Slugger O'Toole

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

Fri 15 February 2013, 10:33am

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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