David Ford: Pacts will fail in 2015 as they did before

David Ford
David Ford

The decision of the DUP and UUP to enter into an electoral pact in East Belfast has come as no great surprise.

Neither will it alter the election: we have always known it would be a two horse race between Alliance’s Naomi Long and Gavin Robinson of the DUP.

I remain confident that voters will choose the positive vision of Naomi Long who will continue to take East Belfast forward, while others want to take it back.

The DUP and UUP want to remove the choice from the public: Alliance trusts the people to decide for themselves who they want to represent them in Westminster.

Parties should not dictate who people should vote for, and they certainly should not take them for granted.

The DUP and UUP think that they can determine the outcome of elections by this shady backroom deal.

However, we saw last time that it is hard work and a positive record like Naomi’s, which determine elections.

What must the UUP voters of East Belfast be thinking, now that Mike Nesbitt has effectively pulled the plug on the party in this part of the city?

He has sold out his East Belfast supporters, just to come second in Fermanagh and Newry.

When he became UUP leader, Mr Nesbitt said he saw no benefit in having electoral pacts with the DUP – so what has changed?

Previous supporters disillusioned by the UUP role in whipping up sectarian tensions around flags and parades will be further alienated and unwilling to vote DUP.

And how must Mr Robinson feel, knowing his party didn’t have the confidence to allow him to run by himself, but needed an anti-democratic move to strengthen his position?

Unionist electoral pacts are not new.

They were tried in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2010 and Mid Ulster in 2013.

Pacts failed then and will fail in East Belfast this year.

• David Ford is the leader of the Alliance Party