Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Northern Ireland poised for fevered election campaigns

And so it has come to pass that a general election will be held just before Christmas
And so it has come to pass that a general election will be held just before Christmas

Editor's Viewpoint

And so it has come to pass that a general election will be held just before Christmas.

Apart from getting his Brexit deal through the Commons, this is the best present that Boris Johnson had wished for.

He sees it as an opportunity to cast out from the House of Commons the Remainers who have stymied him at virtually every turn on his journey out of the EU.

Having inherited a minority government he obviously hopes that he will gain a sufficient majority at the polls to fulfil all his remaining promises on Brexit and his programme for government.

Undoubtedly he is in a strong position having gained a new Brexit agreement but the election is still a risk.

The Opposition may be in disarray but the Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage, will chip away some Tory supporters and the contest may be tighter fought than expected.

It will certainly be a very interesting election in Northern Ireland with all sorts of subplots being played out. Will new UUP leader-in-waiting Steve Aiken's pledge to rule out an electoral pact with the DUP end up hurting both parties and cost seats?

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How will voters judge the DUP's pro-Brexit campaign and then U-turns on some issues such as regulatory alignment with the Republic on certain goods and a border in the Irish Sea?

Will Sinn Fein win or lose votes for merely sitting on the sidelines during the Brexit debate, coming up with no fresh ideas other than demanding the Irish government stand firm on no hard border?

What seems certain is that the border will continue to play a big part on the unionist parties' campaigns. In times of difficulty, fears that the border is being eroded is always a vote winner.

Sinn Fein's references to a border poll and Irish unity does little to lower the temperature in what is bound to be an ill-tempered campaign.

But there are dangers in hot-headed debates with dissident republicans remaining armed and ready to continue their murderous ambitions and loyalists threatening civil disorder if the Union is endangered.

The election has come at a bad time for those hoping for a return to Stormont. The surge seen in votes for the middle ground - particularly Alliance - in the council and European elections will be tested in a poll which will be fought along green and orange lines with each of the big parties hoping to give the other a bloody nose.

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