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DUP's Gavin Robinson fires the starting pistol for East Belfast Westminster election fight

The Democratic Unionist will try to wrangle the seat back from Alliance MP Naomi Long

By Claire Cromie

Gavin Robinson has publicly accepted his party's nomination as Westminster candidate for East Belfast - firing the starting pistol for next year's General Election fight to unseat Naomi Long.

The former Belfast Lord Mayor set out his stall on the second day of the DUP conference on Saturday, saying he would do "all in my power to make sure the voice of East Belfast in Westminster is a unionist voice".

Comparing the DUP's strength in numbers to Naomi Long's position as Alliance's only MP, he said he would not be a "lone voice in the wilderness at Westminster, but part of a larger team with the dedication to make a difference and the strength to succeed".

"The people of East Belfast have time and again placed their trust in us and in turn, I trust we have earned their confidence. But the last four and a half years have been frustratingly long."

Mr Robinson, currently Belfast city councillor for the Titanic area, said in his speech: "Rather than take back East Belfast, we want to back East Belfast. To back the people of East Belfast and offer representation that restores the pride in the place I call home."

He added:  I trust, that with your support, the support of my local association but more importantly, with the support of all those who share my passion for East Belfast, we'll win in the months and years to come.

Speculation has been rife since the local council elections in May about a potential DUP/UUP pact for the 2015 elections.

Senior DUP figures have suggested the deal would involve the UUP opting out of East Belfast – where DUP leader Peter Robinson lost to Mrs Long in 2011 – in return for a free run in South Belfast, where the sitting MP is the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell.

Party leader Peter Robinson is expected to address the East Belfast issue in his speech on Saturday afternoon.

Further reading:

It's time to streamline Stormont, Simon Hamilton tells DUP conference 

SDLP say 'no' to electoral pact with Sinn Fein for Westminster election

Can showman Sammy Wilson become the next leader of DUP? 

Ulster Unionist Party conference: Polling analysis 

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