More details have emerged of the alliance being forged between the Ulster Unionist Party and Conservative Party, which has been warmly welcomed by David Cameron.

The parties have agreed a memorandum of understanding, which the Conservatives have summarised as follows:

Both parties believe that a strong and stable Union of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom offers the best future for all its citizens.

Both parties believe that Northern Ireland has been isolated for too long from the politics of the United Kingdom.

Both parties believe that all the citizens of the
United Kingdom should have the opportunity to vote for, and potentially
participate in, their national government.

Both parties
recognise the need to change politics in Northern Ireland, are
committed to reaching out to the increasing numbers of alienated
voters, and developing non sectarian politics in Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists have agreed to form a Joint
Committee which will have as a core aim a desire to change politics in
Northern Ireland in order to enable all electors in Northern Ireland to
participate fully in the politics of the United Kingdom

2. The
Joint Committee, consisting of 4 Conservatives and 4 Ulster Unionists,
will oversee developments. It will be responsible for coordinating the
identification of candidates for the General Election and have
responsibility for running the European and General Election campaigns.

Jim Nicholson MEP will be the candidate for the European election and,
if elected, will sit as a full member of the Conservative group, and
shall be in receipt of the Conservative Whip in the next European
Parliament.  He shall have the same rights and responsibilities of all
MEPs taking the Conservative Whip.

4. Successful candidates at
the General Election will be full members of the Parliamentary
Conservative Party. They will have the same rights and responsibilities
as all other MPs taking the Conservative Whip.

5. Both
Parties recognise that the holding of office as a Member of Parliament,
Member of the European Parliament, or Member of a Legislative Assembly,
is a full-time position. Both Parties consider the holding of multiple
mandates to be undesirable and neglectful of the needs of the
electorate. Accordingly, the holding of joint mandates will not be
permitted.  If an MLA offers him/her self as a candidate for a
Parliamentary seat they will undertake to resign as an MLA on election
to that Parliament.

My reading of this is that
Sylvia Hermon – the sole UUP MP at present – would not therefore be
expected to take the Conservative whip in advance of the general
election; ie she would only be expected to sit as a Conservative if she
seeks re-election in North Down on that basis.

Jonathan Isaby

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