Ulster Unionist Party leadership election, 2005

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Ulster Unionist Party leadership election
United Kingdom
← 2004 24 June 2005 2010 →
  John White, Reg Empey, Roy Beggs (cropped Empey).JPG 150x150px
Candidate Sir Reg Empey Alan McFarland
Popular vote 321 287
Percentage 52.8% 47.2%

Leader before election

David Trimble

Elected Leader

Reg Empey

The 2005 Ulster Unionist Party leadership election began on 7 May 2005 when David Trimble resigned as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party following his party's poor performance in the 2005 general election when it lost all but one of its seats, including Trimble's own. Following his resignation, the UUP's Executive Committee charged Sir Reg Empey, Lady Hermon and Lord Rogan with the interim leadership of the Party.

This was the first occasion when the UUP leadership was contested under the Party's new constitution. Therefore, this was the first occasion where the candidates were not proposed and seconded from the floor of the meeting, but in writing one week prior to the meeting.

Trimble's successor was elected by delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council who met on 24 June 2005. After two rounds of voting the election was won by Sir Reg Empey.


Nominations for the leadership closed on 17 June.


Declined to run

The following prominent Ulster Unionist Party politicians were speculated upon by media organisations but declined to run:


Some in the party called for a figure from outside the party to become the next leader; however those named declined. They included:

Collins was named by Lord Kilclooney as his preferred candidate on his announcement that he would not run. McCartney announced that he would seek to rejoin the party he left in the 1980s with a view to becoming leader should a majority or significant number of delegates spoil their ballots. Less than 5 delegates spoilt their ballots in the event.

Timeline of events

  • 6 May 2005 - In the general election David Trimble loses his constituency of Upper Bann, prompting speculation that he will step down as leader.[1]
  • 7 May 2005 - Trimble declares he is resigning.[2]
  • 8 May 2005 - The party's sole MP, Sylvia Hermon, is reported to be considering standing for the leadership, but states she also has strong family commitments.[3]
  • 11 May 2005 - Hermon states she wishes to see the UUP move in a "more liberal direction", away from the rival Democratic Unionist Party.[4]
  • 14 May 2005 - A meeting of the UUP Executive calls a special meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council for 24 June. In the interim it places the running of the party in the joint hands of Party President Lord Rogan, MLA Sir Reg Empey and the party's sole MP Syvlia Hermon.[5]
  • 14 May 2005 - David Burnside gives an interview in which he suggests a Hermon leadership would be a disaster, taking the party down "some sort of softy, wishy-washy, liberal sort of route." He declines to run and endorses Lord Kilclooney as an interim leader.[5]
  • 17 May 2005 - Hermon declares she will not be a candidate due to family commitments.[6]
  • 7 June 2005 - David McNarry becomes the first candidate to publicly enter the race. He declares he wants "to take the party out of denial."[7]
  • 8 June 2005 - Lord Kilclooney issues a statement that he would be prepared to back a leader from outside the party who could bring the "radical new approach the party leads" and declines to run himself. He suggests Colonel Tim Collins would be a good choice, but the latter declines, stating he has "no experience of politics."[8]
  • 9 June 2005 - Sir Reg Empey formally launches a bid for the leadership, with the backing of more than half the party's MLAs and its sole MEP Jim Nicholson. He pledges to end "the days of heavy-handedness" and listen to grassroots supporters.[9]
  • 13 June 2005 - Alan McFarland announces his intention to stand, declaring that he is leading "a grass roots rebellion". He pledges to rebuild the party structure, impose a sense of self-discipline and refocus it upon the issues that matter to ordinary voters. Amongst those present at his launch are the party's sole MP, Sylvia Hermon.[10]
  • 13 June 2005 - It is reported that members of the UUP are asking Robert McCartney to put his name forward, despite no longer being a member of the party. McCartney rejects rejoining the party prior to the leadership election.[11]
  • 15 June 2005 - Lord Maginnis declares that he will not seek the leadership.[12]
  • 17 June 2005 - Nominations close. Empey, McFarland and McNarry are all nominated.[13]
  • 24 June 2005 - The Ulster Unionist Council meets.


At the meeting delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council voted in a succession of ballots until one candidate had an absolute majority.

Round 1

Votes were cast as follows

Name Votes % share
Sir Reg Empey 295 47.97
Alan McFarland 266 43.25
David McNarry 54 8.8
Total 615 100

No candidate won an outright victory and David McNarry, as the lowest placed candidate, was eliminated.[14]

Round 2

Name Votes +/- % share
Sir Reg Empey 321 +26 52.8
Alan McFarland 287 +21 47.2
David McNarry 0 -54 0
Total 608 -7 100

Sir Reg Empey was elected.[15]


  1. "UK | UK Politics | Northern Ireland | Trimble is beaten in Upper Bann". BBC News. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  2. "UK | UK Politics | Northern Ireland | Trimble quits after poll defeat". BBC News. 7 May 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  3. "UK | Northern Ireland | Hermon considers UUP leadership". BBC News. 8 May 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  4. "UK | Northern Ireland | Hermon 'wants a more liberal UUP'". BBC News. 11 May 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "UK | Northern Ireland | UUP leader to be elected in June". BBC News. 14 May 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  6. "UK | Northern Ireland | Hermon out of UUP leadership race". BBC News. 17 May 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  7. "UK | Northern Ireland | McNarry joins UUP leadership race". BBC News. 7 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  8. "UK | Northern Ireland | UUP peer hints at outsider leader". BBC News. 8 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  9. "UK | Northern Ireland | Empey launches UUP leadership bid". BBC News. 9 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  10. "UK | Northern Ireland | Ex-major in UUP leadership race". BBC News. 13 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  11. "UTV News". U.tv. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  12. "UK | Northern Ireland | Peer will not seek UUP leadership". BBC News. 15 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  13. "UK | Northern Ireland | Trio bidding for UUP leadership". BBC News. 17 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  14. "UK | Northern Ireland | UUP contest goes to second count". BBC News. 24 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  15. "UK | Northern Ireland | Empey new Ulster Unionist leader". BBC News. 24 June 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-30.