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This article originally appeared in last Friday’s News Letter…

By Geoff McGimpsey

It’s all change in the UUP. Empey is departed, Elliott has arrived. So farewell then cautious, right-leaning, traditional unionist message… and hello, erm, cautious, right-leaning, traditional unionist message!

Mike Nesbitt’s blog refers to Tom’s impressive margin of victory. He’s right to. Basil failed to win enough support to cause the new leader any real trouble in future.

But Mike adds: “Tom promises Basil and his supporters his UUP will not be a cold house for them. This is an opportunity to bind together, let’s take it.”

Well, Basil pledged unity in his speech so bind he must.

Lots of positive feedback filtered through onto facebook and twitter. Folk like Bill Mainwaring are now looking forward to the election.

He wrote: People want politics that make a difference and politicians who will put issues before rhetoric. Between now and next May Tom has an opportunity to show that he can lead the party in this direction.”

Over at Open Unionism, I once again showed my nose for backing a winner. Having had the foresight to back Alan McFarland in 2005, I came out for Basil McCrea. If you’ve got political ambitions, my support is a bit like Sandyknowes roundabout at 8.15am on Monday morning –just try to avoid it at all costs.

But reflecting on Basil’s leadership campaign, I felt he hadn’t done very much to endear himself to UUC voters. His campaign was “a deeply unsettling, rulebook-shredding revolution by a man who has shown little capacity for taking advice from people around him”. And so it proved.

Posting at uber-blog Slugger O’Toole, Alan In Belfast identified one possible Achilles Heel to a Tom leadership.

The DUP will be happy tonight. Alliance will be happy that the UUP won’t be steering too far into their centre ground. And the SDLP will be upset that they’ll still not have a credible ally in the centre ground – the UUP and SDLP tend to succeed together and fail together,” he said.

So altogether now: hip, hip… boo??

Michael Carchrie Campbell at the Gyronny Herald blog is equally unimpressed, saying: So it seems that we are not going to see the leader of the Ulster Unionists in next year’s Belfast Pride march.”

Erm, quite.

But it has to be said that there appears to be lots of goodwill out there for Tom. Let’s see if he can turn it into votes… best of luck buddy!

Elsewhere, Billy McWilliams at 1690 an’ all thon outlines two important reasons why Ian Paisley Snr was wrong to protest against the Pope.

“Yin: The Pope sent the Inglis intil Ireland in the first place, therefore makin’ him historically a Loyalist. Twa: The Pope was on the side o’ King Billy at the Boyne.”

Just so. In fact it sounds like this Pope has a traditional unionist voice. I wonder if he’d consider standing in North Antrim?

But rather than get too worked up about the Papal visit, Chekov at Three Thousand Versts wrote: “I’d rather live in a society which doesn’t care about the Pope than one which cares too much.”

You bet. Ignore the bad man and he’ll go away, right buddy?


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