With the forces of Jim Allister pulling out, Upper Bann is a DUP-Ulster Unionist re-match following the devastating defeat of David Trimble by David Simpson in 2005.
The now-Lord Trimble’s majority had already shrunk to 2,058 in 2001 in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement but Simpson overturned that to create a DUP majority of 5,398 last time.
Simpson is defending his party’s second-smallest majority but Trimble has been replaced with a relative political novice, the Freddie Mercury impersonator Harry Hamilton. Can the Queen man become King?
So who has the Upper Bann upper hand?
Hamilton comes without any baggage and is a personable man but the UUP-Tory tie-in may not play well in the constituency once represented by the late, left-leaning Harold McCusker.
Simpson, however, faces a volatile electorate where, despite sound constituency work, there may be an even larger than average ‘stay-at-home’ factor in protest at the DUP’s decision to go into government with Sinn Fein part symbolised by the on-going local irritant of the Drumcree parade.
Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) has hinted its supporters should vote UUP. But a newcomer will find a 5,300 majority hard to turn around.
Could a three-way split have seen the constituency go to Sinn Fein?
Quite likely. And yet TUV’s insistence it fell on its sword to prevent a republican breakthrough must be weighed against the prospect that its likely standard-bearer David Calvert would have performed poorly, following his recent Lurgan by-election.
And Allister’s group is not exactly coming down with candidates.
On the nationalist side Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd will be attempting to maintain his 3,500 vote majority over the SDLP’s Dolores Kelly while there has been some consternation in the local Alliance Party over candidate Brendan Heading being ‘parachuted’ into the constituency.
And the runners are:
Harry Hamilton, Ulster Conservatives and Unionists
Brendan Heading, Alliance
Dolores Kelly, Social Democratic & Labour Party
John O'Dowd, Sinn Fein
David Simpson, Democratic Unionist Party