Tuesday 26 January 2010

North Down gets interesting

"I may be left with no other option than to run as an independent candidate", said Sylvia Hermon in today's Irish News [no link].

So another front opens in the war of attrition against the UCUNF. Speculation has been growing over what Hermon's intentions were – to bend the knee to the Tory Party non-merger, to stand down, or to fail to be selected as the 'joint' candidate for North Down.

It now seems that she has decided that the latter option is the most likely. She has never hidden her dislike of the Tories, and of the UUP's 'arrangement' with them. Such a candidate could never have been acceptable to the joint selection committee that is vetting all UCUNF candidates – let alone to the two party leaders who have the final say.

Faced with de-selection, Hermon could have slunk away into obscurity. But it seems, from today's interview, that she intends to fight for her seat – and to fight as an independent.

Given North Down's record of electing mavericks, her chances have to be good. The fact that her opponent will probably be the appalling Ian Parsley for the Tories, and the DUP, the battle will be at least a three-way fight. It is always hard to judge how it might turn out, especially in a 'first-past-the-post' election, but if Hermon pulls it off and retains her seat it will be a major humiliation for the UUP and UCUNF, and possibly a serious problem for the English Tories if the outcome of the Westminster election is a close balance.

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