TUV throws hat into the ring
Jim Allister and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) threw down the gauntlet to East Belfast MP Peter Robinson during a recent public meeting, making it clear they were coming after the seat he has held locally for 30 years.
From the moment the speakers kicked-off in the Albertbridge Orange Hall there was talk of “reclaiming” the constituency.
Party spokesman David Vance said the TUV had gone “to the heart” of east Belfast to “reclaim” it for all voters “who want their political delegates to do what they promise and honour their pledges”.
Battling wintry conditions, the hall slowly filled as close to 200 people attended, with a rush to put out more chairs as the last few crept in to hear what Jim Allister’s party could offer east Belfast.
Addressing the meeting Mr Allister said the TUV was the “unionist insurance plan”, adding “east Belfast needs strong unionist leadership”.
“The grassroots of the TUV know what it is like to lose jobs, we are in touch with real people.”
Mr Allister also commented on the numbers who attended the meeting, claiming more had turned out “than in 1979 when Peter Robinson kicked off his campaign”.
“I don’t know if there will be an Assembly election, but there has to be a Westminster election and the TUV will be there.
But when The CT spoke to Mr Allister after the meeting he could not confirm who would be the candidate to take on Peter Robinson and his 30 year history in the area.
He said: “The process of selection is nearing completion and we should be in the position to reveal our candidate shortly.
“We can offer east Belfast constancy on policy and hard work, for all those who feel betrayed by their politicians.”
But at the party’s first public meeting in east Belfast, there was no direct mention of specific policies on today’s key issues, namely eduction and the economy.
This was noted by local man John Collins, who said he had attended the meeting to “hear the TUV’s policies on the likes of education, health and the economy”.
He added: “I stayed for the whole meeting just to satisfy my curiosity, but by the end I still did not know what the TUV’s stance was on the important issues.
“All I got from the meeting is that they believe in one politician one job, probity, say what’s right and do what’s right and tough negotiations.”
Unsatisfied Mr Collins tackled Mr Allister after the meeting had ended, hoping for further clarity.
He added: “I asked him after the meeting why there was no mention of the TUV’s policies on eduction and the other important issues.
“All I received was short answers and I was also told to come to the next meeting, where the TUV’s policies would be rolled out further.
“This was not good enough.
“Mr Allister and the TUV came into my constituency looking for my vote, but I don’t think they talked enough about specific issues to get me to vote for them, or attend one of their meetings again.”
And even though the hall was packed, it is unclear how many attending were actually residents of east Belfast.
Grabbing a seat beside two men when I entered, one casually mentioned the good turnout was due to “quite a lot of apathy” with the current political situation.
But when questioned further, they both turned out to be from Lisburn.
I can’t help but wonder how many other loyal TUV supporters had made the journey.