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UUP's link-up with Tories shouldn't be written off

Your article about UUP/DUP unity talks (News, January 23) and the accompanying editorial provided food for thought.

Although the conclusion that any pact would be a backward step by Ulster Unionists is correct, the assertion that the electorate previously 'punished' the UUP for aligning with the Conservatives doesn't bear scrutiny.

A total of 106,000 people across Northern Ireland cast their vote for a Conservative and Unionist candidate at the last general election.

That represented a stabilisation of the UUP vote for the first time in many years. This was in spite of a badly-botched campaign that was blighted not only by the late selection of candidates but also mixed messages to the electorate and a number of media howlers.

Sir Reg Empey missed out on taking the South Antrim seat by the narrowest of margins. A well-run, coherent campaign may have been judged a resounding success and voters certainly didn't reject the Conservative link.

There is much less to be commended in the notion of UUP/DUP 'unity', which will help entrench division, rather than normalise our politics or give Northern Ireland a say at Westminster.

Many voters and grassroots members will be bitterly disappointed that the UUP's leaders are keen on this backward-looking pact so soon after rejecting the opportunity to help form a centre-Right party for the future.

When will we move from narrow sectarian politics to joining mainstream UK parties?

DISILLUSIONED VOTER

Coleraine, Co Londonderry

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