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Tom Elliott elected leader of Ulster Unionist Party

Tom Elliott has become the 14th leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The new UUP leader will meet party staff and officers today following his landslide victory.

Congratulations poured in from across the political spectrum after the Co Fermanagh farmer, 46, saw off the challenge of Lagan Valley Assembly member Basil McCrea by 643 votes to 294. Members gathered in Belfast to cast their vote.

Sir Reg Empey had announced he would quit as Ulster Unionist leader following a dismal general election which left it with no MPs.

Many of the party's senior figures including all but one of its Assembly members had declared their backing for Mr Elliott.

He told the meeting: "We cannot become the leading party in unionism again without unanimity."

He added: "My focus has not been on tonight, it has been on tomorrow and thereafter and that is what is important."

He paid tribute to his opponent and said the party was a broad church.

He said: "I will certainly not make this a cold house, a cold party for you and your colleagues."

Mr Elliott said his party needed to be united and build ahead of next year's assembly elections.

"What I want for the Ulster Unionist Party is the very same thing I want for Northern Ireland; I want people with a settled mindset to live in comfort and peace within this province and within the union," he told journalists following the late-night vote.

Mr Elliott is a senior Orangeman and former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier from Ballinamallard.

In the past decade, the UUP has gone from having 10 MPs to none.

One of his first tasks will be healing any rifts within the party.

He will also have to set about winning back voters from the Democratic Unionist Party and attracting unionists who no longer vote at all.

Mr McCrea acknowledged the victor's campaign and said he was a wonderful person. "I wish him really well in the future," he added.

Mr Elliott said the party's link up with the Conservatives which failed to win a Westminster seat was at an end but added he wanted to build and develop the UUP.

He said there would be no electoral pact with the DUP.

"I want what is right for Ulster Unionism and for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"I have fought this campaign as an Ulster Unionist member and that is what I will continue to do."

He said he would be holding meetings with senior colleagues in the days ahead.

He promised he would not turn down talks with people with a different view.

"I want people with a settled mindset and to continue in comfort and peace within this province, within the union," he added.

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