DANNY Kennedy will not stand for the Ulster Unionist leadership, the Newry and Armagh MLA has confirmed.
In a statement released on Friday, the UUP man admitted after careful reflection he had decided that a “potentially difficult and divisive leadership election is neither in the interest of the party, or indeed the wider electorate.”
The race to succeed Tom Elliott is now set to be a two-way battle between John McCallister and Mike Nesbitt, who have already announced their intention to run in the contest.
Nominations close at 5pm on Friday.
Mr Kennedy said: “I have been enormously gratified and humbled at the number of party members, elected representatives and members of the public who were prepared to support and encourage my nomination as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
“I can confirm that I had received substantial and sufficient support to enter the current leadership race. However, after careful reflection I have decided that a potentially difficult and divisive leadership election is neither in the interest of the Party, or indeed the wider electorate.
“I therefore confirm that i will not be submitting nomination forms for the post of leader at this time.”
Once again paying tribute to Mr Elliott, the UUP MLA added: “I look forward to working with the new leader of the party and all of my colleagues, as we seek to restore the political fortunes of our great arty both in the Assembly and the country at large.”
The new UUP leader will be selected at the party’s AGM at the end of the month.