By Matthew Barrett
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Mike Nesbitt, a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Strangford, has been elected Ulster Unionist Party leader at the UUP's annual conference, with 81% of the vote.
54 year-old Nesbitt, a former presenter of evening news programme UTV Live, who was elected to the NI Assembly in last year's elections, beat John McCallister, an MLA for South Down since 2007, by 536 votes to 129.
Nesbitt's message during the campaign has been one of inclusion. He said:
"I want everyone in this country to get out of bed with a sense of purpose, I want this party to wake up with a sense of purpose. I want us to reach out to become the party of choice for every pro-union voter in Northern Ireland, including those who still say they want a united Ireland, but privately accept there is no longer a single reason not to enjoy their continued membership of the United Kingdom."
The key campaign issue has been whether to take the UUP out of the Northern Irish Executive, and thus become the major opposition party. At present the Executive is also formed of the DUP, Sinn Fein, Alliance, and the SDLP, and the UUP are guaranteed a Ministerial position as part of their membership. John McCallister campaigned in favour of leaving the Executive, and Nesbitt wanted to remain a part of it. Nesbitt is also said to favour continuing the UUP's link with the Conservative Party.
Nesbitt's acceptance speech, via Slugger O'Toole:
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