Ian Paisley Jnr has embraced a Scottish Nationalist MP in Parliament, telling the surprised politician: “We want to keep you forever!”
Mr Paisley sparked laughter in the House of Commons when he grabbed the shoulder of the SNP’s Angus MacNeil during the DUP MP’s call for a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
The North Antrim MP called on the Prime Minister and the entire Commons to unite in a campaign to “maintain, sustain and support the Union” after David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond signed a deal on terms for a referendum on Scottish independence this week.
Responding, David Cameron called for cross-party support for the campaign, adding: “I’ve always wanted to share a platform with Ian Paisley — maybe I’ll get my chance.”
Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, Mr Paisley cited the Belfast Telegraph’s poll that found just 7% of people in Northern Ireland were in favour of a united Ireland.
“There are record levels of support for the British Union. In a recent poll only 7% of the population indicated they would support leaving the Union now, and that figure only rises to 32% when asked to consider the prospect even in 20 years time,” said Mr Paisley.
He also referred to this week’s deal over the question to be asked in the referendum poll, and in a reference to Mr MacNeil and his fellow Scottish Nationalist Pete Wishart, added: “Does the Prime Minister agree... that it is now up to him and this House to unite in a campaign to maintain, sustain and support the union and keep MacNeil and Wishart with us forever!”
As Mr Cameron responded, a laughing Mr MacNeil shook Mr Paisley’s hand.
The PM said he was “very pleased” to have reached agreement on the referendum question, adding: “I hope everyone will vote to keep the UK together and I hope this will have cross-party support.”
Mr Paisley said he would be “more than happy to share a platform with the Prime Minister to support the future of our country”.