So, a short addendum to my rhetorical question from this morning.
On Talkback Martina Purdy has added a little more to the explanation of what’s been going. She suggests that the decision to undesignate (if it gets returned to the next Assembly) is a response to the new people it has drawn in from a highly diverse set of backgrounds.
However, there may also be other factors involved. Post unionism for instance was always going to be more attractive to Basil’s Lagan Valley constituency than John’s. My view has been that John was already struggling to keep his south Down seat long before the liberal duo left the UUP.
You’d be hard put now to bet against the idea that the UKIP Euro candidate Henry Reilly is running a greater South Down first with various councillor candidates second and the rest of Northern Ireland nowhere sort of campaign, prior to taking that second unionist seat.
In other words, John’s viability as a NI21 MLA has been in the balance right from the start. Veering out of the unionist fold would have been a final nail in that coffin, and a final departure between NI21’s genesis and its future.
It should be noted here that for NI21 to claim they’ve made progress they only need to win a few council seats.
But here’s the interesting bit.
There are rumours (and I emphasise that word) that John had been talking to some of his old colleagues in the UUP about a return to the fold, with a possible option of being co-opted into Jimmy Nicholson’s seat should the UUP veteran manage to retain it tomorrow.
If it were proven to be true, it would be a smart move on both sides. John needs out of the Assembly before it collapses on him and the UUP need someone of John’s strong agricultural background and popular profile to take over in the EP. His liberal instincts might help too.
Ah, the fine art of Machiavellian politics. Except that Machiavelli only works well for you when the rest of us on the outside never get to find out the grizzly details. [Ahem, or you can count on a whole raft of helpful witnesses to keep it all under their hats – Ed.]
All of which leads me to finish with another rhetorical question: Was McCallister pushed before he jumped?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty