Belfast Telegraph

North Down

The Ulster Unionists appear to keep falling over themselves to keep Lady Sylvia Hermon in power - and so the General Election seems set to prove again.

Former leader Mike Nesbitt described her as “an Ulster Unionist in spirit” - though she shows no sign whatsoever of planning to return to the party.

Last time round a candidate, Carl McClean, was selected and then withdrawn at the eleventh hour. So, this time, also Alan Chambers was announced as the UU standard-bearer only for the plug to be pulled again.

Leader Robin Swann spoke again about “Sylvia’s previous links to the party” and North Down being unique. It is just as likely the UUP did not want the embarrassment of being defeated by their former colleague and decided it might as well save the money.

North Down has long had an independent streak - Mrs Hermon defeated former UKUP leader Bob McCartney, who had himself replaced the late Sir James Kilfedder, the leader of the Ulster Popular Unionist Party, who held the seat since the 1970s.

Lady Hermon goes into this latest fight with a 9,000-plus majority leaving the DUP veteran Alex Easton with too high a hill to climb. Caoimhe McNeill is running for the SDLP along with high profile candidates Steven Agnew from the Greens and Conservative Frank Shivers. Gavan Reynolds is also upholding the independent candidate tradition in the constituency.

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