Tom Elliott: the UUP has backing of electorate
Ulster Unionist Party leader Tom Elliott has defended his decision not to merge with the Conservatives after the Tories announced they would go it alone in Northern Ireland.
After Mr Elliott rejected a proposal to dissolve the UUP and amalgamate it with the Conservatives, the Tories announced plans to set up a semi-autonomous party here, similar to those in Wales and Scotland.
Tory party chairman Lord Feldman described Mr Elliott's decision as "a mistake". But Mr Elliott said he believed that voters would back the UUP.
"The Ulster Unionist Party has been in existence for over a century. During that time we have been proud to defend and promote the union and to serve the people of Northern Ireland," said Mr Elliott.
"Whilst electoral fortunes ebb and flow, last May we saw 16 Assembly Members and 99 councillors elected under the Ulster Unionist banner. I am convinced that this indicates that the electorate in Northern Ireland still wish to support this party.
"The Ulster Unionist Party remains committed to promoting a brand of non-sectarian, centre-right, pan-United Kingdom unionism and I have absolutely no intention of disbanding this party."