The Alliance Party is predicting a shock for DUP leader Peter Robinson in his East Belfast heartland — claiming its deputy leader Naomi Long is in with a “very good chance” of winning the seat.
The party — like the UUP-Tory camp — is reporting an anti-Robinson mood on the doorsteps.
But both maintain their candidates stand the bets chance of unseating him — leaving open the possibility that each may stymie the other's threat to the DUP chief.
A badly squeezed majority for Mr Robinson could still spark speculation about his leadership of the party.
Alliance's upbeat assessment was voiced yesterday as the party unveiled its General Election manifesto in East Belfast.
Leader and new Stormont Justice Minister David Ford said the constituency offered the party its “best chance for a generation” of winning a Westminster seat.
He praised Ms Long as an “excellent candidate”, who had a “very good chance” of victory and deserved to win.
Senior party official and East Antrim candidate Gerry Lynch claimed the DUP is in “serious trouble” in the constituency.
Mr Robinson is defending a majority of under 6,000 secured in 2005 against Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey.
The UUP-Tory candidate this time is former British Lions rugby international Trevor Ringland.
Central themes from the Alliance manifesto include “rebalancing” the economy, protecting the environment and tackling division.
“Segregation is costing each household in Northern Ireland one thousand pounds every year,” Mr Ford told the launch event.
“Only Alliance makes ending this costly division our top priority. We will also be working to make communities safer and ensuring fair justice for all.”
The party leader also said: “The biggest issues for the public on the doorsteps are jobs and protecting and reforming public services, yet other parties seem more concerned about carving up Northern Ireland for themselves.”
Mr Ford also spoke of the inevitability of water charges being introduced at Stormont, stressing the need for fairness with bills.
The party manifesto accuses the main Assembly parties of “cheap populism” on financial matters, saying: “Alliance has been straight in recognising that the continued deferral of domestic water charges is not financially sustainable.”
The manifesto backs the lowering of Corporation Tax —- the tax on company profits — in Northern Ireland. It says the rate should “ideally” match the Irish Republic's figure of 12.5%.
The party acknowledges that, due to European law, lost revenue “in the short term” from this tax cut would have to be taken from the Northern Ireland block grant — the money Stormont gets each year to fund its expenditure.
Alliance says the estimated loss to the block grant from lowering corporation tax would be £200m — coincidentally the same total it cites as the annual cost to Stormont of not levying water charges.
The creation of tens of thousands of jobs with the implementation of a 'Green New Deal' based on sustainability energy and renewables
To press Whitehall for tax varying powers to be given to Stormont in order to cut business/corporation tax. Acknowledging this move would see Westminster funding cut by £200m, the party said it would make up the initial shortfall by taking decisions on matters thus far 'fudged' by the Executive, such as the deferment of water charges.
Safeguard and reform frontline public services and resist 'reckless' cuts
Restore earnings link to pensions and increase winter fuel grants for older people
Extend the national minimum wage to 16-year-olds
Push for the introduction of an independent Environment Protection Agency in Northern Ireland
A crackdown on double jobbing politicians at Westminster and Stormont