Moderate withdraws from UUP leadership race
Moderate withdraws from UUP leadership race

The Ulster Unionist Party’s only remaining MP has said that she does not want to succeed David Trimble as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Lady Hermon’s husband, former RUC chief constable Sir Jack Hermon, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. This is understood to be the primary factor behind her decision not to seek election.

The party will hold an extraordinary general meeting of their ruling council on June 23rd to elect a new leader.

Until then the party’s sole MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, party president Lord Rogan and Assembly member Sir Reg Empey will fulfil a leadership role. The three hold their first meeting early this morning.

A UUP delegation is due to meet the new Northern Secretary Peter Hain and others in the short term, and the executive wanted established figures to represent them.

The 3-hour meeting was “emotionally charged”, according to one delegate, “but not rancorous”.

Trimble formally resigned at a meeting of the party’s executive on Saturday following devastating losses in the British general and local elections.

Delegates heard the text of his short resignation letter before according him a “standing ovation” and “prolonged applause”, according to reports. The text of the letter was not revealed.

The ruling Ulster Unionist Council will now be summoned for the leadership contest in just over five weeks. Following changes to the party constitution and the decision of the Orange Order not to maintain formal links with the party, about 600 delegates will vote on Mr Trimble’s replacement.

Opinion is divided between those who advocate a tougher line on the Good Friday Agreement and others who want clearer distinctions between the party and the DUP.

Lady Hermon had been seen as a potential moderating influence. Hardliners who may seek election include defeated South Antrim candidate and opponent of the Good Friday Agreement, David Burnside, and Lord Kilclooney, the MP formerly known as John Taylor. John Taylor.

Former minister and Assembly member Reg Empey is considered a possible unifying force within the party, while David McNarry, another Assembly member, may yet declare his intention to run.

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