Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Basil McCrea’s launch speech in full

Here’s the full text of Basil McCrea’s speech. I’ve also uploaded a word doc version onto the widget in the sidebar as well…

Speech to the Media at campaign launch Basil McCrea MLA

Good morning everybody and thank you for taking the time to come to what is the start of a new era in the political dynamic of Northern Ireland.

Some of you will wonder why I have chosen the Merchant Hotel to launch my manifesto.

My opponent suspects it is because I want to be hi brow, perhaps even middle class.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Today you will hear from people from the business community, trade unions and my colleagues.

What makes this place special is that offers excellent training.  It is at the very pinnacle of its profession.

Bill Wosley as the proprietor is committed to sending his managers to the very best hotels in the world. His staff is recruited from some of the most socially disadvantaged areas of our province. He trains them to the highest standards of service.  So good is his training that world class hotels now send their staff to him. The hotel represents a huge financial investment with no support from government at time when the economic conditions are terrible.

From the roof top you can see the investment that is going into Belfast and shows us what can be done.

The business of government is to make it easy for business to do business. We have too few people in our Assembly that really understand what is required to bring jobs and investment to Northern Ireland.

Too few people understand the strains and the risks and the importance of time lines.

The dependency culture that has sadly been ingrained into far too many facets of local life over the last four decades has left us with an unwanted legacy.

It makes no distinction between those without work, those that feel there is no relevance in work and those unable to grasp the complexities of being responsible for creating employment.

I can speak, unlike the majority of others in the present Assembly, on the inter-twined world of business and job creation.

Around 2000 I returned to Northern Ireland having worked in hi tech start ups around the world.  I knew about the Internet and broadband.  I set up a company in Ballyclare funded by my colleague John Coburn.

We employed over forty people for three years on a research and development basis.

One fateful day, the government announced a competition to bring broadband to the whole of Northern Ireland.  They offered the sum of £18.9 million pounds to encourage such a process.  Of course we didn’t get through the procurement process.  We were after all small, local and innovative, but we preserved and eventually emerged as one of three preferred bidders in a consortium with other world class companies.

Despite our technical expertise and the quality of our international partners we didn’t win the bid.  BT reduced their requirement to £8.9 million pounds. I stand before you as a man that saved the tax payer £10million pounds.

It was at the cost of my own business initiative. But it highlights that under the current circumstances it is still impossible to compete with the biggest taxpayer funded company in the country.

It underlines that there is a very real problem with procurement in this province, one that stifles initiative.

Latter of course, I was to reform the Northern Ireland Manufacturing group to campaign on the issue of industrial de-rating.  It was a massive campaign which in the end saved industry in the region of £25 million pounds per annum.

On a human scale the benefits were enormous in terms of the jobs that were protected and saved.

One of the reasons I want to be in politics is to remove the dead hand of the civil service. We need to encourage business, risk taking and entrepreneurial activity.

There is a huge opportunity in Northern Ireland but we must empower our entrepreneurs, we must remove red tape.

We must drive down regulatory costs.  We must make it a good place to do business.

The biggest challenge for Northern Ireland is that for every graduate job there are over 70 applicants.  We train wonderful teachers and the ship them off to England and Scotland and Wales.

The UUP that I will lead will be unashamedly pro business but it will be more than that.  It will create the conditions that bring investment.  It will be positive, proactive and professional.

It will be determined to make Northern Ireland work for all of the people.   It will be committed to the Assembly, with all its faults, determined to make it work whatever the tribulations.

Politics will be seen under the new brand of Ulster Unionism to deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland.

Of course there are other things that I want to do but that is for another day.   I turn now to what my leadership will mean for the UUP.

All potential leaders will offer their vision but is it deliverable, and how will it be achieved?

As many of you are aware, I did not enter this race as favourite.  My opponent is unquestionably the establishment choice, supported by the majority of my MLA colleagues and senior party officers.

But I have made it my business to speak to our grass roots at meetings up and down the country.  I have listened to what they have to say.  I have been impressed by the way in which they have approached these meetings.

They have been open minded, fair and considered.  We have tackled some really tough questions but we are all the better for it.

Some of you will wonder what goes on at these meetings.  I believe in being open and transparent. There is nothing that I will say at these meetings that I will not say in public.

Today, I will use this opportunity to set out what I will do.  What will set me apart from my opponent, what will set my party apart from the opposition and throw out to my opponent a challenge to debate in public on the way forward for the party.

I make five pledges to the Ulster Unionist Party.


Pledge 1 – No ministry until party success assured

I intend to lead the party on the basis that the leader of the UUP will be the First Minister.  Until this goal is achieved I will not accept any other ministry.  I will review this commitment after the next Westminster elections.  I am determined to turn this party around.  I am confident that the electorate will respond to a new political dynamic but we must offer them a viable alternative. The focus for any new leader must be the party.

Pledge 2 – The UUP will take the Education Ministry as first choice

The foundation of any value added economy is education and training. Education is the only enduring competitive edge and it is the route out of poverty. It is the basis of social mobility.  There is educational underachievement but this is more to do about social disadvantage than poor schools.  I believe in the quality of our schools and our teachers.

The party will fight the next Assembly elections on the basis of Vote for the UUP, is a vote to remove Ruane. We will remove the possibility of Caitriona Ruane doing yet more damage to education system.  No other issue, no other Minister arouses more anger in our electorate.  This minister must go.

Pledge 3 – No electoral pacts with the DUP or anybody else

We must convince those that no longer vote that there is something to vote for.

We cannot sustain a political diet of more of the same.  We must reach out to those from non traditional backgrounds and convince them that our policies offer something for everybody.  We must be clear in our message, resolute in our delivery and committed to fighting for what we believe in.   We will stand on our own two feet, we will offer our own policies, we will select our own candidates.  We will stand as the Ulster Unionist Party, with 100 years of heritage behind us, a non sectarian pro Union business orientated party for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Pledge – 4 All MLAs will face a vote of confidence at the end of each year.

All members will be given an opportunity to express satisfaction of all UUP MLAs by secret ballot.  The results will be made public.  Our Assembly members are the public face of the party, they must turn up for work, they must do what is expected of them and party members must be given the tools to hold them to account.

Pledge – 5 Discipline robustly enforced.

There are too many organs of the party.  The party officer team will go.  The executive will be revamped to include all MLAs. Attendance at executive meetings for elected representatives will be compulsory. Streamlined communications and direct contact will enable the executive to hold the Assembly team to account.


These are radical proposals. They are built around my determination to instil confidence, transparency and accountability at the very heart of Ulster Unionism.

They are designed to make the party return to its position at the centre of politics in Northern Ireland.

The people of this province deserve a party willing and able of working for everyone in our society not one composed of self interests.

We have been dogged by would be leaders, should have been leaders, behind the scenes leaders, unelected leaders and “responsible to no-one” leaders.

Our message to the public has been blocked by too many voices and too many self promotional messages.  Effective discipline has become irrelevant. The personal agenda of mixed message being sent out by individuals has been allowed to take precedence over the wellbeing of the party.   Under my leadership, however hard it may be for some to accept, the era of generating conflict for personal gain will come to an abrupt end.

The cabal of cronies that believe they have some sort of Divine Right to treat the Executive of our party as an irrelevant side show will no longer be tolerated.

There will be firm direction. There will be fair and open leadership with accountability; it will be a radically new party where talent and commitment will not only be acknowledged but valued and encouraged. It will be a party where the real voice of the membership will be heard.


I do not underestimate the challenge facing me in my attempt to win the leadership of the party, nor the task facing the party in the run up to the next election, but I am convinced that the members of the party and the people of Northern Ireland are looking for change, real change.

The people of Northern Ireland want to see a party of courage and conviction, a party that will work for all the people of Northern Ireland, a party that is emphatically pro union, pro business, pro devolution.  A positive, pluralist and progressive party.

Under my leadership the Ulster Unionist Party will be such a party and under my leadership will once again provide the First Minister of Northern Ireland.


Filed under: UUP leadership election, ,

13 Responses

  1. slug says:

    There is certainly substance there. “A party that is emphatically pro union, pro business, pro devolution. A positive, pluralist and progressive party.” This is mainstream centre right-with a focus on buildign the private sector. The pledge not to serve as a minister, but to build the party, the pledge to take education , the pledge to stand as an independent party, all clear and substantial. And he is articulate-which is important in a leader.

    • thedissenter says:

      What I don’t understand is that the overall focus is on an agenda that is as much Conservative as the Conservatives – his opening paragraphs reflect much of what was in the CSJ report the other week. And therefore not to be prepared (apparently) to work with the Conservatives is not clever. Central Office has little interest now in NI with the election over, but retained contacts and a positive working relationship would provide important access at Ministerial level. As much of the spending in NI is actually defined in Westminster, this remains important.

      BTW the same applies to Tom from what I read, though Basil is more strident – though perhaps they would say that electoral pact aside a working relationship is entirely possible.

      • slug says:

        I think it reflects the reality that in NI a lot of people can’t look past the Conservative brand to mainstream centre right ideas. As the party has no Westminster representation its not an issue for the next while anyway.

      • slug says:

        I’m not sure that he wouldn’t work with the Conservatives – his statement was about electoral pacts. “The UUP will select its own candidates”. That’s about DUP too.

      • thedissenter says:

        Yes. The point only goes to electoral pact, but the language is aggressive and he seems to be burning bridges unnecessarily at this stage. Like I say, the door remains open to a ‘working relationship’ but Basil seems to have put a ‘beware’ sign up.

        The problem with the punchy speech is that it leaves unsaid (necessarily) as much as is said. Also, it hovers on the ‘current’ for media themes. No harm, but again it questions depth.

        Neither inspires, so these points are by way of general comment from a comms perspective.

  2. thedissenter says:

    Before commenting on the Basil speech I read the Tom Elliott speech. Other than style, the content is not substantialy different (order and presention). Basil is more punchy, while Tom is more thoughtful. Basil focuses on Party goals (it is a party election), while Tom on broader goals for party and country. Basil is fighting the ‘party’, while Tom is fighting for the party. Most of these are nuances, and could be argued both ways. Which suggests that ultimately it will be down to personality and trust – which one would you buy a used car from?

    • slug says:

      Tom does not communicate well-and when he does it comes across defensive and negative. He is I am sure a nice guy but what I have seen does not suggest someone who has the speed of thought to be impressive in a debate or tough interview.

      • Drumlin Rock says:

        Slug, I have to say Tom comes across much better in person, and is excellent when addressing a meeting, and dare I say when he says something he means it and will follow through with actions. As for being defensive and negative, the largest party in NI used that to get where they are now, he dosn’t like waffle so would rather think about the thing and get to the point. I guess that is one necessary but hateful political skill he will pick up if elected leader.

    • thedissenter says:

      Only ever heard Tom speak in a formal meeting environment once, and would have to say he was refreshingly honest (quite unexpectedly so as there were few votes in what he had to say in that particular audience). Perhaps it is time to shun the media maestros and get back to the basics?

      • slug says:

        By way of reply to DR and Dissenter I hope you are right, given he seems likely to win.

        I don’t know him and he was not someone who would stand out in terms of quality of his speeches to Assembly or his TV interviews. I have been struck by the negativity and defensiveness of his instincts in the few responses I have heard from him. His remark about having “to pull over into a laybye” at one of Basils remarks seemed truly bizarre and highly defesive. The GAA and Gay attitudes he has don’t go down well with me; but its a broader thing than just that-his instincts fit a pattern of defensive cultural/tribal unionism rather than civic. That may appeal to some unionists but for others its a real turn off.

        As I say I am still working out my attitude to him.

  3. Drumlin Rock says:

    some thoughts on the speech,
    The Merchants hotel is a magnificent building and a real credit to all involved, however there is the risk the opulence might alienate working class voters, they dont listen to the speech they just see the UUP hob-nobing as usual.
    It was brave to speak of his business failure up front, but surely it does raise questions, should he have put all at risk on one project considering what he was up against? blaming the system cuts little slack in the business world, these issues might make his business acumen questionable. He does make a good case to be a future Enterprise minister though.
    With regards open debate, a phone-in ambush on the Nolan Show does not count, maybe there would be a case for an public discussion but it would have to be carefully managed to ensure it does not do the party image harm, even in this situation it does not make uniting the party behind the new leader any easier.
    I almost find it amusing that Tom is seem as the establishment figure, whereas up until now he was usually seen as one of the most hardworking grassroots MLAs, attacking someone because they have the support of virtually all the high profile figures, both old and new, is a strange tactic.


    Pledge 1 – No ministry until party success assured. (well this time anyways) Both Chekov and myself yesterday took this as meaning Basil was repeating his usual call for the UUP to go into opposition, now it appears it only applys to himself, it appears he expects to be FM the next time, but no-one is expecting that fast a turn around, plus it fails to address the issue of a SF first Minister, will he accept the DFM role?

    Pledge 2 – The UUP will take the Education Ministry as first choice – It appears Basil has abandoned his long held view that the UUP should form an opposition, why the change of mind?
    Choosing education has its merits, as does retaining health or if he is serious about business choosing enterprise, but a stop Ruane campaign is not the basis for an election, too many unknowns, will she stand? will she be re-elected? will she be a SF minister? will SF pick education? will they put her back in Education? will another party get to it first? or by making it an issue will SF ensure she remains Education minister just to make our party look stupid?

    Pledge 3 – No electoral pacts with the DUP or anybody else – his only MLA supporter might be concerned about this, as he usually needs the agreement of the DUP voters of South Down to transfer their No2 votes to save his seat, instead of running a second candidate, obviously it makes sense in that case for the two parties to agree to only stand one candidate each, is Basil going to rule this out? That is the only type of co-operation Tom is talking about, and he speaks equally strong on the UUP remaining independent.

    Pledge – 4 All MLAs will face a vote of confidence at the end of each year – a recipe for complete disaster, endless squabbling, media speculation, petty grudges, political blackmail, not to mention wasted hours and endless naval gazing, it would be a second Christmas every year for the armchair critics on Slugger O’toole!

    Pledge – 5 Discipline robustly enforced – Firstly you cant scrap the party officers, every party needs a leader, a chairman, a secretary, a treasurer, etc. even if its just names to put on a form, so what on earth is he on about? if it is just the current office holders? then it starts to look like a personal grudge, maybe having all MLAs on the executive could be good, although does the “compulsory attendance” extend to Cllr. members and MEP? what about our members in the Lords? as our only represetnatives at national level they are vital to party interests.

    Finally as for “would be leaders” and “self-promotional messages” pot… kettle… black.

  4. Ulster Unionist member says:

    Two things that confuse me about what McCrea said yesterday;

    Firstly, an annual xfactor style audit of his Assembly team? That isn’t realistic and would never work, so why did he say it? I reckon he origionally came up with four pledges but decided 5 sounded better so he made this up of the top of his head.

    Secondly, dismissing the party officers. Now I have even went as far and checked the party rules and from what I gather it is not in his power to do this. The officers are elected at the AGM by the overall membership, whoever the new leader is has no bearing on them. Also I have met several of them at meetings in recent months and I fail to see what they have done on Basil.

    I reckon he is pushing his anti establishment too far. First the MLA’s, now the officer board, who next- the councillors??

    He should be filling us with optimism- not running around the place with a machete.

  5. […] speech was well received, as being current and addressing the ‘now’: any analysis shows it exactly ticked a range of current themes. That is what Basil seems to do best. He is a man for the moment, as with his interest at a point […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 36 other followers

Open Unionism bookmarks

Our facebook group page

Party histories

Here's the history of the UUP.

Here's the history of the DUP.

Slideshow app for UUP & DUP flickrstreams

Follow this link for a great slideshow from the UUP flickrstream.

Follow this link for a great slideshow from the DUP flickrstream.

UK Parliament on flickr

%d bloggers like this: