A former deputy leader of the PUP has been working with Basil McCrea and John McCallister on their new party, Mr McCallister has confirmed.
David Rose, a north Down schoolteacher, has been working with the former UUP MLAs ahead of the launch of their new party tonight at an event in Belfast’s Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC).
The new party is reportedly to be called NI 21, although neither Mr McCrea nor Mr McCallister will confirm the name until tonight’s event.
But last night Mr McCallister, a former UUP deputy leader, confirmed that Mr Rose had been heavily involved in the creation of the new pro-Union party.
The former PUP man is travelling outside Europe on business and was unable to be contacted yesterday.
Mr McCallister told the News Letter: “David has been hugely experienced in politics, both at home and abroad, and he’s been a huge asset to us over the past few months.”
Mr McCallister said that the former Policing Board member – who left the PUP in 2010 at the same time as the party’s then leader, Dawn Purvis, in protest at the UVF’s murder of Shankill man Bobby Moffett – would bring “a wealth of experience” to the new party.
Mr McCallister said that he and Mr McCrea had not canvassed for defectors from their former party but said Mr Rose’s involvement showed that those with backgrounds in various parties could support the new venture “if they share the values of the party”.
The South Down MLA said that Mr Rose’s background could help the party connect with working-class Protestant areas where “there has long been a disconnect from the democratic process, with people not on the register to vote or not voting – something which mainstream unionism had never really been able to address”.
Mr McCallister quit the UUP in February after the party agreed to stand aside in the Mid Ulster by-election in favour of a unionist unity candidate.
The following day Mr McCrea followed him out of the party and the two men announced that they intended to set up a new party.