Unionist Unity delivers Disunity for Nesbitt as McCallister finally walks the walk

Cupid has been good to DUP Leader Peter Robinson tonight as the UUP suffered yet another self-inflicted disaster with the very public announcement by former UUP MLA John McAllister of his resignation with immediate effect from the party after news broke of the agreed unionist candidate for the Mid-Ulster by-election. McAllister made his announcement on BBC1’s The View tonight, suggesting that Basil McCrea might follow in his wake shortly.

John McAllister’s resignation letter, sent to party leader, Mike Nesbitt, includes the following critical observations about the conduct of Nesbitt as leader:

“Your failure to articulate and communicate a distinctive UUP stance – based on Ulster Unionism’s core values – on last year’s parades controversies, on the Covenant centenary, on the Union flag debate, on the misguided Unionist Forum and on the potential of electoral pacts with the DUP has unfortunately inflicted grave damage on the party,” he added.

“Under your leadership a profound disconnection has occurred between UUP policy and Ulster Unionist values. The policies have increasingly become alienated from the values which should guide and shape an Ulster Unionist leader.

“Above all, your determination to act in concert with the DUP – over parades, flags and forum – has significantly contributed to forcing Northern Ireland politics back into the sectarian trenches.

“At a time of division and uncertainty in our society, Northern Ireland needed the UUP to set out with courage a pro-Union alternative to the politics of sectarian headcounts.

“It gives me no pleasure to say that, under your leadership, the UUP has utterly failed to do so.

“Rather than building a confident and generous pro-Union centre ground, you have opted instead to become Peter Robinson’s junior partner.”

The resignation followed the announcement by the leaders of both of the main unionist political parties that Nigel Lutton would be the agreed unionist candidate for the March 7 Mid-Ulster by-election, news that will be greeted with unabashed glee by Sinn Fein and its candidate, Francie Molloy, and a groan by the SDLP camp and candidate, Patsy McGlone, for reasons I outlined on last week’s programme feature on this constituency contest here.

  • ayeYerMa

    It is obvious that he has been discontented or some time, but McCallister is foolish to try and use the Mid Ulster by-election as his reasoning. This seat is one where there is currently no representation at all at Westminster, and as such pragmatism in attempting to gain such representation should prevail over (understandable) ideals.

  • Comrade Stalin


    There is no way a seat which voted 51% for Sinn Fein in 2010 has even the remotest possibility of electing a joint unionist ticket.

    Furthermore, Lutton has a series of connections to the DUP, not least as a electoral nominee and an employee of David Simpson MP. He is obviously a DUP member and it also seems obvious that Robinson is calling the shots here – not Nesbitt.

  • 6crealist


    they’re denying that he is, or ever was, a DUP member. However, he is related to Simpson. And given the former’s comments about Francie Molloy – made under parliamentary privilege in 2007 – this could be a particularly acrimonious election.

    col. 1309 onwards:


    NI politics is seriously tetchy at present. Let’s hope things calm down by the summer, but it’s unlikely.

  • BluesJazz


    That information is going to make the republican electorate more likely to vote for a ‘hero’ who has killed ‘one of them’.

    Tyrone makes Rwanda look civilised.

  • The UUP continue to inflict the death of a thousand cuts against itself, we must be at 990 by now?

    If Unionist Unity couldn’t win in FST, there is not a pups chance in Mid Ulster.

    Poor Nesbitt, he makes Elliot look competent.

  • Obelisk

    “Tyrone makes Rwanda look civilised.”

    You mean part of the Hallowed North that is forever British don’t you?

    If you start viewing the parts of the North that don’t vote Unionist/vote Sinn Fein as some sort of enemy territory you’re going to be left with very little real estate to call your own at the end of it.

    As for tonight’s news this is fantastic.

    First, Unionist Unity. Three cheers for Mike Nesbitt, he’s gone and done it and led his party up a cul-de sac. I mean after Fermanagh and South Tyrone I didn’t think they would be so daft as to do it again.

    Mike probably thinks he’s showing leadership, putting aside party political ambition to deliver the pro-Union voice the majority of his supporters are calling for. Mike the unselfish statesman, people before party.

    Peter sees what is happening, look at the picture of him smiling. He’s careful not to look at Mike smiling, he might just start to resemble a shark who has finally cornered his prey.

    Here’s the thing. All possible outcomes of what is now happening benefit Nationalism.

    Basil and John found a new Liberal Party. Unionist vote splinters further, Nationalist benefit.

    Basil and John’s party is a success in the Unionist community, Nationalists have someone reasonable to talk to, interested in fighting and weakening the DUP by driving it to the extremes where it clearly feels most comfortable. Nationalists benefit.

    Basil and John’s party sinks like a stone, just one more Unionist party on the scrapheap. The oft mooted cross-community pro-Union party simply dies. The UUP continues on like an old folks home for politicians who know no other trade and need the money, while doing everything the DUP tells them. Nationalism clearly benefits.

    Basil and John’s party is a cross-community success. Obviously NOT a Nationalist benefit but I wager this is the least likely option, especially as the road to cross-community success lies along turf dominated by the Alliance party.

    Basil and John join the NI Conservatives OR the Alliance party, or one in each depending on their fancy. Irrelevance one way, maybe something in the later but much less of an overall impact I reckon.

    And in the short term the UUP either becomes fully decrepit or tears itself apart. Either spectacle I plan to thoroughly enjoy.

  • ThomasPaine

    And the difference between Pro-Union and Unionist politics widens once more.


    I make no bones about stating the following:

    In order to have a truly peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland going forward, John and Basil, and/or like minded people (ie. the good guys) must have successful political careers.

    The liberal wing of the pro union argument must win through, because only they can deliver the appropriate and responsible leadership required for the future.

    Only they will have the balls to stand up and tell the unintelligent protesting outside BCH that the union is as safe as it has ever been since Northern Ireland’s birth, that a public inquiry into the state murder of 14 civilians marching for equality does not mean an attack on their culture, and that they have been too blinded by hatred to see themselves used in the age old tactics of whipping up fear and immobilizing the masses for political means.

    Is it too much to hope that they succeed? Maybe. Maybe not. But for as long as they are around I will throw my wholehearted support behind them.

  • Pia_Lugum

    Mr Nesbitt did not even at this late hour have a member of the party in MU who was capable of running in an election campaign against any of the SF. Overend has shown no initiative other than play safe and live in her office day-in and day-out. McCrea relies on a few newspaper statements to let MU know he is still alive. All the other capable unionists in MU have been squeezed gradually and sometimes dramatically out of either party to allow certain families to seemingly prosper from the filthy lucre side of politics.
    Even the press find difficulty getting a story from local government unionism in MU as the unionist family of councillors here have been virtually invisible for years. Could they be playing for time to get their big RPA pay-off?

  • D.A.

    Thomas Paine: well said sir!

    Although it took me a while to figure out why anyone would be protesting outside Belfast City Hospital. Doh…

  • Progressive Unionist

    The problem with the UUP is that its ageing traditionalist membership is so massively out of touch with where the voters are these days.

    (Particularly the moderate unionist voters the UUP needed to win back).

    Its better for John and Basil and David and whoever else will join from across the community to start building a new, forward-thinking unionist party committed to a shared future.

  • John Ó Néill

    Presumably the metric unionist unity fans will look to is whether a single candidate will increase the unionist vote. Has Willie Frazer formally renounced his intention to add significant diversity to the unionist ticket in mid-Ulster?

  • Mick Fealty

    I see too that Declan Kearney is slowly getting his payback for that humiliation at the hands of the UUP leader on Hearts and Minds… Revenge is a dish best served cold…

    I’m really struggling to see the upside of this for anyone other than Francie, other than it ought nicely to distract from the poor performance of the two minister’s who are jointly responsible for the current mess in the food chain..

  • Gopher

    All the luck in the world to big John unlike the rest of the dross he displays selfless courage. Time for Basil to man up and get this show on the road. John, David and Basil is a good start and a solid base. Time also for a few others to rally to the cause

  • D.A.

    Looks like Basil has manned up then. 🙂

  • Progressive Unionist

    Well done Basil!

  • Mick Fealty

    Would the last one out of the UUP, please switch off the lights..?

  • Progressive Unionist

    More to follow.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Basil doesn’t sound like he’s going to go to Alliance. Talks of “real viable Opposition”…

    Very much Mr Progressive Northern Ireland though.

  • Obelisk

    “Would the last one out of the UUP, please switch off the lights..?”

    Indeed. I wonder how much of the UUP liberal wing will follow. They’ve no standard bearers in the party anymore after all and the rest of the party seems content to follow the DUP lead on anything. The liberal wing seemed to be the only source of any ideas or vigor yet the party just didn’t want to hear it.

    Mike Nesbitt has led the UUP to it’s end it seems.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not getting that vibe either. I don’t think it will be long before we’ll hear an announcement of a new Basil party. A good thing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not sure what liberals are now left in the UUP. Danny Kinahan, maybe.

    Mike thinks he’s making a pragmatic decision with unionist unity, but he hasn’t thought it through. He can see why he needs to cede decisions to the DUP. Under what circumstances does he think the DUP is going to cede anything to him ?

    There must be something stopping Mike from advocating a merger with the DUP. What is it ?

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: Under what circumstances does he think the DUP is going to cede anything to him ? There must be something stopping Mike from advocating a merger with the DUP. What is it ?
    Well, the most cynical suggestion I ever saw was that he was hoping for a deal to gift him a Westminster seat. Presumably the last UUP seat ever.
    Apologies to whoever came up with that one: I forget who it was, but the idea stuck in my mind

  • IJP

    A new Basil Party sounds a lot more attractive than it actually is.

    Firstly, you can’t have a “Shared Future Unionist” party. It’s a contradiction in terms. You can only build a Shared Future with those who don’t (instinctively) share your constitutional preference, otherwise it’s not shared.

    Secondly, there’s no room for such a party. I keep hearing “There’s more to follow” but no one above can name any. Actually, out west in particular, a lot of people will applaud the UUP for this decision. Unionism really is a lot harder line than the liberal media (and commentariat) like to think – remember, 45% support ongoing protests!

    Thirdly, and most importantly of all, who’s going to organise the party? Volunteer for it? Finance it? Administer it? Are people going to do all of that essentially for a persona party?

    It’s been tried before. I suspect it’ll be tried again. But it was John McCallister himself who warned against repeating same mistakes…

  • FDM

    I think this is the best thing to happen for pro-Union people.

    Clearly there is a voter base there for people who aren’t interested in sectarian politics but are honestly interested in maintaining their place within the UK politically and economically.

    I agree with some of the views expressed about Nesbitts motivations in this.

    I think he wants a seat in the big-game and he is willing to serve up the UUP to pay for it.

    I think it will ultimately increasingly push the DUP to the extremes [if that is possible???] and Alliance may take a hit if the John/Basil project is a success. Ironically it splinters the wider “Unionist” project, rather than unifying it. This will of course benefit nationalists but in no major way.

  • Otto

    So it’s the NI Conservatives do you think Ian?

    There’s a nice picture of John and Basil on the Conservative Future Page. They look very happy together.


  • Mick Fealty

    Whilst I have no wish to rain on the liberal unionist parade, I fear there’s a lot of truth in what IJP says… I would also venture a guess that one man’s liberalism is another’s unprincipled Lundy…

    Ironically, Mike’s very own liberalism (a commitment to internal dialogue and compromise) may be what’s delivering his party to the unliberal border fringes where opinion is generally to the right of the DUP these days.

    I wonder if we shouldn’t be too harsh on Mr Nesbitt since every unionist leader since the start has had the problem of steering an ungovernably broad church through some difficult times… his problem is that his broad church is now unfeasibly narrow, and it’s the liberals rather than the conservatives who’ve jumped…

    But to where?

  • FDM

    Mick Fealty

    “I wonder if we shouldn’t be too harsh on Mr Nesbitt”


    Mike Nesbitt is a disaster as a leader and politician.

    If you look on top of Connolly House you will see a metal operating table with lightning conductors attached. That is where they built Mike and brought him to life, so he may stumble through Unionism wrecking everything around him.

    Whats that coming over the hill? Its Mike Nesbitt…

  • mjh

    We actually have some evidence for the potential for a Liberal Unionist Party. The last Assembly Elections saw two contests, East Londonderry and North Down fought by Independent Unionist candidates. Both were sitting ex-UUP MLA’s, and so enjoyed all the advantages of incumbency.

    An analysis of the figures suggests that McClarty took an estimated 47% to 48% of the vote that would otherwise have gone to the UUP in East Londonderry. In North Down, however, McFarland took only about 28% to 31%.

    Between them it was about 41%.

    However it is reasonable to assume that had the Independent Unionist not been a sitting MLA they would not have taken as many UUP votes. I suggest 30% would be a more reasonable expectation for such candidates.

    Although the Alliance vote grew in both constituencies the Independent Unionists appear to have taken an estimated 11% of the vote that would otherwise have gone to Alliance.

    If these percentages were to be applied to the 2011 results in the 16 other constituencies the overall result would be that a Liberal Unionist Party would have emerged with 3 seats, East Londonderry, Lagan Valley (provided McCrea was the candidate) and Strangford.

    Lagan Valley would have been taken from the DUP and Strangford from the UUP.

  • Progressive Unionist

    A shared future will need unionists, nationalists and others all to come together to build it – so there absolutely is room for a Shared Future Unionist Party, dedicated to doing their bit from unionism’s end of things to build a shared future and working with people right across the community to achieve that.

  • GEF

    M Nesbitt is not that naive as he is made out to be, after all the UUP leader could have given both McCallister & McCrea a suspension like he did McNarry. Instead he give these two loose canon MLAs enough rope to hang themselves and they did just that. Now we will see how many loyal supporters the former UUP MLAs really have, who will come out and follow them as Independents or whatever they decide to do.

  • FDM


    “who will come out and follow them as Independents or whatever they decide to do.”

    It will be a new party.

    I don’t see how losing two MLAs in one day is a positive for any party.

    The only ground left to the UUP is to out be more ultra-protestant-nationalist than the DUP and TUV.

    There only are so many votes out there for that.

    Whereas Basil, John and co. have a free run to have a whack at collecting all those voters who want a Union with the UK and who want to HAVE a future, rather than rummaging in the attic for 1970s clothing.

  • GEF

    “It will be a new party.”

    FDM, new parties started from the top down usually fail. Remember what happened to NIUP began by Robert McCartney and others back in 1999?

  • iluvni

    McAllister is totally against the ‘concept of Unionist unity’.
    How out of touch can he and his vain friend be with ordinary Unionists throughout the country?

  • DC

    Actually, out west in particular, a lot of people will applaud the UUP for this decision. Unionism really is a lot harder line than the liberal media (and commentariat) like to think

    I guess the reason for that could be that unionists live among nationalists and do actually experience a shared present as governed by nationalists, they don’t have to wait around for a shared future, the shared present is one that they feel a bit uncomfortable in, therefore attitudes harden, which is why Alliance don’t do too well out West.

    In areas in which Alliance operates it has been easy to compromise from a position of overall unionist strength but the decision in Belfast has given those in east Belfast the Fermanagh experience of what is coming down the pipe and people may well decide to harden. East Belfast for instance has had a foretaste of horror, nationalists popping up and attempting to deliver cultural ‘neutrality’ on flags and whatever else, where possible.

    Maybe Mike is right to harden up on unity to protect those key identity issues or maybe he is wrong and maybe this could well be the miracle that Alliance need? The complete collapse of the UUP where liberals are forced to go to Alliance as they have nowhere else to go?

    Unless those liberal unionists within Alliance breakaway and join this Liberal Unionist Party, LUP or whatever it might be called.

  • FDM


    FDM, new parties started from the top down usually fail. Remember what happened to NIUP began by Robert McCartney and others back in 1999?


    Oh I think you are 100% right. Absolutely no question your logic is sound. I agree with your analysis and historical contextualisation.

    It will be a new party.

  • FDM


    “McAllister is totally against the ‘concept of Unionist unity’.
    How out of touch can he and his vain friend be with ordinary Unionists throughout the country?”


    Zombie alert!

    Basil Brooke is dead mate.

    Welcome to 2013.

    Next to a good line in concurrent clothing at cost effective prices. Jaegar if you are well heeled.

  • pacman

    Firstly, kudos to Basil and John for having the courage of their convictions.

    I see a lot of suggestions here for a new unionist party but for someone like myself, Irish and nationalist, could I suggest a party, confident in itself and in NI’s current position within the UK, that finally drops the unionist tag and that may therefore appeal to nationalist realists like myself who live and work the status quo until something radical changes down south to make reunification a viable option?

    I could never find myself voting for any “unionist” party given the history of the state but Basil, John and David seem to me to be ordinary, decent people that are willing to look beyond the usual them and us and concentrate their politics and policies towards the things that really matter: education, health, the economy etc. Perhaps in time they could attract cross community members, happy in their different nationalities but whose political focus is on the bread and butter issues that affect us all.

    Personally I haven’t voted in years as I’m generally offended by every piece of election literature conting about 7/8 maintenance of the union or progression towards a UI and then a last minute, almost apologetic, few sentences on the real issues. I could however, see myself tempted to vote again by a party that wholly leaves all the sectarian baggage way behind and who could reflect a broad opinion of many sections of the community. Unfortunately that may not work for here as too many people are still ingrained with old habits but here’s hoping.

  • DC

    Pacman what is wrong with just voting Alliance?

  • Chris Gaskin[12.47] Maybe Nesbitt is part of the Tom Elliot Rehabilitation Plan. But seriously this party makes political satire redundant. Mike’s performance against Crawley on TB earlier was embarassing. Reduced to repeating the same answer because the question was too painful. Maybe someone will finally adopt him just to get him off the airwaves.

  • Daniel

    Mike Nesbitt is part of the “Peter give me a seat before the boat sinks” brigade.

    The UUP move from one PR disaster to the next, it’s like the Northern GUBU party.

  • 6crealist

    I find it hard to believe Robinson will be as magnanimous as to give Nesbitt a free run at Strangford. He doesn’t need to.

    Even if he did, would Shannon be content with a seat in the Lords? Even if he was, couldn’t an independent unionist – say a hardliner with good military/security force credentials – upset the applecart?

  • Otto

    “Even if he did, would Shannon be content with a seat in the Lords? Even if he was, couldn’t an independent unionist – say a hardliner with good military/security force credentials – upset the applecart?”

    You thinking of anyone in particular?

  • 6crealist

    Ha, no. My point is that these plans can sometimes backfire: even assuming that there has been a back-room deal as explicit as that.

    Unionist politicians possess a Lundification half-life: eventually Nesbitt will be the traitor du jour.

  • @6crealist,

    NI isn’t 19th century America or 20-21st century Israel, Irish-fighter politicians haven’t really thrived. Only Ken Magginess since the start of The Troubles. Although earlier in the 20th century there were former RIC DI Dixon and Basil Brooke from the 192-22 Northern extension of the Irish War of Independence.

    Those with good security force credentials tend to be professional military or RUC/PSNI police who have little interest in a military career. Classes of “native-fighter politicians” have thrived in independent former settler colonies like the U.S., South Africa, and Israel where the military is a conscript or militia system. Most former British settler colonies didn’t have such a class of politicians because the British army–as in NI–was responsible for providing security. So the only source for Irish-fighter politicians in NI is the former UDR and its successor. And since there were no large or really any battles with the IRA or INLA but only ambushes, usually executed by the SAS or other British mainland units, there does not exist the election marketing slogan for the campaign.

  • Comrade Stalin[9.36] On Talback, Nesbitt was on the defensive as he knows he has a poor case. The logic of these joint candidates for seats they haven’t a prayer in, [is clearly sectarian headcounting], is to merge with the DUP and he knows it, hence his faltering answers to Crawley.
    No wonder Mike took forty years to get into politics. He was never at the races dealing with the cunning of Robinson

  • 6crealist


    thanks, interesting perspective.

    Lord Molyneux could be an exception to your rule. Further back, Henry Wilson was very anxious to stand for election in Ireland after WWI but was persuaded not to.

    More recently, weren’t UCUNF looking to get Col. Tim Collins on board: though obviously he wasn’t interested. And how about Tom “scum of Sinn Féin” Elliott as a modest exception to your rule?

  • GEF

    Nesbitt responds to comments by McCallister and McCrea

    Ulster Unionist Leader Mike Nesbitt has responded to comments by former Ulster Unionist MLAs John McCallister and Basil McCrea.

    Mr Nesbitt said:

    “It is a matter of huge regret that following a unanimous vote of the Mid-Ulster Ulster Unionist Constituency Association, some individuals chose to attack the Party on the airwaves.
    With regard to comments made by John McCallister, if he is resigning on principle, why did he not resign over the selection of an agreed candidate in Rodney Connor in Fermanagh & South Tyrone? If he was unhappy with policies, why when I gave him the opportunity 11 months ago to shape policy via a Constitutional Commission did he not bother?’

    “I reject Basil’s claim that in my Leadership campaign I advocated “no big idea”. What I said was there was no quick fix and there was no “big idea” beyond a long hard slog on the ground. Hard work was the big idea.’

    “Re Basil’s claim that there are no policies, he appears to have completely missed my 2012 Conference speech in which a wide range of polices were outlined. Basil also claimed there was no forum to discuss and debate policy and direction yet was the only MLA not to attend the last “away day” which is the forum for such debate and discussion.’

    “The Party reviewed key policies in 2012 and neither John nor Basil attended internal meetings or contributed in any meaningful way. Indeed John attended more Northern Ireland Conservative events over that period than he attended Ulster Unionist reviews.’

    “My vision for a revitalised, pluralist, non-sectarian progressive political party remains undimmed. That party is the Ulster Unionist Party.”

  • ‘….the only MLA not to attend the last awayday’
    ‘Away with the fairies day’ more like. That should go down with ‘Only decent people vote UUP’ in the political comedy history.

  • belfastboyo

    We should change the name of any election here to “Sectarian head count”. That’s looking like the future. Some parties don’t want to have to worry about every day issues eg, economy, education, health ect.
    Lets face it it a unity candidate “PUL party”, whether in mid-Ulster, South Belfast or anywhere else is simply a tactic to remove as much Catholic representation as possible. It is basically a yearning of people like Nesbitt for a “Protestant parliament for a protestant people”.
    It will fail miserably. Young Catholics will vote tactically and will never accept being misrepresented.
    Those days are gone! The orange state is dead.

    In terms of a unionist unity PUL party (that’s where this is going), it would do one thing but it would come at a high price.
    Unionists fear the impending situation were SF become the biggest party in the assembly (the gap closes each election) and having a SF first minister (even though both first have equal powers).
    Unionist unity would prevent this, or delay it in the longer term.

    The problem is that a single party would more than likely get less votes and elect less MLA’s that the combined vote of two. This was shown in the Fermanagh & South Tyrone experiment where the vote for the unity candidate was less than the combined vote in the previous election, it will be interesting to see the final numbers in mid-Ulster.
    Unionism is a broad church. One party cannot appeal to young middle class liberal non sectarian people who prefer to stay in the union and working class loyalists at the same time.
    e.g. What if a debate on abortion surfaced, the party could only take one side thus alienating people with the opposite view. Whereas if there are two parties on each side of the fence on issues, both can appeal to voters who wish to stay in the UK thus maximising unionist turnout.
    Unionists typically say one of the problems is apathy and people not coming out to vote. Reducing choice can only turn more off and create even more apathy.

    The likelyhood is that under a single party Robinson would maintain his role as first minister but it could come at the expense of a reduced number of unionist MLA’s and unionist MLA’s becoming a minority in the assembly. (oh, and also an end to 100 years of the UUP).

    Food for thought..



  • Comrade Stalin

    “My vision for a revitalised, pluralist, non-sectarian progressive political party remains undimmed. That party is the Ulster Unionist Party.”

    I suppose Mike Nesbitt’s idea of pluralism and non sectarianism is to stand up in the Assembly that you’re voting against gay marriage because it’s against the rules of your church.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Lets face it it a unity candidate “PUL party”, whether in mid-Ulster, South Belfast or anywhere else is simply a tactic to remove as much Catholic representation as possible.

    Yes, that. But there are a couple of other objectives.

    Firstly, the DUP want to use the victim status of the candidate as an issue in the campaign; they seem to want a sectarian phoney war.

    Secondly, the DUP want to raise their candidate’s profile with a view to standing two candidates in the constituency in 2015.

  • CS The DUP is a totally scruples free zone. This is, according to Marty the reason they decided to shaft trimble and go with Paisley in ’07 as there were no principles in the way dealing with the DUP.The duppers probably think ethics is a county in England.

  • Here is the link to my blogpost on the decisions and dilemmas facing McAllister and McCrea: