Ulster Unionist Party leadership election, 2005

Ulster Unionist Party leadership election, 2005

The 2005 Ulster Unionist Party leadership election began on May 7 2005 when David Trimble resigned as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party following his party's poor performance in the 2005 general election when it lost all but one of its seats, including Trimble's own. Following his resignation, the UUP's Executive Committee charged Sir Reg Empey, Lady Hermon and Lord Rogan with the interim leadership of the Party.

This was the first occasion when the UUP leadership was contested under the Party's new constitution. Therefore this was the first occasion where the candidates were not proposed and seconded from the floor of the meeting, but in writing one week prior to the meeting.

Trimble's successor was elected by delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council who met on June 24 2005. After two rounds of voting the election was won by Sir Reg Empey.


Nominations for the leadership closed on June 17.


*Sir Reg Empey
*Alan McFarland
*David McNarry

Declined to run

The following prominent Ulster Unionist Party politicians were speculated upon by media organisations but declined to run:

*David Burnside, an MP until 2005
*Sylvia Hermon, now the UUP's only MP
*Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, an MP until 2001.
*Lord Kilclooney, an MP until 2001, and a former minister in the Government of Northern Ireland


Some in the party called for a figure from outside the party to become the next leader; however those named declined. They included:

*Colonel Tim Collins
*Robert McCartney

Collins was named by Lord Kilclooney as his preferred candidate on his announcement that he would not run. McCartney announced that he would seek to rejoin the party he left in the 1980s with a view to becoming leader should a majority or significant number of delegates spoil their ballots. Less than 5 delegates spoilt their ballots in the event.

Timeline of events

*May 6 2005 - In the general election David Trimble loses his constituency of Upper Bann, prompting speculation that he will step down as leader. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/northern_ireland/4495273.stm]

*May 7 2005 - Trimble declares he is resigning. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/northern_ireland/4525407.stm]

*May 8 2005 - The party's sole MP, Sylvia Hermon, is reported to be considering standing for the leadership, but states she also has strong family commitments. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4527559.stm]

*May 11 2005 - Hermon states she wishes to see the UUP move in a "more liberal direction", away from the rival Democratic Unionist Party. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4538319.stm]

*May 14 2005 - A meeting of the UUP Executive calls a special meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council for June 24. In the interim it places the running of the party in the joint hands of Party President Lord Rogan, MLA Sir Reg Empey and the party's sole MP Syvlia Hermon. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4545187.stm]

*May 14 2005 - David Burnside gives an interview in which he suggests a Hermon leadership would be a disaster, taking the party down "some sort of softy, wishy-washy, liberal sort of route." He declines to run and endorses Lord Kilclooney as an interim leader. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4545187.stm]

*May 17 2005 - Hermon declares she will not be a candidate due to family commitments. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4557047.stm]

*June 7 2005 - David McNarry becomes the first candidate to publicly enter the race. He declares he wants "to take the party out of denial." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4069998.stm]

*June 8 2005 - Lord Kilclooney issues a statement that he would be prepared to back a leader from outside the party who could bring the "radical new approach the party leads" and declines to run himself. He suggests Colonel Tim Collins would be a good choice, but the latter declines, stating he has "no experience of politics." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4072956.stm]

*June 9 2005 - Sir Reg Empey formally launches a bid for the leadership, with the backing of more than half the party's MLAs and its sole MEP Jim Nicholson. He pledges to end "the days of heavy handedness" and listen to grassroots supporters. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4078932.stm]

*June 13 2005 - Alan McFarland announces his intention to stand, declaring that he is leading "a grass roots rebellion". He pledges to rebuild the party structure, impose a sense of self-discipline and refocus it upon the issues that matter to ordinary voters. Amongst those present at his launch are the party's sole MP, Sylvia Hermon. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4085738.stm]

*June 13 2005 - It is reported that members of the UUP are asking Robert McCartney to put his name forward, despite no longer being a member of the party. McCartney rejects rejoining the party prior to the leadership election. [http://u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=61387&pt=n]

*June 15 2005 - Lord Maginnis declares that he will not seek the leadership. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4097270.stm]

*June 17 2005 - Nominations close. Empey, McFarland and McNarry are all nominated. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4105106.stm]

*June 24 2005 - The Ulster Unionist Council meets.


At the meeting delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council voted in a succession of ballots until one candidate had an absolute majority.

Round 1

Votes were cast as follows

No candidate won an outright victory and David McNarry, as the lowest placed candidate, was eliminated. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4124728.stm]

Round 2

Sir Reg Empey was elected. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4620103.stm]


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