Elliott & McCrea – odds are that one of them will be elected

UUP banner logo - slightly croppedA Pint of Unionist Lite notes that Paddy Power’s odds on the UUP leadership race have been changing. Tom Elliott was once “as short as 1/5 to win, whereas McCrea was the rankest of outsiders in a two horse race at 3/1”. This morning, the gap between the two horses candidates had narrowed to

Tom Elliott: 4/11

Basil McCrea: 15/8

As part of their coverage of the second largest unionist party’s vacancy-filling process, the Newsletter set the two candidates some homework: to answer a series of questions about their leadership strategy.

(Has the Newsletter coverage of the UUP leadership campaign race remained impartial? Comments welcomed – backed of course by evidence to support your view.)

Asked to differentiate his potential leadership from that of previous UUP leaders, Tom Elliott came close to criticising the party machine that has been so supportive of his bid:

[Elliott] “I want to ensure that grassroots members of the Ulster Unionist Party are kept aware of party policy and informed how decision-making is proceeding. As leader I intend to keep in touch with the constituencies and ensure that there is a hands-on approach by the effective team I intend to establish.”

Basil McCrea praised past leaders and highlighted his perceived strengths:

[McCrea] “Each leader was (in the opinion of the membership) the best person for the job at the time, but times change. The membership of the UUP must decide which candidate will resonate with the electorate and who will best articulate our message to the media. Communication skills will be crucial.”

They talked about electoral pacts and arrangements with other parties, changing UUP policies, the UUP’s battleground and what they would do if they lost. There’s a considerable difference in the tone and precision of the answers.

Asked “Could you accept a Sinn Fein first minister?”, Tom Elliott responded by criticising the DUP’s negotiations at St Andrews and pointed to his work with UK government to revert the legislation back to the Good Friday original. In contrast, Basil McCrea stated that it was unlikely but said that given the joint nature of OFMdFM it wouldn’t be a reason for abandoning democracy and pulling out of Stormont.

[Elliott] “It was selfish and perverse negotiating by the DUP at St Andrews that gifted Sinn Fein with the opportunity to be first minister. The previous arrangements had a built-in safeguard that was removed. I am already negotiating with the UK government to change this legislation back to what was put to the people in the original agreement and was passed by referendum. It would not be appropriate to make any further comment prior to completion of negotiations with the government.”

[McCrea] “The prospect of Sinn Fein being first minister fills many people with horror. It is unlikely to happen but if it did I would stay at the assembly and fight for my electorate. The office of the first minister is a joint office where neither minister can do anything without the agreement of the other. The alternative would collapse the assembly, give the republicans a huge propaganda victory and lead to a constitutional crisis. Democracy offers the best prospect of peaceful coexistence.”

The full article is worth a read.

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  • Greenflag

    ‘There’s a considerable difference in the tone and precision of the answers.’

    Particularly in relation to the second question re working with an SF First Minister .

    Elliot seems to be going backwards . His comment

    “It was selfish and perverse negotiating by the DUP at St Andrews that gifted Sinn Fein with the opportunity to be first minister.’

    Some might see it as intelligent and farther seeing politics by the DUP for a change . It’s an amazing fact of life but ‘opportunity’ walks past so many doors that remain closed despite the knocking .

    ‘ ‘The previous arrangements had a built-in safeguard that was removed. ”

    The previous arrangements were not going to be acceptable . How would Mr Elliot have with UUP objections ? By not talking to them ?

    ‘It would not be appropriate to make any further comment prior to completion of negotiations with the government.”

    Sheer brassneckery with a touch of an I’m on the inside track with the Tories so I’ll be able to make the big bad SF wolf go away 🙁

    Mr Elliot knows that Mr Cameron is not going to make any changes to the St Andrews agreement .Cameron has a country full of ‘real ‘ problems to address and won;t have time for the paranoid worries of a party that has how many seats at Westminster ?

    Basil McCrea’s response was down to earth , succinct and At least people will know that under him the GFA will not be collapsed over ‘words’ in a 3 year old agreement which is now part of history .

    Basil wins that debate by three Irish miles and five furlongs imo .

  • Greenflag

    error above

    How would Mr Elliot have with UUP objections ?

    should be

    How would Mr Elliot have with SF objections ?

    Another call to bring back the preview ? If not why not ? any answers from the powers that be ?

  • slug

    The two have complementary skills, so whoever is elected leader should offer the other the post of deputy leader.

  • Greenflag


    Have dealt with SF objections !!

  • drumlins rock

    Slug, just wondering, is the role of deputy leader tied with the leaders as his “gift” or is it like the Labour party seperately elected? As far as I know Danny remains Deputy leader.

  • The statements are too small a sample size for any confidence, but I notice Elliott mentions the “unionist electorate” while McCrea sticks to just “electorate”. On the other hand, McCrea states that his primary electoral battle is with the DUP. Not much sign of a political party trying to break out of the sectarian ghetto, although McCrea is certainly presenting a friendlier face to nationalists.

  • slug

    Regardless of the technicalities, it would seem a unifying step for the two contenders after the election is determined.

  • slug

    The DUP is NI’s largest party and hence that is where the primary battle for the UUP would be- seems a statement of realism.

  • drumlins rock

    The last question is interesting, if you notice Basils answers very carefully but dosnt mention any committment to the UUP as a party, his committment is to his Idea, stance etc. I would have like to have heard some sort of committment to the party, it is a party election obviously.

    “What would you propose to do if you lost?

    BASIL McCREA: Throughout the campaign, I have been encouraged by the positive reaction to many of my ideas. I believe firmly in the need for change. I will continue to make the case for a positive, pluralist and progressive stance. I will assist where best I can in revitalising the electorate and encouraging people to become actively involved in politics. The biggest challenge to democracy is apathy and I hope to do something to counter it.

    TOM ELLIOTT: I have always been a loyal Ulster Unionist and it is my full intention to remain so; to ensure that the party is rejuvenated and to build a strong electoral base. However, I am not thinking about losing.”

  • Political parties are not football teams DR. No-one owes them unconditional loyalty.

  • Driftwood


    The road well travelled.

  • Cynic

    Dear Brethren

    Appalled at the vista of this UUP election I have decided myself to stand and stop the rot in the fortunes of our once great party.

    If elected I will lead our Great Party on a new Crusade to protect all that we hold dear in Unionism.

    Above all I will campaign against the sale of NIE to the South.

    If this goes ahead all good Unionists should be appalled. How many of the electrons flowing through our wires will then be good Protestant Unionist electrons? Very few I fear.
    Instead we will have Catholic electrons coursing through our electricity supply.

    Just imagine the scene. Brethren unable to attend the Lodge lit by the good Protestant light and forced to cope with the dim glow of Catholicism. Children forced to read their bibles every night in a Papist glow. Even the sausage rolls at a Free Presbyterian Fund Raising Supper warmed by current flowing directly from Rome.

    Yes, my friends, it will be Irish electrical interference in every aspect of our Unionist daily life from printing Party Literature to watching Match of the Day – and I assume you that I am talking there about watching good British football not any made up Gaelic Games.

    Now this is not an issue of bias. Indeed, as we all know, there is also the strategic issue of the effectiveness of this change. It is a well know fact that catholic electrons are smaller, do less work and that their elementary particles are closer together than those of their Protestant electrons. Indeed, personally, I wouldn’t have one about me.

  • drumlins rock

    So a virtually bankrupt government (and NIW proves the idea of government own companies being independant is rubbish) is paying a billion for the Electric Grid of a small neighbour it still wishes to subsume someday, and this is not a political issue?
    The said government up to its neck in bad debt is then going to invest millions and millions more in the Grid of its neighbour, possibly at the expense of the grid for its own citizens.
    Questions should have been asked long ago!

  • The Beagle

    For me, if Tom wins it, it’s the end of the UUP for me. I’ve heard him on the radio and telly, he has said *nothing* that would energize me to go out and vote for him. He may have been a great grassroots worker, but meh, so what? That doesn’t make him leadership material.

    With Basil there’s a chance of a last throw of the dice for the UUP, but if Tom, I’d very much doubt it. Does Tom seem like the cut-throat type who can best the DUP in debates, out-fox and out-manoeuvre them? Not on yer life!

  • Joe Mahon

    Tom: “I am already negotiating with the UK government”
    Eh no youre not

  • Greenflag


    Shocking absolutely :)) That’s a keeper .

    But as to why did Reggie resign from the leadership all is now revealed .

    It came to pass and was made know to Reggie after the Westminster electoral debacle that there was a wise man in the Shankhill who had been gifted with prophetic powers. The man was brought before Reggie .

    ‘Who will win the Assembly Elections next year’? he asked .
    ‘I must first consult the Oracle ‘ answers the wise man of Shankill.

    ‘Oracle “? ‘ Which Oracle ‘? says Reggie

    ‘I toss a coin Mr Empey, and if it comes up heads then the DUP will win

    ‘And if it comes up tails’ asks Reggie ?

    ‘Then SF will win’

    “Are those the only two alternatives? ‘ asks Reggie anxiously
    ‘Not at all ‘ says the wise man of Shankhill ‘The coin could remain balanced on its side ‘

    ‘And what would that mean?’

    ‘Then the SDLP will win ‘

    ‘Is there no other possibility’ ? pleads Reggie

    ‘Of course . Perhaps God will grant a miracle , and the coin will remain suspended in mid air in which case the Alliance Party will win ‘

  • Greenflag

    drumlin’s rock ,

    Not to worry . Next time there’s an Ulster workers strike the Republic’s government will only cut off the electricity to ‘Unionists ‘ Paranoid sources close to Stormont have discovered that a new software program has been developed which can predict with 99.99% accuracy which consumers in NI are unionists and which are nationalists. The switching gear to ensure that power can be selectively turned off in protestant homes when required is almost near completion at an off shore location in southern Shanghai .;)

  • Cynic

    “I am already negotiating with the UK government to change this legislation back to what was put to the people in the original agreement and was passed by referendum. It would not be appropriate to make any further comment prior to completion of negotiations with the government”

    Utter porkies

  • asitis

    Regardless of who wins tomorrow, the UUP have fallen too far down to be able to pick themselves back up,

    Next May will see the UUP reduced to a party of councillors

  • JOHN

    I think you are being a bit too harsh on The UUP. Yes difficult times ahead for the party but do you really believe they will have no MLA’s.
    The DUP have played a blinder regarding the First Minister saga and have worked up enough fear amongst unionism over the possibility of First Minister Marty that the UUP vote will be squeezed further – reality being it doesnt matter who is the biggest party. Sinn Fein and the DUP have to work together as equal partners.
    After reading the articles and hearing the interviews I do feel Basil offers the better way forward unfortunately I think it will not be enough to stop the decline in votes – in fact I dont actually know what will other than a miracle!

  • asitis

    If Basil winns, the bulk of the MLA’s will walk, if Tom gets in the electorate will walk.

    UUP is over, whatever way you look at it – DUP get Unionist Unity the same way they have got everything else.

  • Munsterview

    Yep bring back to bloody preview please !

  • Munsterview

    Not at all !

    Unionists have a bright future; just look at how succesfull their Southern sister party, Fine Gael has been…….. well maybe not !

  • Progressive Unionist

    “If Basil winns, the bulk of the MLA’s will walk, if Tom gets in the electorate will walk.”

    Asitis, I think this is too harsh on both candidates.

    I’m not a fan of Tom’s leadership bid, but I don’t foresee a wholesale abondonment of the UUP if he wins – he’s more the candidate of managed decline, the guy who’ll leave the UUP with somewhere around 9-12% of the vote in the next Assembly elections.

    As for Basil, he may have many of the existing MLAs against him, but this isn’t a bad thing (quite the opposite!) – much of the existing MLA team are terrible and many would struggle to make it into their local council elsewhere in the UK.

    On the upside the UUP selection meetings have led to a lot of the deadwood retiring, and a younger generation of more positive and progressive candidates coming forward – Basil’s leadership would complement this new slate very well. He would also win back Alliance votes and motivate a chunk of the stay-at-homes too.

    The UUP may be in the last-chance saloon but all is not yet lost – I hope the members make the right choice this week!

  • john

    Interested to hear your thoughts on where the MLA’s would walk to if Basil wins. You mention Unionist unity by default so I presume you think most would make the obvious choice – DUP but would any consider TUV, Alliance, Tory(stop laughing) or even a new party.

  • asitis

    The TUV are not even appealing to TUV supporters.

    I would guess that most would go DUP – they are much more moderate than they get credit for

    The odd (very odd) would go to the Alliance and who knows, Maybe Dawn Purvis will start up a left-leaning unionist party for the rest.

    There are no Tories in the UUP Assembly group

  • slug

    I see Basil has gone into Enniskillen tonight (7-30pm ) to do a discussion session- where people can air their views.

  • slug

    It will be a good opportunity to guage the membership’s support in Fermanagh, although the meetings are open to the public too.

  • Drumlin Rock

    there was about a dozen came to his meeting in Fivemiletown last night, although sure how many of them were part of the entourage. His video is a bit funny in that it shows the questions but not his answers, don’t really get that.
    BTW almost went myself last night, just to be nosy, certainly dosnt make me a “supporter” I would imagine it is much the same in Fermanagh. However with its very high proportion of members you cant blame him for trying, prob too late to sway many now.

  • alan56

    Elliot should win this contest…just. There is so much to lose for him. His judgement has been questioned in the handling of the ‘unity’ campaign in FST at the Westminister election and if he were to lose the leadership election then his political future would be in doubt. McCrea has all to gain and very little to lose. He will probably keep his assembly seat either way. He would then be a focus for the ‘liberal’ wing of the party and that may keep him at the top table. Of course he might join Alliance!!!

  • slug

    Its open to everyone, whether supporters or not and I think you should have gone.

  • ulsterman

    indeed Mr Mcrea is in Enniskillen tonight- if he is willing to reach out to all Ulster Unionists why did he not use the excellent facilities of the Fermanagh Unionist Hall for his meeting? Why go to a hotel? Surely if he wanted to reach out to the FST Ulster Unionists he would have asked to use their hall?
    Cant understand this atall!!!
    What had he to fear/hide?

  • Drumlin Rock

    ahh the good old days….

  • Drumlin Rock

    PU, a lot of the new candidates strongly support Tom too, as well as most of the existing “progressive” MLAs, as for chasing the Alliance vote, most of it is hardcore and feels they are on the up, there is not a big proportion of votes to be won, however the DUP is vastly bigger and is weakened to an extent, certainly enough to make a dent into their vote, many of whom were UUP voters, Basil will certainly not deliver those votes.

  • Drumlin Rock

    had something else on slug, prob would have otherwise, although would not have fancied being videoed and put on youtube the next day! did you watch it?

  • slug

    Meanwhile back on this planet……..

  • Drumlin Rock

    Youve got it the wrong way round Alan, although I predict a strong win for Tom, between 65 and 70%, if he did loose he would remain a good constituency MLA,. with a secure base here he could ride it out, his seat is in little danger. Basil’s comittment to the party is looking a bit light at times, espically in todays newsletter, he should remain and has an important role to play, but there will be competition with the “new intake” for the crown of leading liberal.

  • Dewi

    How many coaches are you taking up from Fermanagh for the vote DR?

  • alan56

    DR. I agree if Elliot wins with a good margin then he will have a clear mandate. But the jury remains out on what he will do with it. No doubt a McCrea win would shake things up.. Should be very interesting

  • asitis

    Great to see so many young people supporting Basil in this video – as I said earlier it doesn’t matter who wins, the UUP is beyond saving

  • asitis

    Which bit is out of this world slug?

    Unless you know of a secret Tory MLA hiding in the UUP?

  • Obelisk

    As an outsider looking in, I see two contenders who are all the UUP has left to offer, one the establishment candidate supported by the grandees of the party…lets not forget these are the grandees who indulged in the voracious political infighting that toppled leader after leader who tried to be imaginative and say yes and which has led the UUP in the space of forty years from single party monolith to the verge of extinction…and on the other hand we have Boris Johnson Junior.

    I gotta admit I think the UUP is finished. The DUP delivered the deal they couldn’t, pinched all their clothes, and now sit as the undisputed lords of Unionism. The UUP is out of ideas, exemplified when the FAVOURITE advocates closer co-operation with the DUP.

    Remember back a few years, as the Tories suffered defeat after defeat and some began to worry about whether the party had a future? The UUP is beyond that, it’s in the terminal stages. When they elect Elliot tomorrow they’ll simply vote for the continuation of their slow, steady decline.

    Their only real hope would be to vote for McCrea. He wouldn’t have much of a chance, just the ghost of a chance, but a chance is a chance.

  • asitis

    Newsletter reporting ‘secret’ talks between the candidates to see if they can ‘bypass’ the vote.

    Piss -ups, brewerys, elections, UUP ????

  • slug

    I have said this before but I think its important.

    I think these leadership debates and challenges are very important for a party to go through from time to timw. The process has been very interesting in terms of thinking about the right strategy for the UUP. Also, I think both candidates care about the party and have complementary strengths. I don’t think it has been a damaging contest and if anything I would have liked more public debate. There has been quite a lot of agreement between the candidates and some ideas have been clarified.

    Whoever wins – and Tom is the favourite and I have no reason to doubt that – the fact they were elected rather than simply appointed unchallenged is good for their position. Good experience too as they get to know the party membership and their concerns.

    It can in fact be win win for both parties because the contest has brought out both parties strengths. This is also good for the party.

  • Drumlin Rock

    I agree with you there Slug, the election has generally been good and has injected life into the party, I think they should carry through with the vote and everyone back whoever comes out on top.

  • sammymehaffey

    Methinks Tom has an overinflated view of his own signifigance. Negotiations my hat!

  • Granni Trixie

    I get back to a point I made on another post on this subject – what does it say about the UUP that most of their well known people seem disengaged from this crucial election. The David McNarrys, |Michael McGimpsey, Kennedy et all usually havce much to say. Dont they care? A signf of dispair? Have they given up?
    Or what is the significance?

  • Framer

    The result could well be that one or other scrapes in on 51%:49%. The danger is that it will be an east-west divide but if the UUP can’t hold and increase the vote it gets in the greater Belfast area it faces the prospect of irrelevance even it holds a dozen Assembly seats.

  • slug

    Actually an even balance would be better than a humiliating defeat – both men have given of their time and energy and neither deserve to be defeated badly.

  • Alias

    The party needs to set out its policies and agenda under its new leader to signal to the electorate that its collective soul-searching/navel-gazing has reached an agreed and positive conclusion a way forward has been found not just for the good of the party but for the good of unionism. The soul-searching within unionism will cause further stagnancy and neurosis if it continues without resolution. There is nothing more off-putting for the electorate than to observe a leaderless party putting itself forward for a leadership role. There must be clear vision now, and it mustn’t be focused on navels…

  • drumlins rock

    would go in between Slug, think somewhere between a 70/30 and 60/40 would be fine, the partys choice would be clear but no-one is humiliated, I’m going to stick my neck out and say Tom will get 80% or so of the “rural” vote, and the urban will be 50/50 split, giving him around the 70%.

  • Alias

    A 70% result for Elliot and a 30% result for McCrea will mean that there is no pressing reason to get McCrea into the deputy leadership role, and it will give Elliot more time to shift the party from ethnic to civiv unionism taking his traditional supporters with him if that is part of his mandate. But a 40% or higher result for McCrea will change the agenda, meaning that the shift is certain to occur and be more progressive than Elliot might like. Or, of course, McCrea can be ignored and things can go out of shape…

  • John Doe

    I think the point is, that Basil is almost subconsciously pointing to a future outside the UUP if he doesnt win and/or future party direction doesnt go his way

  • John Doe

    Argument and opinion on either candidate aside, the bottom line HAS to be that the DUP are rubbing their hands.

    After coming through so many scandals, controversy’s and to be honest risk taking political decisions, the fact that the UUP were unable to capitalise said a hell of a lot. I dont think there is any serious or honest commentator who is suggesting that either of these men is capable of chaning that incredible lack of political astuteness.

    For me personally, the comments of a personal friend and UUP member suprised me with the change in his ALWAYS postiive and agressively pro-party/ anti-DUP attitude. He simply stated ‘the party’s over’.

    There is no recovery for the UUP. Thats to the detriment of N.I., but only the most nieve and blind individuals could honestly suggest any recovery.

    The DUP will supply the next first minister and will up its number of MLA’s.

  • John Doe

    As a Loyalist and Unionist the possibility of no Unionist first minister is vaguely annoying.

    But for the life of me i cant understand why so many in UUP circles seek to use it currently as their main anti-DUP weapon. Its a mssive contradiction within Unionist ideology.

    In teh PSNI for instance we as unionists continually (and rightly i feel) attack the use of affirmative action. We feel it is not representative of society nor is it approaching treating every individual who applies fro the PSNI the same.

    DEMANDING that Unionism should hold the first minister post irrespective of the vote is effectively DEMANDING to have affirmative action!!

  • Cynic

    “shift the party from ethnic to civiv unionism ”

    I am not sure what that means. Is it civic to be so rude about one’s fellow citizens?

  • Obelisk

    Civic Unionism is code for appealing to people with a Catholic background to vote Unionist,people who may have such sympathies.

    The reason he seems to appeal to such a large section of the UUP voting base is his solid party work as well as his role in the Orange Order.

    His background is bad enough, but he also seems to be a charisma free zone…not quite as bad as Ian Duncan Smith a few years back but getting there.

    Frankly, he lacks the necessary attributes to even hope to make a beginning on civic Unionism.