Let's put Ulster at heart of Union

CONSERVATIVE and Unionist MPs will have the potential to serve in any future Tory Government, say UUP leader Sir Reg Empey and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson

IN a few weeks' time, the starting gun will have been fired for the Westminster General Election.

The outcome will affect every single person in Northern Ireland. Economic policy, taxation, keeping our national currency, pensions, welfare benefits, overall public expenditure, defence and national security will continue to be dealt with at Westminster.

At the election, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservative Party will be putting up joint candidates standing as Conservatives and Unionists. Our two parties are determined to end Northern Ireland's semi-detached political status by bringing us back into the mainstream of United Kingdom politics. We want to put Northern Ireland right at the very heart of the Union.

By standing jointly as Conservatives and Unionists we will be the only party in Northern Ireland at the General Election offering people the chance to support and shape truly national politics. We will be giving people here the chance to vote for a party that can actually form the government of the United Kingdom.

It is a truly historic opportunity. Every Conservative and Unionist MP elected in Northern Ireland will take the Conservative Party whip in the House of Commons. They will have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as Conservative MPs from England, Scotland and Wales.

Let's be clear what that means. If the Conservatives win the election, Conservative and Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland will be able to play a full role in a Conservative Government. That includes being eligible to serve as ministers.

No other party standing in Northern Ireland at the election can offer this. It is worth remembering that the largest current party in Northern Ireland secures less than one per cent of the entire United Kingdom vote. The reality is that they are permanently in the lower divisions of UK politics. By contrast, Conservatives and Unionists will be playing in the premier league.

To listen to some commentators or parties here, you would think that the idea of having normal politics is an affront. These people seem to have their own selfish strategic interests in maintaining Northern Ireland as a political backwater – either from the standpoint of a little Ulster mentality or because they want to portray Northern Ireland as a failed entity. We believe that Northern Ireland deserves better.

Conservatives and Unionists will be backing a government committed to tackling our national debt, promoting economic growth, delivering social justice and strengthening society; we will improve our public services and maintain our security in an increasingly dangerous world.

It is only the Conservatives and Unionists who are committed to ending the scandal of double-jobbing that scars politics in this part of the United Kingdom.

In David Cameron, we believe that the United Kingdom will have a Prime Minister with the ideas, the energy and the determination to put our country back on its feet after years of Labour failure. One thing's for sure. We can't go on like this. That’s why, when the election comes, we’ll be asking people in Northern Ireland – like their counterparts everywhere else in the United Kingdom – to vote for change.