Two of the smaller unionist parties who performed strongly in the European election have issued a joint statement staking a claim to inter-party talks about a unionist election pact.
The TUV and Ukip polled more than 100,000 votes between them, something which the parties said “sends out a very clear message that a substantial proportion of the unionist population is disaffected from the other two minority parties in unionism, the DUP and UUP”.
Ukip had initially asked TUV leader Jim Allister to stand aside so as to not split the anti-EU vote. Nigel Farage sent his deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, to the TUV conference in Cookstown to deliver the message in person.
However, in the end both parties decided to stand. And, despite a quiet campaign and a candidate, Henry Reilly, who was not widely known, the party surprised many pundits with a strong performance.
Prior to the election, one Ukip figure had said that it would be pleased to secure 10,000 votes in such a crowded pro-Union field; in the end it polled 24,585 votes.
Yesterday’s joint statement said: “With focus now shifting to the next Westminster election and some talk of a DUP/UUP pact, we point out that to be effective any such negotiations cannot afford to ignore 100,000 voters for whom TUV and Ukip are the parties of choice.
“Thus, if there are to be serious negotiations between unionists, it must contain all parties with significant votes and not just those in government with Sinn Fein.”
There has been speculation of a DUP-UUP agreement on agreed candidates in constituencies such as East Belfast, South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
However, the UUP has denied that any serious discussions have taken place.