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Link-up with the Tories may end up costing unionist seats

Analysis by Noel McAdam

Still seven weeks away from the most likely General Election date, and one result is already in.

Hopes for unionist unity candidates in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and South Belfast? Nil.

The prospect for agreed DUP/Ulster Unionist standard-bearers has lost out against the hard fact of the UU’s alliance with the Conservatives, who have always insisted on joint UU/Tory tickets running in every seat.

Allowing voters in every constituency the opportunity to support the UU/Tory tie-up, even where there is no chance of winning, formed the core of the project, intending to attract a less sectarian support base and widen the appeal among Catholics.

The failure to achieve uniformity has also cost the UUP its only MP — Lady Sylvia is likely to run as an independent — and arguably the chance of raising the unionist share of Westminster seats from 10 to 12, which could form a crucial bloc in a hung Parliament.

With Ulster Unionists now refusing to back the transfer of policing and justice powers, and bedded-down with the Tories, there is clear ‘red, white and blue water’ with the DUP, increasing the outlook for an interesting Westminster battle ahead.

The UU list of 17 candidates contains only two Tories, with only one constituency — south Antrim — still to be decided.

While demanding the twinned parties must fight all seats, the Tories proved unable to provide contenders for almost half.

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