Belfast Telegraph

Jim Wells wants to remain in DUP fold 'but it's clear party won't select me for election again'

South Down MLA Jim Wells with DUP leader Arlene Foster in April 2016
South Down MLA Jim Wells with DUP leader Arlene Foster in April 2016

By David O'Dornan

DUP veteran Jim Wells has said he is resigned to the fact that his leader Arlene Foster and the senior party officers will never select him for election again.

He also said he has not spoken to Mrs Foster for two years and has not met with the party for almost a year despite 15 requests to do so.

Mr Wells was appointed health minister in 2014, but stepped down the following April after being falsely accused of linking child abuse to same-sex marriage. The South Down MLA later had the party whip withdrawn after claiming the party had reneged on a promise to reinstate him as minister.

He said: "I think the party officers have made a decision. The fact that there has been no engagement for so long has led me to believe that the officers, including Arlene, will never select me again.

"As things stand, that is never going to happen. While I'm confident I would get good support from the membership in South Down, I would be very doubtful if I would be ratified as the DUP candidate in any capacity.

"I've only given the party 44 years' service. I've only been their longest serving MLA, I'll be 25 years there on October 20 - which is the longest anybody, including Peter Robinson, Ian Paisley, Arlene Foster - any of the grandees of the party, I've been there longer than any of them."

Mr Wells said that he still supports the party and wants to remain in the fold, but also said he had to keep his options open.

He said: "I'm very keen to get this issue resolved. There's undoubtedly a Westminster election coming up and I'd like to play my part."

He said he had "a very useful and positive meeting" with the party leadership on October 28, 2018.

"I thought we had ironed out quite a few of the differences," he said. "Meanwhile, in the intervening 11 months there hasn't been any contact between me and the leadership at all at any level. They did ask me to provide them with a series of dates for a second meeting - I provided them with 15 dates. To be fair to them, they did write back to me on several occasions to say they were too busy.

"At the time I would have to say they were very busy, there was Brexit and talks about devolution, there was lots going on but I'd only given the party 44 years service so I'm sure I didn't deserve half an hour of their time. So there hasn't been any contact at all."

Mr Wells said he last had a conversation with his party leader when he was at Northern Ireland's match against Switzerland at Windsor Park in November 2017 but that otherwise it had been "at least two years" since they had any "meaningful engagement".

Mr Wells' wife Grace suffered a serious stroke in 2015.

"I still have this issue that people behind the scenes are saying, 'There must be a skeleton in Wells' wardrobe, why is he not being asked back?'" he said.

"Could I say to you that I am brilliant with females under seven and over 70, but useless with the ones in between. I have no skeletons, I have nothing exciting, I have no drink problem, no drugs, no women, no financial problems - I am extremely boring when it comes to this department.

"My wife said to me before she took ill, if she ever caught me with another woman it would cost me £20,000 - £50 for the night out with the other woman, and the rest for the plastic surgery after I've finished with you.

"She said the Stanley knife would come out and she wouldn't start with my nose. The Wells are notoriously monogamous, happily married men who just don't bother with this sort of nonsense. I never touch alcohol, I have no issues - I'm just boring."

He said he had been ostracised "because I represent the old-fashioned Ian Paisley wing of the party, the traditional family values, keep Sunday special, avoid access alcohol, support particularly the unborn child, I feel very passionate about that and extremely worried about where we stand, oppose the militant LGBT campaigns on gay marriage.

"I just think I'm an embarrassment, the aged uncle at Christmas, you have to invite him but you just tolerate him and you just wish he'd go away."

The DUP did not respond to a request for comment.

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