Belfast Telegraph

Steve Aiken confirms he will stand for Ulster Unionist leadership

MLA Steve Aiken
MLA Steve Aiken

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken has confirmed he will stand for the leadership of his party.

Current leader Robin Swann announced on Monday that he will stand down in February after more than two years at the helm.

The North Antrim MLA , who has two children, said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Mr Aiken, who has represented South Antrim as an MLA for three years, confirmed on Radio Ulster that he will be standing in the race to replace Mr Swann.

"I have been asked to do it and I think it is appropriate to say now that I will put my name in the frame, now that I have been asked to do so," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme.

Asked if he thinks he can win the UUP leadership, he said: "The most important thing is the Ulster Unionist Party, because it shows there is a lot of vitality in the UUP.

"We need to get out there and sell the message for strong unionism, not just for unionists but for everyone that is pro-union and for everyone who believes that the current relationship with the United Kingdom is what we need to sustain, and that is what I am in it to do."

Mr Aiken was born in South Antrim and attended Belfast High School before embarking on a career in the Royal Navy where he served for 32 years as a submariner, including commanding two nuclear-powered submarines.

It is understood that Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie and former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt are also likely to stand.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, Mr Swann denied failing as UUP leader.

During his leadership, the party lost 13 councillors and its long-held seat in the European Parliament.

Mr Swann blamed the increased "polarisation" of politics for the party's poor performance.

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