Belfast Telegraph

UUP faces key leadership decision

Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party faces a "make or break" decision on who will be its new leader.

Hundreds of rank and file members will meet in Belfast to choose from two leadership candidates representing the party's traditional and modernising wings.

The once mighty UUP dominated Northern Ireland politics for generations, but exited the last general election contest without a single MP.

Party veteran Lord Ken Maginnis, who is backing the favourite Tom Elliott, said he represented the party's best chance for recovery.

Meanwhile, John McCallister, the only unionist Assembly member to back outsider Basil McCrea, claimed his candidate offered a chance for a new beginning for the UUP.

A winner is expected to be declared by around 10pm on Wednesday after many of the party's 2,000 members met at the Waterfront Hall venue.

Lord Maginnis warned a key decision awaited his colleagues: "I would say that tonight is make or break for the party. And while some might say that may be slightly exaggerated, it is none the less crucial to the future of Northern Ireland.

"The current Assembly has not managed to give proper leadership, and with a more aggressive leader, the Ulster Unionist Party would be well placed to take up the reins."

Sir Reg Empey stands down as leader after his high profile political alliance with David Cameron's Conservative Party failed to raise UUP fortunes.

They fielded joint candidates in the general election but, despite Mr Cameron's high profile support, failed to secure a single success.

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