ELECTION: DUP and TUV to stand aside

Unionist parties won’t run candidates against Farry

 

By Julie Waters

The DUP and TUV will not contest the North Down parliamentary election expected to take place later in the year. 

The Spectator understands both unionist parties have decided not to put anyone forward to give unionist Alex Easton the best chance of ousting North Down MP Stephen Farry.

This latest development, in what is shaping up to be North Down’s most intriguing election in decades, comes amidst growing speculation that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could call a summer general election.

Should the Prime Minister call an election in the coming days or weeks, it would begin a six week countdown before North Down voters head to the polls in what is ‘shaping up to be a three way contest’.

North Down’s frontrunners for the forthcoming general election are sitting MP and Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry, Independent Unionist Alex Easton and the Ulster Unionist Party’s Tim Collins.

The Green Party, which did not field a candidate in the 2019 Westminster election, is expected to announce their candidate for the upcoming general election next month.

It is understood the decision by the DUP and TUV to stand aside in the 2024 general election was taken many months ago following a series of meetings to discuss a possible joint unionist candidate in the constituency. 

The joint unionist candidate plan was derailed earlier this year when the UUP unveiled former soldier Col. Tim Collins as its surprise candidate for the constituency. 

UUP leader Doug Beattie said at the time that he doesn’t believe in electoral pacts but he invited other parties, and Mr Easton, not to stand to give Collins the best chance. 

Mr Farry became the first non unionist to take the seat when he defeated Mr Easton in 2019 when the unionist ran for the DUP.

But Mr Easton has since parted company with the DUP and, despite being urged by his former colleagues to rejoin, he has remained as an independent unionist at Stormont. 

Defending a majority of 2,968 votes, Mr Farry is hoping to secure a second Westminster term.

“I had anticipated that the DUP and TUV would not contest the General Election in North Down on this occasion, and instead would make Alex Easton, as a previous longstanding DUP councillor and MLA, their proxy candidate.

 “If so, both of those parties will be presenting Mr Easton as a vehicle for their views and policies. And he will have to respond to that. Indeed, given the differences of opinion between the DUP and TUV over the Windsor Framework deal and the restoration of the Assembly, he will need to clarify which perspective he personally shares.

“North Down is shaping up to be a three way contest. As the only progressive candidate in the field, I offer a clear and contrastive message to both of my main opponents. I will be offering an alternative based on my own values, experience, local knowledge and track record of delivery.”

Mr Easton said he would ‘welcome’ the decision by the DUP and the TUV not to field a candidate. However he said: “I have not been told by either party that they are not running a candidate. It is news to me and it is very interesting.

“It certainly gives unionism a chance to win back the North Down seat. If they, the DUP and the TUV, are doing this, I would welcome it.”

When asked to comment a DUP spokesperson said: “The party will in due course make a full announcement regarding its candidates for the forthcoming General Election.”

Similarly a TUV spokesperson said: “TUV has not made any announcements about candidates in any constituency. The party will make a decision on all seats via its own internal process after which the press will be advised.”