UKIP MLA David McNarry has warned that any moves toward a form of unionist unity must not be exclusively between the DUP and UUP to the exclusion of smaller pro-Union parties.
In a sharp criticism of his former party, the former veteran Ulster Unionist, who was expelled by UUP leader Mike Nesbitt last year, accused Mr Nesbitt of pursuing “self interest”.
Yesterday, Mr Nesbitt said that in next year’s European election the UUP would tell its supporters to vote for Jim Nicholson and then transfer to whoever may be the DUP candidate – so long as the DUP reciprocates and does not stand a second candidate.
Yesterday, Mr McNarry congratulated Mid Ulster unionist unity candidate Nigel Lutton on his “substantial vote” which he said demonstrated that unionists could co-operate “to stop Sinn Fein”.
However, Mr McNarry – whose party has said that it will contest next year’s European poll – made clear that the Mid Ulster unionist cooperation strategy was “no model for the European election”.
He said: “The Mid Ulster template shows what can be achieved in the context of Westminster seats by wider unionist co-operation.
“It is not, however, a signal for a carve-up between the DUP and the UUP of the unionist vote to the exclusion of the broad church of unionist parties.
“This old-fashioned approach, looking on voters as no more than election fodder, has today been clearly set out by the Ulster Unionist Party as their latest expression of self-interest, clearly hoping to use unionist unity as a vehicle to grab some of the electoral pickings from the DUP table.
“This shows they are engaged on a self-interested and purely opportunistic course, totally ignoring the need for a broad and inclusive unionist unity, reflecting all shades of pro-union opinion.
“Unionist unity cannot be a cover for a DUP-UUP carve-up. Such a narrow self-interested approach does nothing to address the massive levels of unionist abstention, especially in the east of the Province, which is turned off by this old fashioned top-down ‘you will take what we give you’ carve-up type of politics which clearly Mr Nesbitt believes in.
“The UUP would appear to have learnt nothing about treating voters with respect.”