Further to our coverage yesterday of the proposed pact between the Ulster Unionists and the Conservative Party, the UUP Executive last night voted overwhelmingly in favour of an electoral alliance with the Tories for Westminster and European elections.
The first step in the process is the formation of a Conservative and Ulster Unionist Joint Committee to oversee and facilitate the co-operation between the parties. According to a statement put out by the UUP, the committee will be tasked with "bringing forward proposals on manifesto
commitments and the branding of candidates, ensuring that the heritage and
appeal of both parties are respected and that the popular appeal to the
whole Northern Ireland electorate is maximised".
Its first report is due by the end of January, well in advance of the first test for the new arrangement, the European Parliament election in June.
David Cameron has expressed his excitement at the news:
"I am delighted by this agreement between the
Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists. It will give all the people of
Northern Ireland, for the first time in decades, a new choice in
politics. For too long Northern Ireland has been outside of the
mainstream of politics in the United Kingdom. This new political force
will help change that, and allow everyone in Northern Ireland to
participate fully in political life both in Northern Ireland and
throughout the United Kingdom."
His comments were echoed by shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Owen
Paterson, after a unanimous decision by Northern Ireland Conservative
Party members also to back the alliance:
"I am very pleased that a new political force will be
created. This will give real influence to all Northern Ireland voters
on the crucial day to day issues such as taxation, pensions and the
The UUP has its annual conference on December 6 and there is much speculation that David Cameron will attend in order to hail the new alliance in person.