Kennedy’s out; will McCallister stay in the race to fight a confident Nesbitt?

When I bumped into Mike Nesbitt at an event last night, he looked very confident when he said “I’m going to be leader”.

This morning, Danny Kennedy has withdrawn from the race and not submitted his papers, leaving John McCallister and Mike Nesbitt as the two declared candidates.

During Tom Elliott’s own leadership campaign, Mike Nesbitt was at Tom’s side and remained fiercely loyal throughout Tom’s reign. That should work to his favour in the event of a leadership vote at the AGM at the end of the month.

Having spent decades and paying a heavy price for completing the peace process journey, some in the UUP may be loath to voluntarily leave government.

uup paddy power oddsThe big question is now whether John McCallister is up for a fight and willing to convince the UUP members that opposition is a freer and better way for UUP values to be voiced and to challenge the aspects of the DUP and SF that they are currently unable to.

I suspect Paddy Power will be suspending betting again!

, , , ,

  • dwatch

    Looks like its only a one horse race now.

    Kennedy won’t run in UUP leadership race
    http://www.u.tv/News/Kennedy-wont-run-in-UUP-leadership-race/7a496111-e7fb-42e1-becd-595ca84b71b2

  • dwatch – two horse unless John McCallister pulls out too

  • London_Irish

    Is this now a leadership contest or a party referendum on staying in the Executive?

  • The Raven

    Either way, fresh faces, unencumbered by being Troubles personalities, can only be a good thing. I hope an internal Night of the Long Knives ensues, regardless of the leadership outcome.

    Unionism and politics in general, need more than the DUP. This could – over a few years of bedding in – start to offer that alternative.

  • McCallister is the last card the UUP have to play and the only one with a realistic chance of turning things around for them. However unionism doesn’t seem to do progressive politics or level headed leaders so I fully expect them to plump for Mike “power is our pounds, shillings and pence” Nesbitt.

  • Granni Trixie

    I made the point on Slugger previously that Kennedy was a lame duck candidate: not throwing his hat in the ring last year suggested either lack of commitment or self knowledge (that he had not got what it takes).

    The UUP seem deserted by any big hitters theyonce had. Whoever ends up as new Leader will surely have to give some attention to rectifying the present paucity of potential leaders to will come through in future so that they are not in this position again.

    Or is it all over ine the UUP,bar the shouting?

  • dwatch

    If Nesbitt gets elected I think he may be the first non Orange leader of the UUP since its formation in 1905.

  • Two horse race or donkey derby?

  • alex gray

    Well done to Nesbitt !! Spin works. Got the job – but what’s the policy ? Will he be the prisoner of the troglodytes in Fermanagh who seem to have come out big time for him or will he be enlightened, his own man? Will he hold out an olive branch to his opponents and involve them or will he continue a process of exclusion and deselection to purge the party of all the elements who remember the party before Nesbitt ? Will there be any continuity with the UUP past – not undistinguished when you consider the Belfast Agreement ?? McCallister and Basil isolated. Kennedy might remain as a Minister for now but in few months he will be eased out to be replaced by Nesbitt – so that he can carry message to the Executive table – or Danny Kinahan who obligingly knifed Kennedy at the critical moment ?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Any inside gossip on why Kennedy pulled out? It seemed like the leadership was his to lose.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Billy, the “it seemed” you talk about was the media pundit’s, who have surprised even me with their poor reading of the membership, and thats in a party that conducts most of it discussion in full public view. It was initially looknig tight between Nesbitt & Kennedy, with McCallisters transfers maybe enough to swing it to Mike, but when support for Mike started turning out in more unexpected places Danny decided it was an up-hill struggle i guess, remember it was a pure gift for him to take the last time, so it looks like he never really wanted it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    DR

    Fair comment.

    So it’s Nesbitt’s to lose, you reckon?

    Amazing to think the UU could Nesbitt appoint as leader, when the ink on his membership form is barely dry.

    As a political figure, he has no achievements or record to speak of. It seems like he’ll be elected on the basis that he’s not completely unpresentable.

    Seems pretty desperate, to be honest. Reminds me of those wet dreams certain UUs used to have about Tim Collins.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Unbelievable. It is patently obvious that Kennedy has swung behind Nesbitt in order to save his ministerial post, which he would lose if McCallister won, which he potentially could have done in a three horse race.

    Nesbitt will be the last leader of the UUP.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Reminds me of those wet dreams certain UUs used to have about Tim Collins.

    Billy, the UUP are the wet dream party. I still laugh when I remind myself of the UCUNF debacle, the predicted instant death of Alliance and the predictions that the successful and emboldened UCUNF entity could run in Dáil elections.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Well, that was unexpected! I thought Danny was in with a very solid chance at the very least.

    Reading between the lines a wee bit, there was a lot of talk last week about a ‘dream ticket’ between Kennedy and Nesbitt.

    Then that prospect seemingly fell apart, presumably over the question of who would lead the ticket. Kennedy declared his intention to stand and now, having taken soundings, has withdrawn.

    It does all suggest some pretty smart and nifty internal political manoevering by Mike Nesbitt – winning over enough support from the rural, traditionalist grassroots to deny the rural, traditionalist candidate enough votes to win the leadership.

  • Progressive Unionist

    That said, Danny’s departure leaves the UUP in (strangely enough!) a pretty encouraging position – with two leadership candidates who each have the potential to

    a) bridge the UUP’s internal rural/urban and progressive/hardline divides (the rural candidate, John, is actually perhaps the more progressive); and

    b) reach out and start bringing back the thousands of moderate and liberal pro-Union voters who’ve deserted the UUP in droves over the last 15 years

    The big policy difference is clearly on going into opposition, and here I think John McCallister’s position is much more credible and realistic.

    Under Mike, you could see the UUP hanging on pointlessly within the Executive for months, if not years – making it difficult if not impossible for the UUP to differentiate itself. All for the sake of hanging on to a junior and pretty pointless Executive post – doesn’t make sense.

    John McCallister’s “Vote for me and we’ll be leading the opposition to DUP/SF on Monday morning” is a very strong argument – and could well prove surprisingly more persuasive with the grassroots UUP members than Mike Nesbitt’s much weaker case for more of the status quo.

    Wouldn’t call this one for Mike just yet. Either sho

  • Progressive Unionist

    (Meant to say either should (potentially at least!) be a big improvement over the recent past.)

  • Drumlins Rock

    McCallister has never been in the running so far as I can see, 3, 4 or 5 horse race, have one person say they are supporting him to date. He will do well to increase Basils vote the last time. Yes many in the UUP do have a desire for new faces at the top, unfortunately it lost many of its budding next generation to the DUP at the agreement time, and in a double wammy the old guard closed ranks, its only now a new generation is coming through, some got elected others didn’t this time.

    Mike might have had a quick education, but he has been round the political scene for years so is hardly green, many have been impressed by the fact that he took his westminster loss on the chin, backed Tom and stayed loyal, he has been getting to know the party over the last couple of yrs, and amazingly has stuck with it dispite what he saw!

    Def it is taking a risk, for a risk adverse party, but its worth it I think!

  • Comrade Stalin

    DR:

    McCallister has never been in the running so far as I can see, 3, 4 or 5 horse race, have one person say they are supporting him to date. He will do well to increase Basils vote the last time.

    Agreed with , this is Mike’s in the bag, and with the Kennedy support I’m sure he’ll win by a convincing margin.

    But then you go and ruin it all by taking a big draw on the UCUNF crack pipe before typing :

    Mike might have had a quick education, but he has been round the political scene for years so is hardly green,

    I’m not convinced that he is the quick-learning clever operator that some seem to hope that he is. Now and then he makes a comment or a suggestion in the assembly that reveal that he lacks experience. The comment he made about Campbell College stands out, and a few other similarly misguided remarks can be found by perusing Hansard.

    I sure hope he is able to come up with a better line than the one he has deployed a few times so far, this rather smarmy “I know themmuns because I interviewed them all” thing. It’s just begging for the DUP to take him down a peg. Which they will soon enough.

    many have been impressed by the fact that he took his westminster loss on the chin,

    Obviously “many” don’t set their bar terribly high. It’s not like he had any say in the matter.

    backed Tom and stayed loyal, he has been getting to know the party over the last couple of yrs, and amazingly has stuck with it dispite what he saw!

    Yeah, but that sort of tenacity could just as easily be explained by his not being terribly clever.

    Def it is taking a risk, for a risk adverse party, but its worth it I think!

    Risk averse ? Wait until you sober up and remember that the UUP has been doing stupid, and very expensive, stunts for the past few years, what with “decent people”, fish and chips, a Routemaster, and then the UCUNF thing. They aren’t risk averse at all – they take huge leaps without calculating any of the risks. It’s because they’re idiots who suck at campaigning and don’t know how to operate a political party in a competitive environment.

  • alan56

    Surely there is still a lot to play for. We have not yet seen the heat of battle. Will good communication skills by Nesbitt win the day or can McCallister make political substance and ‘youth’ the deciding issue? The hustings and a few media ‘head to head’ debates will be interesting and mabe even enlightening! Looking forward to it.

  • Zig70

    Nesbitt to win, I reckon he’s not as liberal as some might think. Here’s to a resurgent UUP, ego’s and split votes.

  • cynic2

    Nesbitt has it.

    Fermanagh has swung behind him – mainly because the local leadership think they will be able to control him.

  • Drumlins Rock

    cynic, love to know who these Fermanagh control freaks are, to start with it is Fermanagh South Tyrone, roughly 60/40 split atm, i’m the ST bit but think I might have come across this all controling “local leadership” your talking about.

  • alex gray

    It is sad really. Traditional unionists in the UUP who are probably the majority have no candidate left to vote for in the forthcoming leadership election. Both Nesbitt and McCallister are liberal candidates. Danny Kennedy has relly let mainstraem Ulster Unionists down. By abandoning the race he las left them with no one to vote for. If he had pulled ot sooner and other candidate might have been found but by pulling out on nomination day he effectively left it that it was logistically impossible to put forward a new candidate in a matter of hours. As far as mainstream Ulster Unionists are concerned, no one really knows what Nesbitt stands for. Rememerber Tara Mills’s classic when she heard Mike Nesbitt’s answer on policy – “Is that it?” To say he has no policy is an understatement. Meanwhile McCallsiter is offering opposition but he has no partner to go into opposition wiht on the nationalist side. The SDLP are firmly against leaving the Executive. McCallisetr’s analysis falls at the first hurdle. Some day the truth about all the manouverings before this non-election will come out.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Alex, I agree in some ways, I don’t think it would have been the divisive a race, and it is good to keep grassroots members involved. I think many of the traditional members are behind Nesbitt, but we shall never know now. I think the background story is Danny saw support for Mike grow more than expected.