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General Election campaign trail: Dial 1690 for Nesbitt

Steven McCaffery looks at events on the General Election campaign trail, as the first full week of action gets under way.


All the omens suggest that former newsman Mike Nesbitt has the makings of a unionist politician, after it emerged he boasts a telephone number that ends with the digits '1690'.

The former UTV anchor man, now the UUP/Conservative candidate in Strangford, revealed he had asked for a memorable mobile number after hearing Classic FM using a telephone line that ended with '1812'.

He said of his 1690 number: "Funnily enough, not that many people twigged over the last 10 years or so, but since I entered politics, everyone sees it!"

And appropriately enough for a politician whose mobile is a reminder of the Battle of the Boyne, he has already picked up a war wound while out canvassing.

In his fight to seize the seat relinquished by the DUP's Iris Robinson, he has already been crowned the first politician to fall off a lamppost while hanging election posters.

"I put the wee ladder up against the lamppost, and then the ladder disappeared," he said.

His forehead now boasts what he describes as a "nice Harry Potter scar".

He plans to continue knocking on doors, but hopes to be hitting fewer pavements.


People in the Lakelands are struggling to explain the Tory Party's historic fascination with Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

It's nearly 100 years since Winston Churchill famously moaned that after the turmoil of the First World War "we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again".

Now, after two years spent declaring it would not enter unionist pacts for fear of appearing sectarian, the Conservative Party has again decided that the constituency is a place apart.

Shadow secretary for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson said in February: "There is no question of us being involved in any kind of electoral arrangement in Northern Ireland that involves other parties. We are completely committed to standing together, as Conservatives and unionists, to offer the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to support national, mainstream and non-sectarian politics."

But last week, after the DUP, UUP and Conservatives rowed in behind the independent candidate Rodney Connor, the same top Tory said: "We recognise that Fermanagh and South Tyrone has characteristics that are unique within the UK..."

Insiders are already saying that the Conservative Party's geography lesson has only served to put Sinn Fein's election campaign on the map.

One republican said: "If Michelle Gildernew is beaten in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, she will say she was the victim of a sectarian pact. If she holds her seat, she will have defeated the combined forces of unionism."

Sinn Fein had been facing a boring General Election, with tipsters predicting the party would safely hold its five existing Westminster seats, with no prospect of gaining any new ones. Now republicans have been gifted a PR platform that could lift their campaign across Northern Ireland. Observers are already predicting that the only casualty in that scenario could be the SDLP.


Election time is a very stressful period for politicians.

Even the strongest candidates fear that unforeseen events could derail their hopes of securing their job for a further term.

They now face long days of sucking up to would-be voters, followed by sleepless nights spent fearing the worst.

And as an added bonus, new research suggests the agonising wait will feel even longer.

Scientists exploring how the perception of time changes when someone is in pain have made a worrying discovery.

Researchers aimed to find out why a day spent suffering from stress, or a pain like a hangover, could appear to drag.

A laboratory controlled study which subjected participants to moderate pain whilst doing a mentally demanding task found people would estimate that an average of 20% more time had passed than had in reality.

The results mean that being under stress is like adding an extra two hours to your average eight-hour working day.

It's going to be a long road ahead.


Officials are getting ready to unwrap the brand new Department of Justice - literally.

The long-awaited devolution of policing and justice powers technically takes place when the clock strikes one minute after midnight on Monday morning.

But days ago the new signs bearing the department's name were in place around Block B Castle Buildings in the Stormont estate - though plastic wrapping kept the name plates covered until all is officially confirmed.

The office complex will be home to the new department, but the venue is best known as the building where in 1998 cross-party talks led to the groundbreaking Good Friday Agreement.

Now the dull-looking building is braced for a further chapter in its unlikely history.

Belfast Telegraph


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