NI21 launches – looking for fresh voices rather than defectors

Basil and John tonight crawled out of their Team Jasil chrysalis to reveal the NI21 butterfly. Question is, will it take off?

NI21 John McCallisterLaunched in the Metropolitan Arts Centre, a cosmopolitan wine-drinking audience, and if they’d handed out much needed icecream cones to cool down the attendees, NI21 might have been Neapolitan too.

A few hundred supporters crammed into two rooms in the Belfast MAC and another two hundred watched online as John McCallister, party chair Tina McKenzie, and leader Basil McCrea talked about their vision for the new party.

The launch was professional but not too slick. It oozed enthusiasm more than cash.

The event was staffed by energetic volunteers and promoted articulately by a succession of professionals – young and middle aged – who explained that they didn’t have a history of voting.

The early discovery of the party name and website, the parody twitter account and even Martin McGuinness’ joke has boosted the brand awareness of the new party name beyond John and Basil’s dreams.

This is a party that wants the votes of people who have stopped voting (or never started). While they’ll eat into Alliance and the UUP – there were reps there tonight from Alliance, NI Conservatives and the SDLP – they’ll be pitching their effort and marketing at non-voters.

No surprises in the message from the two politicians tonight. It’s as it was at UUJ last month. Northern Ireland branded. Not keen on labels. Not unionist. Not nationalist. Pro-current UK settlement. They propose the removal of designation, but in the meantime it’s not yet clear on how they’ll designate – though the honest thing would be to sit in the middle and opt out of having any power for Petitions of Concern. They’re promising to introduce an Opposition Bill. Building bridges rather than walls.

Basil was keen to point out tonight that they were not going to be announcing the names of defectors from other parties. The focus was on fresh voices, and on listening to potential voters.

NI21 Basil McCreaTonight’s event was organised by Facebook and text. But it’ll take more than clever use of Facebook to reach beyond a few thousand supporters. They’ll need to rip a page or two out of Jim Allister’s playbook to learn how to rapidly respond to events, how to ask good questions that reveal embarrassing facts, and how to keep bumping back into the media cycle and punching beyond their light weight.

You don’t win any votes by launching a party. Though being able to execute a launch is a sign of some organisational skills and talent.

If they fail to quickly build momentum, NI21 and its clever logo will soon be erased.

If the volunteers can build a party structure, figure out a way for people to pay to join the party to raise much-needed funds, keep Basil and John from contradicting each other in public, grow candidates that are on message and attractive to voters, and not be discouraged when interest dips and negativity soars, they have a chance of muscling onto the ballot paper.

It’ll be a long, old slog. They’ve got the first few hundred people motivated. Now for a few tens of thousands. And some policies …

Claire Cromie has lots of details from last night in her Belfast Telegraph article. Other views in the News Letter and the Irish News. Fitz James Horse was in the MAC last night and he’s posted his views too.

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  • MEDIA CENTER? Aspire to better – spelling 🙂

  • Los Lobos

    Hey, “back on track” McGuinness, maybe they should have called themselves the A5? Cause you sure as hell ain’t going to be doing anything to get that road up and running anytime soon!

  • No big name defections and Basil seemed to make a virtue out of this but I think he would have been happier to announce one or two.
    The testimonies were the weakest link.
    People saying that they never voted before….all very well.
    But ” I used to vote ….UUP/DUP/SDLP/Alliance” would have worked better. And the three current or recent students who spoke …at least two were Politics students.
    For me….it lacked muscle. The kinda clout that six veteran councillors would have given it.
    And it will be interesting to see how UUP and Alliance react. No sympathy from Empey on The View tonight.
    Either Basil and John jumped too late from the wreckage of 2010 “coalition” or Ringland, Hamilton, Bradshaw, Parsley jumped too soon. They really would have been “better together”

  • son of sam

    Is Martin really as witty as his tweets imply,or does he have somebody who does for him?!

  • 6crealist

    Has Ian Parsley joined yet?

  • After the duo announced that they would be establishing a new party, I emailed them and let them know that the new party should not have the words, Unionist, Ulster or UK in the party’s name. They listened to me–and probably many more people including some paid consultants who told them the same thing. If they can prove as astute as Allister in steering an opposition bill through the Assembly they will be off to a good start. If not, the party will probably die.

    Alex Kane had an interesting article on unionist parties that have died since 1970.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    I think its interesting that they clearly committed to entering the European elections next year.

    It will be interesting to see how their vote goes given that they’ll get nowhere in terms of winning any seats?

    Can we get a tally on the number of unionists candidates sharing 45% of the vote?

    DUP ( possibly, though unlikely, 2)
    UUP
    UKIP
    TUV ( possibly in alliance with ukip)
    NI21
    Cons ( Jim Nicholson is still their elected candidate too after all)

    Then you’ve got loyalist organisations from the PUP through to the prot. coalition and any other fringe elements or have-a-go independents.

    Could be quite a long ballot paper when you add the definite candidates of the sdlp, greens, SF, Alliance as well as possible left candidates from eamon mccanns PBP, socialists, WP, and possibly a Republican dissident.

    Left any one out?

  • CookedBreakfast

    I was, rather sadly, one of those 170ish poor souls who tuned in and watched the launch online, and a few things leapt out:

    – An appeal to young voters is all well and good, but your bread and butter is the older crowd: what is on offer for them in this glitzy Alliance-lite affair? I suspect not enough to get people to take a high enough preference punt.

    – The financial muscle of this thing is fascinating. Either Jasil have substantially deep pockets and are content to plunge into them for the foreseeable; or they have lined up or intend to approach some very game donors.

    – It will be interesting to watch their approach to party organisation. There was no mention, for instance, of a party constitution. For their rules regarding leadership selection (if they choose to have any), I wonder if NI21 members will be given a choice between Basil and John? Cue a potentially hilarious contest. Both come from a bit of a mess on the organisational front so I wonder what lessons they will have learnt there also.

    – Behind all the saccharine spiel, there was no mention of short-term and immediate electoral gains. I know it is very early days, but does the party intend to contest next years local elections? Even the European? There was an overwhelming emphasis on the Assembly picture – I am aware that by the PR-nature of things was all broad-stroke stuff – but, doomed consultations and private members bills aside, the next Assembly election, and the opportunity to change the system, is some way off. It’ll be a challenge remaining both relevant and incentivising people to join and remain within the ranks for that length of time. And if they do decide to put up councillors: will Basil and John be standing? Cue, again, a potentially hilarious snubbing by the electorate.

    I can’t help but view this as a highly personalised and charismatic vehicle which will struggle to emerge from the shadow of its closest political bedfellow (Alliance). Our political system as it stands is simply not hospitable to ventures like this. You have to commend the ambition of trying to overhaul that system but its simply coming from too weak a fry.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Oh BNP too probably.!

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    @ cooked breakfast

    See my post above, they confirmed on the view that they will run a candidate in Europe as well as some of the council elections.

  • aquifer

    “The financial muscle of this thing is fascinating”

    Local business directors can see a lot of sense in a ‘forget the past and get a life” party, and with the new media old rules about party organisation may not apply.

    A couple of hundred activists is a political party around here.

    “Unionist” parties may look old and forever defensive beside this, and the SDLP will not come out as pro-business Christian Democrats, the Tories are nasty and English.

    NI21 might do OK in the commuter belt, and the Euros will give them an ideal platform.

  • aquifer

    Oh, and local government reorganisation should provide them with a few deselected councillors.

    Jasil just got lucky.

  • keano10

    Amazing how people can get so carried away with this…

    Firstly NI21 are a Unionist Party. (Yep, yet another one…). When one cuts away all the bluster, that is simply what they are. In the words of John McAllister “We aim to promote the entity of Northern Ireland at every opportunity…”.

    They won’t be getting more than an envelope full of votes from the Nationalist heartlands with that particular mission statement. Old loyalties die hard in this part of the world…

    I’m going to stick my neck on the line and be perhaps the only person here to forecast that NI21 will get pummelled in the next election. Their entire first presentation sounded very confused to me. They are trying to be all things to all people, something which has never worked for The Alliance Party in 30 odd years, and to make things worse NI21 are coming across as being just a little bit too clever as well. (Never underestimate how low the baseline is sometimes set among the electorate here…).

    They are a Unionist Party who would rather one did’nt call them that. They are anxious to attract the “middle ground” which is virtually non-existant to begin with. And most worryingly of all, they have pulled out the old chestnut of disemfranchised “youth” voters… Good grief…

    An accident waiting to happen…

  • Morpheus

    “For most people the constitutional question is irrelevant, settled, accepted … and yet our political parties campaign as if this were in doubt. Some pretend to be for a United Ireland when they know this not what you want. Others pretend that the Union is under threat when it isn’t. Why do we let ourselves be bullied into talking about an issue that is settled?”

    His first speech and already Bazil has crapped all over the aspirations of a significant percentage of the people of Northern Ireland.

  • NI21

    [Ed – not posted by NI21 party]

    Of course we are a unionist party but we dont have to shout about it. We are after votes from the entire community – btw some might talk of ‘nationalist heartlands’ but our Chairwomen is from one of those.
    What is wrong with trying to attract everyone from Conservatives to socialists like David Rose? This is Northern Ireland party we aspire to better but we dont aspire to be part of the politics of the UK – we want to concnetrate on developing a distinct identity for NI.
    Lets accept that the tough decisions about public spending, taxation, welfare refrom are all best made in Westminster by the big UK parties.
    Being pro UK does have to mean have to pass up the opportunity to put Northern Ireland first. There is nothing wrong with modest ambition.

  • keano10

    Yes Morpheus. McCrea is clearly the more arrogant of this pairing and that was a pretty stunning statement from him. Telling the electorate that they are’nt capable of rationalising their political beliefs so he and McCrea will do that for them. For two supposedly intelligent and free-ranging individuals, the whole launch had a very amateurish and surprisingly arrogant feel to it. Did’nt they seek any PR Guidance prior to this?

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Basil and John will lose their seats at the next Stormont election and the party will cease to exist within a few months of that. With the extremist, backward Nationalist politics and support for catholic fundamentalist terrorism from SF & SDLP recently, Unionists (no matter how ‘light’) are not going to elect a couple of wishy-washy rollover men to represent their interests.

    Once Jasil join the dole queue NI21 will be quickly forgotten like many of Northern Ireland’s past political parties created solely to satisfy the egomaniacs who led them.

    UKUP anyone?

  • NI21,
    I was there last night and in fairness, your Chair did say she was from west Belfast but I dont think she actually said that she was living IN west Belfast.
    As I recall she said she was 40 and had lived in various places in Britain and indeed the world. At least thats my recollection.
    As a Party which in fairness, strives for a Norn Iron identity…Basils final statement indeed mentioned “our wee country” …those other influences on your Chair probably define her as much as West Belfast.
    And rightly so.

    The question of Identity is actually going to be interesting for your Party. Quite reasonable to say that in a three person household, there is diversity (one of the better points of the night made by the final student speaker) ….but too much emphasis on coded messages ” Im from Castlereagh” “im from West Belfast” undermines the fact that people have multiple identies.

    ” I dont believe in designation but since you ask Im a Catholic” is not sustainable.
    But I wish you well.
    Your biggest asset is straightforwardness. It would be a shame to spoil it by being too subtle.

  • cynic2

    “Firstly NI21 are a Unionist Party”

    Yep and as the polls show tht the vast majority here (including significant numbers of Catholics) are Unionist, so what

  • Dec

    ‘Lets accept that the tough decisions about public spending, taxation, welfare refrom are all best made in Westminster by the big UK parties.’

    And with arrogance like that, this is going to be a short, uneventful ride.

  • Jack2

    What a bile filled little post: Look out for a underlying tone of negative aggression.
    “Ulster Press Centre (profile)
    7 June 2013 at 9:00 am

    Basil and John will lose(NEGATIVE) their seats at the next Stormont election and the party will cease (NEGATIVE)to exist within a few months of that. With the extremist(NEGATIVE), backward (NEGATIVE) Nationalist politics and support for catholic fundamentalist(NEGATIVE) terrorism(NEGATIVE) from SF & SDLP recently, Unionists (no matter how ‘light’ (NEGATIVE)) are not going to elect a couple of wishy-washy (NEGATIVE)rollover (NEGATIVE)men to represent their interests.

    If thats the press centre, I’d hate to see the “nutting squad”.

  • Neil

    I 100% respect the rationale for creating this party, probably the greatest threat to the Nationalist project would be a middle ground, rational Unionist party. No Christian fundie nonsense, no homophobic statements and no leaflets whipping East Belfast into a sectarian frenzy for electoral gain. If anything the main Unionist parties strengthen the cause for unification and contribute to more and more Nationalists feeling ‘alienated’ from the UK. Good luck to them, they seem like decent blokes.

  • cynic2

    “with arrogance like that”

    ….err but that is the legal and political reality. That’s what we signed up for. This is a Regional Assembly with limited powers

    NI feeds off the block grant paid by Westminster.

    Taxation is a reserved matter and long may it remain so or these bozos will destroy whats left of the NI economy to give handouts to their friends and client groups.

    “Welfare payments” – again legally Westminster decides and pays through the block grant. If the NI Assembly wants to pay more it has to find the £ from other areas but the costs are so huge that’s impossible so the real Government decides

    This is a tiny area – 3% of the UK – and if we were rational we would have one assembly and 26 councils we would have a county council to run it. That is the reality no matter how it is dressed up. There are a number of Councils in the UK that are bigger so get real

  • In fairness Basil DID say that both their seats were vulnerable. But that is surly to their credit. If they were just careerists, they would not be doing this.
    In 2013, they have two seats…two more than the Ulster Press Centre.
    In 2016, they might lose seats but I cant see the UPC overtaking them.

  • hseany1978

    Fair play to the guys getting this off the ground. Organising a new political party is some job at the best of times and they have provided some talking points at least!

    However, the challenge for any unionist party in the present climate is how they react to something like the ‘fleg protests’ or carrickhill. A host of anniversaries on the horizon will also test their ‘tribalism’ so to speak.

    On the other hand, will their target audience be predominatly (as David Trimble used to call them) ‘garden centre prods’ i.e. upper/middle class PUs who have ceased voting? Consequently will a rivalry develop with the Alliance party?

    They key to their progress, regardless of what road they go down, is keeping the enthusiasm of early membership at high levels. Unless they do this then they will find things very difficult.

  • cynic2

    NI21s main hope must be that they accelerate the collapse of the UUP or rather its swoon into the ample bosom of the DUP.

    After this year Alliance is a dead duck in many areas. Not just because if the flegs dispute but because of its sheer arrogance and incompetence in handling it.

    Its a political jungle and NI21 can hope to strip some votes off both these carcasses while also appealing to the large non voting centre group in the community who are sick of the sight of the traditional parties

  • Reader

    Morpheus: His first speech and already Bazil has crapped all over the aspirations of a significant percentage of the people of Northern Ireland.
    So they have lost the votes of people who will only vote for a party that at least pretends to campaign for a united Ireland? There are already two parties in that space.

  • Dec

    Cynic2

    I think you’re somewhat missing the point, much in the same way you confused opinion polls with elections (your 9:10am post). I’m not disputing the current status quo.

    This fresh new political vision is…wait for it…Unionism. Now, I’m not criticizing unionists for being unionists (no matter how much NI21 dance around it), but I take issue with the arrogance that demands Irish people unquestioningly accept our affairs are better off being run by non-Irish people.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    fitzjameshorse1745

    In 2013, they have two seats…two more than the Ulster Press Centre.
    In 2016, they might lose seats but I cant see the UPC overtaking them.

    So….. in a few years time Jasil might have the same number of seats as an anonymous guy on the internet with no plans to compete in elections.

    My, what a ringing endorsement for NI21….

  • I should qualify this post by saying I fully respect and admire what Basil and John are doing. I am sure they expected all the criticism they have received so far and, largely, it has been constructive, valid questioning that they must respond to. I find them to be two good guys. Never met Basil, but was in John’s company following an event in Scotland and found him to be decent, engaging and intelligent.

    However I do agree that Basil’s approach to the constitutional issue somewhat arrogant. He should not be telling people that the issue is settled, he should be offering a new approach to the question of an United Ireland.

    Recent surveys show a clear feeling amongst the public that they do not see an United Ireland as likely or desirable in the short to medium, or even long, term. I do believe that this sentiment is more attributable to the current social, cultural and economic difficulties in NI rather than a desire to actually address the question of whether the constitutional make-up of NI, UK and ROI should be altered in some way.

    NI21’s line should have been – yes, it is an issue that we will address as and when it is appropriate, but given our inability to deal with the past, our poor economic position, our educational problems, the democratic deficit at Stormont and social divisions in a number of respects, we cannot justifiably address this issue any time soon. These are the real concerns of real people that affect their lives in a much more substantial way right now than the question of an United Ireland.

    The fact remains that the constitutional question remains unresolved for some and we have the right to address that at an appropriate juncture in the future. Do not tell us that it is settled – it may not change, but it is not settled.

  • I will be interested to see their policies on the ‘real people’s’ issues outlined above as I suspect that they may well align with my own. This may raise some interesting questions and choices in my own mind and that can only be a positive thing.

  • badger

    The sad fact is like the SDP in Britain NI21 will soon fade and its members seek refuge with Alliance or go back to the UUP.

  • Submariner

    Would I be right in thinking that UPC is the same poser who called himself Dont drink bleach

  • David Crookes

    What happened to the UPNI, and why is NI21 likely to fare any better?

    Unionism needs a completely new doctrine, not another tiny little party — especially since NI’s electorate is tiny, and much of it doesn’t bother to vote.

    The superstition that myriads of newly enfranchised clever liberal people will turn out to vote for a new clever liberal party is entertained only by clever liberal commentators. In fact, the established parties need to fear NI21 as much as the sun needs to fear being crashed into by a comet.

    No marks for the unattractive name.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    @submariner,

    I was thinking of remarking the same thing!

    When “The Lodger” went the way of the dodo, “Don’t drink bleach” seemed to perform the same role. For the last year, I haven’t noticed “Don’t drink bleach” but have seen similar bile pumped out by UPC.

    Could be different people of course who happen to spew the same hate-filled spiel again and again but it is curious how they never comment on the same post. ..

  • Morpheus

    Reader: “So they have lost the votes of people who will only vote for a party that at least pretends to campaign for a united Ireland? There are already two parties in that space.”

    So the idea is to offer the same old tired rubbish in a shiny new wrapper which has been tried, tested and has failed for decades? According to the NILT Survey, if you think it has merit, only 1% of Catholics would vote DUP/UUP so if they want to go down that route they will reap what the sow.

    NI21 should not fear the United Ireland issue – they should embrace it. If they are so certain of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland they should have nothing to fear from putting all the facts on the table and allowing the electorate to make their own choice.

  • “NI21 should not fear the United Ireland issue – they should embrace it. If they are so certain of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland they should have nothing to fear from putting all the facts on the table and allowing the electorate to make their own choice.”

    Absolutely. Surely the response to their concerns about the current Unionist set-up unnecessarily fear-mongering over the ‘union’ should be to say that they will openly and honestly address the constitutional issue and win that argument. Simply batting away the whole idea of nationalism in NI is not acceptable.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Bit nervous meself, the website is done by Tibus, which is owned by UTV media, I think UTV might be an anagram for who is really behind the be-Jasil, any ideas?

  • tmich57[12.37] Question is, does Alex Kane count Alliance as one of those. They’re pro-union like John and Basil and they’ve been stuck on single % on vote share for most of their time since they and SDLP set up in 1970. Ford has done little for their appeal since he’s been at the helm.

  • Morpheus

    Preaching to the choir here CB28. I have said that we should bring in an international, independent body who will work closely with the British and Irish Governments to educate the electorate on what a UI would look like in terms of key issues like jobs, housing, economy, health, education, political representation etc. When complete it should be shown to the electorate, north and south of the border, so they can decide for themselves if it is for them and their families. If there is no appetite or some are ‘kicking on a closed door’ then at least the issue has tested, voted on and put to bed peacefully and democratically. The people can vote from a position of knowledge rather than a position of ignorance.

    This would be a long process and in the interim our politicians could all focus on making NI the dog’s bollix so we are beating both the UK and ROI off with a big stick.

  • ChrisBrowne28 Basil’s insistence that the constitutional question is set now in stane and sorted forever won’t bring many wavering nationalists to his cause. Nationalism will thrive here for as long as there are hate parades and the police is going back to old ways, which under Baggott, they are. Baggott claimed in his rsponse to Spence that the cowardly decision to allow roads to be block ‘had struck the right balance but between what and what? The right balance between enforcing the law and a quiet life?

  • IJP

    ni21

    Lets accept that the tough decisions about public spending, taxation, welfare refrom are all best made in Westminster by the big UK parties.

    Why?

    Because people in NI are thicker than people in the rest of the UK, or what? It is precisely this kind of inferior, colonialist attitude that “#freshpolitics” should be getting away from!

    As someone who is actually proud to be Northern Irish, I resent outright the idea that key decisions affecting our lives should automatically be made elsewhere without even seeking our input.

    6crealist

    So, er, no, I won’t be joining, go raibh maith agat…! 🙂

  • IJP

    David

    The superstition that myriads of newly enfranchised clever liberal people will turn out to vote for a new clever liberal party is entertained only by clever liberal commentators. In fact, the established parties need to fear NI21 as much as the sun needs to fear being crashed into by a comet.

    How right you are.

    And also, it was consistently being put across as a “virtue” that most of the people in the room lacked political experience. It isn’t.

    Would you invest in a business run by a Board with no business experience?

  • @NI21

    Can we confirm this is a party representative, because I am surprised at this statement, as pointed out by IJP:

    “Lets accept that the tough decisions about public spending, taxation, welfare reform are all best made in Westminster by the big UK parties.”

    This seems to rule out further devolution of vital powers to the NI Assembly. Control over those economic levers is essential if we are going to prosper as ‘NI’ and the status quo is entirely unacceptable.

  • iluvni

    McCrea reminded me of a Unionist Alex Attwood earlier on Nolan.
    Droning on and on and on and in the end, saying nothing at all.
    A feeble effort.
    Dead on arrival.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Will they be changing their name at the end of the century?

  • cynic2

    Dec

    I haven’t confused anything. Another poster claimed that the people of Ireland supported his position on the GFA. I pointed out that in a referendum the vote was 93% yes in the Republic and 71% yes in the North. And that vote was also as I recall to drop the Irish claim on Northern Ireland. However apparently that democratic vote was enough for some as only 2.1 m people voted? Shades of 1921 then.

    The issue of opinion polls is quite different. SFs justification for their little racist war was that they were representing mainly NI Catholics seeking to throw off the yoke of British Imperialism. That’s why their associates murdered over 2500 people.

    However recent opinion polls show that given the choice many NI Catholics want to remain in the UK. Indeed with the Protestants / Unionists there appears to be an unassailable majority for the link to Britain.

    Ah scream the Shinners – – we need a real referendum. Except that in the legislation is a clever little clause that says the NIO cannot call a referendum unless the Secretary of State believes the result will be a yes vote for a United Ireland.

    Ah then scream SF – we are being stopped from having a referendum by the evil Brits. But just who asked for that little clause in the deal? I think you will find it was the Shinners who well know their position and want the luxury of complaining about something that cannot happen.

    So lets have a referendum. Bring it on. It will be easy for Pete and Marty make a joint approach to the Governments and arrange for a brief enabling act. Then lets see the real votes and show how much damage PIRA / SF’s war did to the support for Irish Unity in de Nurth

  • cynic2

    ” I have said that we should bring in an international, independent body who will work closely with the British and Irish Governments to educate the electorate on what a UI would look like in terms of key issues like jobs, housing, economy, health, education, political representation etc.”

    You may have but it betrays a complete arrogance and assumption that we Unionists are too thick to understand the concept and consequences. I have several suggestions on what to do with your ‘body’ but sadly Mick has only so many red cards so i shall refrain from detailed proposals

  • cynic2

    “the status quo is entirely unacceptable”

    It wasn’t unacceptable to all those who voted for it or the politician who negotiated it and signed up to it. That’s the deal. Live with it. Its a County Council on steroids that our politicians can play with with minimal casualties

  • ConorinLisburn

    @cynic “This is a tiny area – 3% of the UK” “Its a County Council on steroids”. Interesting comments … my beef has always been with Estonia.. Pop 1.3m … how dare they consider themselves a country with their own government! Would be much better to parachute in a few public school educated English MPs and Brussels bureaucrats to run their silly country. Wise up Estonia your even less than 3% of the UK !

  • Dec

    I follow you now, Cynic. You welcome a referendum on our constitutional future (1:43pm) so long as Nationalists don’t engage in any activity that might help them win it (1:45pm).

    Meanwhile…

  • BarneyT

    Personally I think NI21 has steered cleverly away from obvious unionst branding, based on what I have seen. Its important that they achieve this.

    From what I can see, they have no intention of changing the status of NI within the UK, however I interpret “not shouting about being unionist” as not defining themselves or their ambition in terms of the wider UK.

    There is scope to take a NI stance and focus up to a point, but inevitably the question of more NI automony and independence will raise the affordability question and we will be back to square one in terms of the debate for the future i.e. remain part of the UK or merge with the ROI.

    NI21 I believe has stated that they will not discount reunificiation if it is in the interest of the NI people, and for the same reason they remain unionist, feeling the UK is the current better option.

    I hope they do well and attract the moderate unonists (who presently have minimal representation) and perhaps catholics who have no all-ireland aspirations. The success of NI21 will have the following impact however:

    Reduced SDLP vote
    Reduced UUP vote
    Reduce Alliance vote
    DUP will remain unaffected and those remaining in the SDLP will defect to SF.

    SF could be the biggest winner here in the next election.

    However, if NI21 do grow and succeed, they will serve as a party and collection of people that are more capable of dialogue with our ROI neighbour and any unionist party and indeed SF. They will have the tools to ensure there is an island wide understanding of each other and sufficient cross pollination on many fronts to render the border irrelevant.

    Lets hope they are a party that does not define themselves in terms of God and ethics like most unionist parties and the SDLP.

  • Morpheus

    “You may have but it betrays a complete arrogance and assumption that we Unionists are too thick to understand the concept and consequences. I have several suggestions on what to do with your ‘body’ but sadly Mick has only so many red cards so i shall refrain from detailed proposals”

    Firstly, calm down.

    Secondly, what are these ‘assumptions’ I have made cynic? I am pretty sure I simply called for the electorate to be educated on the pros and cons of a UI so they can make an informed choice – what’s wrong with that?

    Thirdly, where did“Unionists are too thick to understand the concept and consequences” come from? What consequences? That the electorate would make an informed choice after seeing all the facts? What’s wrong with that?

    Lastly, if you have something to say then say it. I have said what I think is a sensible approach if you have another then put it forward.

  • Taoiseach

    Which party is there to represent traditional Catholic and nationalist voters? People who are pro-life, opposed to same-sex marriage, supportive of Catholic education. The sort of people who used to vote for SDLP. Who can they vote for?

  • hseany1978[9.40] It’s tempting fate a bit calling it ni21 hoping that 21 will be taken to represent the century we’re in rather than the year of the sell-by date 2021. NI was conceived to be always in unist control but 2021 may turn out to be the point where it’s raison d’tre has slipped away and it’s not any longer theirs, however long it continues to exist on borrowed time, ie depending on catholic votes to stay extant..

  • David Crookes

    Daniel, when the realization hits ordinary unionists like me that our time is indeed ‘borrowed’, we may be prepared to act resolutely and intelligently. In that circumstance, people like Taoiseach will be our natural allies.

  • Reader

    Morpheus: I am pretty sure I simply called for the electorate to be educated on the pros and cons of a UI so they can make an informed choice – what’s wrong with that?
    Surely there is little enough on the curriculum until nationalism can put together their half? I am not sure there is an international body qualified to speak for nationalism. And is it then the same or a different international body that speaks for unionism – unless you assume it is the GFA/StAA status-quo that is already the unionist case?

  • @danielsmoran,

    No, Kane didn’t include Alliance in that list of failed parties for very good reasons. First, it is still around unlike the UPNI, Vanguard, NIUP, UKUP, etc. Second, because 36 years after it peaked at just under 15 percent of the vote in 1977 it is still at about half that level. Compare that with the SDLP and the UUP. The SDLP peaked in 1998 and three years later lost its status as the leading nationalist party to SF and is well under half its strength now. The UUP is in even worse shape. The Alliance party realized that it was a niche party from the start and did a very good job of protecting and even expanding that niche.

    @All,

    I think the revelation that the NI Tories offered John MacCallister the party leadership and he turned it down is very interesting. This could cause problems in the future if the party remains stagnant. I think they would have been better off marrying the infrastructure of the Tories to the personal appeal of McCrea and MacCallister. But I think this reveals that McCrea is too narcissistic. He wants NI21 to be “pro-Union but not unionist”–that pretty much describes the Tories. McCrea may have cause to regret not having gone with the Tories when he had the chance.

  • babyface finlayson

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of Godwin’s Law I have to say when I see NI21 out of the corner of my eye I read ‘Nazi’. The 2 looks very like a z so change the i to an a using the power of your imagination and you are there.I expect to see Basil having trouble with his right arm a bit like Dr Strangelove.
    Ulster says Nein!
    Seriously though, I’m not casting any aspersions as they seem like decent enough human beings, but from a marketing point of view it is too close for comfort.

  • 6crealist

    They’re essentially closeted Tories.

    McAllister has absolutely no chance of retaining his seat in 2016, or for however much longer our 108 amateurs decide to stay in power.

    Voters prefer hard work to hashtags.

  • Gopher

    Im pretty pleased that NI21 have annoyed such a broad spectrum in such a short space of time just by existing. Must be doing something right. The existing parties who are religious and political fundies consumed by deep seated hatred have not exactly covered themselves in glory so NI21 are quite a welcome addition. They look almost fun.

  • Red Lion

    I’m delighted at their launch. Plenty of young people, seeming evidence of cross community background involved from the off. Plenty of women involved. United on a core fundamental on NI’s constitutional position. Seemingly professional and well thought through. They have surpassed expectations to date.

    No wonder they are getting up people’s noses.

    No wonder the Dupers and Shinners are baffled.

    A west Belfast woman chairing NI21 – how baffling and irritating is that to some?? And how completely natural and reflective of NI is that to others?

    A vibrant political debate – NI21 are not the ones who will have anything to be scared of —-BRING IT ON!

    First real whiff of fresh air in NI politics in a long time.

  • Sp12

    “A west Belfast woman chairing NI21 – how baffling and irritating is that to some?”

    It’s as about as baffling as a UUP chairman rendered in 2D screaming ‘come on the micks!’ whilst charging a badly drawn panzer.

  • Submariner

    The problem for Basil and co is going to be getting people to vote for them in sufficient numbers. Nationalists will not vote for unionist party regardless of how nice they appear to be and pushing the Northern Irish identity is also a major turn off for nationalists. They therfore have to appeal to the unionist population for votes and that will be the rock on which they will flounder. Come election time the DUP will appeal to the base sectarianism that is prevalent within the unionist community and scream from the rooftops that you must vote for us or you will end up with a shinner as first minister and the next thing you know is the tricolour will be flying over stormont and orange marches will be banned by the justice minister Gerry Kelly etc. The unionist community will then vote for the DUP in their droves and Basil will be lucky to retain his seat. It is as basic and simple as that

  • Submariner[1.27] They almost make a virtue, do DUP/uup voters, out of failing to learn from past mistakes of trusting unionist parties to look after their interests. Dpressing and predictable they will follow the orange card and fall into line behind Robbo and his cynical mob, just to prevent even the appearance of themmuns getting any satifaction out of the political process. I’m not sure what point John and basil see in leaving ‘unionist ‘out of their name and then going out of their way to insist they are big on the union. It will have the same effect on nationalist voters. They might as well have called themselves ‘Liberal Unionist Voice’ [in asideswipe at Jim then they would be dubbed LUVvies.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think that’s a bit too cynical, Daniel. Basil and co could have chosen to take the easy kneejerk road during the flag protests; instead they came out to say that designated days were fine and that the nonsense should stop.

    In terms of NI21’s votes .. I think they will attract some UUP votes from liberal unionists who have a liberal and tolerant perspective but to whom it is important to have authentic unionist representation. Making nationalists stop voting for nationalist parties is probably a step too far for everyone – Alliance and the Greens don’t manage it, I don’t see how Basil will.

  • cynic2

    Dec

    No I would welcome a referendum so we can get it out of the way and undermine the Dissers and Unionist Nut Jobs

  • Comrade Stalin

    tmitch57,

    I think the revelation that the NI Tories offered John MacCallister the party leadership and he turned it down is very interesting. This could cause problems in the future if the party remains stagnant.

    The NI Tories were in the Belfast Telegraph late last week saying how much effort they’d put into lobbying the two to join them, including offering them sweeteners such as the above.

    Now I’m no PR person but isn’t it kind of totally stupid to go around telling everyone how badly you wanted some people to join your party, and how you failed to attract them ? Why tell the public that you have so little confidence in your existing leadership that you attempted to headhunt for replacements; and why reaffirm to the public that having failed to do so you are continuing with the aforementioned crap leaders ?

  • tmitch57[7.12] You have a point in comparing Alliance with the ones mentioned. I recall Bob McCartney , [he of the little missed UKUP] complaining bitterly about the stayaway North Down voters who incurred his displeasure by haveing the temerity to leave him to his devices.
    As to the NI21 banner split horizontally, the top half makes sense but the bottom half doesn’t work at all without the upper part and with the upper part, the whole looks like ni2i. must try harder in future lads.

  • Comrade Stalin[2.09] The ni21 duo didn’t put a foot wrong on the flags episode and I believe they objected also to the DUP’s knee-jerk attempt to politicise the dead of world wars by suggesting that the flag should fly at the cenotaph and got their fingers further burnt. Robinson is now damaged goods I think and with poll showing 6% down he’ll find it hard to remaion FM next time unless the pollsters were just giving him a temporary kicking.

  • David Crookes

    Comrade Stalin has written a good obituary for the NI Tories. I hope they read it.

    Another little unionist party is an absurdity. Cool launches and glamorous grinners impress only silly journalists. Sorry to be negative, but I’ve seen rather a lot of these launches in the course of my lifetime. It’s a bit like squeezing a vertically held toothpaste-tube. Although the stuff comes out triumphantly for a while, it always droops over.

    The only kind of unionism that makes sense nowadays is the kind that is prepared to transmute. Nothing will be gained by cluttering up the interface.

  • @CS,

    Both parties, the Ni21 and the NI Tories, may come to regret having rejected union. I think that they are a good fit and each may be too small and weak without the other to be successful. NI21 lacks infrastructure and probably money and the Tories lack personalities and talent.

    @David Crookes,

    But NI21 is the first liberal party to be launched since Alliance 43 years ago! There have been so many conservative unionist parties launched during the 1990s. And neither of the nationalist parties is particularly liberal. SF is ultra-nationalist/fascist and the SDLP is a combination of conservative and radical.

  • Gopher

    One wonders how Agnew got electeted twice! Or Robinson got turfed out on his ear given people who favour the union are potrayed as robotic. If it was a liberal party favouring a united Ireland I would be more worried about votes. I’m glad Ni21 have put religion to the background don’t se why fundy Christains should dictate how people live their life. Don’t think Ni21 should even hunt their votes plenty of fundy parties for them to vote for already.

  • GavBelfast

    To paraphrase ‘Submariner’ ….

    “Nationalists will not vote for unionist party regardless of how nice they appear to be and pushing the Northern Irish identity is also a major turn off for nationalists …. the DUP will appeal to the base sectarianism that is prevalent within the unionist community ….”

    And nationalists don’t follow like a herd?

    😉

    As I see it, the world loves a tryer.

    What’s wrong with seeing the 1998 Agreement (and economic reality) as a “settlement”? I mean: Dublin gives every impression of looking at it as good as that way.