Tories accused of pledge backtrack
The Conservatives have been accused of backtracking on a pledge to stand in Stormont elections by the party's former Northern Ireland chairman as he resigned over the issue.
Irwin Armstrong said his position was no longer tenable after the Tories decided to opt out of next May's Assembly poll to allow their erstwhile electoral partners the Ulster Unionists a free run.
The agreement with the UUP will enable the Tories to stand in next year's council elections, but Mr Armstrong said that was not enough.
He claimed Secretary of State Owen Paterson and another senior party figure in Northern Ireland told him last month that Prime Minister David Cameron had decided to contest the Assembly election.
"I took them at face value and organised members to do things in Northern Ireland on the basis that we would be running in the election," he said.
He said the subsequent agreement between the Tories and UUP had been struck without consulting him. "The decision will effectively disband the Conservatives in Northern Ireland as the sole reason for a political party is to contest elections and the recruitment of activists will be impossible if all they are offered is council elections and pacts with another party," he added.
Conservative Party sources denied any pledge had been made that the party would contest the Assembly election.
In regard to the agreement with the UUP, Tory Party chair Sayeeda Warsi said it was a good move for both parties.
"We believe that the joint statement represents a sensible way forward for both the Conservative Party and the UUP," she said.
"The Conservative Party intends to campaign vigorously in the local elections with a view to laying the foundations for future electoral success."