Ex-UUP big beast backs Easton over old party’s candidate

A FORMER leading light of the UUP has thrown his backing behind Independent Unionist Alex Easton – his old party’s direct rival for Westminster.

John Taylor, Baron Kilclooney, this week endorsed Mr Easton as ‘the most qualified candidate to serve North Down and the Unionist with the best chance of winning’.

He went on to champion the ex-DUP man as ‘the ideal representative’ for the constituency – leaving the actual Ulster Unionist candidate, Tim Collins, conspicuously absent.

Lord Kilclooney was a senior figure in the UUP while it was at the height of its popularity in the last 20th century.

Serving as Strangford’s MP from 1983 to 2001, he was also MLA for the same constituency for nine years, served as an MEP for 10 years and was deputy leader of the UUP from 1995 to 2001.

He briefly represented North Down during an abortive attempt to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly during the 1980s.

Since 2001 he’s sat as a crossbench life peer in the House of Lords, though in recent years has been best known for headline-hitting controversies involving his statements on social media.

This week he broke with his old party’s electoral ambitions to endorse direct rival Alex Easton, stating: “I firmly believe, as many do, that Alex is the most qualified candidate to serve North Down and is the Unionist with the best chance of winning.

“It is imperative that North Down has a strong voice advocating for the Unionist perspective, which I believe is in the best interests of all our people.

“The election of a non-Unionist would send the wrong message to the media in London.

“Alex Easton’s dedication and proven track record make him the ideal representative to champion the North Down community’s needs and aspirations.“

Mr Easton said he was honoured to receive the backing of a veteran politician, stating that he is ‘encouraged by the growing momentum’ of people uniting behind him.

“The central message of strength in promoting the union as being in the best interests of all our people, combined with a robust commitment to championing North Down, is resonating strongly with voters,” he said.

“There is a palpable mood for change; North Down deserves better.

“I bring to this campaign two decades of dedicated and unrivalled constituency service across North Down.

“My goal is to be a steadfast advocate for North Down in Westminster, ensuring that our community’s voice is heard and our needs are met.“