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UUP leadership contender outlines his vision for uniting the party…

UUP leadership candidate Tom Elliott has penned an exclusive blog post for Open Unionism outlining why he is the candidate best placed to unite the Party…

By Tom Elliott MLA

There are so many questions for Ulster Unionist members to get their heads around in this Leadership contest. Who has the best plan for economic revival? Which candidate values health services the more? Will Tom or Basil do more for my children’s education? And so it goes, key policy question after key policy question.

But as I travel the country for Party meetings, one question has emerged as the clear, critical concern of our membership. Which candidate can unite the Party after the vote on the 22nd of the month?

Whoever wins needs the audience to leave the Waterfront Hall smiling for the media, who will be hovering, on the hunt for the slightest whiff of discontent. Whomever wins must ask the UUP Assembly team to join him on the steps of Stormont the next morning for a photocall. Whoever wins has to keep the Party united as we move once again into Election mode.  Which candidate can do all that? Me!

This Party needs to change, but we need that change managed by a Leader who has a vision for progressive, planned, pragmatic change. Pushing too far too fast is the story of our decline since 1998. Pushing the Party machine too far too fast could be terminal to the Party.

We need discipline. We need to stop washing our dirty linen in public. We need to stop and think things through before we press the send button on the computer.  I hear Basil promise a new regime of discipline on one hand, but confirm we are a party of dissenters who like to have our own mind on the other. What I do not hear is how he is going to square that circle.

The only answer is to elect a Leader the members will respect. I believe I have served the Party long enough, with values of honesty, hard work and a bottom-up approach, to be that Leader.

I want an inclusive Party, just as I want an inclusive Northern Ireland, where everyone feels comfortable with their contribution. That does not mean everyone has to be all things to all men. But it does mean we must push ourselves for the greater good.

On the campaign trail, I am learning that the members want the next Leader to push himself beyond his personal comfort zone. I have never flinched from a challenge like that. If I can put on a soldier’s uniform and patrol the lightless fields of Fermanagh during the Troubles, you can rest assured I will not be found wanting if I am elected Leader.

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Filed under: guest blogger, UUP leadership election,

17 Responses

  1. DR says:

    Have only been a UUP party member a few years and have been quite impressed by how united it now is, despite some very different views being held! I hope this election dosn’t create new splits, but some of Basil’s talk has me worried, maybe the time is right for some of the old hands to take a back seat, but a campaign to drive them out is over the top and divisive. Tom seems to have got the balance about right, pushing forward with change, but at a sensible pace and keeping the party united. Remember it wasnt really policy or personalities that cost us seats, it was the endless infighting and squabbles in front of the media that did the harm, we cant go back to that.

  2. thedissenter says:

    The fundamental question for the UUP is one of Trust, which was squandered after 1998. Ultimately the question for the UUP is which candidate would you most trust to sell you a used car. If there is a second question it is who is most likely to be trusted by the broadest Unionist electorate? It really is that simple. Trust is the key.

  3. Ulster Unionist member says:

    He is right to focus on the need that the Party is united come the morning of the 23rd of September- whoever is elected.

    Rather than focus on the unachievable (ie Basils claim the UUP will be the biggest party next year) the new leader must first get the house in order.

    I have a gut feeling that Elliott is better prepared for the reality of what will hit the new leader than McCrea is.

  4. oneill says:

    “We need discipline. We need to stop washing our dirty linen in public. We need to stop and think things through before we press the send button on the computer. I hear Basil promise a new regime of discipline on one hand, but confirm we are a party of dissenters who like to have our own mind on the other. What I do not hear is how he is going to square that circle.”

    One of those most depressing things about the whole UCUNF episode (and prior to that since the Trimble days really) is the number of senior figures in the UUP who went on unpunished solo runs.

    Any party needs disclipine, would Tom be willing to take on the Good Ole Boys *if* they took umbrage at that “progressive” element of the change he mentions?

    • DR says:

      Yes he would, I have saw him in action, he listens to the views but when a decision is made everyone sticks with it whether they like it or not, including himself.

  5. As a non-UUP voter, I must say I am rather unimpressed by this piece. Elliott seems to be threatening McCrea voters with the spectre of disloyal MLAs on 23 September, should the voters not support the same candidate as the MLAs (who themselves seem increasingly out of favour with party members).

    More generally this is a pitch entirely to and for UUP members. Of course they are the ones with votes in this election, but if the party is interested in getting votes from other people then it will have to actually talk to them at some point; the message sent here is that it’s none of our business.

    Finally, the ‘comfort zone’ comments are very difficult to reconcile with the candidte’s statements about GAA matches and gay pride events!

  6. Truth Finder says:

    I agree with Nicholas on this, this piece was totally uninspiring to anyone under the age of 65. It has also put a gun to party members heads saying that you lose your party if you dont vote for me. Well if the loyalty of some people is that weak it would be best they did go.

    As Nicholas said the UUP needs to attract votes and is it going to do that under the leadership of Tom Elliott? I think the answer is no.

    A vote for Tom is a vote for the DUP to win and to end the UUP.

    • slug says:

      There is a lot in this. Would Tom Elliott ever have the temerity to oppose the DUP on any thing? McCrea would – that is for sure.

      • DR says:

        Elliott has been critical of the DUP throughout his time at the assembly, and has probably been far more outspoken about their failures than Basil has, he will take them on any chance he gets.
        The only Unity Tom wants is unity within the party, he is not on any crusade to oust some un-named”cabal” and their supporters, he has not promised to remove the elected party officers, nor does he say I think your loyalty is weak…best you go, he also knows some MLAs need to pull their finger out, but he dosnt intend to carry out annual beauty contests.
        He is a vote winner, and is the only one who can cut into the DUP vote to any real extent.

  7. randomjoe says:

    There will always be reasons not to change or to slow down change , these are the same arguments that the UUP has made year after year , and after every election we say we are going to change but dont. The Party officer team has broadly failed us , yes there are some good people in the team but they all failed to take any responsibility following our latest electoral debacle. Instead of resigning themselves they let all the burden fall on sir reg.

    Change is now comming to the Party and the old guard and cabal are panicked , that is why they are desparte to slow down change …. for no other reason than to save their own skins. The grassroots of the party are sick and tired of same old same old.

    Can i also add that i am disgusted by what Tom has done this morning and it has made up my mind on this leadership debate. McCrea is now the olnly choice for our party.

    I was at a meeting in Strandtown Unionist hall recently where both candidates agreed that no business should be disscussed in the press , they effictly promised those 50 members present that all business would be conducted behind closed doors and no personal attacks of any kind would be launched in the press. They both shook on this .

    In the Impartial reporter today however Tom States …

    “It wouldn’t be up to me but I think with issues like that, yes, he should be dealt with. What I would like is that, perhaps, he loses the party whip for a period. You cannot go around slagging off your own members like that”

    If ever a potential UUP leadership candidate has written a worse statement i am not aware of it . For a start i consider this as a breach of his word that he gave to the meeting in Strandtown , But also the language used is below amature. The word “slagging” for example is not something befiting a leader in this day and age.

    I am Extremely dissapointed that Tom has again gone to the press with his views .

    In this piece Tom states

    “We need discipline. We need to stop washing our dirty linen in public. We need to stop and think things through before we press the send button on the computer”

    I couldnt agree more …. And following this piece in the impartial reporter mabye Tom needs to reflect on his own words of Advise.

    • slug says:

      I agree.

      I am quite surprised by the comments attributed to Elliott in Impartial Reporter. It seems to me that Tom Elliott here in this case he misinterprets debate on the issues as personal attacks. And then he uses clearly personal attacks “Basil should be disciplined” as a response. Not a response on the issues, mind; his response on the issues was not convincing at all.

      And to cap it all we must remember that the whole Gay and GAA fiasco was caused by Tom in the very first place: he brought it up in a thinly veiled personal attack on McCrea when he said that “UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE” he would not attend Gaa or gay events. A clear reference to McCrea, who had, just a few days before.

      It is Elliott who is all over the place on this. And so I agree with you.

  8. slug says:

    Elliott’s comments are contained here:

    Remove McCrea’s Whip says Elliott

  9. […] Posted in UUP leadership election by Blog Administrator on September 10, 2010 I see Tom Elliott’s post for Open Unionism received some coverage in today’s News […]

  10. Truth Finder says:

    If Tom has said the above comments to the Impartial Reporter then his campaign is over!

  11. DR says:

    Reality has seemed to drifted past Truth Finder and Slug, at least the link work and we can read the whole article..
    Tom originally said “I said I wouldn’t go to the Opera, a rugby match, a GAA match or a Gay Pride rally but I have no difficulty with members of our party that do.”

    In response Basil said…

    “Would Tom Elliott refuse to visit Constable Hefferon or his wife and family because of his links with the GAA? The implied message in Tom Elliott’s criticism of the GAA is that somehow those that play those sports are somehow unacceptable in the society of Northern Ireland.”

    That is a disgusting remark I think he is fully justified in asking for an apology.

  12. […] reacted. Tom reacted to Basil. A storm blew up.A couple of days later, Tom Elliott closed a guest post over on Open Unionism with the statement:On the campaign trail, I am learning that the members want the next leader to […]

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