The BBC is reporting that Ian Paisley senior 'may stand again as MP' in North Antrim, thereby admitting that the threat by Jim Allister to stand there was a threat that the DUP takes very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that rather than risk another humiliation, Paisley is prepared to stand again, even though he will probably be 84 when the next election takes place.
Jim Allister lost his European Parliament seat on June 4, but succeeded in humiliating the DUP by dislodging them from the top of the poll, allowing Sinn Féin to top the poll, and forcing Diane Dodds into an ignominious scramble for the last seat. He has publicly stated that he intends to stand in North Antrim at the next Westminster election as another direct challenge to the DUP.
It has been widely rumoured that Ian Paisley senior would retire at the next Westminster election, and hand over the DUP candidacy (and up to recently this meant handing the seat too) to his son, Ian Paisley junior. But clearly the DUP is seriously rattled by the TUV, who are out-flanking them on the unionist extremist side. By announcing that he will stand again, Paisley senior is effectively admitting that he (and the DUP) think that Allister would beat Paisley junior or any other DUP candidate. This clear admission of lack of confidence – even though the election is almost a year away – demonstrates that the DUP do not believe that they will be able to claw back much support from Allister and the TUV by then.
It appears that the DUP consider that the votes lost to the TUV are lost for a considerable time, if not for ever. If they are correct, the development throws the elections to Westminster (2010), the Assembly (2011) and the new Super-Councils (2011) wide open.
Jim Allister seems to agree with this blog's conclusions. In a press release today (24 June) he said:
"It is clear that the DUP have been panicked by Traditional Unionists and that the party lacks confidence in Ian Paisley Junior".