Jim Allister is to attend a key Traditional Unionist Voice meeting tonight to decide on the next move following his stronger-than-expected showing in the European election.
With the former MEP already confirming he will run against the DUP in North Antrim when the General Election is announced, the meeting is expected to discuss which other constituencies to target.
And, sources said, it is likely to identify areas where a three-way split with the DUP and Conservatives and Unionists ‘new force’ would allow Sinn Fein to gain more seats, including potentially John O’Dowd in Upper Bann.
North Antrim could become an important showdown for Allister who is likely to be running against Ian Paisley jnr for the seat. TUV workers also held a party last night to celebrate Mr Allister’s strong performance, winning more than 66,000 first preference votes, a 13% slice of the DUP’s core support.
Now, with a lack of leading personalities who could hope to replicate Allister’s showing, the still-fledgling party believes it is important to cultivate new blood.
While some senior figures including former Ulster Unionist MP William Ross and ex-United Kingdom Unionist Cedric Wilson are TUV members, it is not known if they would want to run in an election again.
But a TUV source said: “In terms of Westminster and Assembly we have very creditable candidates inside the party who haven’t been pushed forward before. (We) don’t want to get into personalities but the party believes that it is important to find fresh faces.”