Belfast Telegraph

Claire Hanna ready to set aside differences with SDLP to run for MP

Groundwork: Claire Hanna
Groundwork: Claire Hanna
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Claire Hanna is ready to set her differences with the SDLP to one side and put herself forward to run as the party's South Belfast candidate in the next general election.

Ms Hanna, who resigned the SDLP whip in February following the party's link-up with Fianna Fail, said she is already doing the groundwork to challenge the sitting MP, Emma Little-Pengelly of the DUP.

Ms Little-Pengelly won the seat in the 2017 election by 2,000 votes, unseating former SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

The news that Ms Hanna is ready to throw her hat into the ring will also be a blow to Dr McDonnell's hopes of a political comeback, days after he indicated he was ready to challenge the DUP MP, branding her "disastrous" for South Belfast.

The fact that two of the party's biggest names are circling for a nomination to contest the seat is a clear indication the party believes it can win it back.

Ms Hanna told BBC's Talkback: "I don't think there's any political party that fights Westminster elections that isn't preparing for them.

"As you probably know, most politicians worth their salt are always engaging with the electorate.

"(If I am selected) that will be a matter for the members. I don't think it's any secret that I'm active on the ground in South Belfast. I think it's the best possibility of removing a DUP hard-Brexit vote."

Asked if that meant she would be the ideal candidate, she replied: "Yes."

Following the link-up with Fianna Fail, Ms Hanna also stepped down as the SDLP's Brexit spokesperson, but has continued to be a party member.

Mr McDonnell has already confirmed he has put his name forward to possibly run again in the constituency if Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls a snap election. But party sources have suggested Ms Hanna would be favourite to win the nomination to run if she puts her name forward.

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