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There will be more defectors: Paula Bradshaw

By David Gordon

Paula Bradshaw marked her defection to the Alliance Party with a prediction that others will follow her from UUP ranks.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: “I don't think I'll be the last.”

Speaking at the Press conference yesterday to announce the new recruit, Alliance leader David Ford said: “It is clear that there are people around who are unhappy with the direction of travel of the Ulster Unionist Party.”

It's understood that some discussions have been taking place between Alliance and liberal UUP elements.

But Mr Ford made clear yesterday that he personally has not been involved in any talks.

He was also keen to stress that people from other parties, including the SDLP, have been switching to Alliance.

His party has to protect its centre-ground image and that means being seen as much more than just a refugee camp for disaffected Ulster Unionist supporters.

Ms Bradshaw was talking down her electoral ambitions yesterday, referring to herself as a “grassroots” Alliance member.

It would be a surprise, however, if she was not at least a candidate in next year's local government elections.

As for the Assembly, her South Belfast patch is already spoken for — sitting Alliance MLA Anna Lo is one of the party's best vote-catching assets.

There will inevitably be speculation now about other possible defectors to Alliance.

Trevor Ringland also recently quit the UUP, having failed to convince new leader Tom Elliott to attend a GAA match.

There has also been media speculation about a liberal faction within the UUP called the 2010 Group.

Ms Bradshaw's partner Ian Parsley, meanwhile, defected out of Alliance last year, having been its European Election candidate in 2009.

He joined the Tories and, like her, stood unsuccessfully in the General Election on the joint Conservative-UUP ticket.

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