KEN Maginnis has dramatically resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party after half a century as a member, saying that he had lost confidence in Mike Nesbitt’s leadership.
Lord Maginnis made the announcement today in a series of interviews with reporters across Belfast, embargoed until 2pm.
The peer, who lost the UUP whip after saying that gay marriage was “a rung on the ladder” to “other deviant practices” such as bestiality, told the News Letter that he regretted the decision but that he had lost all confidence in Mr Nesbitt.
The former MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who less than five months ago publicly supported Mr Nesbitt for the UUP leadership, said: “I thought Mike Nesbitt would bring a public relations capability; that he would be able to articulate well-thought out policies.”
Correspondence between Mr Nesbitt and Lord Maginnis seen by the News Letter shows that the UUP leader offered to restore the UUP whip to the peer early this morning in an attempt to stop him from resigning.
One email sent by Lord Maginnis to Mr Nesbitt on 17 August after a meeting between the two men said: “I, having been ‘humiliated’ both locally, nationally and internationally by your perverse and superficial action simply to prove how your [sic] such a tough guy*# (!!!!!!)...it is now time for immediate action as I outlined:
“1. Withdraw publicly from the position you have adopted — I won’t quibble about how gently you do that so long as your words are positive and clearly vindicate my behaviour.
“2. Immediately (before end of August) convene a disciplinary hearing —I will caution that the person who accompanies me, though not a lawyer (which is a misguided position) will have access to the Press.
“3. You tender your resignation as party leader on the basis (a) that the party has not been able to prosper under your leadership and (b) that you lack the ability to make incisive political decisions.”
A response from Mr Nesbitt two days later said that “your ‘terms’ have been expanded significantly from what you articulated when we met on Tuesday in the Stormont Hotel”.
He said that he believed that by “late September/early October this matter can be regarded as having passed”, adding: “I regret you appear unable or unwilling to consider this option.”
Mr Nesbitt added: “I am upset to read you believe I have humiliated you. Let me stress I have not heard anyone, yourself excepted, express that view.
“May I also stress that it was you, not I, who too the unilateral decision to engage in media interviews after all members were expressly asked to consult the press office first; the language used to express your views was also of your choosing, not mine.
“You defied the party and myself, by going onto the media a number of times and throwing a public challenge to me and the party officers.”
An email sent this morning (28 August) from Mr Nesbitt to Lord Maginnis said that he was willing to change his “timetable” for restoring the whip and said that he now saw “no reason for delay...to offer to restore the whip. I am, therefore, making that offer.”
* For full details of the story behind Lord Maginnis’s resignation and an interview with the peer, see Tuesday’s News Letter