That leaves the tired old mantra of ’unionist unity’. Although the Fermanagh MLA rejected it during the campaign, his coy definition covered only the formation of a single unionist party. That won‘t happen, but there are other options, short of merger with other parties, which are equally unpalatable to liberal Ulster Unionists.
There is ample evidence, for example, that a drive to agree Assembly election candidates with the DUP is already underway, in Belfast at least. Elliott’s predecessor, Sir Reg Empey, endorsed meetings between the two parties, aimed at maximising unionist representation in the city.
That might offer the type of ’cooperation’ the new leader wants to see with fellow unionists, but McCrea and others are likely to regard it as counterproductive and divisive. If the process is widened and deepened it will certainly alienate the liberal wing of the party and a split can‘t be ruled out.
Of course, like David Trimble, who was perceived as a hardliner when he won the 1995 leader‘s election, Elliott could confound expectations. The Fermanagh farmer faces an entirely different set of challenges to Trimble. Whether he can rise to the occasion and, against all the odds, provide leadership that is both brave and inspired, we must wait to see.
As ever the newspaper is only available online as a facsimile behind a paywall, so unless you have x-ray eyes and can read it off the demo-reader, a newsagent is the best place to pick up a copy.