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UUP loses its only MP as Hermon goes solo

The UUP's electoral link-up with the Tories has cost the party its sole MP — before the General Election campaign has even started.

It was confirmed last night that Lady Sylvia Hermon is not seeking the joint Conservative-Ulster Unionist nomination in her north Down constituency.

The decision came as no surprise and leaves open a widely-expected bid by the MP to retain the seat on an independent ticket.

Lady Hermon had repeatedly made it clear that she was unhappy with the Tory electoral pact.

Yesterday was the official nomination deadline for UUP General Election candidates.

In a brief joint statement, party leader Sir Reg Empey and chairman David Campbell said:

“We have today been advised by Lady Hermon, Ulster Unionist MP for North Down, that she will not be seeking nomination as a Conservative and Unionist candidate at the forthcoming Parliamentary election.”

“We wish to record our regret at her decision, but also our sincere appreciation for her exemplary service to her constituents in North Down, our party and the wider community, since her election as Ulster Unionist MP in 2001.”

The UUP has selected 17 candidates for all constituencies, bar north Down. But Tory Party alternatives have also been put forward, and a joint high-level meeting is pending to name a final agreed list.

The North Down nomination is tipped to go to local councillor Ian Parsley, who defected to the Conservatives last year, after contesting the European election for the Alliance Party.

The UUP's 17 runners include former TV presenter Mike Nesbitt for Strangford, the seat vacant following the resignation of scandal-hit DUP MP, Iris Robinson.

Ex-rugby international Trevor Ringland is the Ulster Unionist choice for East Belfast, which has been held by Mrs Robinson's husband Peter since 1979.

The UUP choice for South Antrim – held by the DUP's Rev William McCrea – is Antrim councillor Adrian Watson. He has been criticised for comments in 2006, about how he would feel “uncomfortable” about having gay couples staying in his bed and breakfast.

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