Thursday, 8 March 2012

Who next to lead the UUP?

Yesterday the news in the poll that the Ulster Unionist had the least influence of the five parties in the Northern Ireland Executive. Today three weeks ahead of the party's AGM the leader Tom Elliott has said he will not be seeking re-election for that position.

So who next to try and lead the UUP.

Basil McCrea was the runner up to Elliott less than 2 years ago and is an obvious contended to throw his hat into the ring. He was always seen as more liberal that Elliott especially when it came to issue of inclusion. The Donegal born MLA for Lagan Valley would clearly have a clear advantage of knowing who was supporting him last time out.

Danny Kennedy, the UUPs only minister at the Department of Regional Development, was as recently as this weekend denying that he would be challenging Elliot. Of course now there is a vacancy so all bets are off. As a former deputy leader of the party until the last leadership change he has the experience of ministerial office since 2010. The Newry and Armagh MLA is almost certainly going to throw his hat into the ring, trying to secure the more conservative branch of the party that took Elliott to the top job after the General Election

The former UTV journalist Mike Nesbitt has only been the MLA for Stangford since May last year, but because of his previous profession his is obviously a lot more assured in front of the camera than Elliott ever appeared to be. He may have only been an elected politician for 9 months but he is an assured character who oozes authority through his voice.

The current deputy leader John McCallister was seen as being given the role to appease the McCrea camp. The two men are from the same strand of the party, so it is unlikely that the two of them will both seek the leadership. He is another strong performer and someone who as  Health Spokesman has been great at challenging Edwin Poots over the issues that he tends to want to sweep under the cover.

Looking at the four possibles I see it most likely being a battle between McCrea and Kennedy as possibly just the two candidates. No doubt we'll learn more over the next few days.

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