It was the Sun which famously stated in 1992 “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.” The News Letter seems to be running a slightly similar suggestion about Basil McCrea winning the UUP leadership race. They are suggesting that many of the current MLAs would refuse to serve with Basil McCrea as leader: thus far only one MLA (John McCallister) has declared for McCrea.
Much of this likely to be hyperbole. However, there are repeated reports that McCrea is a highly divisive figure within the UUP and very few leading members like him on a political or personal level. The current rumours may be just that: rumours; however, the UUP leadership may also be somewhat concerned that McCrea’s self proclaimed outsiders bid for the leadership is gathering significant momentum.
The UUP has elected outsiders before and ones who had at times a less than perfect relationship with their senior colleagues (Trimble being a classic example). However, if McCrea is really anything like as unpopular with his assembly colleagues as is being suggested his winning could cause massive problems.
Tom Elliott’s detractors have tried to present him as offering “Managed Decline.” Although as mentioned above much of this may be hyperbole, it looks as if Basil McCrea, might manage to achieve not managed decline but a political supernova leaving very little apart from Basil. (Sorry Pete I am sure that is not an appropriate analogy).
In his News Letter Union 2021 article Basil McCrea suggested that he was confident that Sinn Fein would not gain the First Ministership: he also stated “Picking the right fights is a fundamental requirement of good leadership.” Unfortunately Basil seems not to have heeded his own advice and rather seems to be in danger of having a fight with almost all his assembly party. It would be truly ironic if a Basil McCrea victory, if it did occur, ensured that Sinn Fein would never hold the First Ministership: by creating a united unionist party containing almost everyone apart from himself.