Belfast Telegraph

UUP omits MLA Stewart from website after surprise Assembly election victory

By Jonny Bell

Despite his party's dismal election results, John Stewart was the success story for the UUP.

He astounded the pundits in taking a second seat for the party in East Antrim in an election which saw the party lose six seats and its leader Mike Nesbitt.

While the party has been quick to update its website in eliminating those unsuccessful in retaining their seat, it appears slow to recognise the accomplishments of the former Mid and East Antrim council member in leaving him off its MLA page. He remains on the party's councillors' page.

More: UUP's Dobson says Nesbitt lost her seat - Arlene Foster 'helped nationalist cause'

One week after the election, on Friday, the party was only claiming to have nine MLAs instead of 10.

While East Antrim was represented by stalwart Roy Beggs there was no mention of Mr Stewart.

The party said the website was in the process of being updated and Mr Stewart would be properly installed.

Mr Stewart could not be reached for comment.

While he may be installed on the party website eventually, doubt remains as to if he - or any other MLA - will properly sit in the Assembly chamber given the ongoing talks and the deadline for an Executive to be formed before the Secretary of State James Brokenshire is forced to step in.

More: James Brokenshire warns parties must agree or face second snap election

The UUP is even further in a state of flux given the impending leadership contest following Mike Nesbitt's dramatic resignation during the Assembly vote count. While MLAs are positioning themselves for the contest the MP and former leader Tom Elliott has again repeated he won't be on the ticket.

More: Tom Elliott rules out UUP leadership bid despite Campbell endorsement

It comes after David Campbell who was UUP chairman from 2005 to 2012 said Mr Elliott would be his choice to lead the party.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Elliott was the party's former leader before Mike Nesibitt, leading the party between 2010 and 2012. Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Elliott said he could not see "his name being on the ticket" for the party's April 8 AGM.

MLAs Robin Swann and Steve Aiken remain among the front-runner for the position, with Roy Beggs and Robbie Butler considered outside contenders. Former soldier Doug Beattie had initially appeared to have no interest in running but he hasn't ruled himself totally out of the race.

Every member of the party is eligible to both run for the position and to vote in the contest.

While the party's rules don't dictate that a leader has to be an elected representative, sources said it would be highly likely that Mr Nesbitt's successor wouldn't be an MLA.

The Ulster Unionist Party has 10 MLAs, including Mike Nesbitt. The other nine include:

  • Roy Beggs
  • Robin Swann
  • Andy Allen
  • Robbie Butler
  • Doug Beattie
  • Rosemary Barton
  • Alan Chambers
  • Steve Aiken
  • John Stewart

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