Every unionist vote matters more than ever at this election
Later today we will know exactly the run down of candidates in this year’s general election and the true extent of the task facing unionism.
In the 2017 snap election called by Theresa May, the DUP emerged triumphant. The party returned 10 MPs, and held the balance of power at Westminster. Sinn Fein won seven of the other eight NI seats.
Even the most optimistic unionist would be hard-pressed to make a case for a similar outcome when the votes are counted after the December 12 poll.
After DUP leader Arlene Foster attended the nomination of Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott as candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone yesterday, she emphasised the need for unionist unity behind Mr Elliott, stressing that every single vote counts.
That might be an election cliché but it couldn’t be more true with Fermanagh and South Tyrone one of several knife-edge constituencies.
There are of course some safe unionist seats. East Londonderry, North Antrim, South Antrim, Lagan Valley, Strangford and Upper Bann should be comfortable wins for unionists, while the DUP should gain North Down with long-time MP Lady Sylvia Hermon having stood down.
But after that the water starts to get a little muddied. So-called ‘pro-Remain’ parties have engaged in threatening alliances, most notably in Belfast where the DUP’s ownership of three of the city’s four seats is in grave doubt. Gavin Robinson in East Belfast should be safe, but it is a toss of a coin whether Nigel Dodds can hold on in North Belfast after the SDLP withdrew to allow Sinn Fein a free run.
Emma Little-Pengelly in South Belfast faces the toughest task, with Sinn Fein and the Green Party having withdrawn to ensure Claire Hanna of the SDLP has a favourite’s chance of overturning her 2,000-odd majority.
Unionism, under siege from many directions, needs every single one of its voters to get to the polls on December 12.