Belfast Telegraph

Confirmation is culmination of eight days of dispute over electoral pacts with parties

Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The Ulster Unionist Party's confirmation yesterday that it will step aside in North Belfast and support the DUP's Nigel Dodds follows eight days of dispute over electoral pacts.

Saturday, October 26: UUP leader-in-waiting Steve Aiken told the Belfast Telegraph "there will be no pacts with the DUP" under his leadership. The two main unionist parties have previously formed pacts in closely-fought constituencies so as not to split the unionist vote.

Sunday, October 27: Mr Aiken's stance prompted the DUP leader Arlene Foster to accuse him of being willing to "hand seats to Sinn Fein". Mr Aiken also came under attack from former party chairman David Campbell, who said it was wrong to dismiss "sensible electoral arrangements" with the DUP.

Monday, October 28: Mr Aiken told the BBC his decision not to engage in electoral pacts with the DUP had the support of other party members.

Thursday, October 31: Two days after the House of Commons voted to hold a General Election on December 12, a letter printed in this newspaper and signed by 25 unionists called for a single unionist candidate in North Belfast.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also urged Mr Aiken to reconsider his decision, saying it was "bonkers" and would cost unionists seats by splitting the vote in key constituencies.

Later that night Mr Aiken appeared to backtrack on the BBC's The View programme by refusing to confirm if the party would put forward a candidate against Mr Dodds.

Friday, November 1: It emerged that threats had been issued to UUP staff amid the mounting tensions over electoral pacts.

Saturday, November 2: Mrs Foster said her party would step aside in the Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency and support the UUP's Tom Elliott, who has yet to confirm his candidacy.

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