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McCrea campaign press conference at Merchant Hotel

Basil McCrea's leadership launch at the Merchant Hotel (h/t to the News Letter for pic)

Basil McCrea launched his leadership campaign this morning. I wasn’t unable to get along to it, but I called in with a few people to get their sense of how it went. Overall, the Elliott campaign should be worried – Basil was described as putting in an immense performance.

So as not to place individual superlatives under any duress, I’ll simply mention that the metaphor used by one observer involved Bruce Springsteen. In other words, Basil put in a star turn at the Merchant Hotel.

Reflecting on the event this morning, Chekov reckoned that ‘McCrea’s team is exuding confidence. If it has any basis in reality the leadership race could be a tight run thing’.

We know that Basil’s great at looking plausible (with the odd notable exception) and great at hitting the right pitch in his public statements (with the odd notable exception), but where was the vision behind today’s launch?

Well there are the (Blair-ish) five pledges. According to Chekov at Three Thousand Versts, they are:

  • McCrea will not take a ministerial portfolio, instead devoting all his energies to rebuilding the UUP.
  • McCrea vows to make education the first choice ministry for the UUP
  • McCrea pledges not to form electoral pacts, with the DUP, or anyone else
  • All party MLAs will face a vote of confidence from party members at the end of the year, if he wins the race
  • Finally, McCrea pledges to remove the party officer team and compel elected representatives to attend executive meetings.

Here’s the media response to his launch. The headline on Mark Devenport’s blog captures the contest as the McCrea would like to see it: ‘McCrea versus the cabal

The next round in the leadership roadshows takes place in East Belfast tomorrow night. This is the perfect opportunity for the Tom Elliott campaign to hit Basil before he builds up more momentum. And with the contest increasingly deteriorating into a slanging match, I expect fireworks.

PS. I’m waiting for an emailable version of the speech to be sent across to me now. I’ll post this up as soon as possible.

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Filed under: UUP leadership election, ,

6 Responses

  1. slug says:

    Tom Elliott’s anti-GAA and anti-GAY comments have left me dismayed. He is no progressive-despite what he claims.

    Let me also add that they were part of a *personal* attack on McCrea, because he said that “unlike other UUP members” he would not attend gay or GAA events, just days after McCrea had. For Elliott to then complain about personal attacks, in this context, is to try and have it both ways.

  2. Progressive Unionist says:

    Basil’s got the big momentum now – his idea of an inclusive, forward-looking Unionism that embraces pro-Union Catholics and others (GAA players, LGB voters…) can reinvigorate Unionism and ensure the pro-Union cause breaks out from its 45-50%-ish hardcore to build a solid, long-term, pro-Union coalition of 60-65% to ensure Northern Ireland’s future in the Union.

    Basil’s says no pacts with the DUP, no pacts with the Tories – just an independent confident party standing for what it believes in.

    (and why would anyone, anywhere, ever vote for anything other than an independent confident party standing for what it believes in?)

    The UUP will be strong again, it will stand on the centre-ground, it will welcome Catholics, it will welcome GAA players, it will welcome gay people and it will build support for the Union across Northern Ireland’s centre ground – and it will thereby secure NI’s future in the Union.

  3. Ulster Unionist member says:

    That is an excellent picture, however the one factor which puts Tom Elliott head and shoulders above Basil is that he has obviously the people skills needed to get on with his colleagues which is vital in politics.

    That picture brutally illustrates how few friends McCrea has within the Party.

    I really like Basil, but until he stops falling out with his own shadow then I’m afraid he’ll never be leader.

    • slug says:

      Tom is probably a nice guy – I don’t know him and I have approached this with an open mind about him. But I’ve been underwhelmed by his ability to speak and think; his contributions are very defensive and lack imagination. His main plank of stopping a SF first minister, by getting the government to do so, was a combination of negativism, delusion, and defeatism. He does not present me with anything positive. His comments about not going to GAA or Gay events, again a negative attitude…and a wiser person would realise it is not something that it is wise to say (as his disastrous attempt to defend it on Nolan last Friday demonstrated).

  4. Drumlin Rock says:

    can someone put names to the faces? was wondering who the former UFU president was.

  5. Anon says:

    Lets reach out to Catholic voters. Anyone spot the convicted UVF murderer in the line up?

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