Election Diary: You should know better than to ring, says DUP man

Stephen Ross, pictured with Arlene Foster at Stormont, wasn't keen to talk
Stephen Ross, pictured with Arlene Foster at Stormont, wasn't keen to talk

A would-be MLA has chastised the News Letter for speaking to him directly, telling us that we should “know better”.

DUP man Stephen Ross is the party’s replacement candidate for former East Antrim MLA Alastair Ross (no relation).

The candidate already sits on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, covering the Threemilewater area of Newtownabbey.

My colleague Adam Kula phoned Mr Ross, initially to ask about why his predecessor has declined to fight this election.

Then, when asked how he feels the DUP will do in the election, Mr Ross said he was “confident”, and believed “we’ve done the work”.

However, Mr Ross went on to say: “But I think really I shouldn’t really make a statement, you should be going through the press office surely?”

It was put to him that journalists speak to candidates all the time, and he was asked if he believed the party would win back all three seats in East Antrim.

Again, he insisted that we speak to the press office, rather than himself – even though he, rather than a press officer, is the person seeking the public’s vote.

“I think you should know better than to come to a candidate, so you should,” he said. “If the party wants me to speak to the papers I will.”

Survey: 32% of young people to change vote

A survey of Christian young people has found that a third of those who voted last year plan to switch parties in this election.

The survey of 400 people – which was conducted online as part of a project run by the Evangelical Alliance, Summer Madness and others, rather than by a professional polling company – hints at the potential for a significant shift in party allegiance in next week’s election.

The overwhelming majority of the 420 respondents under 35 were Protestant, although it was open to anyone.

The survey, which ran for two weeks from February 1 to 14, found that 92% of respondents were registered to vote. Of those who plan to vote next week, 32% plan to change the party for which they will vote.

The AskNI17 project also involves video interviews with leading politicians which are available at www.askni17.com.

Smaller parties in TV head-to-head

The smaller parties will tonight go head-to-head – or perhaps join forces in attacking the Executive – in a UTV leaders’ debate.

The TUV’s Jim Allister, Greens’ Steven Agnew and People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann have already won a small victory before filming even begins.

UTV originally wanted to screen the programme at 11.40pm last night, a slot which would have seen the debate end after midnight.

The parties, already frustrated from being part of the main televised leaders’ debates (though to do so would be utterly impractical), joined forces to threaten a boycott.

UTV has now moved the debate to tonight at 10.40pm – an hour earlier than originally planned – and on a day where most viewers will not have to get up for work the following morning.