UUP leader contenders in Derry

UUP leadership candidate John McCallister arriving for the partys meeting in Londonderry last night with Basil McCrea. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? please by-line

UUP leadership candidate John McCallister arriving for the partys meeting in Londonderry last night with Basil McCrea. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? please by-line

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The two men battling it out to become the next leader of the Ulster Unionist Party came face to face in Derry this week in a debate in front of party members.

Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt or South Down MLA John McCallister will become leader after a vote at the party’s AGM in Belfast tomorrow.

At Tuesday evening’s event in Derry, Mr Nesbitt said he had received support from across all sections of the party.

“When I went out to get 35 signatures, as you have to do to be nominated, I ended up with 94 and those 94 were spread all across the province, across the alleged factions, east and west,” he said.

“This is the party saying it is time to change. Let’s do it positively, let’s embrace it and forget the last 14 years.

“The agony of the price we paid for the Good Friday Agreement is over and now we can move forward.”

John McCallister plans to take the party into opposition at Stormont if he becomes leader, something Mike Nesbitt disagrees with. However, Mr McCallister believes opposition would be a good thing for the party.

“This is a sensible move to give the Ulster Unionist Party time to rebuild, reconnect and refocus its energies on getting back into government,” he said.

“All democratic systems have a government and an opposition.

“We will go into opposition, oppose the government where we think they are wrong, support them if we think they are right.”