| 17.6°C Belfast

First a good name, then all that remains is an identity for Basil McCrea and John McCallister's new party

Close

?Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 27th February 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.com
Basil McCrea and John McCallister two former Ulster Unionists who resigned over a decision to field a joint by-election candidate with the DUP pictured in Belfast today, so far they are the only two members and the party has no name. Both the men agreed by the time the party is officially launched, probably in April, both those things will have changed.

?Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 27th February 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.com Basil McCrea and John McCallister two former Ulster Unionists who resigned over a decision to field a joint by-election candidate with the DUP pictured in Belfast today, so far they are the only two members and the party has no name. Both the men agreed by the time the party is officially launched, probably in April, both those things will have changed.

?Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 27th February 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.com Basil McCrea and John McCallister two former Ulster Unionists who resigned over a decision to field a joint by-election candidate with the DUP pictured in Belfast today, so far they are the only two members and the party has no name. Both the men agreed by the time the party is officially launched, probably in April, both those things will have changed.

It's been a long wait, but next Thursday, June 6, is the launch date for Basil McCrea and John McCallister's new party. They are hoping to make a big splash at The Mac in Belfast, with more than 100 prospective new members from all over the province on display and several of them making speeches.

There has been a lot of speculation about what they will call it. 'The I Can't Believe It's Not The Ulster Unionist Party' was one tongue-in-cheek suggestion.

Liberal Unionist Party was another, which sounded reasonable until you realised the members might be referred to as 'Lupers'. Northern Ireland First was considered early on, but ruled out as dull and predictable.

The eventual choice is still a closely-guarded secret, but it is described as "snazzy" by one PR type who has been consulted and then sworn to secrecy.

They hope to keep it under wraps until next week's launch at The Mac, amid maximum fanfare and aiming for a substantial spot on the BBC's The View that evening.

A private pre-meeting for people who had expressed an interest in the new party was held at Belfast's Malone Lodge Hotel on May 14 and sounds fairly praiseworthy, according to participants.

It attracted more than 150 people on a Tuesday evening – many of them new to politics and all of them enthusiastic.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

They will use the summer holiday to build towards a policy conference in the autumn. John McCallister is expecting members from all the Belfast constituencies (one person from West Belfast is billed to speak) as well as East Londonderry, North Antrim, South Antrim, East Antrim, North Down, Newry, Lagan Valley and Strangford.

Such a geographic spread would help combat claims that it is a two-man band. A good name that people take to can also go a long way.

Detailed policies will have to wait a little longer, with a conference planned for the autumn, effectively a second launch and a second bite of the cherry.

It has been a long lead-in since the two men walked out of the UUP in February in protest at the party's links to the DUP and its decision to field a unionist unity candidate in the Mid Ulster by-election.

They believe that they have already had an effect and that, since then, Mike Nesbitt, the Ulster Unionist leader, has put a little more distance between himself and the DUP.

Now they plan to build post-peace process politics, in which support for the Union and the principle of consent is accepted as a given and there is less concentration on flags and symbols.

That sounds a bit like the Alliance Party. Mr McCallister says there are two big differences – he is in favour of an Opposition at Stormont, while Alliance has two ministries and he is actively in support of the Union, whereas they accept the will of the majority.

Is there enough space between Alliance and the UUP to carve out a distinctive niche?

Mr McCallister and Mr McCrea fully intend to find out the answer when they test their province-wide appeal by running a candidate in next year's European election.


Top Videos



Privacy