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UUP was right to dodge Conservative merger

With Tom Elliot's recalcitrant response to the proposed Conservative merger, it appears the Conservatives intend to re-open shop here in Northern Ireland.

The UUP has become the subject of intense criticism from across the water, with many Conservative backbenchers feeling betrayed or let down in some form.

I'm prepared to make the argument this decision is not as asinine as it may appear.

The Ulster Unionists are currently on the ropes. They have no clear identifiable policies and they are nursing a heavy defeat in last year's election.

The DUP (as Sinn Fein did to the SDLP) stormed to the centre ground of ideological politics, taking with it policies and votes, and the UUP was left stranded in a form of wasteland, lacking any "clear blue water". The absolute lack of leadership at the helm of the party has done nothing to aid this cause.

However, disbanding to form the NI Conservatives is certainly not the answer to all their problems. The new party, which would require a monumental publicity push from frontline Conservatives, would be inextricably linked with the English set-up.

The Ulster Unionists need to address the schisms within their party, relinquish their ministerial seat and form a true opposition. While the UUP are yet to take these important steps further, they certainly have not taken a step back.

Ryan Donnelly

Belfast

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