Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

William Hague and Sir Reg Empey come out fighting armed with 105-page tome

William Hague and Sir Reg Empey
UUP leader Reg Empey at the UUP Manifesto launch at Mossley Mill
Former UUP leader David Trimble taking photographs as Reg Empey and William Hay arrive launch manifesto

William Hague and Sir Reg Empey yesterday launched the UUP-Tory manifesto. Political Editor David Gordon casts his eye over the event and the document's contents

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So, what's the big idea from the UUP?

The economy and the Union with Great Britain were two big themes of the day. The event threatened to be overshadowed by the row over David Cameron's remarks about Government being “too big” in Northern Ireland.

Sir Reg came out fighting on that one, but it remains to be seen if they will emerge unscathed.

The UUP-Tory alliance was hailed as putting Northern Ireland at the “heart of the Union”. Comments from Mr Hague about his party leader never being “neutral on the Union” also went down well.

Heavy or light on policies?

The Conservatives and Unionists manifesto comes to a whopping 105 pages. It combines the UUP platform with the Tory manifesto for the UK as a whole.

On the economic front, it proposes turning Northern Ireland into an enterprise zone, though no detail was given on what this would actually mean.

Cutting corporation tax is another key point.

That's on other party wish lists too?

The Tory/UUP camp say only they can actually deliver.

The Conservatives are proposing a relatively modest cut in corporation tax across the UK, plus a feasibility study on a separate rate for Northern Ireland.

That would open up the possibility of matching the much lower rate in the Republic, but this would be an Assembly decision and would have to be funded by a reduction in Stormont’s spending budget.

And did anyone mention cuts?

The Tories say public spending cuts are coming, whoever wins the General Election. They also say their aim is to grow the private sector over the long-term, and reduce reliance on the public sector here.

But David Cameron has talked in the past about wanting “smaller” government. When asked yesterday what current government functions the Tories want to end, Mr Hague talked in generalities about their “Big Society” goal.

Other policy examples from the manifesto?

The long list included: re-linking the state pension to earnings; retaining academic selection; protecting health spending; ending double-jobbing by politicians; no more public inquiries into Northern Ireland's troubled past, and consideration of a regional aviation strategy.

Best quote?

Sir Reg saying: “Other parties are fighting to be the Opposition. Conservatives and Unionists are fighting to be the Government.”

Dodgiest moment?

William Hague declaring that they were the only political force standing candidates in “every part” of the UK.

But what about Fermanagh and South Tyrone?

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