Political news

Steve Aiken favourite to become UUP leader as Doug Beattie rules himself out

Doug Beattie backed his colleague Steve Aiken for the UUP leader's role

ULSTER Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has ruled himself out of the party's leadership contest.

The former British army officer issued a statement yesterday in which he said a leadership race would be a distraction in the face of Brexit and a potential general election.

Mr Beattie backed South Antrim MLA Steve Aiken, who now looks likely to assume the leader's position unchallenged after former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt also ruled himself out last week.

Outlining his reasons for not joining the leadership race, Mr Beattie said Northern Ireland is "in a time of real political and social change".

"The Ulster Unionist Party must remain vigilant in the face of Brexit as well as a possible general election and I believe a leadership contest would be a distraction in this compressed political environment," he said.

Giving Mr Aiken his "100 per cent support and loyalty", Mr Beattie said the former submariner would "have the authority to bring the party onto a more progressive path both internally and externally".

"I have been humbled by the support I have received over the last number of weeks asking me to stand for the leadership. However for me it is time to focus on our country and how unionism should be promoting inclusive politics. That means less about the flag, more about our shared future and the promotion, not just the defence, of the union."

UUP leader Robin Swann announced last month that he was standing down to spend more time with his family.

The leadership contest will take place on Saturday November 9 at Templepatrick's Hilton Hotel.

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