Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Patterson has expressed backing for the Conservative council candidates in the local elections in Ulster following the demise of the pact with the Ulster Unionist Party.
He says in an interview for the Belfast Telegraph:
“Andrew Feldman, our party chairman, has made a clear commitment to bringing Northern Ireland into the mainstream of national politics and we have an office in Bangor, we have a full-time employee raising interest.
“This is a good start and David Cameron has stated that it would be good for the UK and good for Northern Ireland for politics here to go into the UK mainstream.
“We intend to try and bring Northern Ireland into the mainstream.”
“We are fighting a number of council seats and we are up against local parties which are well embedded.
“However, local parties should appreciate that it is not healthy here that the turnout is going down between General Elections.
“Quite a lot of the electorate see politics as too polarised, so they just don’t participate.”
The trouble is that there are very few Conservative candidates standing in Northern Ireland that I could find. Surprisingly there were none for Down District Council that I could see. Ards just has one - standing for Ards West. For Castlereagh Borough Council has just one – for Castlereagh East. There are none standing for Carrickfergus Borough Council. There are none for Belfast City Council (although Isee there is a "pro capitalism" candidate for Pottinger.) While I haven't checked all the 26 councils it is clear that the number of Conservative candidates standing is very low. This is all the more disappointing given the high level achieved in the rest of the United Kingdom.