Page last updated at 08:07 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 09:07 UK

Tories wanted to merge with UUP

Stephen Walker
BBC Northern Ireland political reporter

Sir Reg Empey and Owen Patterson
Sir Reg Empey and the Conservatives' NI spokesman Owen Paterson

Documents obtained by the BBC reveal that the Conservatives wanted to merge with the Ulster Unionists and set up a new party in Northern Ireland.

It would have been called the Northern Ireland Conservative and Unionist Party - to be known as NICUP.

The Tories wanted the new party to have David Cameron as its leader with Sir Reg Empey as treasurer.

The UUP rejected the idea and the two parties formed an electoral alliance rather than establish a new party.

The details are contained in a draft report which was presented to the UUP at the beginning of inter-party negotiations last year.

The new party would have initially been run by a five strong executive consisting of three Conservatives and two Ulster Unionists. This group would have selected candidates

The idea was rejected by the Ulster Unionists. The UUP leadership simply was not prepared to end their party's 103 year history.

'Opening gambit'

Negotiations continued and last month the two parties agreed to form an electoral alliance.

It will fight elections under the name Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force. (UCUNF)

The Ulster Unionists described the document as 'an opening gambit'.

"If you contrast this to what happened you can see that it is not a merger but an alliance which is about creating a new political force," a spokesman said.

Owen Paterson, the Conservative party's Northern Ireland spokesman. who was involved in the negotiations, said: "We looked at many different options early on and decided our current relationship is by far the best arrangement."

Peter Weir of the DUP said the revelation was 'embarrassing' and showed that some parties involved in the creation of UCUNF were deeply unhappy with the end product.

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