Northern Ireland Election 2017

Election profile: Mike Nesbitt, Ulster Unionist Party leader

Mike Nesbitt Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Former broadcaster Mike Nesbitt took over at the helm of the UUP in March 2012

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has had a varied career.

The former broadcaster took over at the helm of the UUP in March 2012 when Tom Elliott stood down after just 18 months in the job.

Mr Nesbitt is well-known for his long and high-profile career as a television news presenter.

Born in 1957 in Belfast, he attended Campbell College and ran 400 metres hurdles for an Irish Schools athletics team.

He became a sports presenter at the BBC and he also anchored the flagship Good Morning Ulster radio programme.

At UTV, he presented its evening news programme for 10 years, and during that time co-presented with his wife Lynda Bryans.

In 2008, he was appointed a Victims' Commissioner, a role designed to promote the interests of victims of the Troubles.

However, he left the commission when he joined the Ulster Unionists in 2010.

He ran as a candidate for the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force in the 2010 Westminster elections, but was defeated by DUP candidate Jim Shannon.

Mr Nesbitt was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011 as a representative for Strangford.

'Bring colour'

He won the leadership with a crushing 80% margin of victory.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mr Nesbitt presented UTV's evening news programme for 10 years

Many said that Mr Nesbitt had the immediate advantage of instant name and face recognition.

From the start, he appeared to embody a smoother modern alternative to the outgoing leader, Mr Elliott.

He took on a party that was in decline. As recently as the general election of 1997 the party won 10 of the 18 seats available.

That went down to none, but in last year's general election the Ulster Unionists took two seats - Mr Elliott in Fermanagh-South Tyrone and Danny Kinahan in South Antrim.

Internal divisions were a significant factor in the decline of a party that ruled Northern Ireland single-handedly for 50 years and remained its biggest party until 2003.

When he took on its leadership, some political commentators said that Mr Nesbitt would bring colour to a party of "grey men in grey suits".

Following the assembly elections in May 2016, Mr Nesbitt led the UUP into opposition at Stormont alongside the SDLP.

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