Belfast Telegraph

General Election: UUP's Steve Aiken refuses to be drawn on whether he will stand in North Down

Steve Aiken (PA)
Steve Aiken (PA)

By Eimear McGovern

Incoming Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken has refused to be drawn on whether he will stand as a candidate in North Down.

Speaking to the BBC's Inside Politics programme, Mr Aiken said he will 'probably' be putting his name forward as a potential MP for the election on December 12 - but wouldn't say where.

"I will probably be putting my name forward. We will see, there is a whole suite of possibilities. We have a very good set of potential MPs in Danny Kinahan and Tom Elliott and we have an opportunity in other seats as well," he said.

When asked whether he was personally attracted to running in North Down after Lady Sylvia Hermon announced she would not contest the election, he said: "I'm attracted to going out and representing Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland's only independent unionist MP, Lady Hermon was formally a member of the UUP until 2009, when she left after its electoral pact with the Conservative Party.

Mr Aiken said: "Lady Sylvia Hermon has been the proper voice for Northern Ireland. Any of the UUP MPs would be well capable of doing that."

When asked about threats made to staff of the Ulster Unionist Party regarding pacts with the DUP, Mr Aiken said "The Ulster Unionist Party will not be swayed under my leadership."

He was asked whether the party would be fielding a candidate in east Belfast and replied saying that his party will be making an announcement on what candidates they will be running in the election ahead of the close of nominations next week.

He said they are still considering their possibilities but that the UUP will be running a candidate in the Upper Bann.

"Within Upper Bann we have potentially a very good candidate who can win for unionism and would potentially be a much better candidate than either Carla [Lockhart] or anybody else that they wish to put  forward. Because if we're serious about putting forward people that are unionist and pro union and actually want to do what's best for Northern Ireland, we [the UUP] have the best candidate suite."

Doug Beattie is currently an Ulster Unionist MLA in the area.

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