Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,


Thanks to the wonderful djm4, who recorded it on the night and sent it over to me, I've been watching my TV appearance on BBC Northern Ireland for the general election coverage back in May. One thing that jumped out at me now, which I was too busy to pick up on the night, was the different reactions of the DUP and UUP to the fate of their leaders. Arlene Foster in the studio and Ian Paisley jr at his count were clearly disappointed but not shocked at Peter Robinson's defeat; thinking about it, and reflecting on my conversations at the time with DUP activists, there had clearly been a central party decision to prepare lines to take once it was realised that East Belfast had probably been lost, and all DUP speakers were well briefed. By contrast, David McNarry of the UUP, asked to react to Reg Empey's failure in South Antrim, hemmed and hawed for ages (despite Noel Thompson's prodding) before declaring that Empey's leadership was finished. The party's campaign ended as it had started and continued, in confusion and without any real preparation. The new leader elected on Wednesday will have a very tough job ahead of him.

While I'm on the UUP election, Alan in Belfast has done a fascinating pair of video interviews with the two candidates. He rightly identifies the key differentiating question as one that is not overtly about politics at all.
Mac or PC?

[Elliott] Oh, PC.

Tom is traditional, conservative, low key and low risk. There used to be a phrase in industry that said “no one ever got sacked for buying IBM”. And Tom fits that space. I doubt whether as leader he would change much of the party structures or its appeal, and if I was a UUP member I’d worry that his profile outside the party would be lower than Margaret Ritchie and David Ford. He comes across as steady rather than inspirational. A good man to have on your team, but does he have the right strengths to be coach and leader?

[McCrea] “Undecided. Dithering with a Mac, but probably PC.”

Basil comfortably lives life on the edge. He can make decisions, but he’ll postpone making the commitment as long as possible. While he projects the image that if he wins he’ll turn the party upside down, the reality might be more nuanced. He’s media savvy and comfortable talking. At Proms in the Park – on his Hillsborough constituency doorstep – he managed to appear on the big screen at the side of the stage twice by standing in the right place striking the right pose when the producer needed a fun crowd shot. While a (very) small number of MLAs and councillors might walk away from the party if Basil is elected leader, he’d be well shot of them, even if it means his chance of winning back lots of Assembly seats for the UUP is even more remote. He sounds like a leader, and projects a mood of hope: growing the vote, beating the DUP. But he’ll need all the hope he can muster along with asbestos underwear if the UUP members vote him in as leader in the Waterfront next Wednesday.
For a contest in which I have very little stake - I've never voted UUP, have not lived in Northern Ireland for over thirteen years, and can't really imagine the party changing to the point where I might vote for them in the unlikely event of my moving back - I've been grimly fascinated by this leadership election. I think it's partly that the party's campaign earlier this year was so monumentally badly run from a political-technical point of view, and I want to know what happens next; and partly also that the Unionist bloggers, and Alan and the rest of the Slugger O'Toole team, have made it a commendably open process (even if this doesn't always go with the UUP's own instincts). Anyway, come Wednesday evening it will all be over.
Tags: election: uk: 2010, world: northern ireland

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