The Westminster election war of words has hotted up between the two main unionist parties in Upper Bann, with a leading UUP councillor claiming that MP David Simpson’s DUP camp “is in full panic mode”.
ABC Councillor Doug Beattie accused the Simpson team of talking up the chances of Sinn Fein’s Catherine Seeley, adding, “This is simply a desperate measure which goes against the facts.”
While backing his party champion Jo-Anne Dobson, Mr Beattie said that last year’s local government elections were the latest pointer that UUP were in the ascendency. “In the ABC poll, the Ulster Unionists polled 2,000-plus first preferences ahead of the DUP,” he added.
DUP group leader in ABC, Carla Lockhart, has retorted that using results which include a significant proportion of the Newry/Armagh, South Down and Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituencies was “disingenuous”.
She added, “A more realistic comparison would be the most recent Assembly elections when the difference between SF and DUP equated to 0.1 per cent, owing to the fractured vote within unionism. Sinn Fein have made no secret of their desire to target this constituency, but the DUP is focused on ensuring that the strongest team of unionist MPs is returned.
“David Simpson is the only Upper Bann candidate who can have real influence in parliament. A Sinn Fein MP wouldn’t even bother to turn up, while other parties would be too small to wield any influence.”
But Mr Beattie insisted that the Upper Bann numbers would permit the two unionist parties to contest the seat. “Earlier this month, Nicholas Whyte, of the ARK elections website, said, ‘I don’t see Sinn Fein making Westminster in the numbers. Upper Bann is a unionist majority constituency by quite a long way’.
“Upper Bann is a two-horse race between the tired thinking of David Simpson and the fresh thinking of Jo-Anne Dobson. Our message is clear - vote for hope, not fear.”