UUP leader rejects Tory merger plan
The leader of the Ulster Unionists has rejected a Conservative Party proposal that they disband and become a Northern Ireland wing of the Tories.
The two parties fought the last general election on a joint ticket in Northern Ireland, but failed to win a single seat in the region.
Now Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has publicly rejected the Conservative Party's surprise proposal for a full merger, which is said to have had the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron.
The latest development follows a poor general election campaign when the two parties fought under the title of Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force.
The merger proposal was made in a letter sent by the Conservative Party, but after news of the approach became public, Mr Elliott said the move was not on the cards. "There is no question of the Ulster Unionist Party being dissolved," he said.
The Ulster Unionists fought the Stormont Assembly elections in May under their traditional banner, but still saw their tally of 18 seats at the 108 member legislature drop to 16. The Northern Ireland Conservative Party, however, has little or no presence on the region's political scene.
Mr Elliott said: "I remain committed to continuing to work with the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I have suggested a meeting with Andrew Feldman to discuss his latest offer, as well as to talk over how we see our two parties moving forward for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland."
He added: "Having recently received [the] letter from the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman, I was pleased to see that he still wishes to build upon the close working relationship between our two parties.
"I will discuss his most recent proposal of a full merger between the Ulster Unionist Party and Conservative Party in Northern Ireland within the party, however it is unacceptable to me and I know also in my political opinion it would be to the vast majority of the Ulster Unionist Party's members and voters."
A Conservative Party spokesman said: "The Conservative Party has a long-standing relationship with the Ulster Unionist Party and as part of our continued commitment to bringing mainstream Westminster politics to Northern Ireland, we have made a broad generous offer to the Ulster Unionist Party to join forces with the Conservatives."