NI21’s policy chief: I was not told of policy U-turn on being unionist

Basil McCrea and John McCallister at the launch of NI21 last June .  Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Basil McCrea and John McCallister at the launch of NI21 last June . Picture By: Arthur Allison.

NI21’s head of policy was not told about the party’s sudden policy U-turn from ‘unionist’ to ‘other’, it has emerged.

Last night NI21’s deputy leader, John McCallister, condemned as “crazy” the party’s decision to suddenly switch from ‘unionist’ to ‘other’ just 40 hours before an election, something he said he had not been told of prior to being summoned to an emergency party executive meeting.

It can now be revealed that the party’s head of policy, Peter Hutchinson, was also not informed of what was happening, something he believed lacked “professional and common courtesy”.

An email from Mr Hutchinson to members of NI21’s executive, which has been obtained by the News Letter, reveals his unhappiness at what unfolded.

The email expresses incredulity at the decision being taken without the input of so many senior party figures, given the “significance” of what was being done.

In tomorrow’s News Letter the party’s former secretary, Alan Patterson, says that he had left NI21 because he could not work with Mr McCrea, who he described as “disorganised” and an “empty vessel”.

Mr McCrea rejected claims by Mr Patterson that his conduct towards staff was “not at a level that I would expect”.

Mr Hutchinson’s email is below:

Dear all

I am writing to voice my disappointment at not being consulted on the decision taken by the Executive this evening to re-designate as ‘Other’ after the 2016 Assembly elections.

I am employed by the party as a policy advisor, this is a job which I believe I do to a satisfactory standard. I am in daily contact via email, telephone or in person with John and Basil on policy issues and I have briefed Tina extensively during the European election campaign.

I recognise and completely accept that my opinion is not always agreed with, however, I believe that consultation and discussion makes for better decision making.

Unfortunately I could not attend this evenings meeting which I was informed about at 14.51, due to a childcare commitment. I asked Tony prior to the meeting if there was an agenda or issue I could feed into – this offer was not taken up. I have subsequently asked Tony if members of the Executive knew about the topic under discussion before the 5.00pm meeting and have received no reply.

It would have been a professional and common courtesy to seek my opinion, especially on a decision of this significance.

I have subsequently been informed that an email has been sent to members informing them of this decision. I have also not received this email, even though I am a member of the party.

Again I would like to reiterate my disappointment.

Best regards