Give Unionism hope – confidence and content please!

So the race for the party leadership begins.

Danny Kennedy stays out of the race – probably a wise decision although I am disappointed. I have a lot of time for the clean cut and thoughtful man from Armagh who speaks what he thinks and thinks his own thoughts.  There is a quiet, deep integrity to Danny, to my mind anyway, but always contained by a shyness or diffidence that has kept him somewhat in the background. He had done his bit though and I am sad that he didn’t give it a go the last time around.

So now it has to be down to a couple of different voices to run this race if Unionism is to have any hope at all. They are different from the usual voice of Unionism and both of them, in very different way, offer a new tone to how Unionist politicians engage with the issues of the day. There is no bluster with McCallister but a country settledness which almost defies us to trust his competence. But listen carefully to the words and there is a different story, and not just about the ‘opposition’. He has spoken out with his own views and he needs to maintain that difference from the voices of the past to make himself a real runner.

Therein though lies a danger for both candidates. If they speak with too different a voice will they get the vote they need to be elected? It will be a fine balancing game to measure against your opponent and the degree of difference they too are willing to take to themselves. The party faithful have a choice to make and it has to be the last chance to choose for death or for life. If they choose more of the same then what is there for them? But they will want some security in the choice they make – change takes time.

Nesbitt speaks with an undoubted strength and his noise implies content so we must listen carefully for the content and he must speak carefully to provide it. With his business head and his broadcasting experience he has the confidence to offer up what he is in a way that can agitate as well as give confidence. He has the energy and the drive and ‘a bit of life about him.’

I wish them both well and I am impressed by the willingness of both men to offer themselves into the leadership of a party desperately in need of transformation. Whoever is elected will need the foil that comes from people of hope as well as from the old guard that will want to rein them in. So give us confidence and content – each needs the other and each builds the other up. Good content brings confidence along with it and confidence supports the belief that there is content. Each needs the other.

There will be plenty of armchair politicians with plenty to say, myself among them. For now – God’s speed and God’s blessing. Give it your best and give the electorate your best.

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