TUV candidate aiming for a ‘big scalp’ despite ‘position of disadvantage’ in election in key Lagan Valley Assembly election battleground where DUP and UUP big-hitters are likely to stand

The crunch election battle in Lagan Valley, already set to be one the most fiercely contested in Northern Ireland, is heating up with a TUV candidate declaring “all out war” on unionist rivals.

Saturday, 27th November 2021, 7:40 am
Lisburn city centre

Respected academic Dr William Kitchen, a 33-year-old author who is considered an expert on education, is standing for the party for the first time and is aiming to claim a “big scalp” as he steps up against some of Northern Ireland’s political heavyweights.

While not all parties have formally declared candidates, the Lagan Valley consitituency is home to the DUP’s First Minister Paul Givan and his former party leader Edwin Poots.

The current DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, meanwhile, holds the Westminster seat in Lagan Valley and could choose to stand in the area in a forthcoming Assembly poll if he is hoping to take the First Minister post for himself.

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Dr William H Kitchen is an author and academic. He lectures at Stranmillis University College.

The UUP, meanwhile, are standing their deputy leader Robbie Butler alongside campaigner Laura Turner.

At the last election, the SDLP’s Pat Catney — who will stand again next time around — edged out the DUP’s Brenda Hale to claim a lone nationalist seat.

And with Alliance having won a seat in every Assembly election in Lagan Valley to date, it is set to be one of the most intriguing battles in Northern Ireland with the high-profile Sorcha Eastwood standing for the party alongside David Honeyford.

Trevor Lunn, who won the seat for Alliance last time around before becoming an independent, has signalled that he does not wish to stand this time around — leaving a degree of uncertainty where the 6,105 first preferences he polled last time around could scatter.

Dr Kitchen told the News Letter he is relishing the competition and has set his sights squarely on claiming a big name casualty.

“I welcome the fight and I welcome the battle in what is probably one of the most hotly contested collection of seats in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Am I ready for a big scalp? Am I hoping for a big scalp? Am I planning for a big scalp? You can bet your bottom dollar that I am.

“That’s exactly what we’re going for.”

A self-confessed political anorak with a background in mathematics, Dr Kitchen acknowledged that the TUV — with just one seat at present — are facing what appears to be an uphill battle.

“I am clear in what our job of work is in Lagan Valley,” he said. “It is simple — the TUV are coming into this election from a position of disadvantage, shall we say. We are not coming into this election from a position of strength in terms of previous electoral performances.

“We have a significant amount of work to do, and I have a significant amount of work to do, to take the TUV message of positive unionism and principled unionism out to Lagan Valley.

“And as a constituency it attracts both high profile and high calibre candidates, which makes for a very interesting cocktail of what the possible permutations could be.

“I want to stand in Lagan Valley for the precise reasons that others might want to walk away from. I back myself to engage with the public in Lagan Valley on a positive unionist message.”