"I can no longer offer leadership to a political party which is expected to answer for the indefensible actions of others." So said Dawn Purvis, as she announced her resignation as leader and member of the PUP.
She said she was leaving because the PUP was "severely restricted because of its relationship with the Ulster Volunteer Force".
Purvis will remain as an independent MLA for East Belfast.
Barring a miracle for the party, this is it for the PUP. Purvis represented 80% of their electoral support – her 3,045 votes in 2007 were 80% of all of those cast for the PUP. The two other PUP candidates, in South Belfast and North Down received 410 votes and 367 votes respectively. Purvis successfully retained David Ervine's seat in East Belfast, but her abrupt exit from the party – and its reasons – ought to ensure that neither she nor the party retain the seat next year.
That leaves the PUP as a micro-group, with at best a couple of councillors, including its new interim leader, Belfast City councillor John Kyle. A major question mark must now exist over the very existence of the party. If it folds, like the UDP before it, the alphabet soup of unionism will thin a little, and some working class loyalist voters will have to find a new political home. The direction that the UUP is taking makes it unlikely that they will follow it, and while the DUP is a more logical choice, there remains a suspicion of that party amongst the PUP's community.
So the PUP's small vote – only 3,822 in 2007 – may either be dissipated amongst various other parties or independent candidates, or it may join the many other potential working class loyalist votes which are simply not cast – PUP voters may simply not turn out at all next time around.