First and foremost, on behalf of the Party I would like to convey my thanks to everyone for their support throughout this period of transition. Likewise, I offer my sincere thanks to the Party for electing me as its new Leader. This is a tremendous honour, and I will not be found lacking in my determination to guide and stimulate the Ulster Unionist Party’s resurgence.
One of the first challenges that we, as a Party, must face is the negative media perceptions of division and decline. Having stood in front of 1,000 enthusiastic and committed members at our EGM, there is no doubt in my mind that we have all the ingredients for success.
However, when we air our grievances and divergent opinions in public, we do this Party a great disservice.While I value the contributions that each and every member has to make, the airwaves and the print press are not an appropriate forum for genuine discussion and engagement. I have made my position clear — I want to talk with members at every level in the Party and hear their vision for the future, but that cannot happen when we are set against one another in a public arena.
In an effort to ensure that this Party’s position on any issue is appropriately handled, and to encourage a unified, cohesive group, I would insist that all media appearances and contributions are cleared in advance through the central press office. Statements on constituency issues are, as ever, at the discretion of each individual.
However, when it comes to Party and policy matters, it is my explicit will that all engagement with press receives official approval. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action.
I hope that you will agree that our energies must be focused on building this Party from the inside, and comply accordingly.