UUP leadership drama goes on
UUP leadership drama goes on

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has survived a vote on a letter criticising his leadership, with 11 of the party's Assembly members voting against him.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Kilcloney [John Taylor] was not at the meeting.

The vote of the UUP Assembly party comes ahead of a debate on the party leadership later in the month.

The party is still suffering an internal rift despite the defection of rebel ring-leader Jeffrey Donaldson to the DUP earlier this year.

Mr Trimble said afterwards he was ``quite happy'' with the outcome of the meeting. ``I'm quite confident that when the vote comes on my leadership on March 27th, I am confident in that outcome.''

Under party rules, Mr Trimble is required to seek the endorsement of the UUP's ruling council every year for his leadership.

It is just over a week since the South Antrim MP David Burnside called on David Trimble to step down as Ulster Unionist leader, who he blamed for the relative failure against Ian Paisley's DUP in last November's Assembly election.

Mr Burnside is believed to have been joined by former Trimble ally Reg Empey in the vote against the party leader.

The former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Molyneaux said he would back Reg Empey if he put his name forward as part of a new leadership team.

Mr Burnside has not put his own name forward as a leadership contender.

Mr Trimble has said it is ``his duty'' to offer himself for re-election at the party's annual general meeting later this month.

It remains to be seen if a leadership challenger will emerge for the annual general meeting on March 27th.

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