Doug Beattie: UUP must be younger more female and more racially mixed
The sole contender to take over the running of the Ulster Unionist Party wants the party to be more youthful and to contain more women and racial minorities in order to win votes from those groups.
Mr Beattie also went on to promise that he will “not be undermining anybody’s faith” if he becomes leader – a reference to the fact that he is a leading liberal voice in a party which also has many traditional Christian members.
It comes after the UUP last month made the unusual move of whipping its MLAs to back a motion on the subject of “conversion therapy” which many people saw as a threat to religious teaching and practice (with long-serving MLA Roy Beggs refusing to toe the party line on the matter).
If anyone wants to challenge Mr Beattie, they have until noon on Monday to do so, otherwise he takes the reins.
He told the News Letter: “The UUP needs to reflect the electorate that we want to vote for us.
“So we need to have more women; of course we do.
“We need to have more young people.
“We need to have more people from a different ethnic background.
“Because they’re the people who we want to vote for us, and if we don’t look like them, then they’re not going to vote for us. So there’s a huge task here.”
The idea was put to Mr Beattie that people largely cast their votes based on candidates’ policies, not their skin colour or sex.
“They do vote on policies,” he replied. “You’re absolutely right, and the point that I’m making is that we have a very diverse society.
“And if that diverse society feels marginalised, in any shape or form, then they’re less likely either to come out to vote at all, or to vote for a party that does not look like and represent them.
“When I’m using the terminology that ‘we have to look like the electorate’, I don’t mean that in the physical sense.
“I mean that in the make-up sense, that diversity within the party where we look like we can understand, look like we can represent.
“So it’s not a physical looking [thing]. It’s just making sure we have that make-up where we can understand everybody’s point of view.”
He was asked how he would manage the party given that his liberalism (on abortion or LGBT-type matters) will differ from a lot of the views of much of his membership.
“I absolutely accept that there are people who may be more liberal, as I am, and there are people who may be more conservative – we have to look at them all and understand everybody’s point of view.
“We should never denigrate somebody just because they’ve been brought up in a particular way. I will not be undermining anybody’s faith, I will not be undermining anybody’s point of view.
“Ultimately, if people feel at home in Northern Ireland, it strengthens the union. That’s really the main aim of a unionist party.”
More from this reporter: Beattie – If UUP does not lose any MLAs I will consider it a success
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