“What has changed is that it is a clear message to the people of Northern Ireland that NI21 is a cross-community party…”

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According to a BBC report, the NI21 party executive has announced a policy change on the eve of the party’s first foray into an actual election.  From the BBC report

NI21 has announced it will change its designation at the Northern Ireland Assembly from unionist to ‘other’.

The party’s executive took the decision ahead of Thursday’s European and local government elections.

NI21 was set up by MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister, after they quit the Ulster Unionist Party in 2013.

The BBC report quotes the party’s European election candidate, and party chair, Tina McKenzie,

“What has changed is that it is a clear message to the people of Northern Ireland that NI21 is a cross-community party,” she said.

“We are a party that, in the future, will represent all people as we have done in the past but if there was any lack of clarity on that, tonight, we have cleared that up.”

Ms McKenzie said the party advocated that Northern Ireland was best placed within the United Kingdom, but was uncomfortable with labels.

“We want to create fresh politics, normal politics, talking about the issues. We just want to take these labels off and say we are more comfortable without them,” she said.

Hmmm… The original party policy remains, for now, on the party website.

Assembly Designation

NI21 does not support the continuation of community designation and seeks a move to a system of weighted majority voting on cross community issues.Under the current system we are required to designate.

NI21 is a Northern Irish party which believes that the interests of the people of Northern Ireland are best served within the United Kingdom and on that basis designate as unionist.

And we’ll wait to see if the announced change, not yet on the party website, has any positive impact for the party’s 47 council candidates.  Or for their European candidate. [And how will you tell? - Ed]  Ermmm…

It might have been better for the party to have made that decision at the inaugural party conference back in November last year..?

As it is, the policy change will only affect the party’s two MLAs, and founding members, Basil McCrea and John McCallister.  [Still short of first order speaking rights... - Ed].

But the ‘Others’ will number 11, for now…

Adds  Or, perhaps, not…  From Sam McBride at the News Letter

[NI21 Deputy Leader John] McCallister said: “The way in which the [NI21] executive was handled points to a lot of the dysfunctionality in the party. There was no agenda sent out. This was organised this afternoon; I was literally told to come down from my constituency to Belfast to do it, with no idea what it was about.”

He said that the meeting consisted of a “15 or 20-minute discussion with everyone keen to get back out canvassing”.

The South Down MLA said: “It went to a vote which was overwhelmingly [in favour] if you count that there were five or six people in the room – Tina [McKenzie], Basil [McCrea], Olive [Buckley], Stephen [Hillis] and Tony [McMahon] all voting for.

“I voted against. I think it muddies the waters unnecessarily; I don’t think it’s helpful; I don’t think it clarifies any position.”

Mr McCallister said that he would have wanted to see a “much wider discussion within the party”, particularly among candidates, who he said knew nothing of what was going on, rather than “two people spoke to me on the canvass last night, so we’ll change an established position”.

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  • mrmrman

    The No Interest 2 any1 party suddenly got a bit more interesting….

  • Charles_Gould

    Pete

    You need to update with the lead story in tomorrows Newsletter-which Alex Kane has tweeted out.

  • Charles_Gould

    It is serious news for NI21. See Alex Kane’s tweet.

    It seems to reinforce some of the points that Comrade Stalin made about the way policy seems to be made on the hoof.

    So unwise to take such a big decision so soon before an election, and without proper consultation or discussion.

    I wonder what JMcC will do now?

  • DC

    charles – and there’s more.

  • Charles_Gould

    Is there? More than the Newsletter headline? What?

  • Charles_Gould

    DC

    I don’t know what to make of that – we don’t know if those allegations are true, and the source is anonymous.

    Still – quite amazing times with John McCallister willing to criticise his party so publicly. It indicates that he has not been given any respect – he should have been able to persuade the others to hold this decision off at least for a while.

    I don’t see how John could stay in the party with such an open challenge to the leader.

    John will become an independent unionist, I guess, or a perhaps move to another party. (I can think of one that is waiting for him!).

    I feel sad for the candidates – they seem like a good bunch of people. This kind of row really is disrespectful to their position and their hard work.

  • DC

    Really, I am the opposite and if true John McCallister’s approach was commendable, he seems like a decent guy.

    John should join NI Conservatives.

  • Pete Baker

    Adds Or, perhaps, not… From Sam McBride at the News Letter

    [NI21 Deputy Leader John] McCallister said: “The way in which the [NI21] executive was handled points to a lot of the dysfunctionality in the party. There was no agenda sent out. This was organised this afternoon; I was literally told to come down from my constituency to Belfast to do it, with no idea what it was about.”

    He said that the meeting consisted of a “15 or 20-minute discussion with everyone keen to get back out canvassing”.

    The South Down MLA said: “It went to a vote which was overwhelmingly [in favour] if you count that there were five or six people in the room – Tina [McKenzie], Basil [McCrea], Olive [Buckley], Stephen [Hillis] and Tony [McMahon] all voting for.

    “I voted against. I think it muddies the waters unnecessarily; I don’t think it’s helpful; I don’t think it clarifies any position.”

    Mr McCallister said that he would have wanted to see a “much wider discussion within the party”, particularly among candidates, who he said knew nothing of what was going on, rather than “two people spoke to me on the canvass last night, so we’ll change an established position”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I fervently hope that these allegations linked above turn out to be untrue. I’ve not been that kind about NI21 but their decent and well-meaning party activists do not need to be dealing with these kinds of smears, as I am going to assume that they are until evidence is published. If the allegations are false I hope those making them are sued and taken to the cleaners.

    Charles – when I saw this news breaking this evening I thought initially, jesus they’re disorganized but they must have had some sort of internal activist heave to persuade the leadership to change this. Now it’s looking more like some sort of panic button being pressed.

    NI21 have spent the last year defending their decision to designate as unionist. It seems like only a few weeks ago that Basil was defending the designation as unionist because it was right to be clear, and it was the right thing to do etc. I don’t have a problem with that – I prefer the “other” designation, but each to their own, and their designation doesn’t play much of an active role in my voting decisions – certainly not when compared to what they say and do in public.

    To now switch at the last minute, right before a pair of elections where the Assembly designation of the party plays no active role, suggests desperation of some kind. I am sure it won’t be long before we find out what is really behind this.

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

    NI21 is a cross-community party…”that is dysfunctional and crazy,

    and unless i am mistaken, possibly looking for a new deputy leader,

    I dont think it would suit Tina , as its an internally elected position.

    I am so happy tonight and journalists contacting me with the thumbs up.

    feel special.

    but there are no winners those poor candidates, especially the ones outsourced, not consulted and i am sure scratching their heads wondering what just happened. and outwardly pretending there is no crisis.

  • DC

    @Charles – I mean I am opposite in that I find the allegations more alarming and damaging than going all wannabe Alliance, but the timing and having to digest both, well if there were a nuclear implode button for NI21 to press, it would look like this.

    Alliance party breathe a massive sigh of relief – and relax.

  • Outsider

    RIP NI21.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC – I agree with you about John.

    I actually think John has been pushed around and messed about since the thing got off the ground, and he’s gone public because this is the last straw. It was utterly shameful of the party to force all of this on him without having a proper consultation about it.

  • DC

    In the horrible world of internal political positioning and jostling for rank and status and satisfying the ego within the party, good old John came up with Carecall. While the others carried on regardless some it would seem in denial.

  • Outsider

    I don’t feel at all sorry for NI21 their candidates had a superiority complex and McCallister and McCrea have got what they deserve following their antics in the UUP.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Its truly shocking.
    I dont see how the Party can recover or personal relationships be restored.
    They certainly seemed amateurish …which 12 months ago was actually in their favour because of the enthusiasm. I was at the launch and certainly they have just gone backwards.
    Being amateurish a year on is not so endearing.
    But any of us connected to any political party will feel bad for rank and file members, most of whom signed up because of their disillusionment with politics here.
    Such a major decision taken by an ad hoc group of six people just defies belief.
    I am sure a lot of NI21 candidates and canvassers wonder if it was worth it.
    Shameful.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fjh,

    I must agree once again. I’m very sad to see these activists brought down to earth with a bump as hard as this.

  • Outsider

    FJH – you’re speaking for yourself I and others never had a love affair with this party and today’s revelations are in no way shocking.

  • Politico68

    Oooops !!!

  • GoldenFleece

    Heard something else brewing inside NI21, but I am not sure if I can share on this website.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “John should join NI Conservatives.”

    @DC,

    So if hypothetically a NI Conservative should ever be elected to the Assembly (or any office), what would he or she be designated as?

  • BarneyT

    Golden fleece….that’s just teasing. If john’s newsletter article is true then he’s a disgrace. His malcontent should have remained internal until it’s conclusion.
    Ni21 went to Europe as cross community and retained their unionist delegation in ni, where it has more resonance. That was a mistake. If john went to the newsletter that too was a mistake so it sadly feels like a confused mess. I had hope for them. John needs to move on quickly… To the alliance I would hope. Who’d have him now?

  • BarneyT

    Ni conservative by definition is unionist.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Outsider….once again I think you dont get it.
    I would probably have given my fourth preference in Europe to NI21. Clearly I am not a unionist and that fourth preference would have been a token gesture.
    I have heard John McCallister speak at two SDLP events and on both occasions he reached out, without ever compromising his own beliefs. Clearly thats to be welcomed.
    I am on record here as saying that I welcome every political party standing in every area. It is their duty to put themselves before an electorate and an electorates duty to respect that. Clearly difficult for some parties to get ten nominations for an area and again I am on record as saying that true democrats should make it easy for parties by signing nomination papers without any implication that it is support.

    While there are examples of posters being taken down and examples of abuse on doorsteps, I welcome the fact that this year there are posters in unlikely places and political parties being well received on unlikely doorsteps.
    People who stand for election, who put up the posters, knock the doors have my respect, without regard to which party it is.
    To that degree, NI21 are to be encouraged. They saw people that they felt were disenfranchised and founded a political party around it. As I have said their Launch which I attended….was probably their finest moment and they did not translate that camaraderie or community good will towards them from others into anything at all.

    To treat activists in this manner is indeed shocking.
    If a political party cannot respect its own members, its highly unlikely to respect its wider political support….its voters.
    Anyone considering voting NI21 tomorrow needs to think on that.
    They have lost that #4 vote here (a gesture on my part).

    An absolute disgrace.

  • GoldenFleece

    Nah Barney, John is one of the good ones. From what I have heard the last minute designation change was the last straw of a few straws.

    The fact that he is coming out with this before elections I think signals that he knows the NI21 project is dead in the water, stillborn before its first election.

    NI21 was a vanity project for Basil. I guess he watched too much Borgen?

    Just feel for all the young candidates now to be fair, hope they stick around after.

  • Politico68

    Everybody is so keen to give them a kicking, is this a reflection of our own detachment from the human behind the politician? I like them and I hope they can wake up a few decent Unionists who hold a non-sectarian approach to their United Kingdomness. I also think John is quite attractive, he gets my gay vote anyday. Its bad luck that they are up to their necks in scandal before even one child in the house is washed.

  • BarneyT

    I suppose the only space Ni21 should occupy is the uup space. Get in there and fight. On reflection they may have gained more with a clear unionist agenda. In time they could have emerged as a more rational unionist party and then redecorate…..meant redelegate but I like redecorate. Dressing up as a cross community party stacks them against the alliance who with recent green leanings are likely to get the cross community vote and disenfranchised “irish” votes