Jim Allister has bluntly accepted that if he does not return to Stormont with some TUV colleagues as MLAs then the campaign will not have been a success.
The last five years have seen a Stormont which is widely derided for failing to deliver and which has culminated in the admission that the IRA exists and retains guns.
When asked at TUV’s manifesto launch on Wednesday whether it was fair to say that if in those circumstances his party does not break through then it will never emerge as a major political force, Mr Allister said candidly: “If the TUV didn’t win any seats in this election, that would be failure written in capital letters. Of course it would.”
Would coming back to Stormont as a sole TUV MLA be acceptable?
He said: “No, it wouldn’t be success. Success has to be more than one.”
Mr Allister said that his ambition was to secure the election of several MLAs, something which he said would “change substantially” the public perception of the party as a one-man band.
He added: “If Jim Allister epitomises what a lot of people are thinking and saying, then that’s gratifying. But I want to see them manifest that at the polls by voting for my candidates.
“There’s no point saying ‘you’re doing a great job, Jim, if you don’t vote TUV number one’.”
When asked if he was concerned about the threat from Ukip – which last year significantly out-polled the TUV – Mr Allister said: “I think that people look at Stormont and realise that this is a Stormont election and ask themselves the question: ‘Who has been the effective voice of opposition at Stormont; who has shone the bright light into the dark corners? “I think when they ask that question there is only one answer and it’s TUV. So for a Stormont election people will have the realisation that it’s with TUV you get bang for your buck.”
UTV debate viewed by eight pc of electorate
Overnight TV ratings show that Wednesday night’s prime time UTV leaders debate was watched by an average of 99,000 people – 18 per cent of the total audience at that time and eight per cent of the electorate.
The hour-long programme, which began at 8pm and attracted widespread online opprobrium for being stilted by frequent advertising breaks, had a peak audience of 128,000 – a 24 per cent share of the audience.
That means that more people will have read about the debate in Northern Ireland’s three daily newspapers than watched it live.
The viewing figures were slightly up on those for the same debate ahead of the 2011 Assembly election, which had an average of 91,000 viewers. But that was well down on the 146,000 viewers for the 2010 UTV general election debate.
• Slugger O’Toole/Pride LGBT Hustings: Duncairn Arts Centre, tonight, 7pm
• Housing and Homelessness Hustings: Girdwood Community Hub, today, 2pm. (organised by CIH, CHNI, Housing Rights and NIFHA).
• East Antrim: First Larne Presbyterian Church, April 18, 7.30pm.
• South Belfast: City Church (University Avenue), April 19, 7.30pm. (Evangelical Alliance/CARE).
• General Practice and Primary Care Hustings: Clayton Hotel (Ormeau Avenue, Belfast). April 21, 7pm. Aimed at current and prospective medical professionals. (The Royal College of GPs).
• North Down: First Holywood Presbyterian Church, April 21, 7.30pm. (EA/CARE).
• Environmental Hustings: Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island, April 22, 10am. (NI Environment Link).
• Lagan Valley: Lagan Valley Vineyard Church (Altona Business Park), April 26, 7.30pm. (EA/CARE).
• Foyle: Venue to be confirmed, April 28, 7.30pm. (EA/CARE).
• North Down: Kings Church Bangor (Seacliff Road), April 28, 7pm.