Robbie Butler sets out stall on key issues - if he is to stand for UUP leadership against Doug Beattie
Lagan Valley UUP MLA Robbie Butler is giving serious consideration to standing for the party leadership.
The party’s executive will ratify the process to decide the next leader on Tuesday night, he told the News Letter.
“At this moment in time I am giving serious consideration to standing,” he said.
“A number of people internally and externally are encouraging me to go for it - including some surprising people outside the party.”
He is sure that the favourite to take the leadership, Doug Beattie, is getting similar encouragement, he said.
”However there are also some people cautioning me and asking - do you really want to lead this party? It is a tough ticket.”
He affirms what columnist Alex Kane says - that there are a range of power blocks behind the scenes in the party.
“It will be a challenge for whoever gets it. Doug and I are both straight talkers and influential in the party. I would hope my empathetic and generous approach would be helpful but I am not so sure it would go well with loyalists.”
He says the NI Protocol - the subject of many ongoing street protests - “does not work for Northern Ireland and needs to change. Clearly it is not working. There needs to be discussions with Westminster and the EU.”
And he believes unionism needs to build relationships.
“The DUP probably burnt a lot of bridges and lost friends and I think unionism needs to work at gaining friends and influence at home and overseas.”
A man who wears his Christian faith on his sleeve, he says the party can hold together by making issues such as LGBT and abortion matters of conscience.
“We are a democratic party and on these and other issues I believe we can come to a consensus.”
He and Doug are long standing friends - and that is not going to change, he says.
“We have different views on social issues but we always take a problem solving approach. We have never got into a fight yet.”
On Monday Mr Butler suggested fighting his party colleague “bare bellies in the yard” for the leadership.
The humourous Twitter exchange came after Mr Beattie commented on media reports that the two were both vying for the position.
Amid lots of laughing emblems, Mr Beattie commented on speculation about their possible battle, saying: “Hey Butler..... you up for a mud wrestle?”
Mr Butler, who left the Fire Service to become an MLA, replied: “In the Fire Service we called these things ‘bare bellies in the yard’”.
This prompted Mr Beattie to respond: “I would have an unfair advantage” possibly because he may be the heavier of the two men.
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