Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott will today take the DUP’s push towards the centre ground of unionism head-on and insist the present Stormont set-up cannot deliver.
But he will also tell his party conference it is time for the UUP to stop attempting to reposition and re-invent itself.
This is being seen as a clear reference to its electoral tie-up with the Conservatives and a reminder to the electorate of what the party has achieved in the past.
In his first speech as leader to a party conference, Mr Elliott is also expected to rule out any moves towards a single unionist party, insisting there is room for two.
It will be seen as perhaps the most important address of his career, given DUP leader Peter Robinson’s clearly stated intentions at his party conference last weekend to become ‘the’ party of Northern Ireland, reflecting a more united community.
By contrast Mr Elliott is preparing to argue his party should not
attempt to create some “clear red, white and blue water” with the DUP but instead emphasise that in the past when the DUP walked away, the UUP stayed to build the Assembly and lay the foundations of political and economic recovery.
He is expected to point to the failures of the DUP and Sinn Fein to agree — including the new education authority and cutting the 26 councils to 11, the schools transfer test, a ‘shared future’ strategy, and the Maze multi-purpose stadium — and argue the current DUP/Sinn Fein carve-up will only produce “bad government”.
Calling on activists to leave today’s event in election mode, he will say: “Let no one in this party remain quiet when the DUP tries now to claim the credit for all that we did.”