Election profile: Mike Nesbitt, UUP leader

image source, PAcemaker
image captionMike Nesbitt began his career as a sports presenter at the BBC

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 the DUP candidate Jim Shannon.

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

Crushing margin

He won the leadership with a crushing 80% margin of victory - defeating South Down assembly member John McCallister, by 536 votes to 129.

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

Key priorities


Main pledges

  • Northern Ireland deserves better: UUP will lead transformation as it did in talks that led to 1998 Good Friday Agreement
  • Education system where children mix from age four, getting "virtual inoculation" against sectarianism
  • Health service needs fixing, UUP warned years ago about looming NHS crisis in Northern Ireland
  • UUP wants people to feel healthier, happier and be more prosperous

From the start, he appeared to embody a smoother modern alternative to outgoing leader Tom 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. Today it has none.

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".

Mr Nesbitt is not standing in this year's general election.

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