Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: New leader must revitalise UUP

This newspaper believes that the political future of Northern Ireland is best served by giving the electorate a plurality of choice.

The more voices and policies on offer - especially with elections to the Assembly upcoming next year — the healthier the body politic. We have seen that the emergence of two powerful orange and green blocs in the current power-sharing administration is not so much a blueprint for stable government, but a recipe for stalemate and disenchantment, both within the administration and in the wider community.

For that reason tonight’s election of a new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party presents those |members with a far-reaching decision. It is up |to them to decide whether Tom Elliott or Basil McCrea can revitalise a party which has seen its fortunes — and its influence — plummet rapidly to the point where it is nearly becoming an irrelevance. A similar situation pertains on the nationalist side with the SDLP very much playing second fiddle to a strong and confident Sinn Fein.

It shows how much influence both the UUP and SDLP has lost that neither has been able to capitalise on the personal travails of the leadership of both the DUP and Sinn Fein. It is vital that the two parties, which were the first to display the courage to enter into a power-sharing administration, are invigorated and revitalised.

While we want to see the UUP recover its energy and appeal for the greater good of politics, we are not entirely convinced that such a party will emerge from tonight’s vote. While Mr McCrea has tried to change the mood music within the party, it has been a lacklustre leadership battle and the structure of the voting with its in-built Fermanagh bias is likely to make Mr Elliott a clear favourite.

This is a crunch election for the UUP which |traditionally has embraced a broad church of unionists. Tonight the members must decide if they are up for the battle, both within unionism and on the wider political field, or whether they will slip away and become a footnote in history.

Belfast Telegraph

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