Northern Ireland news

Videogram announcements put clear blue sea between DUP leadership candidates

As the DUP prepares for a first leadership election in its 50-year history, Bimpe Archer cast a critical eye over the candidates' social media videos for clues to the upcoming contest

Edwin Poots was the first to declare on Thursday, taking to the outdoors to film himself

THE DUP has famously never had a leadership contest before, so following the putsch against Arlene Foster attention immediately turned to what such a spectacle would look like.

The answer, it seems, is a succession of men in suits talking into their iPhones and posting the results on social media.

Edwin Poots was the first to declare last Thursday, taking to the outdoors to film himself, as befits the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

The Lagan Valley MLA offered a cheerfully relaxed presentation.

It is likely his gracious thanks to "Arlene Foster for her dedication and service to the Democratic Unionist Party over the last 20 years, especially the last five years as its leader" will be taken in the manner in which it was intended.

He went on to "wish her and her family well going forward", which given when she became First Minister he opined that "her most important job has been, and will remain, that of a wife, mother and daughter" is unlikely to have been much of a salve to her feelings of betrayal and disillusionment.

Mr Poots set his stall out early in the 46-second clip, saying as "a proud Northern Ireland man, I love its people and its place" which "faces many challenging times".

His plan "for the next 100 years" made no mention of cryogenics, instead enthusiastically leaning into alliteration with a pledge to "rebuild, revitalise, reinvigorate and revive".

There followed a succession of besuited party colleagues endorsing his candidacy via camera phone, beginning with North Antrim MLA Paul Frew, his "delighted" campaign manager and "good friend".

South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford popped outside his constituency office to offer his support, followed by Paul Givan who against a more verdant backdrop related how Mr Poots "first got me involved in politics when I was only 16".

What North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey lacked sartorially in his red and white open necked checked shirt he made up for with the impressive array of wooden crests behind him as he opined that the candidate "has the vision and the skills to lead the DUP".

South Antrim MP Paul Girvan opted for a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth at his shoulder and a formal suit and tie for his endorsement.

As for "Stormont's youngest unionist", Jonathan Buckley, nothing says 'youth vote' like standing in a suit and tie outside a church.

And Edwin Poots has not just the youth but the female vote - well, certainly a female vote, with the endorsement of Yvonne Craig, Lagan Valley DUP association chairwoman.

The trickle of videograms ended on Friday - entirely unrelated to the reopening of shops and hospitality - but on Easter Monday DUP history was made with the emergence of a second candidate.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson had apparently spent part of the intervening four days learning how to put captions onto his video, giving it a more professional look, and had selected a fetching blue paisley tie and Christian fish lapel pin.

His tribute to the outgoing leader's "service to our party, people and country", which he said she has led with "great courage, conviction and a big heart for Northern Ireland", carried a note of sincere appreciation for the colleague with whom he had defected from the UUP 17 years ago.

Mr Donaldson had chosen the north's centenary to launch his campaign and struck an optimistic note in his two-minute presentation, insisting its "best days are ahead of us" and stressing the importance of "a shared future... where everyone, regardless of their background has a part to play".

And as one of the architects of the Protocol so hated by loyalists, he did not shy away from mentioning it, describing it as a "key challenge", adding the party must now "not only make the case for the union, but strengthen that union".

Mr Donaldson has managed to put tangible clear blue water between the candidates and, barring another entrant, the party's future is now in the hands of 27 MLAs and eight MPs.

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