Trimble fends off Tory ambition speculation

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has rebuffed suggestions that he is eyeing up the leadership of the Conservative Party and spoken of his desire to see closer links between the Tories and his party.

In an interview with Radio 4's Today Programme, Mr Trimble said that talks are ongoing between the two parties, but whether that would result in merger, alliance, leadership bid, or simply an article of understanding, he would not confirm.

He said: "I want to see Ulster Unionism at the heart of British politics. I don't see any justification for our being excluded from national politics, which in many respects we are.

"Yes, I have talked to the Conservatives, I have done that on a number of occasions. We do work together, we work very closely together for example in Europe, and we consider from time to time what we can do here within the UK."

On the prospect of Unionist MPs stepping up to the Shadow Cabinet, Mr Trimble said: "That is a huge jump, and whether a jump like that will ever occur is simply a matter for speculation."

On the wider goal of a Tory leadership move, Mr Trimble said: "I am the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, that is a very onerous job in itself, and it gives me some insight into the problems that people have as leaders of other parties. I have no desire, no intention of taking on an even bigger task, I have enough problems of my own."

Despite the coy denials, the speculation has placed David Trimble in the national headlines.

The Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph gives the idea of Tory-UUP alignment its support. The paper's leader writer describes a compact as a "tempting prospect" adding that "both the UUP and the Tories stand to gain politically".

The paper views Mr Trimble as "one of the few small-c conservatives in the United Kingdom with moral authority", and he could provide current leader Ian Duncan Smith with "heavyweight" support.

The news is a welcome buffer for the beleaguered Duncan Smith who suffered a resignation call from the europhile Tory peer Michael Heseltine elsewhere in today's press.

The UUP had been aligned to the Conservative Party for much of its life - until the fall of Stormont and the introduction of direct rule by Edward Heath in 1974. And while a Tory leadership bid is unlikely in the extreme, Mr Trimble has made a number of calls for the parties to merge previously.

In recent weeks, Kenneth Clark, Michael Portillo and David Davies have all made similar statements and reject the idea that they are interested in leading the Conservative Party.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

10 October 2001
Trimble lays down gauntlet at Conservative conference
The Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has attacked Tony Blair’s handling of the Northern Ireland peace process in a speech to the Conservative Party Conference. Addressing the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool on Wednesday October 10, Mr Trimble said the problem was Labour’s reluctance to seize the initiative.
02 August 2016
Scottish Conservative Party Leader To Deliver Speech At Belfast Pride
Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson is to give a lecture on marriage equality as part of the Belfast Pride Festival. Ms Davidson, who recently got engaged to her partner Jen Wilson, said she was "honoured" to be asked to give a speech.
10 October 2003
Rebel MP's set to retake whip
The Ulster Unionist Party's three rebel MP's are set to retake the party whip next week. Jeffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and the Rev Martin Smyth are said to have discussed the matter privately at a special meeting.
18 October 2001
Midnight withdrawal of UUP ministers
Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has announced the resignation of the three UUP ministers in the Northern Ireland’s power sharing executive. Mr Trimble made the announcement at Stormont around 4pm on Thursday October 18. He said that resignation letters from all ministers had been lodged and would take effect as of midnight tonight.
17 April 2007
Ex-First Minister Trimble to join Tory party
Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble has revealed he has joined the Conservative Party. Lord Trimble, who led the Ulster Unionist Party for 10 years, told the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme he was “following a long-term ambition” by joining the party.