Northern Ireland

Doug Beattie does not rule out Ulster Unionist leadership bid

Doug Beattie
Image caption Doug Beattie said he would take soundings with regard to the leadership position

Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie has refused to rule out a bid for the position of Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader.

Robin Swann said on Monday he would not be seeking re-election as UUP leader at its next annual general meeting.

Mr Beattie, a retired Army captain, said he would "take soundings" with regard to the leadership position.

"If there is a base who want me to lead and feel that I have the direction they want to go in then I would be up for the job," he said.

"But if there is not then I will support whoever that will be."

He made the comments on BBC Radio Foyle on Tuesday.

Another possible UUP leadership contender, South Antrim MLA Steve Aiken has told the News Letter that he would be "taking time to reflect" before making a decision.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Robin Swann has been leader of the UUP for more than two years

Mr Swann, who is from Kells, will remain as an MLA for North Antrim.

Mr Swann said that he had been reflecting on his position as leader and the impact "it has on my role as a husband and a father".

"I have concluded that one is taking up the lion's share of my time to the detriment of the other," he said.

The 48-year-old has been leader of the UUP for more than two years, taking over from Mike Nesbitt in 2017.

The Ulster Unionist Party has been facing electoral decline in recent years.

In 2017, it lost six seats in the assembly election, before going on to lose its two MPs at Westminster in the general election several months later.

Mr Swann said he considered resigning after the European election results in May.

The party's candidate, Danny Kennedy, came sixth, after UUP support plummeted by more than 30,000 votes from its result in 2014.

The party lost 13 councillors in the local government elections in May and, in particular, polled very poorly in Belfast City Council where it saw its seats drop from seven to just two.

The next annual general meeting of the UUP is due to take place in Spring 2020.

More on this story