In a withering critique of how the DUP is run, Edwin Poots promises to end secrecy and to ‘transform’ party

Edwin Poots has pledged to end secrecy within the DUP and radically reform how the party operates if he is made leader in next week’s leadership contest.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 5:34 pm

The Lagan Valley MLA set out his manifesto yesterday in a glossy four-page document sent to the 34 other MLAs and MPs whose votes will decide who replaces Arlene Foster at the helm of the party

Mr Poots’ manifesto amounts to a devastating critique of how the party has been run over recent years.

The Stormont minister said that he was aiming to “restore DUP fortunes and revitalise and rebuild unionism”, which he said “means taking an innovative approach to leadership”.

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He said that he wanted to “restore DUP fortunes and rebuild unionism” and that “the DUP has to win back the trust and support of voters” – an implicit acceptance that both the DUP and unionism are now in a bad place.

Mr Poots said that the DUP “must be restructured and re-energised” and that he wanted the party to be capable of “leading ALL of unionism”.

Confirming what the Sunday Life reported at the weekend, Mr Poots said: “I will separate the jobs of leader and first minister. One person simply can’t do justice to both demanding jobs. Each job demands 100% from the office holder.”

That decision means that Mr Poots, unlike his predecessors, will not receive a larger salary from the DUP leadership – the first minister’s position attracts a salary of £123,000.

Mr Poots said that he had a plan “that will transform the DUP structures and functions”, suggesting that he has been planning this move for some time.

He went on: “From top to bottom, we have to drive up transparency. Stimulate greater engagement. Listen to what members say...as leader, I want to put ‘democracy’ back into the Democratic Unionist Party”.

Mr Poots, who has not stopped his officials from building and then operating the Irish Sea border, pledged to “lead the campaign against the undemocratic protocol and systemically undermine and strip away all aspects of it”.

The DUP veteran said that he would lead an “extensive outreach programme across unionism/loyalism” and establish a unionist convention – a longstanding request of the UVF-linked PUP.

He also promised a “pro-Union strategic think tank that includes academics, business figures, and civic and political unionism to broaden support for the Union to avoid a border poll”, as well as a “pro-Union foundation which will support projects designed to strengthen the Union” and international outreach “to better explain the unionist cause in Brussels, London and North America”.

Some DUP sources backing Mr Poots’ campaign have said that he is planning to remove some of the party’s most powerful backroom figures such as chief executive Timothy Johnston, chief spin doctor John Robinson and Mrs Foster’s chief spad, Emma Little-Pengelly.

However, a source within Mr Poots’ campaign yesterday said that it was “far from the case” that there would necessarily be a “clear out” and said that the individuals named by others “are not targets”.

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