NI21 make a #freshstart with a #freshdesignation … though run risk of some #freshconfusion

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Tonight NI21 announced that they would be switching from a designation of Unionist to Other, joining Alliance and the Green Party in the no man’s land middle ground between the unionist and nationalist voting blocks.

You spoke. We listened. We changed.

ni21 labels of the pastWe recognise that some are happy to be called ‘Unionist’, and they are of course welcome in NI21. However, as we have engaged with the electorate over the last number of months, it’s clear to us that using the term “Unionist” doesn’t just mean someone who is pro United Kingdom, and therefore is confusing, and it’s clear that the majority of people do not like the labels of the past and the use of such labels is inconsistent with our message.

This is inline with the Leader’s speech at the launch of our Local Council campaign and our previous opposition to the use of designation.

It’s a move they could have taken eleven and a half months ago at their launch and avoided a year of tongue-twisting wriggling as they explained that they were pro-UK rather than being unionist. Instead, they endured newspaper articles that seemed to gleefully revel, week after week, in calling NI21 “a unionist party”.

Perhaps timed to get a headline on the 10.30pm news bulletins just before the Spotlight Euro candidate debate (which the smaller parties didn’t qualify to participate in), NI21’s decision smacks of desperation and opportunism.

In the short term the move will be perceived as a pre-election stunt. Two days before an election is an odd time to make a change that will be shock to party members and supporters. It will annoy a few, but it will make the party a little more palatable for others. It’ll certainly not damage their electoral chances on Thursday

Longer term, it frees NI21 up from any entanglement with petitions of concern, perhaps the bluntest utensil in the Assembly kitchen drawer. Some unionist politicians will attack them for giving up on the union. NI21 should welcome that distraction as to be attacked is better (in politics) than being ignored.

We have decided to clarify our position of the constitutional question, and reject the labels of the past in order to practice what we preach. Following feedback from voters and supporters and on the doors, we have decided to re-designate as ‘Other’.

Better late than never … but a dangerous sign of making policy changes on the hoof.

NI21 explain:

Following this evenings Executive strategy meeting, we have decided it is important to clarify our position on the constitutional question.

Although we are a pro United Kingdom party, we have decided to designate as “Other”. When we originally formed the party, we designated “Unionist” because we wanted to be open and transparent on the constitutional position. However, as we have engaged with the electorate over the last number of months, it’s clear to us that using the term “Unionist” doesn’t just mean someone who is pro United Kingdom, and therefore is confusing.

There are of course people who are happy to be called “Unionist”, and they are more than welcome in NI21, but it’s clear that the majority of people do not like the labels of the past and the use of such labels is inconsistent with our message.

This is inline with the Leader’s speech at the launch of our Local Council campaign and our previous opposition to the use of designation.

Because of this, the Executive team has decided that NI21 will no longer designate as “Unionist” in the Assembly, and will instead designate as “Other” in any future elections.

This won’t affect Thursdays election but will be in place for following elections. It does however send a clear message that NI21 will not be bound by the labels of the past, and is instead committed to building a future for the good of everyone in Northern Ireland.

The parody @NI21online twitter account summed up the next confusion with their suggested new NI21 logo: what’s the difference between Alliance and NI21? The subtleties of being pro-union will continue to have to be explained on the doorstep, but perhaps not in the Assembly chamber.

  • Mike the First

    “You had your say”

    I didn’t – and I was a potential NI21 voter.

    Now, not so much, as (allied with their bland-to-the-point-of-almost-vacuous election literature) I don’t really know what their USP is any more, 2 days before the elections.

    Odd move, and odder timing. Doesn’t augur well.

  • mrmrman

    There was no point being a unionist party and then trying to hide it.

    Just two more changes required if they are to survive:
    - change the name
    - change the party leader

  • aquifer

    If old baggage is holding you back, just drop it.

    Eminently rational.

    And it makes the other Unionist parties looked like dropped baggage. Which is probably how the British see them.

    Basil & Co can take instant public policy positions in the mass media, a big advantage that the UUP do not have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/northdownvoice NorthDownVoice

    #NITwentyWha ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/northdownvoice NorthDownVoice

    Is it something to do with Belfast?

    We launched the titanic and it sank on first voyage

    We launched NI21 and it imploded on its first outing in the polls.

    are we setting a pettern