08/03/2012 15:58 GMT | Updated 08/05/2012 06:12 BST

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott Quits As Party Leader

Tom Elliott is to quit as Ulster Unionist leader after accusing party critics of not giving him a chance.

He dramatically announced tonight that he will not be seeking re-election at the party's annual meeting later this month.

Elliott, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly who took over the leadership in the summer of 2010, claimed: "I am well aware that some people have not given me a fair opportunity at developing and progressing many initiatives.

"Some of this obstruction and hostility began immediately following my election as leader and has been relentless since then. However I accept that is part and parcel of politics."

His leadership has been under pressure since the party's dismal performance in the Assembly elections in May last year - which followed an equally disastrous General Election when the party failed to win a single seat.

In a statement tonight, Elliott said: "Following my election as leader I set about improving internal party structures, since then I have amended the party rules, including discipline; significantly increased internal party communications; negotiated a move for new party headquarters and strengthened our staff structure.

"I have also been successful in leading the political field by making a start to reviewing the government structures and reducing the over-governance of Northern Ireland."

Elliott took over the leadership from Sir Reg Empey in August 2010. He will remain a member of the Assembly for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

The election of the new leader will take place on March 31.

Basil McCrea and Danny Kennedy are likely emerge as some of the front-runners for the job.