Thoughts on the UUP leadership: Part 2

I suggested the problems with a Basil McCrea led UUP below. Hence, the only alternative is Tom Elliott. Here again there are problems albeit different ones.

Tom Elliott is a pretty hard man to dislike: he is affable, decent, honest and hard working. He has as Alex Kane suggests a much sharper political brain than he is often given credit for. The fact that Elliott speaks in a slow Fermanagh farmer’s lilt and is interested in consensus does not make him an idiot or a bad potential leader. However, his campaign so far has been poor to say the least. His handling of the Gay Pride Issue and attendance at GAA matches was poor and fed into a general media appearance of the campaign drifting. The fact that the questioning was a bit unfair is not the point: Elliott should have handled it better; he seemed somewhat indecisive and excessively consensual.

These sorts of problems and the general appearance of drift may severely damage Elliott. This could result in his election being far from resounding and may even result in him being defeated.

Elliott’s detractors see electing him as surrendering to managed decline. Ironically it is those who feel that the UUP is the rightful majority unionist party and that a simple wheeze will bring them back to their rightful place who are more likely to see in McCrea the necessary wheeze or trick to repair their fortunes.

Tom Elliott’s road back for the UUP is certainly longer and slower than the one offered by Basil McCrea. It is, however, more realistic. Elliott personally has a phenomenal reputation for hard work in Fermanagh: now probably greater even than Arlene Foster’s; though she is of course hampered by her ministerial duties. Elliott was heavily beaten in the 2005 general election by Foster. However, many think that had she and Elliott faced one another in this year’s election he would have done much better. Some of this will have been disaffection with the DUP but much is down to hard constituency work. It is ironic that despite Basil McCrea’s claims about wanting hard constituency work those with reputations for this such as Danny Kennedy in Newry and Armagh are backing Elliott. The vital importance of constituency work is of course no where better illustrated than in East Belfast as Naomi Long’s hard work is probably what ensured that the anti Robinson vote when to Alliance.

Elliott can offer that hard work more convincingly than McCrea, yet can also offer continuity. The simple fact is that many of those who have stuck with the UUP have done so in part because of what it has always stood for. To belittle the old fashioned cultural unionism of the UUP and give it scant regard would risk alienating more of the vote which has stuck with the UUP through thick and thin: one day it may revolt; or more likely the younger generation will loose the family habit of voting UUP and switch to the DUP.

It must be remembered that the UUP does not exist in a vacuum: the DUP is now the lead party within unionism yet its troubles, though much reduced recently, are still far from over. The issue of Robinson’s leadership is still out there and the contrast between the financial machinations of Peter Robinson and the solidity of Elliot would be significant. Furthermore the simple fact remains that although Basil McCrea’s UUP would be casing unicorns the real way back for the UUP would be to attract DUP voters and the non voting working class unionists. The former group especially is much more likely to be attracted to a Tom Elliott led UUP than a Basil McCrea led one.

Another group of potential UUP supporters are the disaffected hard line of the DUP. That may sound foolish and after the TUV’s poor showing in the Westminster election one might suggest that that vote is fairly small. However, it was 25,000 at the Westminster election and 66,000 at the European election. Hence, there is clearly a constituency to which the UUP can appeal (remember that most of Allister’s European transfers went to the UUP). Again that is a much more solid group of potential UUP votes than the unicorns and again it is a group to whom Elliott will have a much greater appeal than Basil McCrea.

Tom Elliott needs to present a steady gathering momentum type of a pitch both to win the election campaign and also to have any chance of the UUP regaining its position. . For him now to try to burst out as the exciting visionary candidate would look like a panicked reaction to McCrea.

Initially he needs to tie down the traditional support as outlined above. Then he needs to reach out to the non voting unionists and the support the UUP lost to the DUP. This needs to be done by hard work. However, in addition it needs to articulate an inclusive unionism cherishing both its traditions and also embracing change and moving forwards to gain support from areas not previously tapped. Whilst Elliott may not want to attend Gay Pride he needs to make abundantly clear that he has absolutely no problem with Gay Equality. Many homosexuals find the likes of Gay Pride a bit embarrassing. Hence, trooping along to show how “right on” one’s views are looks more like the antics of Student’s Union leaders than that of a serious politician. Few mainland GB politicians attend Gay Pride events, yet no one would accuse most of them of having an anti gay agenda.

The same strategy can be utilised by Elliott to appeal to Catholic unionists. Elliott should support monies for helping GAA grounds and the like. The fact that he does not choose to attend GAA matches would then be a non issue. Rather Basil McCrea would again look as though he were taking part in silly tokenism with his “I have gone to Gaelic matches.” Elliott might even try to have the nerve to go further and talk about the Irish language: however, that is probably too brave for any unionist politician

All the above, however, represents catch up in the pre election situation and that leaves the initiative with Basil McCrea: it might be useful after an Elliott victory but prior to it looks more like damage limitation. Elliott needs to go hard after issues of his own. So far no one has mentioned the likes of health in the UUP election campaign. Elliott should produce his ideas on that score especially in the face of financial cuts: after all the UUP does control health and Michael McGimpsey is backing Elliott’s leadership bid. A strategy for further and higher education and for increasing employment would also be useful, again a potentially actionable issue with Empey being minister for Employment and Learning.

More than anything Elliott needs to articulate a vision of the UUP moving forwards. He can be as consensual as he likes but also needs to move forwards. Jim Molyneaux managed to be a consensus leader and move the party forward. However, the UUP now needs much more than a Molyneaux. It needs a leader who can move the party forwards whilst holding it together. Rather than a Molyneaux it needs a Clement Attlee figure.

Tom Elliott needs to contrast Basil McCrea’s proposed whizz bang solution to the UUP’s problems with the gradual regaining of support. Rather than offering gradual decline he needs with some hard work and a bit of luck to offer the beginning of the path to recovery.

Basil McCrea is offering a Churchillian solution to the UUP’s problems but it looks suspiciously like a Gallipoli. Tom Elliott needs to offer them “blood, toil, tears and sweat” and after that the aim of “Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.” Melodramatic undoubtedly but the UUP needs to understand: the long slog with Tom Elliott might just offer them a way back; the Basil McCrea solution though attractive is likely to end in oblivion. The problem for Tom Elliott is that what he is offering is harder and less immediately attractive. It may fail but Tom is at least proposing to build his house upon a rock. Will the UUP join him or are they still chasing unicorns?

,

  • slug

    Note that Turgon is a member of the TUV.

  • IJP

    Fair point Slug, tho’ this part of the article is as reasoned and thoughtful as any.

  • slug

    Im not commenting on the article’s quality, just like it if people would declare conflicts.

  • bob wilson

    And a revival of the UUP would do what good? Would it see politics normalise in any fashion? Would it break down sectarianism?
    Truth is our politicians have had in easy in recent years – running a tin town parliament (badly) with a bucket load of money.
    Now things are getting tough what happens the Shinners deny reality, the DUP say the situation is not their fault and the SDLP says we might not agree a Budget before next May!! No one even asks the UUP’s opinion

    Only the Conservatives are making the running. Nationally dealing with the deficit. And nationally and locally suggesting welfare reforms to make work pay. In addition they are promoting the idea of an Enterprise Zone.

    What are the local party’s opinions on the deficit – basically it seems to amount to ‘we, like Labour, would have done things more slowly’ ie a cop out and ‘NI is special’ and the English should pay!

    On welfare reform they have the freedom not to implement anything IDS comes up with but have they any ideas of their own? Eh no!

    On Corporation Tax all the local parties are in favour – but again only if someone else pays even if that is legally not possible!

    Doubtless Turgon or David Vance will tell us their magic bullet solutions in due course

  • Progressive Unionist

    Turgon’s view is interesting as that of an articulate TUV supporter.

    But I couldn’t disagree more about his characterisation that seeking to appeal to the pro-Union Catholic vote, and moderate pro-Union Protestant voters, is “chasing unicorns”.

    The pro-Union Catholic vote clearly exists, polls for over a decade now have consistently placed it at significant levels (anywhere from 15-30% of the Catholic community) – if the UUP could win over even a small portion of that vote it would significantly boost it’s prospects.

    The fact is that the UUP has, until now, never come close to putting forward an image or a message that could appeal to these voters – Basil clearly comes across as completely non-sectarian and inclusive, someone who is as comfortable attending a GAA match as he is a band parade. That’s exactly what Unionism needs to reach out to the middle ground.

    Besides, when there’s a consent referendum on NI’s future in the Union, those voters will be needed. It’s easy for the likes of Turgon to mock now, but what’s he going to do four weeks before a referendum, when it ‘suddenly’ becomes clear that these votes are needed to get the pro-Union cause over 50%??? – does he think that a four week campaign will be enough to attract these voters, or is it better to start laying the groundwork a few years out?

  • joeCanuck

    Turgon,

    You surprise me somewhat. You are very fond of naval battle analogies. If a ship is slowly sinking and the Captain stands on the bridge and says “Steady as she goes”, the ship is only go in one direction eventually, down to the bottom, likely never to be seen again, especially if its position is not known.

  • Sam Thompson

    it’s good to see that your impartial series ends with you backing Elliott…

    The UUP will never win back large swathes of the vote that went to the DUP. The DUP are now the de facto logical choice for pro-union voters who want strong leadership. The UUP has to present itself as an alternative, not as a better version of what the DUP offers. The DUP are a Christian (Protestant) socially conservative outfit. Now, most of my friends from a unionist background don’t vote. The DUP embarrass them. There are lots of young voters who don’t vote because political unionism offers them nothing. A progressive force, determined to build on it’s existing support with a new breed of progressive, secular voters offers a better long term solution for NI. Trying to take back your old rags off the backs of the DUP won’t work. Robinson won that war. Give it up. Look all around you – liberal elected in East Belfast, liberal wins by landslide in North Down, Alliance growth in South Belfast at the expense of unionist parties, continually declining turnout in the eastern constituencies. There is more potential in offering a liberal option for the electorate rather than two centre right Protestant parties.

  • john

    Pretty good sum up of the contenders boils down to substance against appearance and trying to decide which one will gain more votes. I think in the short term UUP need to stop the rot and if they manage to retain their percentage of the vote in 2011 then that will be considered a success. Who ever wins this contest I dont envy them it is a mammoth task ahead for the winner to get the UUP back on track.

  • Big Maggie

    John,

    Substance against appearance? Very definitely. I like Basil McCrae and spent a very enjoyable (and educational) evening in his company. Feeling mellow after a generous intake of wine, I suggested to him that he should dye his hair blond as that would make him a dead ringer for Boris Johnson and give him the sex-appeal that the UUP has traditionally lacked. He promised me he’d “think about it”. Is that shorthand for “no”?

    But levity aside he has my vote. He could be just the fresh blood needed to kick-start a moribund party. Go, Basil!*

    *Come to think of it, the words “Go” and “Basil” are uneasy bedfellows :^)

  • Drumlin Rock

    Excellent piece Turgon,
    for those that think Tom is interested in “managed decline” should see how he is slowly building up the party again in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and thats up against HMS Warspite too! a head to head would have been interesting, but we shall see in May.

  • Drumlin Rock

    She has steadied up Joe, most of the leaks have been stemmed, the long term repairs are under way and she is starting to move forwards again, and will be able to build up some speed soon hopefully.
    The last thing she needs is to jettison all the senior crew, vere to the left and sail into uncharted enemy waters as a shortcut, instead a Steady captain is needed who can focus on the target set course and slog it out.

  • Drumlin Rock

    does anyone else declare an interest on slugger? havnt saw it yet, except maybe with guest bloggers,

  • slug

    Well I think they should – if a conflict arises – as here.

  • slug

    Tom’s hard work and decency seems to be spoken of and one of his strong points. I just worry that he seems not very road-tested as far as media is concerned. Its not just the lack of PUNCH that I mentioned. He does not seem fluent in presenting his thoughts in a logical sucession of sentences in public speaking and media. I guess he has the rural person’s shyness?

  • john

    Sex appeal and UUP in the same sentence, whatever next on slugger? Its all a bit much for me I better sit down for a bit.

  • FATLAD 37

    Modern politics requires politicians who are both media savvy and have the public touch, Tom may be a decent spud and a hard constituency worker in FST, but that’s going to be lost on those swathes of unionist voters east of the Bann who’ve lost the voting habit.

    It’s not fair, but Tom’s accent will turn off all those urbane urbanites before he finishes his first sentence.

    I can’t see him winning over too many hearts and minds in GB either.

  • Peter Brown

    Modern politics requires politicians who are both media savvy and have the public touch

    But is Basil a politician?

  • asitis

    If he cannot run a constituency office how can he be expected to run a party?

  • Drumlin Rock

    possibly that is part of it,
    I know when he is addressing constituency meetings and the like he comes across very confident and as you put it “punchy” , I have heard him deal with some very tough questions firmly and articulately, leaving those who asked them no comeback.
    I will confess I thought much the same as you, good hard worker, level headed, but not great in front of a microphone, then when I eventually joined the party a couple of yrs ago I heard him address a few meetings and was well impressed by both his thinking and speech.
    I still cant figure out why he cant put on the same show in front of the cameras! but the ability is there, maybe he will just have to get more comfortable with them.

  • Alias

    If you want to move from ethnic unionism to civic unionism then you have to take the ethnic unionists with you. They’re the ones that voted for you, and you’d rather like them to keep voting for you. What’s the difference? As I see it, the former are ‘the protestant state for a protestant people’ format and the latter are the Trimble-esque ‘British state for all of the people’ format.

    The obvious problem with the former position is that almost half the population is not protestant and does not regard it as politically legitimate that the region should serve as a de facto nation-state for Ulstermen, so civic unionism is undoubtedly the correct political position to adopt.

    It doesn’t mean that it is politically incorrect to be ethnically unionist (a staunch Ulsterman or whatever else it means to those who are not constitutionally Irish), but it does mean that the nation must be kept separate from the state so that one ethnic group doesn’t seek to use the state to promote its own interests to the detriment of the other.

    The challenge for the new leader of the UUP will be to lead his traditional supporters from from ethnic unionism to civic unionism without disenfranchising them, so it will be a case of persuading them the party is seeking to serve their interests by seeking to serve the interests of all the citizens of NI. If that isn’t managed adeptly then the party’s traditional supporters will feel betrayed, as if the party has lost touch with its purpose.

    Dewi posted a remarkable piece of inanity on another thread wherein he claimed that PSF should nominate the leader of the DUP as the First Minister if the PSF is returned as the largest party. This kind of nonsense is born from the sentiment that the interests of nationalists and unionists are interchangeable, and that it therefore shouldn’t matter if a nationalist or a unionist is First Minister. It matters because the political battle is between nationalists and unionists, not between British citizens of NI.

  • slug

    Good debate people; glad that folks here are keeping it civil.

  • Alias

    “It’s not fair, but Tom’s accent will turn off all those urbane urbanites before he finishes his first sentence.”

    Send him to elocution school in Dublin and we’ll send him back speaking with a grand Dublin 4 accent.

  • Drumlin Rock

    do you think Tom and Basil are reading it? lol

  • Progressive Unionist

    “If you want to move from ethnic unionism to civic unionism then you have to take the ethnic unionists with you. They’re the ones that voted for you, and you’d rather like them to keep voting for you. What’s the difference? As I see it, the former are ‘the protestant state for a protestant people’ format and the latter are the Trimble-esque ‘British state for all of the people’ format.”

    Exactly – but Unionism already has one ethnic unionist party in the DUP. If Tom were the leader it would just mean Unionism having two ethnic unionist parties, and no civic unionist party. (meaning a lot more voters are going to continue shifting over to Alliance and the Greens because unionism doesnt offer them a home they can identify with)

    Far better for Unionism as a whole that it has one ethnic unionist party (the DUP) catering to traditionalist types, and one civic unionist party which can embrace modern British, inclusive unionism and reach out to progressive voters across the centre ground.

  • Framer

    Elliott was seriously damaged when he proved himself unprepared for the GAA and Gay Pride questions. He is also in something of a cleft sick as he himself parades in funny outfits.

    McCrea has shown that he he is not a shallow modernist as he understands the sensibilities of the more traditional party members and voters and reognises that business is key to Northern Ireland’s future. The public sector glory days are over.

    The key to the UUP’s future success is excavating the lost east Ulster voters while not becoming a vacuous bleater like Naomi Long and Sylvia Hermon.

    McCrea is the only chance of doing that for the UUP but whether herding his MLA cats is possible is another matter..

    Because unionism is a movement policy is always secondary if not irrelevant except in divvying up the Stormont billions.

  • I am not a member of any Party and this analysis is the best I have seen so far (taking both posts together).

    Good analysis on the profiles, strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates and on where the Party is most likely to find votes on which to build electoral sucess.

    A lot of emphasis is placed here and elsewhere on being media ‘savvy’ and ‘presentatable’, but the most important aspect (in the context of rebuilding) would probably be the substance on which messages are based. There is a desire in Unionism for substance, hard work and most of all a leader they can trust.

  • spanishjohn

    I have just realised that i am one of the ‘unicorns’ identified in the above article. I don’t take the vatican echo, like a mass once in a while and gaa tops tend to chafe my nipples. My contention is that despite this, I am not a ‘pro-union’ catholic nor do i believe that the rest of my kind are either. Rather, i am post-union, in the same way as i assume jewish turkeys don’t worry about xmas i am ambivalent about the union, in much the same way as i am about the 4 green fields. I, and others of my ilk are looking for someone, anyone, who offers civlised, intelligent politics devoid of sectarian colour. In that sense i would have no objection to voting uup given an a desirable leader and message. To me, Elliott is not an attractive candidate and remarkably lacks even Sir Regs charisma. McCrea is much more accessible, however despite saying interesting things, i cannot bear to listen to him.

  • Politico68

    I suggest the formation of a new Unionist party…..

    LUP – Liberal Unionist Party

  • Politico68

    On a good day for Nationalists we would then see the SDLP and SF fighting for Nationalist Votes and

    DUP,UUP,TUV,UKUP,PUP,UDP,UUC, LUP and whatever you’re havin yourself…… UP! fighting on the other track.

  • Neil

    What party does a left leaning Unionist vote for?

  • Joe Mahon

    Politico68 UKUP no longer a registered Party
    UDP and UUC defunct
    PUP on its way out, TUV?

    Mind you you left out the Conservatives

    Neil – the Labour Party soon or Comadre Long is in East Belfast

  • Peter Brown

    one civic unionist party which can embrace modern British, inclusive unionism and reach out to progressive voters across the centre ground

    Are we seriosuly suggesting that the UUP should turn itself into Alliance? That worked for Trevor Ringland – the mythical progressive unionists will vote for the real thing rather than a pale imitation, that’s why the UUP’s core support now votes DUP but the UUP is famous for repeating its mistakes!

  • John East Belfast

    They are clearly on different sides of the party but how far along the spectrum of views ? – I think Basil is more to his end than Tom – ie Tom is closer to the Centre

    To be honest I havent made my mind up on who to vote for although I am very much minded towards Tom as I am not quite sure the promotion and protection of the Union is safe in Basil’s hands. I sometimes think Basil thinks being in government is about doing a better job than the civil service but I want vision and leadership and someone who actually cares about the Union.
    Tom Elliott was and is the kind of guy who would lay his life down for that.

    I think the majority on either side will be decided on the night and will be based on their speeches.

    However whoever wins I think it is essential they bring the other wing on board into any new leadership team or structure

  • slug

    Although I am arguing the case for Basil I would have an open mind too. Tom is a bit of an unknown quantity for me and the debate therefore important.

    Agree that whoever wins must bring all together.

  • drumlins rock

    It already existed and later merged with the Conservatives in 1912, so I imagine they own the “title deeds” so to speak

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Unionist_Party

  • drumlins rock

    which party does a right leaning nationalist vote for?

  • Politico68

    The SDLP of course. They would be more likely to follow the Catholic conservative thread. they would also be more business oriantated then SF.

    Nationalism North and South does not have extreme right parties like the DUP,TUV and up till now the UUP.

    there is no electorate for such a body since we have become more aware of social diversity.
    Unionism tends not to accomodate minority interests.

  • drumlins rock

    JEB, its not just the centre ground of the party that is needed but also the centre ground of the likely electorate.

  • drumlins rock

    but they are a SOCIAL democratic LABOUR party, how can they be right of centre?

    you have heard it said go far enough to the extreme left and extreme right and they meet, thats even evident within the DUP & SF never mind the extreme parties, just switch lables.

    Although the “conservative” element in the UUP dominated a strong labour and liberal element existed, and still does, and saying two Jewish members became Lord Mayor shows an accpetance of minorities.

  • Politico68

    I am not saying the SDLP are right of centre I am simply saying that their general raison d’etre satisfies any right wing leanings in the Nationalist electorate.

    The DUP and SF are only extreme when it comes to the Constitutional issue and their efforts to appeal to their community. SF is tolerant socially of minorities, different religions, ethnic backgrounds etc.

    The DUP el al are very purist in their approach to their social conscience, they are religiously intolerant and if I could name their treatment of the young Mr Berry, I think that speaks volumes about their ability to embrace diversity.

    The Unionist political establishment neglect of their working class is nothing sort of shocking and in the fullness of time I feel history will deliver harsh judgement on them for it.

  • John East Belfast

    DR

    Fair point – the only proviso I would put on is the centre ground of the voting (mostly unionist) electorate.
    There is no point chasing after people who dont want to vote

  • John East Belfast

    Politico68

    “The Unionist political establishment neglect of their working class is nothing sort of shocking and in the fullness of time I feel history will deliver harsh judgement on them for it.”

    That is simply not true – the broad church nature of the UUP is such that our rhetoric might appear at times right of centre but like every other NI political party advocation of old style big Govt spending is alive and well. The biggest beneficiaris of that is – ultimately – the working class.

    Throw in the connections with the Orange Order – which in the city is largely a working class organisation – and you can see again that on the ground there is significant presence in working class communities.
    Our alliance with the Conservatives ultimately cost us more votes than we got.

    What you are talking about is “Protestant” deprivation which is due to many social factors plus paramilitarism. If there was a magic bullet to that it would be used but it unfair to say it is the fault of Unionist politicians or indeed if there was anything easy could be done about it.

    I know for a fact that more effort was put into on the ground initiatives in the lower N’Ards Road than the Upper in East Belfast by our Party with minimal results – the people there simply dont even register to vote let alone bother to.

    We could be brilliant as an extension of the Social Services but any appreciation thereof doesn’t translate into electoral success.

  • Framer

    Elliott was seriously damaged when he proved himself unprepared for the GAA and Gay Pride questions. He is also in something of a cleft sick as he himself parades in funny outfits.

    McCrea has shown that he he is not a shallow modernist as he understands the sensibilities of the more traditional party members and voters and reognises that business is key to Northern Ireland’s future. The public sector glory days are over.

    The key to the UUP’s future success is excavating the lost east Ulster voters while not becoming a vacuous bleater like Naomi Long and Sylvia Hermon.

    McCrea is the only chance of doing that for the UUP but whether herding his MLA cats is possible is another matter..

    Because unionism is a movement policy is always secondary if not irrelevant except in divvying up the Stormont billions.

  • slug

    That would hardly help.

  • PrivateBob

    Keeping with the analogy.

    By the time that ship gets out of long term repairs and refits it’ll be an outdated old hulk which harks back to a bygone era or sail but is being outmanoeuvred by better vessels regardless of the leader of either ship.

  • Comrade Stalin

    She has steadied up Joe, most of the leaks have been stemmed

    You can’t claim that until you have a few elections under your belt where the drop off in vote has been demonstrated to have been arrested. I can’t see the UUP beating fourth place any time soon.

  • Comrade Stalin

    but they are a SOCIAL democratic LABOUR party, how can they be right of centre?

    John Hume used to say “I am a socialist” on his election literature, and they identify as “nationalist” in the assembly, so I prefer to call them “nationalist socialists”. Which is somewhat more accurate, there is nothing “social” or “labour” about the SDLP.

  • Outsider

    Tom’s a good guy, I don’t know why he bothers with this rubbish, let Basil lead the UUP party and then we can have one Unionist party namely the DUP.

  • Drumlin Rock

    ack hes sorta stubborn, he has put a right bit into the party and dosn’t want to see it all wasted by some upstart, 🙂

  • Truth Finder

    I feel the UUP needs to wake up, they can no longer elect a leader simply because he is a decent man. How is that going to excite the voters, let alone party members?

    We need someone who will lead not be led, someone who will offer a new fresh approach to how unionism and politics here sure operate. Some poeople say Basil is a risk. And yes he is, but I for one think he is a risk worth taking.

    If you continue on the road that they are on, this party is finished within 5 to 10 years. They have lost over 100,000 in 10 years, time to get rid of the grey suits they are the ones to blame for this mess.

    For me Basil is the right man at the right time.

  • davidonlineone

    If the selection meetings for assembly candidates continue to go the way they are, tom elliott could be leader of a very active and more relevant assembly team – if everyone around him is capable of the media presence etc then perhaps it is no longer necessary to hold basil in high esteem as the individual to attract voters to the party – the candidates themselves will be capable of doing that.

    What is of interest to me is that if the UUP do perform relatively well next year, the leader will be regarded as the key figure in the change, even though these candidates and their selection is emerging without the influence of basil or tom.

  • sandra

    A few years back a young student nephew of mine was completing a dissertation on tourism for his degree. He required quite detailed info on Fermanagh and made contact with Tom Elliott. He is not from any traditional unionist backgroung but was amazed at the detail of his response. He sent information, phoned to discuss it and during one of their conversations realized they would both be travelling from Belfast airport to rural Fermanagh at the same time and went out of his way to offer a lift.It’s hard to forget that level of help and i’ll watch the leadership struggle with interest

  • slug

    I do agree the analysis is good. (My comment about TUV membership of author is just to ensure conflicts are declared which I think is good practice..)

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I agree, unionists need a progressive option – though I’d like to see a realignment within unionism so there is a left and right option. DUP / UUP doesn’t quite do it.

    Being in England most of the time these days, I wasn’t overly familiar with the candidates. On first look at Elliott though, I have to say I wasn’t impressed. The UUP needs someone really able and smart who can inspire people to believe the party is picking itself up. Needs real strategic vision too, which Empey so obviously lacked in the UCUNF tie-up. Can’t really comment on McCrea, but in my limited readings of him he seems a bit more on the ball. The party needs major revival, it’s not the time for a hard constituency worker, but a proper leader.