Election diary: Surprisingly, DUP and SF sound like a real coalition

The televised UTV leaders debate took place earlier this week

The televised UTV leaders debate took place earlier this week

Being metaphorical fights to the death, elections often bring out the worst in politicians as they scramble over each other in the search for votes.

But with polling day now less than three weeks away, there has been limited rancour. In particular, the two biggest parties have been surprisingly restrained towards each other this week.

In UTV’s leaders debate on Wednesday night, The View’s debate on Thursday night and numerous interviews, the DUP and Sinn Fein sounded more like a governing coalition than bitter enemies.

That is something of a double-edged sword for the new DUP leader, who is staking a lot on this election.

Relieved that many of the controversies of the Robinson era are behind it, a confident DUP has been attempting to portray Arlene Foster as a new start; a forward-thinking politician whose gender, political background and denomination are radical departures for the party founded by Ian Paisley. The old language of “a battle a day” with Martin McGuinness now jars with the new approach.

But on the other hand, the DUP knows that frightening voters into voting DUP to keep out Sinn Fein is a tried and trusted method of adding several thousand crucial votes.

This week, the party has played down the latter to play up the former. It will be instructive to see whether, with an eye to the long term and the need to build a stable partnership with Sinn Fein, that strategy continues – or is temporarily set aside.

Labour candidate’s £20,000 salary pledge

A Labour candidate in Fermanagh-South Tyrone has pledged to only take less than half his £49,000 MLA salary if he is elected.

Damien Harris is one of eight local Labour Party members who have defied the ban on fielding candidates in Northern Ireland.

Going against the party hierarchy in London, they have registered a new political party – the Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee – with the aim of forcing Labour to end the ban on candidates in the Province.

Mr Harris, a 29-year-old Tesco worker, told the Fermanagh Herald that he would only take a salary of £20,000 and donate the rest of the money to “local community organisations”. Sinn Fein MLAs, ministers and special advisers take their full salaries but then donate most of the money to the party.

Upcoming hustings

lE Antrim: First Larne Presbyterian, April 18, 7.30pm.

l S Belfast: City Church (University Avenue), April 19, 7.30pm. (Evangelical Alliance/CARE).

l GP and Primary Care Hustings: Clayton Hotel (Ormeau Avenue, Belfast). April 21, 7pm. Aimed at current and prospective medical professionals. (The Royal College of GPs).

l N Down: First Holywood Presbyterian Church, April 21, 7.30pm. (EA/CARE).

lE Antrim: Town Hall, Larne, April 21, 7.30pm (trade union Unite, focussed on employment).

l Environmental Hustings: Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island, April 22, 10am. (NI Environment Link).

l Lagan Valley: Vineyard Church (Altona Business Park), April 26, 7.30pm. (EA/CARE).

lN Antrim: The Braid, April 27, Ballymena, 7.30pm (Unite, focussed on employment)

l Foyle: Venue to be confirmed, April 28, 7.30pm. (EA/CARE).

lN Down: Kings Church Bangor (Seacliff Road), April 28, 7pm.