Northern Ireland

Robin Swann 'not ruling out' UUP leadership bid

Robin Swann
Image caption Robin Swann said he is discussing a leadership bid with his family

Robin Swann has said he is not ruling himself out of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leadership contest following Mike Nesbitt's resignation.

Mr Nesbitt announced he is to quit as soon as a new leader is appointed, after the party's disappointing performance in Thursday's election.

The UUP is now the fourth biggest party, having been overtaken by the nationalist SDLP for the first time.

Mr Swann said he was discussing a potential bid with his wife, Jennifer.

'Good standing'

The UUP is due to elect Mr Nesbitt's successor at its annual general meeting on 8 April.

Image caption Mr Nesbitt said he would remain in the post until a successor has been found

"Jenny's actually a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, so she'll have a vote at our AGM," Mr Swann told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

"If my name is on the ballot paper, I hope she will be voting for me."

The 45-year-old father of two was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011 and he represents North Antrim.

He chaired the Public Accounts Committee during the last assembly's mandate and is former president of the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster.

Mr Swann was one of 10 UUP members who won seats in Thursday's poll, but he said the new leader did not necessarily have to be an MLA.

"Our party rules actually allow anybody who is in good standing, and a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, to put their name forward, so there is a misconception out there," he said.

One high-profile UUP member who has already declined the job is Upper Bann UUP member Doug Beattie.

Speaking live to the BBC minutes after Mr Nesbitt's resignation on Friday, Mr Beattie said he did not yet have the "depth of political knowledge" required to lead the UUP.

"I was only elected into the assembly last year, I've only been an MLA for about nine months and I've just been re-elected now."

Mr Beattie added: "It would not be right for me to lead the party, I do not have the political nuances that many other people have.

"I will be there to support whoever is the leader."

Image caption Doug Beattie said he did not yet have the "depth of political knowledge" required to lead the UUP

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