And into the last bend of the UUP leadership race: Who will win?

Someone, in their infinite wisdom, at the BBC has decided not to make this week’s Hearts and Minds video available on the iPlayer (which is odd)… So all we have of Mike Nesbitt’s interview is this fragment clipped and satirised and played over and over… (you’d almost think someone didn’t want him to win tomorrow)…

The only thing I’ll be betting on tomorrow night is that Eamon Mallie will have news of the winner before anyone else… But over at Eamon’s place, David McKittrick rightly points to the mountain any new leader of the UUP will have to climb, not least after that masterly speech in Dublin last night

It’s not a case of can John (who definitely started this race as the firm back runner)… Beat Mike, but can either of them reel Robinson’s Party’s commanding lead back to any degree… Nesbitt’s performance has possibly suffered from two things: one, being the favourite from the off; and two being inexperienced as a politician…

McCallister on the other hand has had the freedom that comes from being free from the burden of expectation (even his own). For the first time in a long while we’re seeing clear messaging work too… His position on Opposition is in reality not far from Mike’s, but in claiming it first and unambiguously, he’s boxed his rival in and forced to him into equivocation.

Though, there have been times when equivocation might have been more prudent. With David McNarry now rejoining the party in nine months time, I’ll be interested to see how he would cope as leader with someone he promised to get rid of but who will by then have served his time).

As a relative unknown, McCallister has been able to use this campaign to introduce himself to a much wider public. Far from being the big ignorant farmer from Rathfriland, he’s proven light on his feet, thoughtful and capable giving political journalists lessons in some of the constitutional realities other politicians prefer to ignore.

Nesbitt’s background as a journalist may actually have been a disadvantage, with former colleagues already on their guard against one who have gone over to the other side.

There is no doubt that he started relatively smartly by hunting down the right people to sign his papers and getting the news out in Fermanagh, but McCallister has, against the expectation of many, made this a very public fight. And according to my own marking of it has won every round.

And when it comes down to the meagre 12 minutes each will to make their mark on their party tomorrow night, it is possible to anticipate exactly what McCallister will say. He’s been developing it over and over (and delivering his own son in the middle of it without batting an eye) right from first political light in Mallie’s back garden onwards..

Mike’s is harder to anticipate… And so is the reaction of the Ulster Unionists as a corporate body… They are an unpredictable crew at the best of times… And in the poll, just started on Slugger’s Facebook page, Mike is already attracting the early backing…

So tell us, who think will win? And why?

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  • Eamonn? Nah, at these events, Ken Reid always manages to get tipped off first! But I’ll be there in the morning to capture the bus count (rumoured to be ‘two’) and the fashion style of those attending …

  • Mick Fealty

    He got the tweet out first in Newcastle for the last but one SDLP do… surely?

  • Drumlins Rock

    At least 3 Alan, and quite a few going by car this time, do a bit of shopping, etc after. So I would say 150-200 FST, obviously well down on the last time but still significant, figures from Tom’s election were –
    Tom 643 (68.6%), Basil 294 (31.4%), 937 votes

    I think the percentages will be similar, 70/30 to Mike, with around 800 voting.

  • Mick – From memory, Ken had Paul Clarke reading out Tom’s result on the ten thirty news bulletin before it had been properly announced in the hall. The candidates were sitting beside each other at a table on the Waterfront stage and their phones beeped, followed by beeping all around the hall!

  • RyanAdams

    Nesbitt to win 60 – 40. If that’s the way tomorrow goes, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t … It will be lower the lifeboats after 2015!

  • vanhelsing

    This H&M episode has been twittering around – anyone know why this teasing episode is not on the I-Player?

  • alan56

    Seems that some DUP strategists pushing for a Nesbitt win. Just for fun a prediction.
    Nesbitt 55%
    McCallister 45%

  • Its not a boxing match. Its more like the X Factor.
    Not about who does better in the campaign……its about who gets the votes.
    Nesbitt will win.

    I dont think that Nesbitts background as a journalist has been a disadvantage or an advantage. Certainly he is a man who has appeared on TV about 500 times more than McCallister and is confident in a way that McCallister seems like an innocent abroad. Arguably that “confidence” appears too professional while McCallister appears endearing.
    Nesbitt has probably had a few ups and downs with his former colleagues over 30 years. Some will like him. Some wont. Thats human nature.
    Id be surprised if there was any atmosphere about him going over to “the other side”.
    More likely journalists have been put in a bad place where they need to be seen to bend over backwards to be fair to a man they have known and worked alongside for decades.

  • Progressive Unionist

    I get the sense that John will prove himself much more competitive than the Belfast-centric media think.

    He may even win this thing.

    The speeches tomorrow morning could well be decisive.

  • Red Lion

    I think John McCallister will win it.

    I thought Mike Nesbit was nervous in face of Noel Thompson last night, and went round in circles talking a lot of woolly guff. John appears the man of substance and a man of action

  • TwilightoftheProds

    McAllister to win by a narrow enough amount -maybe tops 55% of the unspoiled votes.

    The grassroots will vote for the chance to land blows on the executive and establish some sort of brand recognition. The calculation might be McAllister to lead into opposition, and from there Nesbitt to get them on TV….

    As long as they don’t severely fall out post election…and as long the UUP assembly team can hit with a striking force greater than a damp kleenex.

  • galloglaigh

    John McAllister is the better candidate for me. Nesbitt is weak in my opinion, and if his only trick is his TV career, then RyanAdams prediction may well be a good’n. McAllister is a man of management – Nesbitt is a man with a face…

  • andnowwhat

    Progressive Unionist

    I genuinely like John. There’s something about him that makes him my sort of person. Honestly, I don’t think he has a chance. As an Arsenal fan, I can tell you that my support is a curse all of it’s own.

    That crap that Robo talks, I believe that John can/would/will walk and could take the party somewhere. Here’s the crunch; What happened a couple of years ago to those who wanted to take the party forward?

    Sorry to go off topic but did anyone notice on H&M a couple of weeks ago that little sentence Mc Narry said about unionism’s past in NI? It seems to have entirely slipped under the radar. I would have thought that Mick would have picked it up

  • dwatch
  • Drumlins Rock

    Just getting ready, I think it is Mike’s by a long shot, will call it 67-33 , we shall see at luch time.

    PS I know Bill White, surprised he didn’t come to South Tyrone to do his survey, that the views that count today! However come Monday morning the new leader might look at it closer, some useful details, although media spin needs taken into account.

  • I agree with Mick that McAllister has won every round according to the thinking man’s criteria.

    Albert Einstein is reputed to have said:

    “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”

    Unfortunately, I can not see that there will be any change of thinking amongst the UUP membership today. Nesbitt to win.

  • iluvni


  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s Nesbitt. Mallie just tweeted it.

  • alan56


  • lover not a fighter

    If I had a vote I would have voted for McCallister.

    He seemed to be offering something innovative.

    Nesbitt so far just seems to be more of the same.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BBC reporting 536 to 129 in favour of Nesbitt. That is a 4:1 margin, pretty decisive.

  • lamhdearg2

    Happy days, U.U. to go from bad to worse. another step in the direction of 1 union, 1 nat (irish) and one other party.

  • lamhdearg2

    “I want us to reach out to become the party of choice for every pro-union voter in Northern Ireland, including those who still say they want a united Ireland, but privately accept there is no longer a single reason not to enjoy their continued membership of the United Kingdom.”.

    Was this a line he used in his speech, how delusional are the 3 out of 4.

  • lamhdearg2

    4 out of 5.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Was this a line he used in his speech, how delusional are the 3 out of 4.

    Par for the course for the Ulster Unionists I’m afraid, who still can’t quite accept that people might actually want a united Ireland.

    To them, inside every middle class Catholic there’s a UUP-voting Prod struggling to get out.

  • Zig70

    Here’s to hoping the UUP have confused media savvy with political nouse.

  • andnowwhat

    So, the man who read the words on the screen will now speak the words of the navel gazers is Fermanagh.

    Sounds like they got the right man then.