Two Ulster Unionist candidates have declined to urge their voters to transfer to other unionists – with one prominent candidate saying that he would “rather stick knitting needles in my eyes than vote DUP”.
Traditionally, unionist parties have – despite significant policy differences – publicly called on their supporters to vote down the ballot paper for all the unionist candidates.
However, some members of all unionist parties have long been unenthusiastic about the policy, given the sometimes massive differences between various unionist candidates.
Now, two Ulster Unionist candidates have publicly declined to endorse the policy of past elections.
Speaking to the News Letter at the UUP manifesto launch yesterday, new party member and North Belfast candidate the Rev Lesley Carroll made clear that she did not believe in telling voters who they should transfer to.
When asked if she would urge her voters to transfer to other unionist candidates, the Rev Carroll said: “I think every member of the electorate should decide for themselves what they think is going to work, and they should put their vote there.
“If anything, I would encourage every member of the electorate to put me somewhere near the top of the ticket, if not on the top.”
And, in a Twitter conversation with rival DUP candidate Carla Lockhart, Upper Bann UUP hopeful Doug Beattie said on Wednesday night: “I’d rather stick knitting needles in my eyes than vote DUP – I hope that is clarity enough.”
He said that last year’s unionist pact – where the UUP stood aside in two constituencies in favour of the DUP – had been “a necessary evil”.
By contrast, two years ago at the UUP annual general meeting, leader Mike Nesbitt made clear that he would support a call between all the unionist parties for their voters to transfer between each other – at that point, in the forthcoming council and European elections.
He said at the time: “I would be more than happy to recommend that people vote down the unionist card if the other unionist parties are going to reciprocate.
“That conversation has not been had. If that is the way the other unionist parties feel, it doesn’t give me an issue at all.”