And so, the end is near…

SOMEONE once said that, ultimately, all political careers end in failure. And so David Trimble officially announces his resignation as UUP leader. It’s been a remarkable journey, from Vanguard and jigging down the Garvaghy Road with Paisley, to a Nobel peace prize and power-sharing with republicans.Trimble said:

“At a private meeting with the President and Chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party this morning I indicated to them that I do not wish to continue as leader.

“There have been difficult times, but also times when we have been able to make a difference.

“I have no doubt that Northern Ireland is a much better place and unionism greatly advantaged because of our efforts.”

In the absence of the DUP at critical political junctures, there’s little doubt that Trimble was forced to do the heavy lifting for unionism. Perhaps it was his inability to sell the Agreement to the average unionist led to the downfall of this clever but rather charmless and now isolated figure.

That, combined with a party that was fatally split and incapable of reforming itself, meant that Trimble – one of politics great survivors – could never hold on for ever.

I’m sure he’ll be content in the Lords, away from the bickering. But WHO is going to lead the UUP? Lady Sylvia Hermon is the only MP left, and although the UUP is very centred around Westminster, my guess is that it will go for someone else. (Does anyone know what the UUP constitution says about the party leader’s qualifications?)

If Burnside had won, he could have made a bid for the post. Maybe he still will. Empey was never taking Robinon’s seat, but was always considered a contender for the leadership. McGimpsey’s humiliation at the polls has weakened his standing.

This is a party that has a lot of thinking to do about where it goes from here.

PA reported that the UUP is now expected to arrange a meeting of the party executive to organise a special meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council which will elect a new leader and at which point Mr Trimble said he would resign.

A news conference will be held tomorrow.