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UUP election pact with the Tories is dead, says Tom Elliott

By LIam Clarke

Tom Elliott has said his party’s UCUNF electoral pact with the Conservatives is now dead.

In the coming Assembly election the UUP leader will advise his voters to give their second and subsequent preferences to fellow unionists.

However, his relationship with the DUP isn’t a strong one either.

He characterises it as tribal and sectarian in outlook.

Mr Elliott now believes the link- up with the Tories damaged his party and confused voters.

“I feel that if we had kept the direct Ulster Unionist Party banner we would have fared better. We would have had more freedom.”

He added that his party was still friendly with the Tories, but “we don’t have any direct relationship in the way we did”.

The pact led directly to the resignation of Lady Hermon, the UUP’s only MP.

She made it clear she supported Labour at Westminster.

With her gone the UUP emerged from the 2010 Westminster elections with no seats for the first time in its history.

Lady Hermon held North Down as an independent against a UUP challenge. After the electoral disaster, Sir Reg Empey, the Ulster Unionist leader who pioneered the link-up, resigned.

Lord Empey, the 13th leader of his party, now sits in the House of Lords as a Tory peer.

Mr Elliott said: “In the Westminster election UCUNF was too much, too soon — there was too much confusion around it.

“I don’t think the people of Northern Ireland understood the UCUNF project and the UCUNF banner. That was the drawback.”

However, Mr Elliott still defended Tory economic policy — including the reduction in Northern Ireland’s block grant — as the best that could be expected in the circumstances.

“The coalition sent us a block grant that was almost 7% reduction in revenue terms. That was probably about 12% less (of a cut) than Westminster departments”, he said.

He added: “The financial mess was created by Labour. The Conservatives are the clean-up crew.”

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