Belfast Telegraph

A decent man, but wrong for the top job

The sudden resignation of Tom Elliott as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has taken some people by surprise, but given the recent run of events it was not entirely unpredictable.

For some time he was struggling, and the recent row with the UUP MLA David McNarry over closer relations with the DUP helped to bring matters to a head.

Mr Elliott has now resorted to the blame game, and has accused party members of back-stabbing. This is familiar territory for most party leaders, but leadership at this level needs to be of sterner stuff.

Tom Elliott also blamed the media, including this newspaper, for being biased against him, but the Belfast Telegraph gave him every chance to prove himself. It is not the media's fault that he failed to do so, and he must look to himself for his own failings.

Mr Elliott is a decent man who tried to fill an almost impossible role but the sad conclusion must be that he was never really leadership material.

That was not totally his own fault, and those who elected him are equally to blame for choosing him as leader. His resignation now leaves the once-proud and powerful UUP in another sorry mess.

However, the party has no option but to pick up the pieces and re-invent itself in the hope of a better future.

The choice of a new leader is the next big test, but this should not be confined to the narrow channels of political power or personality in-fighting.

This is an opportunity, perhaps a last one, for the UUP to take a hard look at itself from top to bottom, to analyse what has gone so badly wrong for so long, and to devise a strategy which will attract wider support in the unionist community.

There should be a vigorous debate at all levels, and a strongly-contested election which will produce a leader of vision, with modernising ideas and a more liberal outlook than others in the past.

Otherwise the UUP's slide to oblivion will become inevitable.

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