Take me to your leader… if you can find one

TRYING to drum up much interest in the UUP leadership battle must be tough, but the Tele columnists are giving it a shot – Gail Walker is jaded by the whole thing and draws parallels with the agonising the Tories are going through right now, while Lindy McDowell reckons that the best potential candidate to emerge so far is the leader of another party – Bob McCartney (QC). But is he really another Carson? Oh, and Alan McFarland has set out his stall, in case you blinked and missed it.

To elect the current frontrunner, Sir Reg Empey, Walker argues, would merely be to repeat the mistakes of the past:

And so, the party which ignored all the warning signs for years, over and over again, is about to do it again. The party that allowed its best young politicos to grow frustrated and angry. That finally forced them either out of the party altogether or so far to the margins it was they, rather than the party bosses, who appeared stubborn and freaky. That made it impossible for its core support to vote for it in the last election.

This party is looking to re-form, re-fashion and re-invigorate itself by doing the same things all over again.

Nice one.

  • The Watchman

    Today is the tenth anniversary of McCartney’s by-election win in North Down. Knowing Bob as I do – at the time of the UKUP split I suggested he couldn’t run a whelk stall in Bangor market – if he was to get hold of the UUP, he might well destroy it very quickly. Or he could just save it. It would be a massive gamble but perhaps the UUP cannot afford not to take it. In any event, he is the one declared candidate the DUP would fear as he would have an untainted pair of hands. Elect any of the declared runners and the DUP will be refighting the Agreement for the next decade.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    There are so many problems with Bob McCartney as a potential leader of the UUP its hard to know where to start really. Bob is colourful character and would inject a pizzazz of sorts but with it comes a complete lack of interpersonal management skills and a questionable level of political popularity (UKUP got a grand total of 4794 votes in the 2003 Assembly election, Bob himself got fewer votes in North Down than Alan McFarland by the way!). The biggest problem of course is that Bob hasn’t moved on from his political position 8-10 years ago. I could sit and read the McCartney reports all over again and I have no doubt he would not have deviated one bit from his position in those, even though a number of years and a lot of political reality has passed by since. The DUP to their current credit have at least realised that things changed and moved their political positions on to fit into the new reality. The DUP have now comfortably repositioned themselves across the internal unionist agreement divide and embraced both the residual anti-agreement feeling and a decent chunk of the disappointed/skeptics/renegotiators as well. The DUP policy ironically actually leans to the minority position within their own political environment as they pursue a renegotiations strategy whilst 66% of their supporters reject the agreement totally. However they manage this tension very effectively so far and I have no doubt that a cadre of their supporters will be along to point out how the DUP is forcibly rejecting the agreement etc etc, just keep the faith! Maybe they are right but if you seek to renegotiate the agreements technical details within the broad parameters that is not really a rejection is it? Anyway back to the point as I recall Bobs objection to entering the talks process in 1995-6 was that the Downing Street declaration and Frameworks had pretty much set the parameters in which an agreement would be sought and he rejected those parameters and inevitably any possible agreement that flowed from them. It’s a consistent position but unrealistic and even the DUP don’t go that far currently (I recall having the same argument with Peter Weir as he tried to convince me Bob was wrong and that contrary to my view the UUP should be in the talks, how’s that for irony eh? but I moved on as the realities changed). For this reason Bob represents not a step forward but a throwback to past unionist politics. On a personal level I found him to be difficult to deal with, but he has an incisive mind and is a powerful and articulate advocate. I always kind of liked him really I though I severely doubt that was reciprocated. But as a leader of the UUP, god no! He would be a total disaster. Outflanking the DUP by moving into the utter rejectionist space that has opened up on their far-right hand side is just crazy talk. That’s a pretty small space and offers little hope of electoral growth besides the fact that it’s not a particularly healthy position for unionism in general. Bob has lots of good qualities but his failings are manifold and deep-seated. He has little capacity for flexible, or adaptive learning and is deeply obstinate. He has a strong intellectual certainty, which can be positive, but unlike Trimble having his own firm views but being (in my view overly) tolerant of alternative opinions Bob is often dismissive of other people with whom he disagrees. This can create bad personal relationships and is probably at the heart of most of his celebrated political break ups. Ultimately Bob is intelligent articulate wonderful barrister but he definitely needs to remain a sole practitioner.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Some paragraphs might have been a good idea looking at all that again!

  • martin

    Unionist family,

    Answer is right in front of you,or rather just south of you—MICHAEL MC DOWELL is the answer to all your problems.

    (1) He’s Right-wing
    doesnt tolerate any varience

    (2) Hes reasonably young.
    He hates the Ira and Sinn Fein-he feels threatened by them-he fears the change they might attempt.

    (3)He has a slanted pro-unionist view of history.

    (4)When he makes a mess of his job hes great at creating smoke screens to hide behind, just look at MORRIS and the way he brought up the cafe-bars as a diversion till people forget-.

    (5)Hes good at shouting down others opinions,views and speech at interviews.
    He’s real hard-core=will be a total extremist in any party or position.

    (6)He has a mild Southern accent so you could argue that you have members in the south and are pluralist might even attract a few Catholic Aliance voters.

    (7)Hes very arrogant and cultivates the air of a would be intellectual-something with just the right amount of Ascendancy bearing,
    he is quite snobby/snooty not a friend of the working class-.

    (8)He believes inequality is a spur to people bettering themselves–that should annoy those uppity Nationalists seeking equal rights,who all along had only their only lazyness to blame–absolutely nothing to do with any descrimination under 50 years of Stormont rule.

    (9) He’s quite stupid underneath all that air of intelectually.

    (10) He will never merge with Dup hes’s power hungry and will want to run the show-besides his bullying attituditude ensures he does not work well with others

    If ever there was a space needed filling and the perfect man to fill it

    MICHAEL MC Dowell should be leader of the UUP.

  • martin

    He would also be good dealing with public enquiries as the way he handled Brian Murphys parents—DONT KNOCK THE SYSTEM

  • Ringo

    Some paragraphs might have been a good idea looking at all that again!

    Some people just take their Bloomsday too seriously… 😉

  • martin


  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Forgive my ignorance but what is a bloomsday?

  • peteb


    Over here

  • peteb

    Or alternatively, Duncan… begin here 🙂

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Ahh(light bulb here!) of course i see now. Very funny. So my writing is comparable to Joyce was that the thrust of your comment? :)…

  • peteb

    Well, I can’t speak for Ringo, Duncan.. but he may have been referencing the somewhat freestyle approach to syntax.. 😉