I've had the chance to read Basil's launch speech although two versions seem to be in circulation. It is better crafted than Tom's but still lacks. He had the sense to identify the potential Merchant Hotel problem and address it. He tackled questions over his business career (but not his past handling of Office Cost Allowances.)
The 'meat' is supposedly within the five pledges. Mike Nesbitt goes with the tack that they are nothing new. Cicero's Voice argues there is something more sinister going on. However, the pledges are built upon an inconsistent foundation. In April Basil McCrea believed:
"...opposition was the only coherent option for his party."
Yet at his launch a mere six months later he has shifted his ground and pledged the UUP under him would be:
"...committed to the Assembly, with all its faults, determined to make it work whatever the tribulations...a party that is emphatically...pro devolution."
So what is his real belief about what the UUP's position should be? In or out?
The first pledge of committing to the party is fine. The second peldge about the Education ministry is a mistake on a number of levels. To fulfil this pledge the UUP will have to run in excess of 30 candidates which will interfere significantly with vote management and place existing UUP seats in danger as well as risk squandering potential gains for Unionism overall. Second it involves a degree of misrepresentation of the Ruane problem. One of the downsides of mandatory coalitions is that such a blocking move in one department moves the problem if the nominating party stick with their choice of personality. It also shows a lack of realism. This will involve the UUP going from 3rd to 1st in party size and nearly doubling its Assembly membership.
The third pledge limits options particularly in a system where PR plays such a role. It also brings the second pledge into focus. A pact gives Unionism greater opportunity to gain the first two ministerial choices and thus control of education than pie in the sky electoral targets. As regards pledges four and five Cicero's analysis has a point.
In his conclusions the comment about self-promotion is deserving of a wry smile:
"Our message to the public has been blocked by too many voices and too many self promotional messages...Our message to the public has been blocked by too many voices and too many self promotional messages."
The invoking of God at the end is odd from the civic candidate seeking to make hay from his opponent's sabbatarianism and phrases like integrity and decency have an ability to haunt. Overall there is little genuine meat on the bones with him continuing to provide soothing but predictable soundbytes.