Nesbitt’s task is to discover a real purpose for the UUP. But will they let him?

Even the scale of Mike Nesbitt’s victory surprised some of his supporters. Slugger understands they were already confident of a 60-40 margin, but 81-19 was a resounding victory. He should not have any of the problems of his predecessor. Indeed, the major theme his acceptance speech was that party loyalty is a two way affair. He avoided the cock up of Alasdair McDonnell’s SDLP leadership, though in that regard Tom Elliott’s hasty exit meant there was no big media occasion … Read more

UUP Leadership – Mike Nesbitt’s pitch (and an interview) plus what John McCallister said

UUP AGM ballot boxes

81% of the UUP members gathered at the Ramada Hotel this morning voted for Mike Nesbitt to be leader. 19% voted for John McCallister. The result can be interpreted in a number of ways. It’s certainly a clear endorsement for Mike Nesbitt as leader, and the party didn’t shy away from a “fast track” leader. It can also be seen as a clear rejection of going into opposition immediately, though some members go further and say it’s a rejection of … Read more

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 … Read more

A bold step? Or just more of the same better communicated? An interview with John McCallister and some thoughts on Mike Nesbitt.

I spoke to John McCallister on Monday evening after the close of a Platform for Change event looking at a change “from the politics of identity to the politics of ideas”. I view it very simply that we don’t have many more chances to get this right. We either do the unionist unity route which I’m very opposed to – I think it’s bad for Northern Ireland, bad for unionism, just an unhealthy state in our politics and we would … Read more

Kennedy’s out; will McCallister stay in the race to fight a confident Nesbitt?

When I bumped into Mike Nesbitt at an event last night, he looked very confident when he said “I’m going to be leader”. This morning, Danny Kennedy has withdrawn from the race and not submitted his papers, leaving John McCallister and Mike Nesbitt as the two declared candidates. During Tom Elliott’s own leadership campaign, Mike Nesbitt was at Tom’s side and remained fiercely loyal throughout Tom’s reign. That should work to his favour in the event of a leadership vote … Read more

Danny Kennedy is *no longer* the bookie’s 1/2 favourite … (updated)

Update – So by the time Paddy Power stopped taking bets, Nesbitt was the favourite, ahead of Kennedy, which at least points to confidence within the betting community (how many of them are UUP members?) of Nesbitt’s chances of success. Perhaps the background talk of Danny Kennedy pulling out of the race and backing Mike Nesbitt in exchange for keeping his ministry are not so far fetched … As the evening wore on, the odds changed Thursday 15th… 18:45 – … Read more

Can the new UUP leader put an end to the party’s inexorable drift?

Liam Clarke in the BelTel, frames the leadership contest within the UUP: In its heyday the UUP was the party of the Union. Later it became, with the SDLP, a party of the peace process. Since then it has struggled to define a new role for itself and support has drifted away. It has flirted with the Tories, the DUP, and the SDLP and before that the PUP as it sought allies to halt its decline. At each stage it … Read more

Mike Nesbitt: “I am entirely sceptical about what would motivate [DUP] to call for co-operation beyond self-interest”

Mike Nesbitt raced out of the pit lane and formally announced his bid for UUP leadership this morning as Rodney has already mentioned. Press conference observers noted the presence of antique expert and MLA Danny Kinahan who had previously declared a preference for Danny Kennedy when the field was narrower. Mike’s statement may end up as a good template for the other candidates to follow when they make their pitch over the coming days. Praise the previous leader. Tom was … Read more

Tom Elliott hands the poisoned chalice on

As referred to extensively below Tom Elliott has announced his decision to step down as UUP leader and Danny Kennedy has now announced his decision to stand. There has been much analysis both in the press and in blogs about the decision: as ever the best to my mind is Alex Kane’s in the News Letter. Tom Elliott was elected by a considerable margin over Basil McCrea even if one leaves out the votes from Fermanagh. At the time I … Read more

Thoughts on the UUP leadership

One of the less kind texters to Good Morning Ulster on the day after Tom Elliott’s election described him as a non entity leader. It calls to mind that Churchill is reported to have said of Clement Attlee (though he denied it vehemently): “An empty taxi drew up outside 10 Downing Street and Clement Attlee got out of it.” Tom Elliott seems a modest man, again a denied Churchill quote about Attlee: “A modest man, but then he has so … Read more

Tom Elliott (updated with video of press conference)

Tom Elliott, UUP

Tom Elliott has won with a comfortable majority. His supporters will be travelling back home to Fermanagh with a feeling of contentment that it was a job well done. Basil and his supporters can take some comfort from his 31.4% share of the vote, which was in his zone of acceptability. The campaign highlighted the need for the UUP to take their brake off and shift out of reverse. Basil’s supporters will be desperately hoping that the party machine doesn’t … Read more

Elliott & McCrea – odds are that one of them will be elected

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A Pint of Unionist Lite notes that Paddy Power’s odds on the UUP leadership race have been changing. Tom Elliott was once “as short as 1/5 to win, whereas McCrea was the rankest of outsiders in a two horse race at 3/1”. This morning, the gap between the two horses candidates had narrowed to Tom Elliott: 4/11 Basil McCrea: 15/8 As part of their coverage of the second largest unionist party’s vacancy-filling process, the Newsletter set the two candidates some … Read more

Sir Reg won’t be voting for the next UUP leader

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Sir Reg Empey is over in New York this week wearing his Minister for Employment and Learning hat. A BBC online news article explains: Sir Reg’s itinerary this week includes a gathering of world leaders and a magazine event honouring the top 50 Irish-Americans working in finance … will visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic institute set up by the software billionaire … attend a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was formed in 2005 to … Read more

UUP leadership interviews – videos, wrap up and getting off the fence

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As I mentioned in the first post in this series, I’m not a member of the UUP, nor any other political party. So I’ve no vote next week when the members gather to elect their new leader. (They’re meeting to vote at the Waterfront Hall. Postal voting was too expensive to organise … and voting online like many of us do for union ballots and shareholder AGMs wasn’t put in place.) In deciding to interview the two candidates I deliberately … Read more

UUP leadership interviews – wider plans, that education pledge, and the public/private sector

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Having so far looked at matters internal to the UUP, I thought it would be interesting to get the candidates’ perspectives on how their leadership would impact and benefit wider society, outside the party. Basil McCrea wants the UUP to better support the kind of politics he believes the public desire. [McCrea] I think the people have moved on a lot faster perhaps than our political class. There is a thirst out there for more progressive, more modern type of … Read more

UUP leadership interviews – restoring unity after a divisive campaign

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Both candidates agreed that the leadership campaign has been divisive. But what would they do to restore unity after the result? [Elliott] At stages it has been divisive. Clearly we’re all big people. We’re in politics so we have to move on. In past times I have differed with other Ulster Unionist Party leaders. But I’m still in the party, clearly because I accepted the will of the majority. [McCrea] It certainly turned into a more divisive and a more … Read more

UUP leadership interviews – making a difference inside the party as leader

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Given that it’s a leadership election (and not a beauty contest) it seemed wise to ask the two UUP contenders about the difference they hoped to make as party leader. First up was Basil McCrea who is very much running as the outsider, anti-establishment candidate, making a virtue of the fact that most of the big names in the party machine aren’t supporting him. [McCrea] Well first of all, I thought long and hard before I went into the leadership … Read more

UUP leadership interviews – leadership pitches and the Tory link-up

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For the second post in this short series based on interviews with UUP leadership candidates Tom Elliott and Basil McCrea I take a look at their leadership pitches and their opinions on the UCUNF link-up. Asked for his 60 second leadership pitch, Basil launched into an analysis of past failure and the need for change, describing the type of party be wanted to lead. [McCrea] The party needs change, needs rapid change. We’ve had a number of pretty disappointing electoral … Read more

UUP leadership interviews – Tom’s U-turn on engagement

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There’ll be a series of posts over the next day or so reflecting on Basil McCrea and Tom Elliott as they bid for the leadership of the UUP. Both candidates agreed to be interviewed on camera (videos now available) over the last few days and answered a fairly consistent set of questions to see how that would tease out their different personalities, policies and ideas for taking the UUP forwards. They talked about their leadership pitches, the Tory link-up, changes … Read more