Jeffrey Donaldson has confirmed he will be contesting the leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), his second bid in as many months.
In May, the Lagan Valley MP was narrowly defeated for the role of DUP leader by Edwin Poots, who was forced to stand down after only 21 days in office owing to his weak leadership style and unpopularity.
Donaldson has given strong indications he will leave Westminster to become Northern Ireland’s First Minister if he becomes DUP leader.
The nominations for the party leadership close on noon on Tuesday (June 22), with the next DUP leader set to be confirmed on Saturday (June 26).
If Donaldson secures the DUP top job he will replace Poots loyalist Paul Givan as First Minister.
However, a Donaldson victory is not expected to alleviate the political crisis in Northern Ireland as he has hardline views on two contentious issues: the Northern Ireland Protocol (which keeps the British-controlled territory aligned to the European Union single market) and a proposed Irish language law.
On announcing his second leadership bid, Donaldson called on pro-British elements in the north of Ireland to “unite in the face of the threats posed to Northern Ireland by the protocol".
"Make no mistake, this [Northern Ireland Protocol] is the number one issue facing our country, our people and our place within the United Kingdom”, Donaldson said in a statement.
"If elected, I will ensure that the government doesn't just listen, but recognizes the need to take decisive action to deal quickly with the protocol", he added.
On the highly emotive issue of Irish language legislation, Donaldson has previously said he will not nominate a First Minister unless there is “significant change in the plans to bring in Irish language laws”.