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Tom Elliott seeks united front in bid to halt UUP decline

By Noel McAdam

UUP leader Tom Elliott will today issue a call for loyalty to halt his party’s electoral decline.

Senior party members were locked in behind-closed-door talks last night on plans for the future ahead of today’s annual conference.

As grassroots members gathered for the one-day event in Armagh, MLAs, councillors and officers met privately to discuss a number of issues including internal discipline, party structures and the prospect of an opposition being formed at Stormont.

But, despite a poor performance in the Assembly and local government election — leading to the loss of one of its two ministerial seats on the Stormont Executive — it is understood the leadership of Mr Elliott was not being called into question.

In his set-piece speech this afternoon Mr Elliott is expected to argue there is no need to reposition or reinvent the UUP, but a “process of recovery” is required before the next province-wide poll.

He wants to create clear ‘red, white and blue’ water between his party and the DUP, with a firm agenda for voters to judge — and on which the future of the party hangs.

Against the backdrop of continued defections — the latest of a Lisburn councillor who joined the DUP just a few weeks ago — Mr Elliott will also issue a clarion call for greater teamwork and loyalty.

The Ulster Unionist boss will demand improved rank-and-file discipline.

Mr Elliott will today warn: “If members of this party do not stand shoulder to shoulder and quote from the same agenda, then we will continue to damage ourselves.”

Factfile

UUP leader Tom Elliott will today attack the Stormont’s Executive — on which his party has a seat — over:

  • No Programme for Government.
  • Self-interest rather than collective interest.
  • Serial delay on almost every decision.
  • Lack of individual ministerial accountability.
  • No proper opposition.


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