Over on Slugger, it has been announced that Tom Elliot intends to stand for leadership of the UUP. He is portrayed as a strong contender for the leadership. From all that I have read and learned about Tome Elliot, he has a power base within the UUP which is very likely to propel him to the top.
Elliot’s influence within the UUP was very clear to Conservatives during the early stages of the UCUNF pact. At the beginning of February last year, a member of the joint committee told me that Elliot would be standing as the candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. By the end of March, his candidacy had been announced in the newspapers.
Later in the year, Elliot became prominent over his willingness to have a discussion with the DUP about unionist unity candidates. Elliot first made open comments on the issue to the local Newspapers. After those reports appeared, I made it clear to officials close to Elliot that his remarks were damaging to the UCUNF project. That complaint fell on deaf ears. Elliot later appeared on Hearts and Minds TV and repeated his view that discussions with the DUP should go ahead. I called for the joint committee not to endorse him as a candidate on the ground that he failed to adhere to the principles of the pact.
Later, we learned that at the end of November 2009, the UUP and the DUP held discussions on unionist unity at Schomberg House (Orange Order Headquarters in Northern Ireland).
The Conservatives were unaware of that meeting when they later chaired further talks with the DUP and the UUP at Hatfield House, where the subject of Unionist Unity, joint candidates and the obsession over the prospect of a Sinn Fein First Minister were discussed.
The Conservatives were insisting within a few weeks before the election that they would not agree to a unionist unity candidate. In the end, the Elliot camp got their way and a unionist unity candidate was selected to contest Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
There is no person within the UUP who is more closely associated with sabotaging the UCUNF project than Tom Elliot. Let us be clear. Mr. Elliot never wanted the link with the Conservatives to go ahead. He did his utmost to make sure that it would not continue.
As I write, there are still some Conservatives who naively cling to the possibility that a new deal can be made with the UUP. Surely, it is now time for them to come to terms with reality and move on.