The Tories are all but non-existent in Fermanagh and South Tyrone – the only time in recent history that they have stood in the constituency was in 1996, when they won 113 votes (0.23%). So there is very little demand in the constituency for a Tory candidate, and thus very little reason for the UCUNF candidate to be a Tory.
So why did Elliott not get the official endorsement yesterday, along with the 'nine'?
Could the reason be that, behind the scenes and despite the denials there are still efforts underway to find a 'unionist unity' candidate for the constituency?
Recent reports suggest that Norman Baxter, an ex-RUC and PSNI detective (responsible for the Omagh bomb investigation) has been 'approached' to stand. But Baxter has let it be known that he 'is only interested in standing as a candidate in this year's Westminster election if he feels it is on the basis of cross-community support'. That fairly much rules out any chance of him standing as a 'unionist unity' candidate.
But the approaches to Baxter, and probably to others, imply that the parties – UUP as well as DUP – are still trying to agree a pact to take Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The failure to endorse Elliott yesterday tends to confirm this.
The Fermanagh Herald goes on to say that: "It is understood discussions are still ongoing to find either a unity candidate or to form an electoral pact between the Ulster Unionists and the DUP".
A pact in Fermanagh and South Tyrone would break the clear undertaking from the Tories, including David Cameron, that they, in partnership with the UUP, would field candidates in all 18 constituencies:
"David Cameron […] says that he is determined to field general election candidates, in co-operation with Ulster Unionists, in all 18 of Northern Ireland’s Westminster constituencies".The only possible outcome under which Cameron and the Tories can retain their honour is a candidate who carries the 'Conservative and Unionist' label. Elliott was prepared to be that candidate, so why was he not endorsed?
It is becoming clear that something is afoot in Fermanagh and South Tyrone – the aim is presumably to recruit a new and 'untainted' candidate who would be sufficiently acceptable to the DUP that they would stand down – and this candidate would agree to stand under Cameron's banner. Hence the approach to Baxter. Who will be the next choice?
And if they cannot come up with an acceptable person (and there cannot be a large pool of such people in Fermanagh and South Tyrone), will they revert to the hapless Elliott and face the almost-certainty of a DUP candidate, a split unionist vote, and a Sinn Féin re-election?