There has been a lot of speculation in the media about former DUP leader Arlene Fosters resignation and the election of Edwin Poots as the new leader of the DUP. South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells has recently made the news allegedly regarding a letter from him to party members in the constituency asking them to support the new leader or “get out.”

Speaking to Clanrye News and Sport Mr Wells said:

“As you are aware I was concerned about Arlene’s leadership of the Party and I’m a supporter of Edwin Poots. I am providing members of the South Down Association with the facts about what happened so that there can be no doubt as to why we now have a new leader.”

“There had been a lot of concern about Arlene for several years. Not all of this was about policy or the direction the Party was taking. Some found her personal approach to be harsh and remote and she also made the wrong call on several moral issues.”

“There had been various discussions about a leadership challenge but these did not go far as no senior MLA or MP was prepared to stand for this very demanding position. This changed completely when Edwin Poots indicated that he was prepared to put his name forward.”

“There was a letter of no confidence which the Chairman of the Party has in his possession and Arlene has seen. It was signed by 26 (74%) out of the 35 MLAs and MPs who at that time had a vote in a leadership contest. No party leader could continue with such a large proportion of her senior elected representatives expressing their lack of support for her.”

Mr Wells continued:

“Those who signed the letter did so freely and none of them have subsequently expressed any doubts about their decision. A leadership campaign was held and there have been no complaints from either side as to how this was conducted. Thirty six MPs and MLAs (including myself) voted and Edwin won by 19 votes to 17. I supported the successful candidate. An independent observer was appointed to monitor the voting process and Edwin, Jeffrey, the candidates for the Deputy Leader and the Party Chairman all stated that the voting was properly conducted.”

“One individual – Philip Brett alleged that members of the UDA attempted to intimidate an MLA or MLAs. Councillor Brett worked for Nigel Dodd’s for many years and is now employed by Diane Dodd’s so clearly was in support of Arlene and Jeffrey. There is no evidence that if such an approach had been made that it had any impact on the final vote. Edwin’s name was put to the Central Executive Committee on Thursday evening for ratification. He was endorsed by 72 votes to 28 which is an overwhelming mandate. There was a call for a secret ballot but if that had happened it is highly unlikely that the outcome would have changed. Edwin therefore has the support of the Party at all levels.”

“Rather than stand with the new leader after he was ratified, those who had supported Arlene and Jeffrey left the meeting. This was clearly intended to undermine the decision of the Executive and Edwin as he began an extremely challenging role. Five years ago I did not support Arlene for Party Leader but when she was ratified I stood alongside her with many other MLAs after her acceptance speech. By its very nature a change of leadership of any political party can appear to be a brutal process, but what occurred at the end of April was very similar to the removal of many others in the United Kingdom in the past. There is no easy way to remove a leader who cannot accept that it is time for her to step down.”

Mr Wells finished by stating:

“There may be those in our Association who were strong supporters of Arlene and others who felt that it was time for change and prefer the new approach set out by Edwin. Those who are unhappy with the recent changes must now accept the democratically expressed will of the Party and rally round the new leader and give him their support!”


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