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Alex Kane

Jim Allister a Voice crying in the wilderness

Alex Kane


Equally at home challenging the Chief Constable on Nolan or savaging the DUP's record in government, Jim Allister is having a moment. So why does his Traditional Unionist Voice party struggle for support?

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Purist: TUV leader Jim Allister remains one of the busiest MLAs

Purist: TUV leader Jim Allister remains one of the busiest MLAs

Stephen Nolan with Jim Allister on the Nolan Show

Stephen Nolan with Jim Allister on the Nolan Show

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Purist: TUV leader Jim Allister remains one of the busiest MLAs

When Jim Allister resigned from the DUP in March 2007 (following an overwhelming decision by the party executive to endorse an arrangement which would result in a DUP First Minister with a Sinn Fein deputy in May), it spooked the party. They knew they were taking a huge risk, anyway, so the departure of their MEP was a blow. What they couldn't be sure of is what he would do next; with both Bob McCartney's United Kingdom Unionist Party and the UUP suggested as possibilities.

But on December 7, he founded Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and committed the party to fighting against mandatory coalition and for the rule of law. Some sources within the DUP suggest it was the creation of this new party on their right flank, combined with Ian Paisley's easygoing "Chuckle Brothers" relationship with Martin McGuinness, which led to the internal coup which toppled Paisley in May 2008. As a DUP MLA told me at the time: "This could be Jim's ultimate moment: he is hugely respected across the party and could take people with him. The leadership is worried."

The TUV's first electoral outing was a council by-election in Dromore, in February 2008, where it took almost 20% of the vote, with a majority of its transfers going to the UUP - enabling it to hold the seat - rather than the DUP. In June 2009, Allister failed to retain the Euro seat he had won for the DUP in 2004 (the party's best result since 1994), but he still managed to win 66,197 votes (13.5%) and his transfers ensured the UUP's Jim Nicholson was elected before the DUP's Diane Dodds. And, in a second council by-election, in Craigavon, in January 2010, the TUV polled 19% after the DUP stood aside and allowed the UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson to win with 63%.


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