Ulster Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon will not face any immediate internal disciplinary action, party leader Sir Reg Empey has made clear.
But Sir Reg admitted that Lady Hermon’s insistence she will not stand under the party’s new banner with the Conservatives at the next General Election was “unfortunate”.
And he urged the North Down MP to bide her time and wait to see how ongoing discussions between the parties on a range of policy issues are concluded.
“Nobody is trying to shoehorn anybody into things here, which is why I feel Sylvia should wait to see what emerges on the policy side, which is always more important than the personalities,” he added.
“We have been aware of Sylvia’s position on this for some time. We have time to address all of this. The leadership of the party is disappointed that Lady Hermon, in the middle of an election campaign, has chosen to give a series of interviews in which she has challenged party policy and the collective decisions taken by her colleagues.”
The party’s sole MP confirmed suspicions that she was deeply unhappy with the decision to forge new links and create the Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force (UCUNF) by admitting she was disappointed with the deal that was done last year.
Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph revealed many of the reasons why the North Down MP felt she could not support her party’s alliance with the Tories.
These included her feeling that she had been excluded from meetings discussing the party merger and her anger about finding out about the political alliance from a newspaper headline in a shop.
The MP is also known to believe that Conservatives have little |understanding of Ulster politics.
Former Conservative Jeffrey Peel, who was a member of the working group which forged an agreement between the parties for the duration of the current Parliament, said, however, the |Ulster Unionist leadership had “vacillated” over Lady Sylvia’s reservations.