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Join us in the Tories, ex-UUP quintet urge party

By Liam Clarke

Five former members of the Ulster Unionist Party have called for their old party to wind itself up and follow them into full union with the Conservatives.

The five are Robert Lund, a former member of the UUP Executive; Harry Cullen, who was previously chairman of the UUP's East Londonderry Association; Roderick Oliver, the UUP's former chairman in Lisburn; Bill McKendry, the former UUP chairman in Comber, and James McMillan from the Lagan Valley constituency.

All now hold what are described as “important posts” in the local Tory party.

They write in today’s Belfast Telegraph that “the UUP’s attempts to offer the electorate centre-right politics with a national dimension have long since stalled. However, the Conservative Party is still committed to delivering to people in Northern Ireland a meaningful voice at Westminster — where issues like taxation, the block grant and foreign policy are decided”.

The call, in a letter to this paper, will be seen to put pressure on Tom Elliott, the UUP leader, ahead of a Christmas deadline given to him by Lord Feldman of Elstree, the Conservative Party chairman.

Lord Feldman last month invited the UUP chief to dissolve his party and join with Northern Ireland Conservatives in a new Northern Ireland Conservative and Unionist Party (NICUP)

Last night Mr Elliott was not available for comment about the call by former party members.

Last night a UUP spokesman said “the Ulster Unionist Party is engaged in talks with the Conservative Party at National level and will respond to Lord Feldman’s letter in the timescale agreed.”

However he dismissed the existing Northern Ireland Conservative branches as lacking an electoral mandate..

“It is a bit rich for five people who are no longer members of the Ulster Unionist Party and who are now in a grouping which has not managed to get a single councillor - let alone an Assembly member - elected to call for the disbandment of the Ulster Unionist Party” he said.

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