immediately and are sent flying around the internet all day before the papers go to print (Donaldson v Trimble; McNarry v McCrea/McCallister; McNarry v Elliott). If John McCallister were to be elected leader, he would fail the litmus test set by the ‘traditional’ wing, and the downward spiral would commence.

    It is one thing to have broadchurch appeal, quite another to have a realistic and successful broadchurch vision.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I agree with Turgon that constituency work, reconnecting with people that way is necessary; but it’s not sufficient. I’m interested that TE comes across as intellectually able in person and I don’t doubt it; but people said that too about Dubya. As a political leader you have to be able to project your abilities in the media so people can believe in you and follow you; TE simply didn’t do that. I don’t think he was so hard done to.

    I also think both communities in N Ireland suffer badly from tall poppy syndrome these days. It’s as if when we rejected the rotten old privileged class of old, we mis-defined what we were rejecting. The most able and well-balanced people in society haven’t wanted to be involved in politics for quite some time. Turgon, though I agree the party has suffered from having a snooty element in the past, it loses urban middle class talent at its peril. There are plenty of very well educated middle class Belfast people who are perfectly capable of relating to everyone else and who could be an asset to the party – but who are conspicuous by their absence, in part due to the inverted snobbery which drains the public space of a lot of talent – especially within unionism.

    Whatever you think about Trimble, he was intellectually very sharp, clear-headed and a rigorous thinker. He had his flaws of course; but it’s people of his calibre the party leadership needs and who don’t now go into unionist politics at all, let alone the UUP. It’s not enough to be a man of the people just now (it seems to me from afar) – the party needs vision, clarity, direction and leadership. Being decent and hard-working are fine but just miss the point.

    In a way, Elliott was similar to Ed Miliband for me – a lot of the right ideas, even the right words sometimes, but just lacking the presence and charisma required. Leaders don’t have to be typical of the rest of us, we want them to be a bit different and a bit special. They should be the kind of people who can anticipate and articulate our feelings better than we can ourselves and whose judgment and breadth of knowledge we admire. I wasn’t seeing that in Elliott.

  • http://sluggerotoole.com Belfast Gonzo

    Tomorrow when he announces his candidacy, John McCallister will say he will take the UUP into Opposition if elected party leader, according to Belfast Tele Facebook page.

  • Turgon

    Mainland Ulsterman,
    I agree re needing both talent and hard work and the ability to project the fact that one has talent. I suspect Elliott lacked only the latter.

    You are right about middle class people and unionism up to a point. If you look at the current advisor cadre of the DUP it is a whos who of the talented young unionists at Queens. They have gained maturity and power in seemingly equal measure.

    The UUP has thus far failed to harness that dynamic up to a point. However, they do have a lot of talented people especially from outside Belfast. It is obviously the case that there are lots of very clever Russell group educated (and non university educated but very clever) culchies (myself proudly excepted: I am an illeducated unintellegent culchie). It seeemd at times (though in actual fact inaccurately) that the UUP liberal, urbane etc. types who left were predominantly Belfast and looked down on everyone else. In actual fact they were not just Belfast types but still at least appeared to look down on everyone else.

    The real problem for Elliott as well as any personal lack of cleverness projection was that his party is so split it was hard to move forwards and had too little talent (and too few numbers) to take on the DUP. Finally too many of them both young and old still seem to be harking back to the days when they had their “rightful place” as lead unionist party. They seem to think there is an alchemist’s formula to return them to that. In reality I suspect unless they get a great leader, work like mad and the DUP have the good taste to implode they are looking at gradual decline.

    TwilightoftheProds,
    I think the comment on residual distaste for the DUP is very relevant. As you say those with that distaste are reducing in numbers and indeed their reasons for distaste are receding.

    Alex, thanks as ever for your kind words and everyone else as well. I am off to bed.

  • carnmoney.guy

    It appears that the sentiment for the Ulster Unionist Party can be summed up by Private James Frazer in Dads Army, a very apt analogy as the party has shown its comedy by how it handles its problems.
    The status quo almost guarantees a managed decline, so a radical change of approach into opposition is the way forward. Some ideas on how to change . . . .
    With new management in place and the Tory link broken, a clean slate approach could result in some surprises… they could get Lady Hermon back, get David McClarty back, get David McNarry back.
    Convince Rodney Connor from FST to join the party as business manager, with a remit to plan for another assault against Michelle Gildernew ( whose star has faded since losing agriculture )
    With more planning, Reg Empey could take the South Antrim Westminister seat from William McCrea. He could appeal to the nationalist voters who see how in South Down and Foyle the unionist voters will have anyone but a Shinner, in South Antrim William McCrea and his son are not well liked. The DUP run Newtownabbey council, take all the chairs of committees and rule the roost over all other parties. The Alliance voters already vote tactically, and the TUV could step down to allow their fellow ‘party in opposition’ a free run.
    The freedom of opposition means that the cosy staged managed events at Stormont would be put under scutiny. Instead of sitting in on pre-Executive meetings like lapdogs, take a leaf out of Jim Allister’s book and get down and dirty with the questioning.
    Attack the Alliance party, Tim Farry has managed to keep his department alive only slightly longer than David Ford can keep a prison supremo. David Ford has been at the helm of the service which offers huge remission for rapists and paedophiles, while mismanaging republicans into a dirty protest.
    Attack the DUP, on how they wont use dHondt across the councils, on their support of Sinn Fein pet projects, letting anyone be a political advisor. On how they get the banks in to tell them to lend, then the banks ignore them and refuse to lend to small businesses.
    Attack Sinn Fein, easily done, just repeat the attacks that Gerry Adams makes in the Dail, its Sinn Fein trying to be an opposition and in government at the same time.
    Attack the SDLP, just shine some lights at them..

    Be the champion of something that people remember you for and that would make a difference eg,
    fight to make it the law for all the government departments / councils / agencies to pay their bills within 3 days, not 3 months. With our economy still so public sector based, this would have a huge positive impact on the cash flow of everyone in the supply chain.

  • New Blue

    vanhelsing (profile)

    12 March 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Great post T,]

    “More importantly, however, Elliott’s main prescription for recovery for the UUP was hard constituency work. That is far from the entitlement to political power which so often seemed to be the dominant if unspoken motif of so many civic unionists. They were so clever, educated, urbane and sophisticated that of course the electorate would vote for them and not the ghastly DUP (or Alliance). That unlike them, Tom Elliott got himself elected time after time and worked hard for his constituents did not seem to result in respect: rather in contempt for Tom and at times his constituents.”

    In a nutshell. I wonder how many of those UUP ‘types’ got elected in the Westminster or Assembly elections duh

    Some high minded UUP ex-candidates [now to the NI Cons and Alliance] need learn it is through the constituency up that people get elected not because they ‘just deserve to’.

    Turgon / vanhelsing, one of the reasons I made the decision to leave the UUP was because there was no attempt to focus on the development of ‘hard constituency’ work, I campaigned hard, both within the party officers and with Tom himself that this needed to be a focus for the party, unfortunately it was largely ignored. The UUP have some very hard-working MLA’s who do focus on the constituency ‘grass roots’ issues, unfortunately there is still little support from the central party in providing support or resources.

    vanhelsing, believe me when I say that the ONLY reason I became involved in politics was to help make a difference at constituency level, not very ‘high minded’ at all.

  • Alex Kane

    London_Irish:

    Morning,

    I don’t disagree with the broad thrust of your post last night and as a former Director of Communications for the party I am painfully well aware of the difficulties you list.

    The ‘broad church’ approach worked best when the UUP was, in essence, the permanent party of government. The factionalism was present between1921 and 1972, but as long as the party remained in government (and never really got bogged down in socio/economic decisions and differences in Stormont) then it didn’t really matter.

    Post-1972 (even during the 1968-72 period) the broad church structure was partially dismembered when new parties and off-shoots broke away from it. But the fact reamins that the UUP—-which is now just one of five main parties in a very small place—-cannot afford the luxury of continuing to regard itself as broad church, particularly if broad church is defined as accommodating competing and contradictory gospels!

    So yes, you are right when you say that it’s unlikely that either Danny or John (who represent clearly differing wings of the party) can bring the whole party with them. Which raises the question of what the party does? Just muddle along with one fudge after another or should the new leader push the ‘nuclear button’ and allow the formal, final splitting of the party: leaving at least one UUP which sings from the samw hymn sheet.

    My own view is that the party is gaining absolutely nothing from being stuck in the Executive.

    Regards

    Alex.

  • PaulT

    As a republican, I don’t understand the contest, I think most nationalists only know of Kennedy and McCrea, so its all a bit wet for us.

    I was intrigued by one thing, I wondered if Tom was in line for a gong from the queen, mainly because I thought it was tradition, yet, he’s not done much!

    I checked Wikipedia, fasinating stuff, as far as I can see only Harry West who also represented that neck of the woods ended up with nothing.

    JM Andrews doesn’t seem to have gotten anything, but his brother did, and Saunderston was the queens rep for Cavan for a while.

    So the only past leader with an empty trophy cabinet is from fermanagh, same as Tom, who I’m not sure deserves anything.

    Interesting stuff especially as its a jubilee year, so bound to be loads of extra baubles to give out, but would Cameron put his name on the list, maybe, has Tom abeing promised a little something from the queen in return for stepping aside so the UUP can become the NI Conserative Party?

    It could be embassassing if even Gerry Adams can end up a Baron and poor Tom gets nothing

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “there was no attempt to focus on the development of ‘hard constituency’ work”

    New Blue, this point has been well illustrated by the DUP and SF; it translates into votes.

    MLAs and Councillors also need to raise their public profile. There’s not much point in all this hard work by politicians (and others) if the electorate aren’t told about it.

    Elected representatives (and the media) would also need to maintain a better check on the actions of public servants because it’s the elected representatives who may take the blame when this go wrong.

  • OneNI

    It is very fashionable on poitical blogs to point out the need for ‘hard constituency work’ and virtually no realisation that while elected representatives should local after their constituents there is a very real danger that ‘politics’ here becomes less and less about ideas and policies and more and more about pure naked ‘clientelism’ where the politician ‘delivers’ by filling in DLA forms or whatever.
    The absence of political debate on issues is filled by endless press releases praising local groups – which is in itself a vehicle for clientelism. This also leads to loads of pointless photographs of MLAs standing around awkwardly with groups he/she can ‘help’ and who in return will ‘help’ the MLA get re-elected.
    This may be what SF and DUP and others are good at but please do not mistake it for politics. It is leading to a situation where increasing the electorate realise that the our local politcians barely have a POLITICAL or policy idea btwn them and – beyond those with adirect ‘need’ the voters increasingly despise the politicians

  • London_Irish

    Alex,

    I agree that it is very hard to be broad when you’re down to 15/16 MLAs!

    Having read this morning’s coverage about John McCallister’s plans for taking the party out of the Executive, I think that whilst he is clearly the underdog, he is at least setting out a direction for the party to travel in. Danny Kennedy on the other hand, will simply maintain the status quo of being on the fringes of the Executive, and come across as Tom Elliott mk 2, who was Sir Reg Empey mk 2, who was David Trimble mk 2, etc etc. Come election time, the same difficulties will inevitably arise.

    The UUP, as a small ‘c’ conservative party will probably prefer the safe pair of hands of Danny Kennedy, who will play up his longevity and party credentials to mask an absence of plans for a party in dire need of a shock to the system. This leadership election is shaping up to be Tom v Basil again, with the same outcome likely, albeit with fewer Fermanagh farmers in the room.

    If – and it’s a big ‘if’ – John was to be elected leader, then he could go in to the Assembly group on Monday and say here are the plans, like it or lump it. Would he run the risk of losing members? Yes. But at least he would be able to look the electorate in the face and say that his team are fully committed to x, y and z, and that when say they are opposed to the DUP/Sinn Féin carve up, they aren’t simultaneously going along with it, in their own ministry and attending pre-Executive briefings with the DUP.

    Of course all of these considerations might be overshadowed given the relatively short length of the campaign. Alex, as someone who has a better insight into the UUP then I ever will, which camp would you say this suits best? John is the one who has to sell himself, given that he is the underdog with the more radical proposals (he can’t expect to be elected for his work for caravan owners). Can he do that between now and the 31st? Can Danny Kennedy spend 2 and a half weeks reassuring the party faithful he is a safe pair of hands and a good party man and expect to be returned in due course?

    The most radical thing the UUP have done in the history is sign up to the Belfast Agreement. In an odd way, the election of John McCallister would be as (if not more) radical, as it would see the UUP be (voluntarily) without executive power in a devolved administration in Northern Ireland for the first time.

    Of course all of this becomes an irrelevance should either of the Strangford duo decide the temptation to run is too great…

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail ardmajel55

    At least by setting out his plans for opposition, McCallister is showing he’s learned lessons. He’s calling the bluff of the others in the field who want more of the same, [I think I heard that McCrea woin't be in the field]. Kennedy wants the UUP to be a pale substitute for the DUP. Not showing much ambition, that. I ecxpect he’ll get the job.