A blow for Basil as Lagan Valley NI21 Executive hand in their badges + NI21’s QUB Exec too

Basil McCrea will once again be without an effective constituency organisation in Lagan Valley. This evening the executive of his local NI21 constituency group have all resigned from the faltering party. [David Cairns, chair of the LV Exec remains.]

It’s a pretty bad show of confidence when the party leader’s local group desert him … though given the lack of meaningful communication during the drawn out crisis, it is hardly surprising.

Local NI21 councillor Johnny McCarthy wasn’t on the Lagan Valley Exec, and remains a member of the party’s central Executive. [Ed – at least he was last time you checked!]

And it sounds like the party may have further problems in the weeks ahead with a TV investigation underway into another aspect of its running.

Update – And now I’m out of a mobile notspot, looks like the party’s QUB Exec have thrown in the towel too …

ni21 qub exec resign

Yet while the party structure implodes, the party – which no doubt has debts as well as some members committed to the cause and the brand – will have to remain in place.


  • Joe_Hoggs

    This is very much a non story due to the fact that the population of NI have already rejected NI21.

  • I am intrigued by one aspect…in a general way.. Debts incurred by a political party?
    Do members or former members have any liability?
    If a political party has 5,000 members and a manageable debt of £10,000….there is hardly a problm.
    If it has 10 members and £10,000 debt, then surely its a problem.

    Can people just “walk away”?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Who would the debts be to and how big are they?

    I was of the view that only John and Basil would be liable for the debts?

  • Matt.B

    @John Mooney

    The members are no responsible for party debts only debts they may have incurred through their own activities. Legally speaking it is the treasurer that is responsible for any party debt although there maybe some limited responsibility and if it ended up in court then the leadership might well end up with the liability. Not 100% sure about where the responsibility ends up with but I am 100% certain it is NOT the members.

  • Framer

    NI21 represents something, having received nearly 11,000 votes despite its public meltdown. Checking the transfers it seems the large majority of those votes were from Catholics who probably see themselves as Northern Irish. People who want to stay in the UK but aren’t unionists. They still need a political vehicle.

  • sergiogiorgio


    Cos the wheels have definitely fallen of the last crowd…

  • Comrade Stalin


    It’s a very interesting question. Deposits lost in elections are technically payable by the candidate’s agent. It seems unlikely that the party will have been loaned any serious money, but it depends whose signature is on any credit agreement.

  • Well, I daresay that most candidates knew that they were losing a deposit. Its an occupational hazard.
    And Id assume that most candidates had adequate funding for printing, advertisements etc Most candidates in most parties surely expect that an election is expensive and they wont be bailed out by a Party HQ.
    But NI21 candidates might feel that an expenditure of (say) £ 500 wasnt worth it….not just because they were not elected …but because they were severely let down.

    But what I am getting at is….can a political party rise phoenix like under a new identity. Just like that.
    Rather like a rogue trading plumber investigated by Watchdog re-surfaces under a new name.

    People claiming that “the dream lives on” with NI21 just dont seem to get it. Or maybe I dont.

  • mjh

    “NI21 ….received nearly 11,000 votes despite its public meltdown. Checking the transfers it seems the large majority of those votes were from Catholics who probably see themselves as Northern Irish.” – Framer

    Don’t know how you get that from the transfers, Framer. In the LG elections NI21 transfers went;
    Alliance 41%, Green 6%
    UUP 12%, DUP 11%, other unionist parties 7%
    SDLP 6%, SF 1%
    Independents 1%
    Non transferable 14%

  • John,

    It has been said that, if you owe the bank 1000 pounds and can’t repay it, you have a problem but if you owe them 100,000 pounds, it’s the bank that has a problem.

  • Framer

    MJH – I was looking at the transfers in the Euro election. Admittedly the Green and NI21 votes were lumped together. Alliance got 8661, SDLP 3182 and the four unionists 5807 (4248 non-transferable). In other words a supposedly unionist party only transferred a quarter of its votes to other unionists. You calculate 30% in the LG elections which is similar. From these figures I deduce my assertion that it was much more a Catholic vote. This would also explain the rush to re-designate.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Actually, at least in Alliance, the party centrally foots the costs of printing and advertising, and meeting deposits – not the candidates. Not least because when these things are negotiated centrally with printers there are opportunities to secure bulk discounts etc.

    I think all parties require that sitting representatives earning a salary pay a stipend into the party centrally of course, so indirectly they are paying their own election expenses anyway.

    As for NI21 and the dream living on .. well, no. The brand is fundamentally compromised. While their activists are a bunch of very nice and well intentioned people with whom I would very happily share a pint and agree on almost everything, I don’t think they have the experience or tactical knowledge to make a real impact in an election.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Framer – I think NI21’s non-sectarian/non-tribal message was much stronger than its pro-union message, which among other things was the reason why Basil felt they could easily discard this aspect of their policy at short notice before the election.

  • Comrade Stalin,
    thanks for that. I think that would certainly be the case with most parties and established councillors-candidates.
    The dynamic within a new unestablished party might well be different.
    If it was organised centrally using party funds, surely NI21 would not have fielded so many candidates.

  • mjh


    Thanks for your reply.

    You rightly say that only 30% of NI21 voters transferred to unionist parties. From this you conclude that the “large majority” of the party’s voters were “Catholics who probably see themselves as Northern Irish”.

    To arrive at this conclusion you are making the assumption that those NI21 voters who transferred to Alliance and Green, or who did not transfer at all, were predominately Catholic. But that is an assumption that you cannot derive from the transfers.

  • Framer,

    I was about to make the same comment as mjh. It’s probably fair to say that most of the 30% of NI21 voters who transferred to Unionist parties in the local elections, and the 29% who transferred Unionist in the Euro election, would likely have identified themselves as Protestants (noting also that that the latter figure includes transfers from the Greens). But we really have no information about the religious background of the others, let alone about their preferred self-identificaion.

    If you start by assuming that all non-Unionist voters are Catholics, and then go on to assume that they divide neatly into those who call themselves Irish and vote Nationalist vs those who call themselves Northern Irish and vote for something else, you probably won’t get very far other than to desperately assemble bits of data that support your assumption.

    For what it’s worth, I bet that NI21 pulled in a disproportionate number of the None/Others category in the census, who amount to 12% in the new North Down and Ards council, and 9% in Belfast and the other two adjoining new councils, ie considerably more than NI21 actually got. Their voting behaviour will be much less predictable than that of perceived Catholics or Protestants, and they should not be treated as a ‘bloc’, but we cannot ignore them.


    I agree with your conclusion. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was little financial support for candidates’ campaigns from NI21 centrally. This is one of the many aspects of the whole affair that I find baffling. From the very first day of the party’s existence, there needed to be aggressive fund-raising for a war chest to fight this year’s elections, and as Comrade Stalin points out there should be central planning for printing etc, partly for the reason he gives of bulk discounts, but also, to be honest, for political quality control of the contents. It sounds like one NI21 candidate at least was hand-photocopying her own materials. The mind boggles.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nick, absolutely, I hadn’t thought of the point about controlling the political message centrally to keep it consistent, which is very important.

    I think NI21 simply were not organized to fund and run an election, and ended up relying to a significant extent on the resources of Tina McKenzie, who most likely fronted the vast bulk of the cash spent in the campaign. Most of the time they appeared to be winging it. I also heard rumours that when they held their party conference at the Europa, a whip-round was held at the end to raise funds to pay for the room where the event was held.

    Tina’s departure from politics and her publicly expressed disappointment at the turn of events in NI21 suggests that further financial support is unlikely to be forthcoming, which naturally puts the party in an extremely precarious position.

  • Framer

    Nicholas/MJH – What then do you say about the significance of the Alliance transfers (many being ex-NI21) after Anna Lo was eliminated when hardly 20% went to unionist candidates?
    DUP + 3,218.37 (5.8%)
    SDLP + 24,675.48 (44.6%)
    UUP +6,959.22 (12.6%)
    TUV +1,582.78 (2.9%)
    Non-transferable18,910.8 (34.2%)
    Nearly 80% of Alliance transfers therefore did not go to unionists and twice as many nearly half went to nationalism than went to unionism.
    Either NI21 and Alliance receive more Catholic votes than presumed or Alliance Protestants can no longer bring themselves to vote for Unionists – unlike their Catholic counterparts who still can transfer on to a nationalist.

  • Framer,

    I am not starting from the same presumptions that you are. It’s always been clear to those who care to look at the evidence that Alliance in general attracts almost as many perceived Catholic voters as it does Protestants, so it is hardly surprising that the SDLP have always had a decent share of Alliance transfers. But of course Alliance also gets a disproportionate cut of the None/Others – its strongest areas are precisely where they are most numerous. So any analysis that starts by trying to divide Alliance voters into just Catholics and Protestants is flawed.

    Having said that, we come out in a similar place. I agree that the low rate of European election transfers from Alliance to Unionists, especially to the UUP, is remarkable. It is also a change of behaviour. The 2014 election was the moment when it became clear that the UUP are no longer a moderate alternative to the DUP, so a lot of Alliance voters, both Catholic and Protestant, who might have given them a lower preference in the past to keep out the hardliners, will not have seen the point in doing so this time. Indeed, considering that this was the UUP’s worst European result ever, one wonders how many former UUP voters may have applied the same reasoning.

    On the other side of the equation, bear in mind also that this was Alliance’s best European result, and the SDLP’s worst result ever. While some of those 24,675 transfers will have been from people who would previously have voted 1 Alliance 2 UUP (see previous para), a fair chunk were likely former habitual SDLP voters who decided they would prefer to put Anna Lo ahead of Alex Attwood this time. Now that they have broken their previous habits, their votes must be considered up for grabs in future. But you should not start by considering them as typical Alliance voters.

  • mjh

    That’s a very interesting question, Framer.

    The transfers from Alliance in the Euros are not inconsistent with your hypothesis. The trouble is that the NI21 element is less than a fifth of the total – so more or less any hypothesis about the make up of NI21 voters would be mathematically consistent with the results. That is why I suggest that the LG transfers from NI21 are more reliable.

    As to what I think about the Alliance Euro transfers I would only add one thing to Nicholas’s remarks. I am about two thirds of the way through an analysis of the LG transfers. So far I’m not seeing the same large difference in Alliance transfers to unionists and nationalists that you point to in the Euros. Totalling the DEA’s I have completed, the percentage of Alliance transfers to both types of candidate is not widely dissimilar. I’d be cautious about drawing any conclusions until I’ve finished. But it maybe that the answer to your question will prove even more complex.

  • Extrapolating general conclusions about the Alliance electorate based on either Euro elections or Westminster elections is very risky because so many Alliance voters will vote for other parties’ candidates because they don’t believe that an Alliance candidate has a realistic chance of winning in these elections. And outside of East Belfast they’d be right.