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10 July 2003 Edition

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Trimble rejects resignation call


Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has rejected calls for his resignation after only marginally defeating a vote of no confidence motion tabled by his own constituency association this week.

More than a third of the 184 members of the Upper Bann Unionist Association supported the motion of no confidence but David Trimble was determined to put a brave face on it. He described himself as merely "sad that there are 60-odd delegates who are unhappy with the policy of the party".

Party officials were playing down the significance of the percentage vote against their leader but it is increasingly difficult to deny the fact that opposition to Trimble is growing.

UUP member Robin Oliver, a leading figure in the no confidence motion, maintained that Trimble is now facing over 35% opposition from within his constituency party, opposition from 47% of the party's ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, and opposition from "70% UUP voters out on the street."

In other words, Trimble's leadership is already on borrowed time. Despite outflanking his opponents at every crucial junction, Trimble has failed to take advantage of his repeated victories, allowing his enemies to regroup and reengage.

Most commentators cite Trimble's biggest mistake as the failure to utilise his initial landslide victory as UUP leader to reorganise the party's structures and sever links with the Orange Order.

But such a notion was unthinkable. Trimble achieved his promotion to the leadership of the UUP on the back of the Orange Order's protest at Drumcree. Trimble's power base was never 'moderate' unionism but the fundamentalist elements that stretch back to his days with Vanguard.

Trimble's ability to defeat his opponents was further undermined when a court ruling declared the suspension of the three 'rebel' UUP MPs, Jeffery Donaldson, Martin Smyth and David Burnside, was illegal.

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