The man who was supposed to be the Ulster Unionist’s South Antrim candidate in the General Election has said he was ousted because he is not a “Cameron cutie”.
Mayor of Antrim Adrian Watson has launched an astonishing attack on his own party and their electoral bedfellows, the Conservatives, who he said were totally out of touch with the people of Northern Ireland.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph just hours after he was barred as the Conservative/Ulster Unionist candidate in South Antrim, Mr Watson claimed:
l The Ulster Unionist Party link with the Conservatives is a “gimmick” that will be the undoing of his party;
l He was sidelined as a candidate because his views did not meet the “political correctness” of the new Conservative Party;
l The party is now in disarray and he is considering his future with the UUP;
l The UUP will win no parliamentary seats in the general election;
And in a further blow to the beleaguered Ulster Unionists, 11 party members from the South Antrim area have resigned in protest.
Mr Watson said he believed the opposition to him standing was due to controversy surrounding comments he made in 2006 about gay couples.
He had suggested they would not be welcome in his family's bed and breakfast, This, however, he claimed were comments that were “misinterpreted”.
“I have been accused by the Conservatives of being anti-gay and too Orange,” he said.
“I’m not anti-gay, I wouldn’t discriminate against anyone because of their gender, race or religion and I’ve proved that time and time again.”
He added: “My face just didn’t fit. I’m very much a local South Antrim man. I am not a Cameron-cutie, as somebody described it.
“I put forward my opinion, but unfortunately my views did not meet the political correctness of the new Conservative Party.”
He claimed a small number of people from within the Ulster Unionist Party, supported by the local Conservatives, who have ensured his controversial comments about homosexuals were “given prominence”.
“I have no difficulty in pointing the finger of blame at these anonymous senior Conservatives that want to make comment but won’t put their names to it,” he said.
Mr Watson said he was left “disgusted and devastated” by the decision to block his candidature.
“I certainly will not be supporting an Ulster Unionist Conservative New force candidate. I think it is a gimmick that will prove to be the undoing of the Ulster Unionist Party.
“We have already have lost our only Member of Parliament Sylvia Hermon. We are starting to see the North Down constituency rebel with the resignation of Alan McFarland.
“I would suggest we will have no Ulster Unionist conservative new force success in the forthcoming election.”