The TUV has sprung a surprise general election candidate selection in its strongest seat of North Antrim by not choosing leader Jim Allister.
The party announced on Monday morning that Cllr Timothy Gaston, who topped the poll in the Bannside ward of Ballymena in last May’s council election, will stand against incumbent DUP MP Ian Paisley.
Although there was a rumour some months ago that Mr Allister may stand in East Belfast, it is thought unlikely that he will be a candidate at all.
By choosing Mr Gaston, the party is giving him a significant chance to boost his profile, with the possibility that he and Mr Allister could both be elected in next year’s Assembly election.
In a statement announcing Mr Gaston’s candidature, the party recalled how last year “to the consternation of the DUP, [he] romped home at the top of the poll in the once perceived DUP stronghold”.
Mr Gaston, who comes from near Glarryford, north of Ballymena, said that the party was “very much in the ascendancy” in North Antrim “as more and more people come to recognise the worth of the stand and work of our MLA, Jim Allister, and our slate of councillors”.
He added: “The status quo is not working. Stormont is a disaster. Westminster has become subservient to Brussels, unable to even control our own borders. Our hospitals, schools and front line services are all fighting for survival. Voting, again, for the local parties of government will bring more of the same. Voting TUV will shake things up.”
Mr Allister said: “Timothy Gaston is a winner. He famously topped the poll in Bannside in 2014. He works incredibly hard for his constituents. With youth and enthusiasm on his side he can do the same for all of North Antrim.”