Billy Hutchinson was the only nomination for leadership and was elected unopposed at this morning’s Progressive Unionist Party conference held in East Belfast.
You can watch his first interview as leader and hear his comments on what the PUP stand for, where the party is going and whether the PUP has the energy to go forward. Hutchinson spoke of the continued need to challenge criminality, repeating his mantra:
You can’t be a criminal and a loyalist at the same time.
I also asked him how he thought people in groups who had caused misery and death in communities would now be able to contribute positively through the ACT (Actions for Community Transformation) initiative that is working towards the civilianisation of the IVF and Red Hand Commando. (Around 1440 people have so far signed up to participate in ACT.)
Hutchinson also spoke about the party’s need to reflect and engage with itself.
We need to back and reflect. We’re not saying the party was wrong. We’re not saying the party is lost. The rudder has been broken in this party and what we’re now doing is fixing the rudder. But my challenge is that I’m not the only hand on the rudder. Other people’s hands have to be on it with me.
I’ll post a bit more detail about the conference this evening, along with audio from the various speeches (outgoing leader Hugh Smyth, John Kyle, Billy Hutchinson) and presentations (Prof Tony Novosel, University of Pittsburgh and William Mitchell, ACT).