Two former Ulster Unionists have thrown their support behind Ian Paisley in his battle to remain North Antrim MP.
Former Ukip Northern Ireland leader David McNarry, who was previously a UUP MLA, and former UUP chairman David Campbell, have urged unionist and loyalists in the constituency not to sign a petition to unseat Mr Paisley.
They claimed a "pan-nationalist front led by Sinn Fein" was trying to deprive unionism of a vote in the House of Commons at an historic moment.
Their stance is in direct conflict with that of the UUP and the TUV, whose leader Jim Allister has said the only issue at stake in the poll is sleaze.
Mr Campbell is currently the chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council, an umbrella organisation which is backed by the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando.
Mr Paisley has been suspended by the House of Commons for 30 days for a major breach of parliamentary rules.
He failed to declare two luxury holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
In 2014, he lobbied then-Prime Minister David Cameron against a proposed United Nations resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses during Sri Lanka's civil war without disclosing his financial benefit.
If 7,543 voters in North Antrim sign the petition of recall - 10% of the electorate - Mr Paisley will lose his seat and a by-election will be held.
Calling on unionists not to sign the petition, Mr Campbell and Mr McNarry said the North Antrim MP had already been punished by Parliament for breaching its rules and to unseat him would be "a completely disproportionate reaction".
They said: "It is clear to us that the pan-nationalist front led by Sinn Fein are using this breach of the rules by Ian some five years ago to try and precipitate a by-election in order to deprive unionism of a vote in Parliament during one of the most critical times in the modern history of our country.
"Any unionist who signs this petition is playing into the hands of republicans."
Mr McNarry and Mr Campbell said they both had "historic policy differences" with Mr Paisley and the DUP over the years. They described the North Antrim MP's breach of parliamentary rules as "misguided" but said he had already been sanctioned by Parliament.
They added: "What is beyond any doubt however is the commitment he has demonstrated to his electorate in North Antrim and to promoting Northern Ireland as a whole.
"Any unionist who thinks they are serving the best interests of North Antrim and Northern Ireland by signing this petition are gravely mistaken and they should desist rather than help Sinn Fein with their insidious agenda."
Mr Paisley is suspended by the DUP pending an investigation by party officers. The petition is open until September 19.
It can be signed at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena, the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney, and Sheskburn House Recreation Centre in Ballycastle.