It’s curtains for politics as Basil McCrea does U-turn & won’t contest election #ae16

NIF 20131116 IMG_5377Having recently leafleted homes in Lisburn and spoken of fighting the Assembly election as NI21’s sole candidate, Lagan Valley MLA has now told the Belfast Telegraph that he is to quit Stormont as he has become disillusioned with the political process.

The report on complaints against Basil McCrea published earlier in March by NI Assembly’s Committee on Standards and Privileges did not uphold any of the twelve complaints, although with regard to one complaint, the committee did express their belief “that the manner in which Mr McCrea occasionally treated his staff fell short of the standard it would encourage”.

In an interview with Yvette Shapiro conducted in The MAC – a frequent pitstop in the faltering NI21 journey – the Lagan Valley MLA said:

Over the past 10 days or so, a number of family members were upset by the reality of politics in Northern Ireland and by the reaction to the report. Personally, I can take the rough with the smooth but no man is an island and you have to take on board what family and friends are feeling.

I am lucky to have such a wonderfully supportive family who will back me all the way. I think a number of them are pleased with my decision to leave politics. There’s no doubt the pressure over the past two years was constant, and at times severe. It did have an effect on my health, my relationships and my general wellbeing.

He expressed disappointment that “certain parts of the report didn’t get the attention they deserved, particularly the issue of conspiracy”.

The report was unequivocal. Ridiculous allegations that were made two years ago have proven to be unfounded, but the entire experience, the delay and the worry, has had an impact on me and on my family.

The hundreds of pages of appendices to the report which detailed the testimony and evidence gathered by Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain are very uncomfortable to read … though the MLA under the spotlight strangely encouraged people to read them.

NI21 Basil McCrea leafletOn last night’s Curtail Call [archived] – Basil’s daily live video stream – he said:

I’ve enjoyed the influence in the political sphere over the last nine years.

Challenged about erecting posters at the last-minute in an as yet unelected running mate’s area at a previous Assembly election, Basil explained to me that once you’ve been elected it is as you have P O L I T I C I A N tattooed across your forehead so it is vital to hold onto your job as seeking employment elsewhere is very difficult due to the taint of politics.

Basil McCrea told the Belfast Telegraph that he now plans a career in business or public life.

None of us want to be chaff in the wind. We all want to make a difference. I still want to make a contribution, but not in politics because politics in Northern Ireland is not working.

While the birth of NI21 promised fresh politics and an injection of new faces and potentially new voters into the political scene, the party’s strapline of ‘Aspire to Better’ was never fulfilled.

Personality clashes, rivalries, back-biting, aggressive behaviour, delays in candidate selection, a change of policy on the eve of an election, and an inability to manage a crisis all contributed to destroying the hope of rookie candidates and motivated staff who invested so much in the failed vehicle.


  • Ernekid

    So this finally brings the strange saga of NI21 to a close.

    Probably for the best

  • Brendan Heading

    It’s a sad day on a personal level when anyone feels they are forced out of politics for personal reasons, but politics as a contact sport. The people who ran NI21 thought they could throw away the rulebook and make it up as they went along. How wrong they were.

  • Granni Trixie

    Whatever the ins and outs of the Basil saga I think he has made a wise decision to move on and presumably try to put the past behind him. To do this it is important however that he learns from his own mistakes though at this point it doesn’t look like it.

  • Nevin

    “the testimony and evidence gathered by Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain”

    Who will investigate the standards of the Standards Commissioner?

    “the issue of conspiracy”

    The police confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week that they were examining a complaint from Mr McCrea that he had been the victim of a criminal conspiracy – a claim supported by Mrs McKenzie.

    “It was definitely a conspiracy,” she said, “but I don’t know who was behind it. I will give the police any help I can in their investigation.” .. source

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    An accurate analysis by Alan on the nature of NI politics (deterring new voices etc.) but also interesting comments posted here about what was, on the surface at least, a new direction. It’s as if our cynicism runs so deep that a whiff of naïvety (whether it be optimism or not) and other allegations made about a member of the first new party since the formation of the scornful Cassandra that is TUV, is more unforgiveable than the same or worse found among the more time honoured. We create the expectations. It’s the party that asks us to believe their message. At least NI21 aired the dirty linen in public. At least that is a breath of fresh air.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t see him avoiding politics just because he will not be a politician at the end of term.

  • fralycis

    Interesting. I wondered previously what impact he would have at May’s Assembly elections. (Considering he came in 2nd with the UUP in 2011).
    Surely leads to a less split Unionist vote, but not sure whether this makes Lagan Valley more or less interesting. Worth watching to see how the UUP fare there with their 2 candidates vs. DUP’s 4 incumbents.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Split the Unionist vote …? It’s a constituency with a fairly safe Alliance seat and 5 unionists. Surely less unionists competing would lower the unionist turnout to apathy and let the SDLP in (Jim Allister’s argument in the European election, not mine)

  • fralycis

    Yes, I meant that 4 DUP, 2 UUP + Basil would equate to 7 unionists fighting for 5 seats (plus TUV, Conservatives, UKIP etc.) – of course I agree the Alliance seat is safe.
    So my point was it might be interesting to see the difference that 6 unionists fighting for 5 seats now makes without Basil.
    And yes good point RE SDLP. How tides have seemingly turned when there was enough room for a nationalist MLA in the constituency. Maybe there will be room on a very good day, but unlikely in the upcoming election, despite the fragmenting of the overall Unionist vote.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Some would say how constituency boundaries turned. You could probably also argue Patrica Lewsley was well respected cross community.

  • Raymond Dalton

    I was at the first meeting and found it so full of optimism and hope that I joined the party. I find it very sad the party collapsed and I doubt if I will ever get involved in politics again although I did vote at the assembly elections and was undecided until 9pm the night before how to vote.