Belfast Telegraph

David Ford: In 2010 people put their trust in Alliance and Naomi Long and we delivered for them

The Alliance Party stands for an open, tolerant, liberal Northern Ireland, where everyone is respected and welcome to play their part in the life of the community, says the party's leader David Ford

The election on May 7 is your opportunity to vote for Northern Ireland to move forward. Alliance is the clear, unequivocal choice for those who want to tackle the key challenges that face our community, so we can all move forward together.

In 2010, people put their trust in Alliance when they voted for us to go to the House of Commons for the first time.

We delivered on that opportunity, giving leadership in parliament, providing a strong voice for progressive politics, making practical changes in legislation and putting local issues on the agenda. Now we're asking you to put your trust in us again.

Like many others, we made pre-election promises last time. But, unlike others, we kept them.

We promised not to double-job between Westminster and Stormont and within weeks of the election, we delivered on that promise.

Sinn Fein don't take their seats and the UUP didn't get any MPs elected, so double-jobbing was less of an issue for them.

But five years after the last election, the SDLP and DUP continue to allow their MPs to do half a job in Westminster and half a job in Stormont.

We pledged to make politics more transparent. So, not only do we publish our large donors online for everyone to see, but Naomi Long amended key legislation at Westminster so information for all local parties will eventually be made public.

We committed to working tirelessly on behalf of our constituents, delivering first-class advice services and dedicated participation at Westminster.

Proof that we kept those promises can be found in recent figures from independent online watchdogs They Work for You and Rate Your MP.

These show that Alliance has a better participation record at Westminster than any other Northern Ireland party, while Naomi Long was revealed as having claimed the second-least amount of money among the Northern Ireland MPs who attend Westminster.

She has closed the book on the grossly excessive expense claims that other MPs used to get away with; behaviour that did so much damage to public confidence in politics.

But, of course, it's not just our record of delivery on our promises that makes Alliance different. The difference is also in our vision for this community and in the very make-up of our party.

Like no other party, Alliance reflects the diversity of age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and political outlook in our community.

It's reflected among our membership, among our councillors, among our Assembly members and among our Westminster candidates. I am enormously proud to lead a party that is genuinely for everyone.

And what unites this diverse movement of people is the belief that Northern Ireland deserves better - and can be better. That people want a future that's for everyone, whether they come from a unionist background, or a nationalist background, or any other background.

An open, tolerant, liberal Northern Ireland, where everyone is respected and welcome to play their part in the life of our community.

Many people tell me how excited they were five years ago, when Naomi Long was elected to represent East Belfast at Westminster.

They tell me that it showed them that, if enough people vote for something better, we can all get something better.

The jubilation of five years ago has been dulled by the seemingly constant political crises and talks and the lack of leadership from other parties to deliver progress on difficult issues.

Some signed up to the Stormont House Agreement before rowing back on those commitments. Others deliberately orchestrated the flag protests, which have poisoned relations between communities; high-stakes brinkmanship that places at risk the huge progress we've made.

On an ongoing basis, other parties keep trying to drag us back to division and mistrust, pandering to extremes and preventing Northern Ireland becoming more stable and prosperous.

That kind of politics has served them well in the past. But if you want a different kind of politics and a different kind of representation at Westminster, then I encourage you to vote for Alliance candidates, who will focus on the things that matter.

Things like the funding of vital public services, creating the conditions for growing new jobs, our connectivity and promoting our place in Europe. The opportunity to vote Alliance in every constituency is an opportunity to make clear that, amid the negativity and political bickering, there is a fresh, progressive voice in Northern Ireland, which promotes evidence-based policies, which challenges anti- European rhetoric, which supports equality and human rights and which fights consistently against the Government's cuts agenda.

Alliance is that voice. May 7 is your opportunity to vote for it. It's your opportunity to help our community to step forward, not back.

Belfast Telegraph

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