DUP voters 'sent message' to Sinn Fein, says Hamilton
Former Stormont minister Simon Hamilton will today tell the DUP conference that almost 300,000 unionists "fed up with Gerry Adams and his arrogance" voted for his party to "send a message to Sinn Fein".
Mr Hamilton will hail the DUP's "phenomenal performance" in June's Westminster election which brought it an unprecedented 10 MPs and a 36% vote on its "best day ever". The Strangford MLA, who was the DUP's director of elections, will admit that the party wasn't initially looking forward to the June poll after a "bruising election" in March.
While the Prime Minister must deeply regret calling the snap election, the DUP will thank her "for giving us the chance to show Sinn Fein that unionism wasn't as weak as they thought".
Mr Hamilton will say that North Down - where Alex Easton came within 1,200 votes of independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon - is the DUP's "number one target seat" in the next general election.
Securing such a high vote in Northern Ireland was a result of which the DUP should be proud, he will say.
"It put the party into an unprecedented position in Westminster and brought us attention like we've never had before."
When it became clear that the DUP could hold the balance of power at Westminster, the party manifesto was viewed online over 5.5 million times within six hours on election night. "When I signed it off to go to the printers a few days before its launch in Antrim, I would have thought that, at best, no one aside from a few journalists and policy wonks in Northern Ireland would pay it any attention," Mr Hamilton will say.
"While the manifesto was viewed by millions, it doesn't seem that anyone in Fleet Street who downloaded it actually took the time to read it. Instead, they chose to dredge up out of context quotes from the 1970s to distort what the DUP stands for in an attempt to besmirch this party".
Mr Hamilton will say that apart from "all the carping, the actual contents of our manifesto didn't garner any criticism at all. In fact, one commentator said it was the manifesto that the Conservatives should have run on if they had wanted to win."
The Strangford MLA will tell the conference that the DUP's Westminster team is now delivering the party's manifesto.
"Voting for parties that don't even take their seats is pointless. Voting for smaller parties or independents who have no clout doesn't maximise your vote," he will say. "A vote for the DUP isn't just a vote for the Union. It's also a vote for a party that can deliver and make a real difference for everyone."