Jeffrey Donaldson hot favourite to win his fifth term
Jeffrey Donaldson’s enormous vote may have taken a slight dip in 2010 due to the entry of the TUV, but the DUP man seems certain to be returned for his fifth term as MP.
The most interesting race in the Lagan Valley constituency will be among the remaining candidates — whether the Ulster Unionist Party can start to rebuild with a young candidate, how Alliance stalwart Trevor Lunn will perform, whether Ukip will make any impact and how big a bite the TUV will take out of the DUP vote.
The UUP, which held this seat for decades, has had a turbulent time in Lagan Valley, initially with the departure of Mr Donaldson in 2003 and, more recently, with the departure of MLA Basil McCrea to form NI21 two years ago.
The party which once dominated now does not even have an Assembly seat here.
Young lawyer and councillor Alexander Redpath has ambitions to change that. He is currently deputy mayor of Lisburn and while even he concedes it is extremely unlikely he will win the Westminster seat from Mr Donaldson, his running is nicely timed as a warm-up for next year’s Assembly elections.
Lagan Valley is one of only two of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies that retains a major Army influence. Lisburn hosts our biggest military barracks at Thiepval, and is also home to many retired soldiers and police officers.
The failure of Stormont to agree what to do with the site of the former Maze Prison is a bone of contention in the area, as is the fact that the long-promised John Lewis for Sprucefield has still not materialised.
Lisburn itself suffered badly in the economic downturn, the once-bustling central square is now forlorn, with many empty shops. It was built in 2001 at a cost of £23m, but is now on the market for offers over £2.25m,
In 2010, Mr Donaldson won in Lagan Valley with more than 18,000 votes, a long way ahead of nearest rival Daphne Trimble of the UUP who got 7,700 votes. Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn was next with just over 4,000 votes.
The TUV was a new entry to the race then with Dromore solicitor Keith Harbinson. He had been the candidate who bruised the DUP significantly in the 2008 council by-election and has been credited by some as part of the reason Ian Paisley resigned as DUP leader.
There is no sign of Mr Harbinson this time, in his place this year TUV press officer Samuel Morrison is running.
The nationalist vote is fairly insignificant in this constituency with 2010 SDLP candidate Brian Heading receiving just under 2,000 votes and the Sinn Fein candidate around 1,500 votes.
Ukip will be entering the race for the first time with retired civil servant Alan Love as its candidate.
With their message of offering an alternative to the main parties, it will be a point of interest to see how it perform in a strong unionist constituency such as Lagan Valley.
The Conservatives are standing Helen Osborne, who is currently a councillor across the water in Winchester in the south of England.
Jonny Orr should provide a bit of colour in the race with his fondness for dressing up as Darth Vader.
Mr Orr thinks the site of the former Maze Prison should be transformed into a leisure attraction, “rather than some museum to remind us of our dark past”.