Theresa Villiers yesterday became the first Secretary of State to campaign for a political party in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Agreement.
Ms Villiers joined NI Conservatives to campaign in Bangor, Newtownards and Comber in support of European candidate Mark Brotherston and local council candidates.
One long-standing Conservative member in Northern Ireland said that he believed the last incumbent of Hillsborough Castle to campaign for the party here was Sir Patrick Mayhew in the 1990s. Labour bans its members from standing for the party in Northern Ireland elections.
Ms Villiers predecessor, Owen Paterson, canvassed the UUP-Tory joint candidates in 2010 prior to taking up office but did not campaign for the party after that point.
Mr Brotherston said that Ms Villiers support emphasised that the NI Conservatives are part of a strong team “which offers influence from the council chamber to the cabinet table”, something he said no other party could offer.
Ms Villiers hailed Mr Brotherston as “the only European election candidate who can deliver fundamental change to the EU”.
NI21 just can’t please everybody
NI21, the new pro-Union party, has had an inauspicious campaign thus far.
Its council candidates were selected even later than the disastrously late UCUNF selections in 2010; it has suffered a high turnover of staff and in some parts of the Province a gaffe means that the party’s name will not even be on some ballot papers.
However, the party’s sole election broadcast — which aired last night — was arguably the best of all the local parties.
Witty and creative, it really stood out.
However, not everyone is persuaded by the advert. One comment beneath the YouTube version says: “Until the party leader changes his attitude towards the cannabis community, I for one won’t be voting for him or any of his party members.”
DUP shifting on EU: TUV
A leaked DUP internal document has revealed “a substantial shift by the party on EU membership”, TUV leader Jim Allister has claimed.
The DUP’s model answers for its canvass teams — revealed in the News Letter two weeks ago — state that “the DUP believes the EU needs to change. We support renegotiation to bring about that change.”
Mr Allister, the former DUP MEP who said the EU was “unreformable”, said that showed that the party had moved from supporting immediate withdrawal from the EU to “the ground occupied by David Cameron and the Tories in Great Britain”.
Don’t believe this is an EU plebiscite: Dodds
There must be a “fundamental change in the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union”, DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said.
Mrs Dodds said that such a change should be followed by a referendum but again said that the European election was not a referendum on the EU.
The DUP candidate said: “There are some who would like to pretend that this European election is a referendum on the United Kingdom’s place within the EU. A referendum can and must happen, but the forthcoming European election will not make that decision.”
Mrs Dodds said that she had “proved that I can deliver “ and added that the election was “to send MEPs to Brussels who will stand up for Northern Ireland and get the best deal from Europe”.