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We are key to UK balance of power, predicts DUP's Peter Robinson

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DUP leader Peter Robinson told his party's annual conference that 'the prize at a Westminster election has never been greater' than in next May's poll

DUP leader Peter Robinson told his party's annual conference that 'the prize at a Westminster election has never been greater' than in next May's poll

DUP leader Peter Robinson told his party's annual conference that 'the prize at a Westminster election has never been greater' than in next May's poll

Peter Robinson has predicted that the DUP could hold the balance of power at Westminster after next May's general election.

"These are historic times. After decades on the fringes and in opposition, this party leads unionism and the administration at Stormont and in six months' time we could be critical to the formation of the national government as well," the First Minister told his party's annual conference.

"It is only once in a generation that events and electoral arithmetic conspire to put unionists at the centre of politics, not just here in Northern Ireland, but the UK as a whole. We may be on the verge of such a moment," he said.

Yesterday, opinion polls lent weight to Mr Robinson's claim that "it is looking increasingly likely that no single party will be able to form an administration. Indeed it's not even clear if any two parties could form a government. If that is right, then every seat will count. A seat here or there could be the difference between providing a clear majority and falling just short."

A YouGov poll in the Sun found Labour and the Tories neck and neck on 33% while another poll for the same company in the Sunday Times found the split 34% Tory to 33% Labour. At present the DUP has eight of our 18 Westminster seats.

Mr Robinson lost his own East Belfast seat to Naomi Long of Alliance in 2010 and yesterday Gavin Robinson, the former Lord Mayor of Belfast and no relation to the DUP leader, was chosen to fight the seat.

"It will come as absolutely no surprise if I tell you that our number one target is to gain East Belfast. I want to see East Belfast back in the unionist column at Westminster. And there is only one unionist candidate who can win the seat and that's my friend and colleague, Gavin Robinson," the First Minister said.

He strongly discouraged other unionists from standing and attacked Alliance policies, including its support for a reduction of flag flying days at Belfast City Hall.

Belfast Telegraph