NI21 candidate Spence is bullish despite fall-out

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The four candidates fighting yesterday’s ABC council election for the troubled NI21 party were putting on a brave face after the fall-out between leader Basil McCrea and deputy John McCallister.

Mr McCallister was quoted as saying the party – set up last year by the warring ex-UUP man – was “crazy and dysfunctional”. He was reacting to the party’s change of Assembly designation from unionist to ‘other’, insisting he was not consulted.

The ABC four are trying to play down the row, stating that their sole purpose is to give the electorate a choice of “non-sectarian politics”. Portadown candidate Kyle Spence said, “It won’t deflect us. We’re concentrating on the poll – we are receiving a good reception on the doorsteps and I’m confident we’ll gain at least one seat.”

The other three hopefuls in ABC are Stuart McClelland (Craigavon), Neville Hutchinson (Lagan River) and daughter Emma Hutchinson (Banbridge).

UUP candidate Alderman Arnold Hatch said, “Frankly, this parting of the ways was inevitable,” he said. “Basil and John are not team players – they were elected as Ulster Unionists and their chances of being re-elected to the Assembly next time under the NI21 label are virtually nil.

“They’ll never gel within the same party and the row will reflect on NI21’s support in the current elections, not that they have attracted much support, anyway.”