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I quit: ex-UUP chair says party finished as DUP now on top

By Staff Reporter

A former Ulster Unionist chairman has resigned from the party claiming it is at an “all-time low”.

David Campbell accused the UUP of “political mismanagement, amateurism, and fundamental disrespect”.

He has argued the UUP should strike a deal to amalgamate with the DUP, and was involved in several unionist unity initiatives.

“I warned that if the party did not act, the electorate would act for them,” he said. “It is a tragedy that the Ulster Unionist Party is unrecognisable from the party that I joined 35 years ago or, more recently, had the privilege of chairing. The UUP served Ulster well for 100 years. The unionist electorate has now passed the mantle of leadership exclusively to the DUP and circumstances have provided them with a unique opportunity to play a key role in advancing our nation as a whole and cementing Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Talkback programme yesterday, he said the UUP was in long-term decline.

“My personal view is that the party has gone past a tipping point; we did have a period before where we had no MPs, but we had a strong Assembly party,” he said. “I think the electoral dynamic in Northern Ireland has changed irrevocably following the Sinn Fein success in the pre-emptive Assembly election. That is pointing to two largely hegemonic parties in respect to nationalist and unionist communities, and it is the prime reason that voters flocked to the DUP in this (general) election.”

Mr Campbell is chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council launched by leading Tony Blair aide Jonathan Powell in 2015.

He said the UUP’s rejection of endorsement from the Loyalist Communities Council in last week’s general election was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in terms of his decision to quit and revealed that last Thursday he had voted for the DUP.

Current UUP chairman Lord Empey said the party regrets Mr Campbell’s decision.

“We would point out to David that despite the DUP’s success in the election, for the first time in a Westminster election since Northern Ireland was formed, unionism received less than 50% of the vote. This is what needs addressing and there is currently no appetite for a one size fits all unionist party. Unionism needs to be a broader church and have a wider and more inclusive agenda than David suggests,” he said.

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