Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken has called on the Alliance Party to "stop sitting on the fence" on Northern Ireland's constitutional future and back either the Union or Irish unity.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph ahead of his first anniversary as party leader next week, he admitted that his party has a massive job of work in trying to rebuild ahead of the next Assembly election.
He acknowledged that it was failing to attract female voters, and he revealed that he has been actively trying to headhunt women - prominent in business, education, and health - who would potentially run as UUP election candidates.
Mr Aiken also claimed that Arlene Foster wasn't a strong leader of her party.
"She has allowed Edwin Poots and Sammy Wilson to entirely undermine her and the Executive's Covid message.
"Had they been UUP representatives, I'd have disciplined them," he said.
The former Royal Navy commander was selected unopposed as party leader on November 9 last year.
Mr Aiken admitted he was disappointed that a LucidTalk poll last month put his party on 12% - down 1% from the last Assembly election - at a time when there were clear divisions in the DUP and that party was under pressure over the looming Brexit border in the Irish Sea.
"The poll confirmed what we already knew from taking our own soundings," Mr Aiken said.
"We are disappointed that disillusioned DUP voters are leapfrogging the Ulster Unionists and opting for Alliance.
"My job is to change that, and to grow the centre ground among those who strongly believe in the Union.
"It's no longer feasible for the Alliance Party to be agnostic on Northern Ireland's constitutional future.
"Alliance can't keep sitting on the fence.
"It has to take a position either in favour of the Union or Irish unity."
The UUP leader said it wasn't "good enough" for Alliance to leave that choice up to its individual representatives to make.
"Either you want to be part of the fifth largest economy in the world, part of a nation of 66m people, part of the nation of the NHS and the BBC, or you don't. Alliance must decide," he said.
"During the Covid crisis, £2.3bn came to us from the UK Exchequer in one nine week period alone.
"That sort of money just wouldn't be available to us in a united Ireland."
Asked how he would sell his party going into the next election, Mr Aiken said: "Our message will be that we are a party committed to making Northern Ireland work.
"We did the right thing for people here by taking the health ministry when the DUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP declined to.
"We now hold the biggest portfolio in the Executive and we're at the helm of dealing with a global health crisis.
"The UUP is the party committed to getting things done - in health, education and the economy."
Mr Aiken said he would be encouraging UUP voters to transfer to other unionists in the next Assembly election.
"I want people to vote for us, and then for whoever they think will best represent unionism.
"That's very important because, if Sinn Fein secures a big vote, it will use it to lobby for a border poll."
The UUP leader accused Mrs Foster of not dealing strenuously enough with Mr Poots or Mr Wilson.
"Even when Poots sectarianised Covid, the DUP attitude was, 'It's just Edwin being Edwin.' That's not good enough."
The LucidTalk poll showed Mr Aiken as more unpopular than Mrs Foster with nationalist voters - 53% view his performance as bad or awful compared to 48% for her.
He said he couldn't explain that finding: "I want a Northern Ireland that everybody can be proud of as we go into our second century. I can't think of any other unionist leader who has had such a close connection with Dublin and Irish business than I have had.
"As CEO of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and chief executive of Dublin City University, I lived in Dublin for three years."
Mr Aiken said he may have upset some in the nationalist community with his strong denunciation of Sinn Fein over the Covid-19 breaches at Bobby Storey's funeral.
"I make no apologies for that," he said.
"There was an absolute failure of leadership by Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill.
"I will continue to call Sinn Fein out for what they are," he added.
The UUP leader denied that his style was generally too abrasive, and that altering it may make him more electorally appealing.
"I'm an open, direct speaking individual," he said.
"I've got my own particular style and approach.
"It has worked for me so far and I'm going to continue with it."
Mr Aiken acknowledged that his party had an image problem with women voters - only one of its 10 MLAs is female and LucidTalk's poll showed UUP support at 14% with male voters, but only 10% with women.
"We definitely need more women to the fore in the Ulster Unionists," he said.
"I've been out talking to women outside the party and trying to get them involved - women prominent in business, health and education who would make great candidates.
"We won't go down the road of quotas.
"These women themselves want to be considered purely on merit.
"What I say to them is, 'I can guarantee I'll get you to the final interview process where you can demonstrate you're the best person for the job.'"