John McCallister: For the sake of NI21 and, indeed, for his own sake, [Basil] must now step aside for the duration of the investigation

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John McCallister issued a statement tonight calling on Basil McCrea to step aside as NI21 leader while allegations are investigated.

While many NI21 candidates seem keen to keep going in politics, what shape the party will be in this time next week is hard to predict, never mind next year. Tina McKenzie told the BBC that she was “seriously burned from politics and very hurt and shocked and devastated”. She’s been eliminated from the Balmoral count, polling only 256 first preference votes. Some other candidates are coming close to attracting half a quota. [Ed - not bad for first timers who weren't at all prepared for the campaign trail] While NI21 didn’t do any tallying in Lisburn Leisureplex, other parties suggest that their tallies say NI21′s David Cairns is one to watch when Lisburn South is counted tomorrow.

In light of the fact that a young woman has now publicly come forward regarding the allegations against Basil McCrea, I am now compelled to ask him to immediately step aside from the leadership of NI21 for the duration of the investigation.

It would be impossible for the leader of any political party to remain in post when confronted with an investigation into such serious allegations.

For the sake of NI21 and, indeed, for his own sake, he must now step aside for the duration of the investigation. For NI21 staff and former staff, NI21 members and the general public to have confidence in a fair and transparent process and in any response to the investigation, Basil McCrea cannot remain in post as Leader while the investigation is underway.

I view these allegations with the utmost seriousness and will do all in my power to ensure that investigating bodies have all the information and access they require to complete their work.

I would urge Basil McCrea to give public undertakings to fully co-operate with the independent investigation currently underway.

I want to assure NI21 staff and former staff that I will do all that I can to ensure that they have access to appropriate counselling and support services during and after this investigation.

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  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s time for NI21 to step aside, the people have spoken.

    Also interesting to note that John has befriended some of his old UUP friends on FB not least Mr. Nesbitt…..

  • SK

    Incredibly tragic to see the NI21 experiment come to an end like this. Back to business as usual now I suppose.

  • carnmoney.guy

    Simple enough, a la Peter Robinson handing over to Arlene Foster to counter ….
    but we are dealing with Basil McCrea, he must know that if he steps down he wont be coming back…

    The more important issue is why did they redesignate 34 hours before an election, with candidates being told about it at the doorstep
    Did the executive of ni21 try to get rid of John McCallister as he alleges?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Carnmoney Guy, redesignation was a smokescreen to hide the sexual allegations. Question is did Tina McKenzie know this or is she ignorant as she is claiming??

  • David Crookes

    Agreed, SK.

    It isn’t even funny that JMcC can say ‘for the sake of the party’. If he had been concerned to act for the sake of the party, he would have kept his mouth shut until after the elections. In the event, he deliberately murdered the electoral prospects of forty-seven candidates.

    JMcC’s action must represent one of the most boneheadedly destructive acts of disloyalty in the unglamorous history of NI politics.

    I don’t presume to advise the hardworking members of NI21, but I’d be glad to see them regrouping around Tina McKenzie. They will gain nothing by allowing JMcC to remain a member of the party.

    Hold in there, Tina. Think of next year, and think of North Down.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    David, you have the correct surname that is for sure.

    You expect John to keep quiet when a major policy in the party is being changed, an attempt is being made to oust him to cover sexual improprieties and you don’t feel the public should know this in advance of an election? I would feel cheated if I had voted for NI21 and found this out later?

    Also how innocent is McKenzie, there are accusations that she sided with McCrea to prevent the sexual allegations getting out.

    As the for the candidates, they’re not that spectacular, very good at looking down their nose at others and stabbing each other in the back via social media – good riddance to the lot.

  • itsashocker

    I’ve voted SDLP all my life but yesterday I gave my first preference to NI21. I persuaded my 2 sons to go vote for the first time. One is at Queens and he talked about some enthusiasm among other students for the new politics of NI21. Today he is talking about a waste of time and disillusionment with politics here! Basil and John have a lot to answer for.

  • David Crookes

    Bravo, Joe, and I’ll say nothing about anyone else’s surname.

    Yes, I do expect JMcC to keep quiet. BMcC is innocent until he is proved to be guilty. The accusations relating to TMcK of which you speak have no status whatever.

    My experience of political parties is that most of their candidates look down their noses at others. NI21 don’t seem to me to be especially wicked in this regard.

    JMcC has done his best to annihilate his own party.

    Thanks for your posting.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    NI21 is finished, the wet dream of the morally bankrupt.

  • Comrade Stalin

    David,

    The first person to make a move on this matter was Basil who railroaded his sudden policy change on designation through executive and in a manner which excluded John from the decision making process.

    Had that not been done, John could not have gone to the papers to complain about dysfunction and some elements of the election could have turned out differently. I’m curious to understand why you therefore think that this is all at John’s door.

  • http://backonthecorneragain.wordpress.com chrisbrowne28

    David Crookes -

    Now that an allegation has been brought forward, we know for certain that John was acting in the best interests of the welfare of individuals in the party. I wholeheartedly agree that Basil must have the opportunity to answer those allegations, but whilst a serious allegation has been made (and others rumoured to have been made) he must surely step aside (at least temporarily) and allow some sort of independent investigation to take place.

    What you seem to completely ignore in your comments is that there is the possibiltiy that the welfare and safety of an individual has been compromised. No matter what the political stakes – that is surely more important.

    There is a key question here – was Tina McKenzie (and other members of the Executive for that matter) aware of this allegation and did she make a concerted effort to ‘cover it up’ (for want of a better phrase)?

    There seems to be some perception out there that John McCallister has acted disingenously. To me that perception seems ludicrous. Let’s remember the chain of events here: Basil and Tina convened a snap executive meeting to rush through a designation change with only hours to go before the election. That is what happened first and that in itself is the most reckless move in this whole situation. That was the catalyst for the chain of events that followed and John McCallister had nothing to do with that.

    That is my interpretation of events as they have been presented through the media. Of course I am aware that there may be facts that I am not aware of, but as far as I can see – John McCallister has only acted to protect individuals. Basil and Tina, on the other hand, appear to have acted in an under-handed manner and do not appear to be telling us the whole story. Let’s not also forget that Tina isn’t the only member of the Executive who ran away from this situation when things got tough.

  • itsashocker

    BMcC is accused on two fronts – the harassment charge and the re-designation ploy – both of which need to be investigated. It appears that JMcC decided that he needed to go public on these matters in the mouth of an election as opposed to holding off for 48 hrs. All those who worked for or supported NI 21 are justifiably angry at both men.

  • Comrade Stalin

    chris,

    I’d go further. Not only was John acting in the interests of those individuals, but also of the party itself.

    Most parties in NI have been taken to employment tribunals, and almost all of them have settled out of court ahead of the hearing, after taking legal advice. Alliance was also taken to tribunal a few years ago, but the case collapsed and the party was left bearing legal costs. It is not a nice thing to have to deal with and the legal costs are very expensive for a small organization, running into substantial five-figure sums.

    Bringing in Carecall and instigating an investigation is what any employer in the private sector would do if such allegations were made against a senior principal in a firm. By conducting the investigation and dealing fairly and appropriately with the outcome, there is a much better chance of avoiding legal problems. In this sense, John was invoking best practice HR.

    itsashocker,

    Your comment does not make sense. What investigation is required concerning Basil’s decision to redesignate ? The truth of this matter is well understood. NI21 spent a year defending their designation as unionist, and then out of the blue changed it, a few days before an election where designation plays no role. What additional facts would you expect an investigation to uncover ?

  • itsashocker

    CS

    The question is whether there really was some pressure coming from the doorsteps as claimed by some or whether this was a tactic to get JMcC to walk away. I know which I suspect but it would be sensible to bottom this out.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, CS and Chris. However improper and precipitate the redesignation thing may have been, it was altogether stupid of JMcC to go public and call his own party ‘dysfunctional’. He should have honoured the hard work of forty-seven candidates by keeping quiet until 10 pm on Thursday.

    Confronted by an allegation about BMcC and a lady, JMcC should have gone to the police, and kept quiet about the allegation until it was proved. He has committed a shocking impropriety by reporting the allegation to an agency.

    I can’t believe that BMcC and friends imagined that they would silence JMcC in respect of ANY matter by voting for redesignation.

    Suppose that all had gone well for NI21, and that twelve of their candidates had been elected in mixed areas. Many commentators tonight would be pointing to the last-minute redesignation as representing a bold and brilliantly responsive piece of leadership.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Some of the 47 candidates were responsible for trying to oust McC, 4 at least who were part of the executive, they showed no loyalty to him. Question is were Tina and co manipulated by Basil, were they covering up allegations of sexual abuse or were they just naive?

    Tom Elliott from the UUP has expressed reservations about taking John McC back.

  • Rory Carr

    SK and others may well consider the latest developments within NI21 as tragedy. However history would suggest that, while reports of activity in the Trouser Department of a political organisation may be considered tragic by the political class (“poor Jeremy”, “poor Peter” etc.), the general public prefer to treat such shenanigans as entertainment. I know that I do.

  • Mick Fealty

    None of us know anything for sure tbh. This is worse than trying figure who in OFMDFM is responsible for the Executive’s appallingly low work rate…

    There’s no doubt that announcing a major policy decision at the very death of the campaign was politically inept (which is on Basil) but I also think John had some questions to answer too.

  • Mick Fealty

    Really Rory? I’m not convinced.

  • http://backonthecorneragain.wordpress.com chrisbrowne28

    Mick,

    Do you think John has questions to answer in relation to the timing of his public comments, or do you think he has handled the situation generally poorly?

    I just don’t see John as the type to play dirty tricks. But then again who knows.

  • GEF

    If the heading of todays BT is correct BMc will be requested to stand down from the assembly as well as NI21.

    ‘McCrea facing sex claims by nine women”
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/subscriptions/

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    My calendar for today says “While two dogs are fighting for a bone, a third one runs away with it.”
    This whole thing sounds like a set up job to me. On the day of their first electoral outing! Now I wonder what Party might be behind that?

  • carnmoney.guy

    For the life of me I cant see what JMC did wrong – he had handled the allegations properly, he was keeping quiet about the investigation to maximise the party vote. and the party executive shafted him with a massive change of policy

    Every one of those executive members were played like fools, either they are so stupid not to know what the consequences of redesignation right before an election would do, or they sided with Basil in a cover up

  • Comrade Stalin

    itsashocker:

    The question is whether there really was some pressure coming from the doorsteps as claimed by some

    I don’t think that is the question at all.

    The idea that Basil only discovered that the party’s voters had a problem with designation that required action less than two days before the polls can have no credibility. There is no argument that anyone can make that suggests that this was a rational or normal course of action in any circumstances.

    As a person who has fought and won elections himself, Basil knows that canvassing is not finding out whether voters want you to change your policies, but allowing the candidate to meet the electorate and finding out if your vote is likely to come out.

    So when you conclude that only a complete idiot would do a thing like this, and when you acknowledge that Basil is not a complete idiot, you have to ask what the real reason is. And that’s where John McCalister’s theory appears to hold water.

    David,

    We will have to agree to disagree. Any political party runs the risk of alienating its members to the extent that they will run to the press. Delaying before polling could be taken as a cynical effort to hoodwink the voters.

  • Comrade Stalin

    David –

    Confronted by an allegation about BMcC and a lady, JMcC should have gone to the police, and kept quiet about the allegation until it was proved.

    Sorry I missed this part.

    Inappropriate behaviour in a workplace setting, which is apparently what is being alleged, is not a crime and as such is not a matter for the police. If it did indeed occur, it is illegal under employment law and can lead to action against the employer. As I pointed about above, the action John took is on face value the same action any responsible employer keen to uphold his legal duty of care and avoid legal action would take.

    Problems like this are not unusual and the tribunals, and the Equality Commission/Labour Relations Agency have to deal with them all the time. Any MLA would know this as sometimes both employees and employers call their local representatives for help over such matters.

    Rory,

    I think you have misunderstood. Mutual “liasons” between two (or more!) consenting adults are commonplace in political life, that’s for sure, and are kept mostly tightly locked up behind closed doors. I occasionally hear these stories and it has the feel of a soap opera at times. Such things are not at all interesting to me, unless (as is often the case) one or more of the people involved are known for their public religious or morality crusades.

    That is not the same as is what is going on here, where we are talking about people allegedly receiving unwanted attention from someone in a position of seniority. Both the public, and employment law, take an extremely dim view of this kind of thing.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: However history would suggest that, while reports of activity in the Trouser Department of a political organisation may be considered tragic by the political class (“poor Jeremy”, “poor Peter” etc.), the general public prefer to treat such shenanigans as entertainment. I know that I do.
    There’s a sliding scale though, isn’t there? I’m prepared to be positively gleeful when uptight organisations have conniptions over consensual, victimless sexual activity. I’m much more reserved about observing marriage breakdowns. I’m positively gloomy about harassment or assault.
    And since all we have to go on so far are rumours of accusations, right now I think the situation is ‘fascinating’ rather than ‘entertaining’.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, CS, I was wrong to talk about going to the police in the first place. Whether the police are obliged to interview a lady who takes her complaint to the press I don’t know.

    It looks as if NI21 is beginning to fold up.

  • http://backonthecorneragain.wordpress.com chrisbrowne28

    It seems to me that media and commentators have taken a very relaxed approach to the allegations themselves. Let’s remember that there are potential innocent victims here – I have far more sympathy for them than Basil, John or Tina.

    And let’s stop with this nonsense about John screwing the party over. He had a duty of care as employer and acted upon the allegations.

  • David Crookes

    Chris, there is no nonsense about it. All the electoral damage that JMcC inflicted upon his own party’s candidates was predicated solely upon the matter of redesignation. He couldn’t wait until the elections were over. He had to call his own party “dysfunctional” before the polling stations opened.

    Furthemore, the duty of care does not include a duty to repeat unproved accusations in public.

  • carnmoney.guy

    JmcC didn’t inflict the damage, the ni21 executive switch of designation, timing unbelievable, the reasons simply lies

    If Tina McKenzie agreed with the switch, knew about the allegations, then why is she feeling let down???

    She needs to explain what happened to fundamentally change the designation of a party with two hours notice to the deputy leader and the head of policy not even there

    The executive of NI21 have been awarded with the number of votes they deserve, make the Monster Raving Loonies look like mainstream

  • http://backonthecorneragain.wordpress.com chrisbrowne28

    David,

    The damage was done by those who decided to change designation just before an election. That was the irrational and reckless move. Everything that followed resulted from that.

  • carnmoney.guy

    Ah well
    Ni21
    The political chippy paper, brand is now worthless, Basil will be in the gossip columns, then him and john will lose their seats, Northern irish becoming a joke description, they either waste votes staying at home or really waste their votes by voting ni21

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chris, I think people are being relaxed because the detail of the allegations have not been formally made public and threats to sue have been bandied about.

  • GEF

    Question remains, would NI21 have polled much better had Basil McCrea (as leader of NI21) not held the meeting over changing designation from Unionist to Other with the party’s executive 36 hrs before the election?

  • David Crookes

    I don’t like every one of NI21′s policies, but I have to salute them for taking a stand against the squalid tyranny of flegs and marches. Let their candidates take pride in what they have achieved. Although on the eve of the elections their deputy leader did his best to ruin all their chances, they have done better than UKIP, better than the Greens, and better than the Conservatives. One of their candidates has been elected. There is no obituarian fragrance about that man! Wait and see how Tina does on Monday.

    By the way, if it can be discussed and approved by the whole party membership, the ‘other’ idea is a brilliant one. It breaks the notional fetters that in the minds of CNR voters link NI21 with DUP, UUP, and even TUV.

  • Rapunsell

    I like JMcC – but he has made a bit of a balls up here – who knows now how his intervention will have affected the vote ? But he should not have gone public with the accusations of dis functionality and the sexual harrasment claims certainly not until after the election and perhaps not at all in the case of the latter – given that he had done the right thing by instigating an investigation – and does anyone think the interests of accuser and accused are well served by in being played out in the media?

    Post election John could have taken control – same course of action as is happening now and kept the party in some sort of shape. The redesignation was a test – he acted not as predicted but certainly not cooly and with an eye to the longer term. If mc crea has shafted himself the clever ( and right) thing to do would have been to help events run their course post election

  • Comrade Stalin

    What is wrong with these people who keep advocating that John should have acted to hide claims of sexual harrassment from the public on the basis that it would have damaged NI21′s vote ? Haven’t you got any integrity at all ?

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

    Bye Bye NI21

    John should team up with Adam Murray and re-brand

    NI21 stank when I left it in Early April

    And there was no talk of sexual harassment allegations

    John and Adam are two of the most honest and honorable people I know

    they are its only salvation but not as NI21 that brand is as sunk as Titanic

    Bye Bye NI21

    Hello ‘Northern Ireland’ r ‘Northern Ireland 21′