Monday, 30 August 2010

McCrea is the candidate capable of delivering change.

With the much touted 'third man' failing to emerge in the UUP leadership contest, it now appears that the line-up will be Elliott vs. McCrea.  In the Belfast Telegraph Alex Kane penned a gloomy piece which suggests that neither candidate is capable of holding together the Ulster Unionist 'coalition'.  

It is true that the party's prognosis is grim, whoever takes charge.  Sir Reg Empey has to take responsibility for UCUNF's failure, but at least he made a serious attempt to carve out a new role for the UUP in unionist politics.  Neither candidate, so far, has articulated anywhere near so radical a plan for the party's future.

If, however, the leader is to be either Basil McCrea or Tom Elliott, only McCrea can offer anything which comes close to a prospectus for change.  Elliott has styled himself as the consensus candidate, but he cannot hide the fact that he represents the more traditional wing of the party and its values.

Of course there is no guarantee that McCrea can appeal to new voters and expand unionism's appeal beyond its historical base either but at least he intends to try.  Elliott can only hope to shore up the party's existing supporters and target an improvement in its former heartlands.  

The UUP has to grasp, once and for all, how serious its position is.  This leadership election represents a gamble - whether to 'stick or twist'.  Elliott might be able to manage the party's decline, deliver 14-15 MLAs and a decent representation in local councils.  The Ulster Unionists can be a junior, politer partner of the DUP in the future under Elliott.  

McCrea can, if he shows determination, deliver a party with a modern sensibility and a genuinely moderate unionist ethos.  He won't guarantee an immediate revival at the polling booth, but he does offer a different style of unionism.  

The question is, has the UUP reached rock bottom, or does it need to fall even further? 


rutherford said...

Interesting question in conclusion.

The other is that assuming the wider UUP franchise realises it if/when it does hit the bottom, will it have the nous to change (or rather, take) direction?

Will people within carry on with tradition for tradition sake?

Where the UUP a properly functioning political dynamic surely the need for radical change would have been grasped from within by now?

slug said...

"Alex Kane penned a gloomy piece"

You don't say?

slug said...

I think your piece sums up the problem - there really isn't much substantial debate going on between the two in any public place for us to really compare the two. So while I sense McCrea might be better in terms of civic unionism I am not really certain he is best.

McCrea seems cooler on the Conservative link than Elliott - who says he wants to retain it in a form that gives the UUP a bit more autonomy. Wouldn't that factor into your analysis Chekov?

Anonymous said...

Chekov, what is the purpose of all this change? to reach out to the mythical "garden centre prods" ? they barely exist and in the few cases that do they will never vote, or is it to win over "catholic Unionist" ? a laudable aim but even the most generous analysis would place any gain as minimal.
So where have the UUP voters gone? overwhelmingly to the DUP, where many of them aren't that happy, but don't see a strong viable alternative in the UUP as yet and certainly dont want TUV politics, they are traditional voters who like things told straight but are sick of DUP hipocracy.
Under Tom Elliott we can win many of them back, and I believe can also reach out to the biggest group of non voters, the "working class" who often voted DUP because they liked the down to earth straight talking Paisley, even if they hated much of his right wing policy. With the DUPs change many have drifted away, and just dont vote, they will only come out and vote if it is clear who they are voting for, slick media performances don't mean a jot to them, they prefer black and white.

Aaron said...

I agree with the statement, Basil offers the only positive way forward. Elliott I think is misguided by some sort of old fashioned thinking that would have made him leader 50 years ago no doubt. I do wonder the change in tact from him in recent weeks on a number of issues seems to be a copy of the stand McCrea had taken. I believe the we have to attract back the voters we have lost in the last 10 years or so, if we dont the UUP is doomed. Elliott will not be able to do this as the people turned away because we were not offering anything new. We need strong leadership to take we forward not back. That is why Basil is the best choice for leader.

Chekov said...

Slug - I have taken into account Elliott's view, but it backtracks too much for my liking. He wants, essentially, the Conservatives to sponsor the UUP's independent electoral adventures and it seems unlikely that they will accept that. It would certainly be a huge set-back to the 'normalising' aspect of the CUs. Anon - I certainly don't believe that aping the DUP is a solution, nor do believe that voters are looking for more of the same to inspire them to the polls.

Anonymous said...


You obviously don't know Basil.

Chekov said...

Meaning what? We'll not be having any more gnomic anonymous comments. Say what you mean and use a handle or keep quiet.

DR said...

Chekov, cant understand why your supporting Basil's policy of ditching any connection with the Conservatives completely, and you seem to imply Tom just wants to keep the connection for the sake of money! He supports working closely with them at Westminister (where we still have Lords btw) and Europe in particular, but believes the UUP should retain its own identity in NI in particular. I dont think he is the type to write party policy around campaign funding.

Chekov said...

I didn't mention money DR. Sponsorship includes anything from finance to support for candidates. To be very clear I don't support any policy to sever the Tory connection, but neither do I believe that a watered down link, which stops short of national politics in NI, is tenable. I accept that UCUNF is dead and while I regret its passing, I don't believe that either candidate is putting forward a realistic plan to replace it with something equivalent.

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