Jim Wells confirmed to have a vote in next week’s DUP leadership election – and Nigel Dodds’ role also up for election
The DUP will elect a new deputy leader as well as a new leader next week – and estranged DUP MLA Jim Wells will have a vote, the party has tonight confirmed.
A meeting of the DUP party officers – the party’s top brass which includes Arlene Foster, Nigel Dodds, the party chairman Lord Morrow and other senior figures – decided that the contest will be held virtually by video conference.
In a statement, Lord Morrow said that the contest will take place at 11am next Friday. Crucially, he said that the contest will involve “voting to elect a leader and deputy leader”.
That means that Lord Dodds’ position is up for re-election. It is was not clear if he would stand as a candidate, but last week’s coup to remove Mrs Foster was also targeted at the veteran deputy leader.
Lord Morrow also said that “in accordance with the constitution and rules of the DUP only party members, who are also members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the House of Commons are entitled to vote for the leader or deputy leader. Details have been sent to all eligible voters.”
When contacted by the News Letter last night, Mr Wells – who lost the whip under Mrs Foster’s leadership – confirmed that he had received a letter from the party saying that he will have a vote. The South Down MLA has already made clear that he will be voting for Edwin Poots, who is standing against Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for the DUP leadership.
Lord Morrow said that the date of the election had been set to allow for pandemic restrictions to be reviewed by the Executive next Thursday and to allow DUP representation for the debate on the Queen’s Speech in Parliament the previous day.
Candidates for leader or deputy leader have until this Thursday to enter the race.
Lord Morrow said that during the virtual meeting next Friday each candidate for leader will be given ten minutes to speak and each candidate for deputy leader will be given five minutes.
He said that “following this online meeting a voting station will open and voting will be by secret ballot”.
Lord Morrow said that result is expected to be announced at around 5pm.
However, the DUP rules mean that the result must be ratified by the DUP Executive – a larger body on which some councillors, peers, and representatives of the party rank and file sit.
Lord Morow said that the next meeting of the party executive would consider the result for ratification and that party officers would arrange that meeting to ratify next Friday’s result “as quickly as possible thereafter and in line with the notification arrangements set out in the rules”.
The BBC reported that Mrs Foster did not join her party’s Assembly group for its regular meeting – now held virtually by video conference – this morning.
However, Mrs Foster did show up in the Assembly chamber, sitting further along the DUP bench than her traditional spot near the Speaker, bringing her closer – physically, at least – to her former party. Mrs Foster will step down as DUP leader on May 28, and as Stormont First Minister at the end of June.
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