In the light of Labour’s local election woes, Jeffrey Donaldson and Gregory Campbell have been suggesting that unionism should strike an electoral pact to maximise influence wielded at Westminster. In the eventuality of a hung parliament or a tight majority for either Labour or the Tory party, ten or more unionist MPs would form a powerful bloc capable of exerting disproportionate influence.
DUP representatives, and in particular those DUP representatives who have defected from the UUP such as Donaldson, are unlikely and belated proponents of unionist…. er ….. unity. However if a deal on Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast constituencies were to secure an extra UUP seat in the latter and deprive Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew in the former it might sweeten a bitter pill for UUP supporters.
An electoral understanding along these lines has long been mooted and if it were simply to comprise withdrawing the UUP candidate for FST in return for DUP withdrawal in South Belfast I believe it would be beneficial to the UUP to agree. It would not be beneficial to strike a more comprehensive arrangement and taint the work done to present the UUP as a more secular party interested in overarching pan-UK unionism, by allying with the DUP’s Ulster nationalism.