Northern Ireland news

Who's in the running? DUP leadership contenders

Edwin Poots

The agriculture minister's name was first linked with a DUP leadership bid when Peter Robinson was in power yet when the position became available he wasn't in the reckoning.

Five years on, perhaps he now sees his chance to take the top job and according to the bookies, most punters' money is on Mr Poots. He has mixed credentials as far as leadership goes.

Many cite his pragmatism and willingness to engage with Sinn Féin, though it's difficult to forget his role in the gay blood ban while health minister and a more recent attempt to sectarianise Covid-19 – prompting Irish News columnist Jake O'Kane to coin the phrase 'Fenian Flu'.

It's continually been said that there is no obvious successor to Mrs Foster, so the Lagan Valley MLA's chances are as good as anybody's.

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

It's 11 years since Jeffrey Donaldson was an MLA and during his time at Stormont he never held a ministerial post.

Affable, uncontroversial and largely free of baggage, the Lagan Valley MP lacks an aggressive streak and while this is generally regarded as a positive for the general population, a bit of belligerence can prove an asset for a political leader.

In common with the departing Arlene Foster, Sir Jeffrey is a former Ulster Unionist, something that may not work in his favour with the DUP hardcore, who appear to have the upper hand at the moment.

Teaming up with Edwin Poots in a 'leader in London-first minister in Belfast' partnership, may give the one-time UDR corporal some weight in the role.

Gavin Robinson

In recent months his name has been suggested as a future DUP leader but whether the 36-year-old's time is now is debatable.

Relatively liberal and easy going, the former Belfast lord mayor arguably lacks the Machiavellian streak that would enable him to secure the party's top job.

The former barrister is popular in the party and with the public but he has no experience of Stormont and managing an often incohesive coalition of 28 MLAs. Expected to bide his time on this occasion but don't rule the East Belfast MP out altogether.

Ian Paisley

There is clearly no love lost between the North Antrim MP and Mrs Foster, so we can assume he was instrumental in her downfall.

Yet that doesn't necessarily mean that the former Stormont junior minister wants to follow in his father's footsteps and lead the DUP.

He's had his political difficulties and it could be argued that Paisley Jr is too damaged to be DUP leader and too far removed from the Stormont team to be effective.

He could make a strong bid if he had his eye on the job but you sense he's just not that interested.

:: Other names linked to job are South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford, Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons.

Sean Graham Bookmaker's latest odds:

Edwin Poots - 4/6 Fav

Jeffrey Donaldson - 2/1

Gavin Robinson - 4/1

Ian Paisley - 6/1

Christopher Stalford - 6/1

Diane Dodds - 7/1

Gordon Lyons - 7/1

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