Basil McCrea finally throws in the towel … from where can UUP find hope?

Two months ago on 15 December, UUP leader uttered the following phrase on Evening Extra:

If we have to shrink to grow, we will

After John McCallister’s resignation last night, Basil McCrea has followed this morning, burning his bridges on the Nolan show.

Which means that the Opposition back corner in the Assembly chamber is expanding.

Once the revolving door in the UUP stops spinning, Mike Nesbitt’s shrinking policy will definitely have left him with a smaller party that ultimately should be easier to manage. The liberal wing of activists will no longer have their standard bearers. Nesbitt’s time will no longer be devoted to discipline.

However, not only will the UUP block in the Assembly be smaller, they will be electorally weaker. John McCallister was amongst four candidates elected to the Assembly in South Down under the quota. If he chooses to stand as an independent in the future, he may not pick up as many transfers from the DUP. But it would also be difficult to see a different UUP candidate in South Down being successfully elected whether McCallister runs or not.

It’s harder to predict Basil McCrea’s personal vote in Lagan Valley given the potential for a new Alliance candidate at the next election [though Trevor Lunn hasn’t given any clues and may well choose to stand again] and whether a new UUP name could target an Assembly seat.

What about the growing half of Mike Nesbitt’s policy?

There are few opportunities for growth until the next local government and Assembly elections. (In fact, the European election next June is an opportunity for decline, unless the DUP have privately rule out running a second candidate.)

The party saw a resurgence in new candidates and talent back in the days of UCUNF. A good number of those names have moved on: Bradley, Hamilton, Macaulay, Manwaring, Parsley, Ringland.

Succession planning cannot be done in a rush. Is the UUP – with its lack of differentiation from the DUP – an attractive political vehicle for a political career? How many UUP councillors will want to step up to make a serious run for the Assembly?

Can anyone see any seeds of hope for the UUP? Views from UUP sympathetic commenters particularly welcomed!

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  • Ulster Press Centre

    Send him a tweet.

  • Otto

    :)

    Good idea but I wouldn’t want him to feel I was criticising. You know how intimidated loyalists..oops..working class unionists are feeling at the moment. Especially with these leaflets going about.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    He’s probably more annoyed about the Alliance party’s blatant hypocrisy over the issue.

    DUP/UUP leaflets attacking Alliance = bad
    Alliance leaflets attacking PUP = good

    :rolleyes:

  • DC

    Designated days should come about on terms that require no amendments from the Alliance party.

    I am disturbed by the likes of Comrade who seems to view the original complete removal motion by SF and the SDLP as valueless / politically meaningless in that people should just ignore the intent of both parties to get its unwanted (by unionists) policy of neutrality over belfast.

  • DC

    I guess it’s a bit like me going to slap you in the face Comrade but someone stepping in and stopping my arm from coming across your way.

  • Kevsterino

    I think SF and SDLP voted for what has been their flag policy for a long time. They made a deal with Alliance to support Alliance’s long public flag policy. This left Unionists in a losing position in the democratic vote. Being critical of the result because of the starting position of SF and SDLP, when they lost, and using that as a stick with which to beat Alliance is unreasonable. The protesting flag every day folks are going to be very frustrated this summer.

  • DC

    @kev

    It might be unreasonable to you but i would wager it makes it difficult to compromise on and to do business with those that operate like that.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Gopher. Yes, it makes a lot of sense to run in the European election, even if only to say here we are.

    [I thought I’d be able to see a copy of the fabled Aliiance Party leaflet before I went to bed, but there’s no word of it.

    I guess ‘it was only a dream’]

    Here is the big unknowable for B and J. How many moderate pro-union electors will be bothered to make a trip to the polling station when the time comes?

    Wonder if they’ll have the nerve to print flagless election literature on redless and blueless paper. Or to keep the adjective UNIONIST out of their party’s title.

  • Comrade Stalin

    UPC

    DUP/UUP leaflets attacking Alliance = bad
    Alliance leaflets attacking PUP = good

    I don’t have a problem with leaflets attacking Alliance.

    I have a problem with the consequences of what unionism did by escalating an artificial and contrived row over flags. It’s not really the same thing.

    I haven’t seen the Alliance leaflet you are talking about, but no doubt it simply repeats the same thing the party has been saying for a long time ie. unionists talked this situation up and brought disturbances, roadblocks and rioting onto our streets for nothing other than their own narrow political purposes.

    All you’re doing is what you usually do, refusing to engage in any kind of reasonable debate, and throwing out grossly exaggerated half-truths and innuendo apparently in the belief that you are doing your cause some sort of service. All I can say is – please keep doing it. People need to see the kind of corrupt and broken, intransigent thinking that you are bringing to the table. In fact, please put your money where your mouth is and to go the press and the police with your stories of feeling threatened by Alliance Party thugs.

    DC:

    I guess it’s a bit like me going to slap you in the face Comrade but someone stepping in and stopping my arm from coming across your way.

    Now I’m really confused. How does this explain unionists supporting designated days, and then one day deciding that they don’t ? How does this explain unionists lying to the electorate about their own support in the past for designated days ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    UPC, tell you what, why don’t you furnish :

    – details of loyalist offices prevented from operating by Alliance protestors
    – details of death threats visited upon loyalists as a consequence of the Alliance leaflet
    – information about roads blocked by Alliance supporters
    – information about neighbourhoods which loyalists are warned not to enter by Alliance representatives

    Otherwise, just admit that you’re trolling. Clearly you think that people are stupid enough to believe your ridiculous verbiage.

  • DC

    I am just saying it is confusing and an unhelpful starting position in terms of attempting genuine reconciliation.

    Below is an example of what i mean:

    At the same time, Sinn Fein have caused further confusion by reaching out to Unionists, appointing its national chair Declan Kearney to build relationships and lead reconciliation with Protestant communities. This has seen representatives of the Republican Party actively championing traditional Protestant symbols like the Titanic as part of a shared heritage. Cynics might argue that the old saying of taking power with an Armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other has a new interpretation: taking down the flags with one hand and embarking on a dislocating charm offence with the other.

    Indeed, a few years back, pushed for a quick answer as to what Sinn Fein had achieved for its supporters with the peace process, Mitchell McLaughlin, a leading party representative, pointed to the “degree of uncertainty and lack of confidence among the Protestants.”

    Take from: http://extremisproject.org/2013/01/the-threat-of-ulster-unionist-fragmentation/

  • Viridiplantae

    GEF

    With those boundary changes the back of my metaphorical envelope says that the votes cast in 2011 would have probably produced a Council chamber with

    28 Nationalists
    25 Unionists
    7 Alliance

    (4 extra unionists, 4 extra nationalists and 1 extra Alliance from the new territory added)

    Bear in mind though that strange things have been happening in Belfast City Council recently as shown by the vote share figures (on the present boundary).

    2001
    Unionist 43.92%
    Nationalist 46.50%
    Alliance 6.80%
    Other 2.78%

    2005
    Unionist 43.29%
    Nationalist 48.40%
    Alliance 6.80%
    Other 1.51%

    2011
    Unionist 36.13%
    Nationalist 48.30%
    Alliance 12.60%
    Other 2.97%

    Anyone can see that about half of the Alliance vote in 2011 was composed of ex-unionist voters. Scarcely any other believable explanation works for these figures.

    If the ex-unionist voting Alliance voters returned to the unionist fold you would likely get the following result with the new boundary

    28 Unionists
    28 Nationalists
    4 Alliance

    Not enough to put the flag up 365 days, three short. Could a campaign of voter registration over the flag issue or a deeper biting into the Alliance vote than merely their ex-unionists voters get Unionists up to 31 seats? It’s unlikely, but not unlikely enough to call it impossible. Alliance winning East Belfast in 2010 was probably an equally statistically unlikely event prior to the Robinson family “scandals”.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Comrade Stalin:

    UPC, tell you what, why don’t you furnish :

    – details of loyalist offices prevented from operating by Alliance protestors
    – details of death threats visited upon loyalists as a consequence of the Alliance leaflet
    – information about roads blocked by Alliance supporters
    – information about neighbourhoods which loyalists are warned not to enter by Alliance representatives

    So, your problem is not with the 40,000 leaflets but the reaction to them?

    DUP & UUP aren’t to blame then.

  • Gopher

    @ David

    Like I said on a previous post unionist turnout east of the Bann is always the great unknown but one thing is for certain none of the other parties have reached the non voter so if anyone is going to do its going to be this new project of Basil and John.

    Lady Hermon in the last Westminster election did not use the union jack or any other overt signs of unionism on her election posters (if you dont count her title, just mentioned that to head off the pedants on the forum) and she polled 21,000 votes in North Down.

    I am sure the party of Basil and John will attract enough bright young things in the field of graphics and design to sort out the image and packaging for them.

  • GEF

    Thanks Viridiplantae good post.

    The biggest shock to Unionists happened in 2011 when UUP lost 4 seats 2 to SF and 2 to APNI. Previous elections their losses had all gone over to the DUP & PUP.

    Like you say 2015 will be extremely interesting to all parties seeking seats on BCC when the transfer of 11 predominately UUP-DUP-APNI voting wards from Castlereagh & North Down namely: Tullycarnet, Gilnahirk, Braniel, Hillfoot, Merok, Cregagh, Wynchurch, Glencregagh, Belvoir, Cedar Grove & Knocknagoney. Then the transfer of 6 predominately SF-SDLP voting wards from Lisburn namely: Colin Glen, Poleglass, Lagmore, Twinbrook, Kilwee & Dunmurry will increase the electorate for the new 60 seat BCC from 277,000 to 315,000.
    My supposed prediction is:

    27 Unionists
    27 Nationalists
    6 Alliance

    With no overall Nationalist or Unionist majority, Alliance will support neither of them in a motion change to fly the Union Flag for 365 days or its removal completely. It will be no change from designated days so the loyalist protesters better get used to it, and any nationalist dreams of flag removal like nationalist held councils west of the Bann have, can be put on the shelf for the time being.

  • carl marks

    UPC
    Hi there, you see the leaflet sent round by the DUP/UUP contained language that was inflammatory, it urged people to contact a MP (you know the one who took Pete’s seat) about a council decision, and it wound people up.
    Playing the old unionist trick of the last straw it was printed in Alliance colours with phrases like “tearing the flag down” which is of course untrue the flag was not tore down,
    It presented a policy which unionists were happy with just up the road as treason in Belfast.
    Now i doubt that this alliance leaflet (if it even exists) does anything like that.
    By the way i was in the pub last night and told those present about your line re; The PUP being intimidated by Alliance, raised a hell of a laugh, a few people thought i was making it up, so a bet was placed slugger was logged onto and you will be pleased to know that my good lady and myself will dine for free next weekend.
    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Viridiplantae

    All very nice, but you’ve conveniently forgotten that 25% of Unionists support the Alliance position.

    So this notion that all Unionists are suddenly going to stop voting Alliance is somewhat fanciful, to say the least – at most, they’ll vote for a “unionist” party which supports designated days, likelier they’ll stay at home or vote Alliance.

  • aquifer

    Alliance attacking someone does seem odd.

    Basil McCrea is a modern economy kind of guy, knows telecoms, marketing, assertive.

    Alliance should quit being piggies in the middle and identify with an economic strategy that is not driven by orange farmers.

  • GEF

    “Now i doubt that this alliance leaflet (if it even exists) does anything like that.”

    Carl Marks, I have never seen any such leaflet myself, but if there is it may have to do with Billy Hutchinson’s statement on radio Ulster. Shortly after the protests began in Dec 2012 I did hear the Alliance MP for East Belfast on radio ulster one morning calling Billy Hutchinson and the PUP a bunch of hypocrites. She remembered him that apparently back in 2002 when the flag policy was being discussed in Council chambers, Hutchy who was a Councillor then stated back then himself and the PUP were strongly behind flying the flag on designated days only. Hutchy replied to Naomi “Well that may have been 10 years ago but today we have changed our minds and support the UUP & DUP in flying the flag 365 days”.

    I think Naomi Long MP has a point, Hutchy’s not only a hypocrite, he has his head up his arrse most of the time.

  • Barry the Blender

    Alliance attacking someone does seem odd.

    I don’t know where you’ve got that idea from. Apparently all one has to do is have an opinion on what country NI should be in and one’s a raving sectarian bigot in their eyes.

  • Gopher

    @Barry

    Yup it amuses me no end that Alliance is condescending and downright insulting of its pro union voters and then argues that they have no reason to vote for a non sectarian unionist party

  • Reader

    Barry the Blender: I don’t know where you’ve got that idea from. Apparently all one has to do is have an opinion on what country NI should be in and one’s a raving sectarian bigot in their eyes.
    That’s unfair on the general membership. It’s just that there’s a few middle of the road extremists about.

  • carl marks

    GEF

    Here is UPC’s post that kicked the whole Alliance Bullying the PUP thing off.
    Maybe I’m wrong, but I seemed to miss your condemnation of the recent Alliance leaflet distributed in east Belfast which contained an unprovoked, tension-raising attack on the PUP.
    Followed by this little gem,
    I merely repeated the response by some PUP members in that part of the city who felt threatened and insulted by the provocative Alliance leaflet.
    UPC as usual failed to produce any evidence of his statements and has not even seen the leaflet in question.
    Visions of David Ford and Anna Lo scooping Billy and stuffing him into the boot of a (low emission) car and bringing him to a granny flat in the Malone area which has been tastefully converted(IKEA ) into a romper room, makes me smile.
    The fact that I’m getting a free meal out of it makes me smile even more!
    But on a more serious note it should be noted that no unionist has explained why a designated day’s policy is ok in Lisburn and Craigavon but treason in Belfast.
    DC is perhaps the most honest in that his problem is that it was nationalists who made the decision and he seems to think that nationalists exercising there democratic rights is provocative.

  • Reader

    carl marks: But on a more serious note it should be noted that no unionist has explained why a designated day’s policy is ok in Lisburn and Craigavon but treason in Belfast.
    It looks like the ones who are complaining about it are willing to explain why. The rest could only speculate, which is also what you are doing.

  • carl marks

    Reader
    Where am I speculating, go and read DC posts and show me where I am wrong.
    The UUP and DUP have been quite Happy with the policies in Lisburn and Craigavon for a long time but oppose it in Belfast could you in your wisdom show me where they Have explained this contradiction?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I would say there’s a good chance that such a leaflet does exist. Alliance like all the other parties distributes newsletters and leaflets all the time. The chances are that the leaflet says what is on the website, ie that the PUP and DUP are whipping up tensions to try to damage the political process. UPC is trying to bullshit everyone into believing this is an inflammatory or exaggerated statement when it is in fact the truth.

    UPC’s perspective on life and politics is somewhat skewed, to the extent that he appears to think that he can easily persuade other people of the same lies and twisted perspective of which he has persuaded himself.

    It is worth reacquainting ourselves with some facts :

    Designated days is not going to be reversed.

    Many unionists are happy with designated days.

    Leading unionist politicians are whipping up sectarian tensions for electoral purposes.

    People arrested for blocking roads or causing disorder at protests or outside football grounds are not political prisoners, they are criminals who need to be punished.

    Barry:

    I don’t know where you’ve got that idea from. Apparently all one has to do is have an opinion on what country NI should be in and one’s a raving sectarian bigot in their eyes.

    That is a gross misrepresentation. I have an opinion about what country NI should be in. I’m not a raving sectarian bigot.

    Obviously the nuances are a thing that some people have trouble with, but I’ll repeat it again. Setting up a political party whose primary stated purpose is to preserve the union, or to seek Irish reunification, is to set up a party which simply panders to old tribal identity politics. Such a party cannot unite the community and this fact should be obvious by now.

  • David Crookes

    Here are some urbane words from UPC (7.47 pm, yesterday) which may be usefully addressed to anyone who insists on talking about an Alliance Party leaflet for which he is unable to give a reference.

    “So you can’t back up your nonsense post with any factual evidence whatsoever?

    “Good stuff – keep it to yourself from now on then buddy.”

  • Reader

    carl marks: Where am I speculating, go and read DC posts and show me where I am wrong.
    It was either DC or UPC who said that the difference was that nationalists forced BCC to take down the flag, whereas the same didn’t happen elsewhere. Whichever of them it was is certainly a unionist, so there’s your counter-example.

  • carl marks

    Reader
    It was either DC or UPC who said that the difference was that nationalists forced BCC to take down the flag,
    Yep Nationalists forced them to take down the flag,
    A democratic vote is forcing someone, so I was right the problem is those dammed Catholics voting. Damm this Democracy thing,
    That is more or less what I said about DCs argument in reply to you accusing me of speculating.
    Perhaps you could come up with an example that proves me wrong, Are you implying that this is also the argument being put forward by the DUP/UUP for if it is then I have not heard Pete , Mike, or any spokesperson for either of those parties come out with it.
    As I have said before perhaps we could avoid a lot of trouble if unionists would give us a list of things that we are allowed to vote on and the way we are allowed to cast our votes.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Reader,

    In the absence of a clear explanation about why unionists were able to accept designated days everywhere else it was introduced except on Belfast City Council, the only option available is to speculate.

    How’s this. In the other councils the unionists knew that they had to introduce designated days otherwise they would be held liable for any legal action which found the council guilty under employment equality legislation. In Belfast, since the unionists are a minority, they can happily oppose designated days as they won’t be the ones held liable for the decision.

    It’s quite simple – the unionists saw an opportunity and took it, and hoped that (as usual) people would be too ignorant to spot their rank hypocrisy.

  • GEF

    DS, interesting speculation. But what about the 10 other Unionist controlled councils who fly the flag 365 days? Would these 10 councils also be held liable for any legal action which found the council guilty under employment equality legislation?

  • DC

    There are a lot of different approaches throughout the region as to the flying of flags that i wouldn’t worry too much about a legal challenge for one thing it is a cheaper option than the £15 million spent on policing to date and secondly i think it is about time that a legal challenge was attempted to put this to bed once and for all.

    If designated days is standard fare re equality practice then as GEF mentions why are other unionist councils not in a panic over this and in terms of nationalist ones why aren’t they fussed about their elimination of the union flag in its entirety.

    Then finally, we have the absolutely ridiculous situation of an IRA play park which any protestant would see as being so exclusively republican so as to exclude them from entering with their kids, even though it is highly unlikely they would any way given the area. It isn’t just about ‘employment’ the council is a service provider too.

    The flag situation is a mess but it does flag up some interesting disparities, it was in the end a political decision, all anyone else could do was offer ‘advice’.

  • DC

    I think Naomi Long MP has a point, Hutchy’s not only a hypocrite, he has his head up his arrse most of the time.

    Well i think there is a degree of both scapegoating the PUP here and hypocrisy as in the one breath Alliance criticise people for not accepting democracy then they go and rip the bag out of the PUP for using the very same democracy as them but not voting along with them!

  • carl marks

    DC
    SF and the SDLP are ELECTED representatives and as such have the right to push the policies they see fit, Alliance are also ELECTED representatives and have the right to push the policies they see fit.
    That is the beast called DEMOCRACY
    The MOB are NOT elected Billy is NOT elected to oppose a policy because you think it is wrong is part of the democratic process, to not object to a policy in Lisburn and Craigavon but oppose it in Belfast simply because you don’t like the people who voted for it is in this case sectarian in the extreme which makes you a bigot.
    I’m sorry if that hurts but that’s the way it is.
    If BCC gets a unionist majority then the rules may change on the flag, if you fantasise about Alliance changing their stand and going against their stated policy then you will be disappointed. Likewise if you think the mob will change things, Billy needs to get something called VOTES to have any chance of changing things.
    Street protests attacking footy matches, and attempting to intimidate politicians will change nothing.
    Now you may not like this but alas the world does not run to your wish’s.

  • DC

    Thanks for that lecture carl it was really useful and added lots.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    So far off topic now … comment thread closing