Former Ulster Unionist election candidate Paula Bradshaw has joined the Alliance Party after accusing her former colleagues of turning their back on a modernising agenda.
Ms Bradshaw, who resigned from the party five weeks ago after failing to secure a nomination to run in next year's Assembly election, revealed it was clear the UUP wanted to adopt a more traditional approach to politics and had rejected the non-sectarian, pluralist message promoted during the ill-fated general election link up with the Conservatives.
Explaining her decision to join Alliance, she indicated that it was the only party which mirrored her desire to create a shared future in Northern Ireland. She said: "I was hoping that project, with the Conservative link up and the move toward more mainstream, non-sectarian politics was one I could continue work on, but that route was cut off for me.
"I thought it was a great idea (the Conservative link up) just poorly delivered, the (UUP) grassroots think it was the wrong decision and want to go back down a traditional route. That is not something I want."
Her defection is another coup for Alliance, which is still basking in deputy leader Naomi Long's capture of its first Westminster seat, which followed leader David Ford's appointment as Justice Minister.
Mr Ford wasted little time in showing off his latest high-profile recruit, saying: "I am very pleased to welcome Paula into the Alliance Party. It's great that exciting politicians like her realise that Alliance is the only genuine party of a shared future."
Ms Bradshaw, who is director of south Belfast urban renewal charity the Greater Village Regeneration Trust, admitted the Alliance Party always felt like her natural home.
She added: "Certainly people have come to me telling me that they are considering voting Alliance for the first time in the forthcoming elections as it is the only party whose representatives truly speak to them - and I found I could only agree with their reasoning."
Ulster Unionist Assembly member Danny Kinahan accused his former colleague of sour grapes after wishing her all the best.
"Paula's actions clearly indicate that she has personal ambitions to stand for election and to become a professional politician, regardless of party alignment," said the south Antrim MLA. "She was happy to stand for selection as an MLA under the leadership of Tom Elliott - indeed it could be said that her failure to be selected may have spurred her change in political direction. I feel her decision sadly smacks of sour grapes."