Friday, 6 August 2010

The third man? The UUP's mystery leadership hopeful.

The News Letter reports this morning that Sir Reg Empey is to step down within ten days, in order to let the UUP’s leadership battle begin in earnest.  Other contenders can then officially join Tom Elliott MLA, the only hopeful who has openly declared an intention to stand, in a contest which will culminate in a vote, open to all party members, scheduled for the 23rd September (or the 24th if you prefer to believe the BBC).

Certainly Basil McCrea will break cover and add his name to the race, once the formalities are taken care of.  Behind the scenes, his campaign is already cranking into gear.  He offers a liberal alternative to Tom Elliott’s traditional Orange credentials.  McCrea is known as a pragmatist who is happy to reach out across community boundaries and he is perhaps the party’s most polished media performer.

There is a perception, however, that the Lagan Valley MLA’s ’bottom line’ - the detail of what he stands for and the fundamentals of his political philosophy - is not known.  He needs to put ’meat on the bones’ if his challenge is to become fully formed.  Otherwise he will remain a 'least worst' option for members who are wary of Elliott’s Orange background, his Fermanagh location and his sympathy for ’unionist unity’.

There is also the intriguing suggestion that more contenders might come forward, after Empey steps down.  Alex Kane mentions, in his News Letter column, ’a potential candidate’ who is hostile to the Conservative pact.  At Devenport’s Diaries, blogsitter Martina Purdy,  dismisses several names who have been linked to the leadership contest.

Alan McFarland, whose attendance at the Assembly has dropped away dramatically since he became an independent, is understood not to be interested in a comeback and a second tilt at the position.  Jim Nicholson is UCUNF’s only successful candidate so far and has cooperated with Conservative colleagues in Brussels for years.  Even if he were interested, he could hardly be the figure Kane is describing.  Likewise Tim Lemon, who backed the Tory pact, and made an unsuccessful bit to unseat party chairman, David Campbell.

So the identity of the anti-Conservative candidate remains a mystery.  A McGimpsey or even a Hermon, perhaps?  The News Letter adds grist to the rumour mill by suggesting that the contender might be unelected.

An unelected but influential figure, sceptical about the current Tory party leadership and convinced that UCUNF is ’dead as Monty Python’s parrot’?  Who does that sound most like, I wonder?


Uncle Larry said...

Alex Kane running?

Deary me.

There's already one Eeyore in the race.

Timothy Belmont said...

Chekov, I'm open-minded about the UUP Leadership election. Who would you prefer to lead the Party; and who do you think might become the eventual leader?

Chekov said...

I'm not certain as yet Tim. I'll have to wait to see who declares. My instinct is that Elliott would not be a good choice.

michaelhenry said...

are the u.u.p back to the u.u.p again, or is this just for the local and assemply elections, the locals in march could tell a story for the assemply elections, come may, 2011 should be an interesting year for any political buffs,

tom elliott mla, as u.u.p leader would mean no more unionist pact in fermanagh south tyrone, not that the last one was any good,
i know sir reg switched over to another consitituency at the westminister elections, but fermanagh south tyrone is a different scenario, tom elliot will be a different leader, that will be the death of any unionist pack,

being media savy is basil mcCreas middle name, but this will cut no ice come the leadership vote,

the elliott V mcCrea u.u.p show down,
don't think that any mystery candidate will be in the last mix,
i could have been a contender, says the rest.

elliott will win, does not mean that the u.u.p will win,
time for the u.u.p to take a chance
to change,
elliott could end up leader of the lost,
not a bad campaign slogan for basil mcCrea- A CHANCE FOR CHANGE,
maybe to much obama, but obama won.

Anonymous said...

I thought Alex Kane had said he was no longer a member of the UUP. Hard to run if he isn't a member.

Dilettante said...

I'll be taking your lead on this one, Chekov. Although sadly there won't be an integrationist candidate, whoever is most in favour of normal politics and 'unionist pluralism' is the candidate for me.

Anonymous said...

Kane has denied it is him in today's news letter

Chekov said...

So I read.