DUP to give first rubber stamp to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as its new leader today

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is today expected to be formally chosen as DUP leader with no hint that his internal opponents will attempt to prevent that outcome.

By Sam McBride
Saturday, 26th June 2021, 8:30 am
Cartoon by Brian John Spencer. To purchase the original, email UlsterPainter [at] gmail.com
Cartoon by Brian John Spencer. To purchase the original, email UlsterPainter [at] gmail.com

After the sudden toppling of Edwin Poots as leader last Thursday, just 21 days after he was ratified as leader, the DUP has moved rapidly to prevent a prolonged interregnum.

The party officers – most of whom had supported Sir Jeffrey in his first unsuccessful attempt to replace Arlene Foster – closed nominations for the leadership on Tuesday.

Sir Jeffrey was the only nominee, and so today’s vote by the DUP’s electoral college – made up solely of its MLAs and MPs – is almost certain to be a rubber-stamping process, followed by a similarly technical ratification by the DUP’s ruling executive next Wednesday.

That is likely to be very different to the acrimonious executive meeting last month when Sir Jeffrey and his allies attempted to secure a secret vote on the leadership and then left the meeting before Mr Poots delivered his acceptance speech.

Despite Mr Poots having spoken out against senior party figures earlier this week, Sir Jeffrey will be satisfied that there has been nothing like the same level of public disquiet emanating from the DUP as there was after Arlene Foster’s ousting.

Yesterday DUP MP Carla Lockhart – who backed Mr Poots – denied that the party was too distracted by internal warring to deliver for voters. “That’s not the case. We’re still continuing to deliver for constituents,” she told the Nolan Show.

“In relation to the party, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson I trust will be unveiled as leader in the coming days.

“He has my full support and I believe that with him it’s onwards and upwards for the DUP...I look forward to serving under his leadership.”

Former Irish diplomat Rory Montgomery told The View that Sir Jeffrey was viewed from Dublin as “very much a known quantity. In fact, he was the very first unionist politician I met in 1995.

“He’d be very well known to generations of Irish politicians and officials and I think he’s respected for being calm and reasonable in his approach.

“He’s tough at the same time; also very hard to forget the way in which he went about undermining David Trimble for four or five years after the Agreement was concluded.”

Arlene Foster’s former key special adviser, Emma Little-Pengelly, told the programme that Sir Jeffrey was good at reaching out, something which would be particularly important because he would have to reach out within the party to try to heal wounds.

She added: “He also has always maintained good relationships with London, with Dublin...he will want to get stability for Northern Ireland.”


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