A DUP MP has called on the Ulster Unionists to follow the decision to back a unionist unity candidate in Mid Ulster by standing aside in other constituencies.
Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson said that Nigel Lutton’s selection in Mid Ulster could be a template for other constituencies across Northern Ireland.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has not ruled out future electoral pacts with the DUP but has said that he wants to see how the two parties cooperate in Mid Ulster before making a decision.
Mr Simpson said: “At the last general election (2010), [in Upper Bann] the unionists had around 60 per cent of the vote and Sinn Fein/SDLP a 40 per cent share.
“The latest ratios are tighter and it’s getting to the stage that we can’t afford to split the unionist vote, as it would open the door to Sinn Fein. That would be wrong and futile as they don’t even occupy their seats when they’re elected to Westminster.”
Local UUP veteran Arnold Hatch rejected the call and insisted that Upper Bann remains a “safe” unionist seat.
But Mr Simpson said: “Those figures show that the time has come for a unity candidate in Upper Bann.
“The SDLP are losing out to Sinn Fein and the gap is closing even more, based on the population trends.”
Keith Baird, chairman of the UUP in Upper Bann, said that a shared candidate in the constituency was “unlikely”, and it remained a safe unionist seat.
He said that circumstances were different in Mid Ulster, where the people “haven’t been represented in 16 years”, adding: “We appeal to all unionist people there to go out in their thousands and elect Nigel Lutton, who will make an excellent MP.”
Meanwhile, the UDA-linked UPRG has said that it is disillusioned at the work of the Unionist Forum.
The group, which was invited onto the body by the DUP and UUP, said in a statement: “Momentum is already being lost. Where is the urgency? Where is the passion?”
It added: “Is our pace being matched by the politicians? Frankly, no. And this is not acceptable.”
It also accused parts of the media of “shameful appeasement” of republicans and added that the number of pro-Union community groups “cropping up everywhere has shown that people do want to politicise themselves”.
It added: “Efforts must be redoubled to get this forum working and delivering. This cannot be a stunt, a sleight of hand, a token gesture. It must be radical, reflective of need and formidable in its approach to problem solving. Let’s get to it.”