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Revamped Unionists jettison the ‘first lady’ Hermon

Ulster Unionist MP Lady Hermon has spoken of her “considerable sadness” after losing her party’s nomination to run in the General Election.

After telling this newspaper earlier in the week she would take time to think before deciding on standing as an independent, the North Down MP said she is not “in a place where I would want to be”.

Lady Hermon said she had hoped her refusal to accept the link-up with the Conservatives could have been resolved but, as revealed yesterday, two other party members are now seeking the North Down nomination.

“I can’t pretend this has been an easy decision on my part. On the contrary, it has caused me considerable sadness, especially as I had hoped some amicable resolution could have been found,” she said.

“However, that did not happen, and current arrangements dictated that my decision had to be made before 5pm on Tuesday past. That was the deadline for Ulster Unionists to seek selection to fight the forthcoming election “with the knowledge that they would stand under the Conservative and Unionist banner and would take the Conservative Whip in Westminster”.

“The simple truth is that I am unable to stand under that banner and, as I have said consistently, I would not take the Tory Whip at Westminster.” Speaking as she welcomed Attorney General Baroness Scotland on a visit to the constituency, Lady Hermon went on: “It is, therefore, with sadness that I find myself in a very difficult place, and not at all where I would like to be just weeks ahead of an election campaign.

“I was elected as an Ulster Unionist in 2001 and again in 2005. That is my mandate and that is what I intend to fulfil until the day and hour a General Election is called and this Parliament dissolved.”

Her comments came as it was confirmed the North Down association will meet at the end of next week to decide between former party officer Jonny Andrews, a grandson of former Northern Ireland Prime Minister John Andrews, and Strangford election official Bill McKendry. Recently-elected constituency chairman Alan

McFarland has already said if she decides to go forward as an independent, Lady Hermon would have to be removed or quit the party. In her statement Lady Hermon said constituents had provided her with “a light at the end of what seemed to be a very dark tunnel” after the death of her husband, former RUC Chief Constable Sir Jack Hermon.

“I obviously now have to weigh up the options left open to me. As Jack often said: ‘Remember the four Ts — take time to think’. That’s exactly what I’m doing,” she went on.

“Over the next few days I want to talk to constituents, friends and family before coming to a final decision. Until then, I shall be making no further comment.”

Belfast Telegraph