Upper Bann: DUP aims to play big role in formation of next UK government

David Simpson acknowledges support from traditionally non-DUP voter base

 

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was a comprehensive victor in the battle of the unionist parties in Upper Bann, with sitting MP David Simpson winning by a clear majority.

What was for many years seen as a staunchly Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) seat, once occupied by David Trimble, Upper Bann has come to be regarded as a safe bet for the DUP in more recent times, and so it proved to be the case as Mr Simpson casually swatted aside the opposition on Friday morning.

There had been speculation before the contest that a split vote between the unionist candidates could have opened the door to Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd claiming a surprise seat for his party.

Despite a brief flurry of rumours about a realistic challenge being posed by Sinn Féin, it soon became apparent that the incumbent had the contest sewn up, and Mr Simpson delivered emphatically on that assumption by securing over 22,000 of the 51,000 votes on offer.

During the ensuing victory speech, he was quick to acknowledge the support garnered from a traditionally non-DUP voter base.

“With the strength of the vote that we have received today we certainly have received votes from other parties. That will not be taken for granted and we thank them very much indeed for what they have done today,” he said.

He added that the DUP aimed to play a prominent role in the formation of the next UK government, and would deliver for Northern Ireland on the question of Brexit.

His main unionist rival, Doug Beattie, never managed to build momentum during a staggered campaign, and the UUP candidate appeared dejected as he addressed supporters on stage.

“When you fail then it’s up to you to take responsibility, and therefore responsibility lies with me,” he told them.

Mr O’Dowd was keen to emphasise the symbolism of Sinn Féin’s rise to become the second-largest party in the area, which takes in towns such as Portadown and Lurgan, having elevated its support by 2,500 votes since the 2015 Westminster election.

Elsewhere, Dean McAlinden of the Social Democratic and Labour Party took in a share of 4,400 votes, roughly on par with its performance two years ago, while Alliance Party candidate Tara Doyle achieved a modest increase to 2,300.

Previous Westminster elections

2010 – David Simpson (DUP) defeated UCU’s Harry Hamilton (14,000 votes to 10,639).

2015 – Mr Simpson beat UUP’s Jo-Anne Dobson (15,430 to 13,166).