UPP teams up with Tories for Euro elections

 

ULSTER UNIONISTS and the British Conservative Party have confirmed they are to fight elections in Northern Ireland under the terms of a new pact.

Outgoing MEP Jim Nicholson will be the first Ulster Unionist to run in June’s European elections under the banner of the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey and shadow Northern secretary Owen Paterson said yesterday the new alignment would help end “political isolation in Northern Ireland”.

Close co-operation between the two parties, both of which will continue to exist separately, will help to end what Sir Reg said was “a two-tier” UK citizenship.

“By coming together in this fashion,” Sir Reg said, “we are going hopefully to move quite significantly on to the ground of people discussing real, national political issues in Northern Ireland in a more normal way.”

He said Northern Ireland had been “isolated” during and since the Troubles and had endured “purely sectarian headcount-based politics”.

The UUP and the Tories will produce a single agreed election manifesto in Northern elections, he said.

Policy pledges contained in a future joint manifesto would not be merely aspirational, he added.

“There will be policies that can actually be delivered in government. Our aim clearly is to be in government. My ambition is to see a locally elected MP at the Cabinet table as quickly as possible.”

Mr Paterson said post-Belfast Agreement politics and the newly unveiled pact between the UUP and the Conservatives offered the electorate a chance to “move on from the age-old argument about the constitutional position”.

Political arrangements at Stormont were “still built around the old divide,” he added.

Mr Paterson said people in Northern Ireland wanted to air concerns about everyday matters “which are decided in Westminster” and did not want to turn to topics which obsess local politicians. Sir Reg said Lady Sylvia Hermon, the party’s sole MP, who is known to harbour doubts about the pact with the Tories, would come under no pressure to back the move.

Mr Paterson agreed, saying: “David Cameron has made it very clear that we do want more intelligent, well-educated, skilful, professional women politicians and Sylvia scores a lot of points on all those fronts. So we hope she thinks it over, and we hope she comes with us.”