The DUP’s 2005 victory in Strangford was emphatic but the Euro election changed the game somewhat. UUP people are saying that their tallies from Strangford were extremely encouraging. One said that those tallies indicated that, while Strangford might be just beyond them at this election, it would definitely have been a target next time out. The Robinson scandal has brought those ambitions forward – the constituency must be in the target category for May.
Coincidentally, the UUP have just held their selection meeting from Strangford. So who is one possible beneficiary of the Robinson crisis?
Step forward Philip Smith – UUP Party Officer in charge of training and ex-Ards councillor!! Of the two names going forward, he came out on top.
Philip’s got local standing and track record, and he should be acceptable to the Tories… for this is the same Philip Smith who defected to the Tories in June 2006. (He was also a Lib Dem rep at one point, so obviously Bobballs and the nano hamsters have warm feelings towards Philip Smith. Though any suggestion that he’s been on more Party lists than Paris Hilton is just hearsay right now.)
On the TUV side of things, I saw Cedric Wilson at the TUV conference and boy did he look full of enthusiasm and energy. If he goes again in Strangford, and in this climate, the DUP could be caught in a sharp cross-fire. So I wonder who the courageous DUP candidate will be? At one point Jim Shannon was leading the charge. Has he changed his mind yet? Who would really want to carry the DUP flag in Strangford this time out?
Philip looks like the perfect candidate for UCUNF. Could the Tories seriously put up someone better?
(Not sure who came in second here.)
- EAST BELFAST
What of East Belfast?
There’s lots of chat that this week’s cunning plan has everything to do with Peter Robinson trying to save his name, anoint a successor and gracefully exit politics with some dignity. If this holds true, then East Belfast is an open contest at the general election for the first time in decades.
So who’s in pole position? By coincidence the UUP held their selection meeting recently and Tim Lemon came out on top. Tim ran for the party in 2001 and put in a great campaign which took a few people by surprise (whatever happened to David Alderdice?). He also produced the slogan of the ’01 campaign for my money. And like Philip Smith, he’s a well-known constituency guy who would perform very strongly.
Tim looks like the perfect constituency candidate. Could UCUNF seriously put up Deirdre Nelson?
I understand Trevor Ringland came in second. As a respected, trusted, articulate, centre-ground moderate with cross-community appeal he’s the identikit of what a UCUNF candidate should look like, so there’s considerable strength in depth here.
IMHO this electoral pact ought to maximise returns for the project – strong, local candidates of pedigree cannot be overlooked. I worry that the Tories will attain something of the character of the 16th Air Assault Brigade – y’know, rapidly parachuting their troops into hotspots and causing bloody mayhem. Highly entertaining, but is it necessary in every circumstance?
- SOUTH BELFAST
In South Belfast, Paula Bradshaw came out on top [CORRECTED BELOW]. Bradders has coveted this for some time, there’s no doubt that she will be energetic and well organised. I hear that part of her spiel to the meeting this evening suggested Peter McCann is indeed a fully paid up member of the 16th Air Assault Brigade – parachuting in this time from far flung West Belfast. How will the Joint Committee resolve this one? I don’t see a quick decision – not for a couple of weeks at least.
Michael Henderson came in behind Paula [CORRECTED BELOW]. I hear his speech was excellent and he also offers many good qualities as a potential candidate.
[I wonder if Reg ever did answer the letter sent by the association. I’m sure Reg is a reader so I took the precaution of publishing it here. Just trying to help!]
In the meantime, congratulations Strangford, East Belfast and South Belfast – you’ve produced a very strong slate of potential candidates.
PS. Note that all UUP constituencies will select two people, and these names go forward to the UUP selection committee which then chooses the Party’s candidate in that area.
PPS. The Chairman of SB Constituency Association has said that Michael Henderson came out on top of the ballot. My information was to the contrary but I am more than happy to correct anything I get wrong and at the earliest possible opportunity. See the comments section for that addition information from Bill.