Northern Ireland

Former UUP chairman David Campbell resigns from party

David Campbell
Image caption David Campbell said he now viewed the DUP as the only viable unionist party

A former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party has resigned from the party and accused it of "political mismanagement and amateurism".

David Campbell had been a party member for 35 years, and served as former leader David Trimble's chief of staff.

Mr Campbell is also chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC).

The organisation became part of a major controversy during the last election after it endorsed some unionist candidates.

The endorsement was rejected by both Robin Swann, the current UUP leader, and his predecessor Mike Nesbitt.

Mr Campbell issued a hard-hitting statement, carried in Friday's News Letter.

'Electoral dynamic has changed'

Speaking to the BBC's Talkback programme, he said the final straws for him were the UUP's reaction to the LCC's endorsement of unionist candidates and the "failure to consider a proper electoral pact with the DUP".

"My personal view is that the party has gone past a tipping point, we did have a period before where we had no MPs before, but we had a strong assembly party," he said.

"I think the electoral dynamic in Northern Ireland has changed irrevocably following the Sinn FĂ©in success in the pre-emptive assembly election.

"That is pointing to two largely hegemonic parties in respect to nationalist and unionist communities and it is the prime reason that voters flocked to the DUP in this [general] election."

'Traditional conservative'

Mr Campbell said there had been a drift away from traditional Ulster Unionist values, with former leader Mike Nesbitt and others declaring themselves liberal unionists.

"The typical Ulster Unionist voter is a church-goer who would be largely traditional conservative in their outlook and they were being presented with, in some cases, candidates espousing a very different view on serious moral issues," he said.

"The comfort I take in the electoral decline of the Ulster Unionist Party is that the DUP has moved largely exclusively onto Ulster Unionist policy through their acceptance of the agreement and the subsequent power-sharing arrangements and the drift of Ulster Unionism into the DUP.

"I think in the eyes of the average unionist elector the DUP is largely what the Ulster Unionist Party once was."

When asked if he thought the DUP was now the only viable party of unionism he said: "Undoubtedly, and that's clearly [a view] shared by the electorate."

Ulster Unionist councillor David Browne said he did not agree that the party was finished.

"I do believe that the party has changed drastically from the party I joined around 35 years ago and I do agree with some of the comments he made around the previous leadership," he said.

"Robin Swann is only in the job and in fairness to him I though he's done a reasonably good job."

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