In the division lobbies of the House of Commons the Government has generally had a bonus Labour MP by stealth this past five years in the shape of Lady Hermon, as the Ulster Unionist Party MP for North Down. Week in, week out, she's been there in the lobbies advancing the socialist cause. She's been rubbing shoulders with Jeremy Corbyn and assorted other Labour MPs who would like Northern Ireland thrown out of the United Kingdom and the monarchy abolished. It's been:"Vote Orange. Go Red."
Understandably when the Party formed an alliance with the Conservatives she parted company. She is standing as an independent although having to pay back £2,730 on her expenses won't have helped her prospects. The joint Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party candidate for North Down is Ian Parsley. He has said that David Cameron will be the first Prime Minister to treat Northern Ireland as an equal part of the UK rather than as "an issue." He says voters are responding well to his call to help deliver a change of Government. Ian is a defector from the Alliance Party.
The Conservative involvelement in Northern ireland is one of the most underreported aspects of the election campaighn by the Londoncentric media. I was delighted to read on Conservatiove Home that Dan Hannan is visiting. As David Cameron says:
The semi-detached status of Northern Ireland needs to end.
North Down Borough Council, as with other councils in Northern Ireland has a dreadful PR voting system. It has four "electoral areas" rather than wards. Furthermore the North Down constituency also includes a bit covered by Ards Borough Council. But it is encouraging the the Conservative/Ulster Unionist Group on North Down Council has nine councillors. There were supposed to be Council elections in Northern ireland last year but they have been delayed over a botched reorganisation.
Among our other candidates Mike Nesbitt standing in Stangford spoke very well at the manifesto launch in the clip included above, about the unsustainable situation of the public sector consuming 70% of Northern ireland's economy. Good luck to him in Stangford – the seat which used to be represented by Iris Robinson.
Sir Reg Empey, the UUP leader is standing in South Antrim.
It was encouraging that Jim Nicholson, standing for Ulster Conservative and Unionists, was one of three Euro MPs elected from Northern Ireland last year.
Everyone in Northern Ireland will have an opportunity vote for a candidate who will take the Conservative whip in Westminster if elected. This includes Rodney Connor standing in Fermanagh South and Tyrone as the sole Unionist candidate which gives an opportunity to defeat the Sinn Fein incumbent. Paula Bradshaw, our candidate in Belfast South, is in with a chance of taking the seat from the SDLP.
Upper Bann, where Dan is campaigning, is a top UUP/Conservative target. Good luck to Harry Hamilton.
The Conservative/UUP manifesto has the follow section on local government:
Over the last forty years, governments of all colours have been guilty of weakening local government. But what was a gradual centralisation has accelerated dramatically under Labour. Bureaucratic control has replaced democratic accountability. The wishes of local people are second-guessed by bureaucrats; the activities of councils micro-managed by unelected quangos. This hoarding of power by distant politicians and unaccountable officials in Whitehall has damaged society by eroding trust.
We believe that the more responsibility you give people, the more responsibly they behave. That is why we want to give people much more power and control over their lives. We want to give power away – to individuals where we can. But it is not always possible to give power to individuals, and in those cases we need to push power down to the most appropriate local level: neighbourhood, community and local government.
In Northern Ireland local government reform has been badly mismanaged under Direct Rule Ministers and the current Executive, squandering the opportunity for reform launched by an Ulster Unionist Minister in the Make politics more local first power-sharing Executive.
We will work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues to ensure that local government reform is meaningful, effective and is in the best interest of local people, communities and councils. For too long power in Northern Ireland has been dictated from above. Conservatives and Unionists are committed to giving Northern Ireland strong, meaningful local government as in the rest of the UK. The planning system in Northern Ireland is not fit for the 21st century. Northern Ireland needs a planning system that is strategic, efficient and responsive to economic and development needs. It must also, however, be more transparent and accountable to local people. We will work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues in the Assembly to ensure that the right changes are made to transform the planning system in Northern Ireland.
At last the people of Northern Ireland are being offered an alternative from the sectarian mess. I am very proud of the Conservative Party's role in providing this opportunity.