Belfast Telegraph

Party bosses geared up for snap election

By Noel McAdam

The DUP is preparing for a snap general election in the next few months, the annual conference heard.

Deputy party leader Nigel Dodds said Prime Minister Theresa May could be tempted to go to the country earlier than expected.

"The temptation for the PM to call a general election is strong and growing," the North Belfast MP told the party faithful.

"Our party is making preparations for such an eventuality."

After his speech, Mr Dodds told the Belfast Telegraph he still thought the prospect of an imminent Westminster race is less likely than more likely, on balance. But he said there was increasing speculation at Westminster and believed if Mrs May did decide to call an election it would probably be in May of next year.

One factor in the calculations could be the "weakness" of the Labour Party under current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

With the DUP now the co-equal fourth largest party in the House of Commons - tied on eight seats with the Liberal Democrats - Mr Dodds said the DUP was prepared to work with other parties "in the national interest and in the interest of Northern Ireland".

"That's not something Jeremy Corbyn is interested in. With him and fellow IRA supporter John McDonnell, the Labour Party has descended into disunity and a national embarrassment," Mr Dodds said.

During the 1990s Mr Corbyn spoke at official republican commemorations, while in 2004 Mr McDonnell was given an award by Sinn Fein.

Mr Dodds earned the first full standing ovation of Saturday's gathering after he argued Ulster Unionists and the SDLP had gone into opposition in Stormont "out of weakness" - and said cosy alliances were more like a "muddled swamp".

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