South Down MLA to fight for UUP leadership position
South Down MLA John McCallister is to go head to head with Mike Nesbitt in a bid to be the next leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. The UUP’s AGM on 31st March will see the pair compete in a battle to take over from Tom Elliot, who recently announced he was calling time on his leadership role. Early reports suggested it could have been another local MLA – Danny Kennedy – vying for the top position but last week Kennedy ruled himself out.
Kennedy said, “After careful reflection I have decided that a potentially difficult and divisive leadership election is neither in the interest of the party, or indeed the wider electorate. I have attempted to serve the Ulster Unionist Party to the best of my ability since I first joined it in 1974, and I sincerely believe that the decision I have reached today is the right one, both for me personally and for my Party. I wish the remaining candidates well as they go forward in this contest, and I trust that it will continue to be conducted in the best traditions of the Ulster Unionist Party.”
Kennedy’s refusal to get involved in the leadership contest left it a straight battle between McCallister and Nesbitt and Kennedy rejected any suggestion he had negotiated a deal to remain on as regional development minister under either new leader. “That will be entirely a matter for the new party leader. Whilst Mike and John and I have had discussions, and they have been very considered, no deal has been done and I make my decision on the basis of it being in the best interests of the Ulster Unionist Party and for the long-term future of the party.”
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