The DUP know they have a battle royale on their hands in Upper Bann if they are to keep the two seats they secured in 2017.
And so, it seemed tactical that it was in Portadown, in the heart of the Upper Bann, that the party faithful gathered on Thursday to launch their manifesto.
One of the themes of this election is parties revealing pointed plans; the DUP settled on a five-point plan, looking at the most pressing issues, as they see them, facing unionism.
“Our five-point plan is a plan to build a better future for Northern Ireland,” said party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
“Our five-point plan is about moving Northern Ireland forward, working together and focusing on what matters,” he added.
The five points start with the health service, with the DUP the only party recommending further utilising the private sector to reduce waiting lists.
“The DUP wants to fix our NHS and is committed to investing an extra £1bn to cut waiting lists using a partnership with the independent sector, delivering an additional 750,000 hospital assessments and procedures, training more GPs per year, rewarding staff and ending the dependence on an overpriced agency sector,” the manifesto states.
Point two is ‘growing the economy’.
“We will support 20,000 jobs in the next five years, create higher-paid jobs in agritech, life and health sciences and advanced manufacturing, create 5,000 new tech jobs, make NI 100% fibre broadband and deliver a modern career service in schools,” the manifesto outlines.
Point three is keeping schools ‘world-class’, which the DUP say can be achieved by establishing a “fair funding model for all schools and building more new schools in the next five years, with a focus on better utilising technology within the classroom”.
Building schools rather than closing them is a popular pledge but financially unworkable at a time when Northern Ireland needs to look at streamlining and possible closure or merger of existing schools.
The DUP say they support a cap on school uniform costs, which is something that will be applauded by any family with school-age children.
The party also support academic selection, which is controversial but not a surprise, as they’ve always said they are in favour of what the manifesto refers to as “parental choice and the right of schools to use academic selection if they so wish”.
Point four, for those not keeping score, is ‘removing the protocol’.
No big surprise there: the DUP has been front and centre at the anti-protocol rallies. The manifesto says they will “judge any new arrangements against our seven tests to determine whether they respect NI’s position as part of the UK”.
That’s seven tests not to be confused with five points.
They add that any new arrangements “must be able to command the support of unionists as well as nationalists”.
Tackling the cost-of-living crisis has been a feature of all the parties’ manifesto pledges and the DUP are no different — it forms their fifth and final point.
They pledge to deliver “30 hours’ free childcare per week” for three- and four-year-olds and to financially support families with an Energy Support Payment.
The DUP manifesto is a positive document — it contains dozens of claims of delivery from party ministers in the Executive (too many to fact-check) — but it does raise the question of whether they will be back in Stormont immediately after the election.
The party appear to be keen to highlight their achievements at Executive level, which would suggest they are far from done with power-sharing.
The manifesto runs to 60 pages. It is slick in its presentation and full of promises and aspirational pledges; it is about so much more than the protocol, which only takes up two pages of the document.
Again, there’s little or no costing of many of the future pledges, but for the DUP this is not a document that you would link to a party that is considering basing itself in Westminster — far from it — it is more of a love letter to Stormont of past, present and future.