Yesterday I attended a lunch with Shadow Secretaries of State, Theresa May and Owen Paterson, as well as the Conservative and Unionist women candidates, who will stand in May’s election.
May, whose role includes women’s issues, as well as the work and pensions brief, accompanied the candidates to meetings with the FSB and a group in Antrim, concerned with domestic violence.
The Conservatives and Unionists are putting up four female Westminster hopefuls on this occasion. At least three are standing in winnable constituencies. For Sandra Overend, in mid-Ulster, the task is, by her own admission, to grow the vote.
Daphne Trimble takes on the sitting MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, in Lagan Valley. With the TUV fielding one of its strongest candidates, Keith Harbinson, the constituency is a fascinating battleground. Daphne has received an enthusiastic welcome at doorsteps so far and she is justifiably optimistic.
Paula Bradshaw also has realisable ambitions in South Belfast. The DUP’s Jimmy Spratt is a particularly uninspiring option for voters in the constituency and SDLP MP McDonnell has been an infrequent attender at Westminster.
In East Londonderry Lesley Macaulay will attempt to unseat the DUP’s death penalty enthusiast, Gregory Campbell. As a reputed ’snowman’ he will face competition for the hard-line Ulster ethno-nat vote from the TUV’s Willie Ross.
Yes, that Willie Ross!
The Conservative and Unionist candidate produced the wittiest reaction to his electoral comeback:
‘The TUV attempting to bring back the old MP from the last century is a bit like the BBC trying to bring back William Hartnell as the new Doctor Who!’
But there is a serious point too:
East Londonderry is crying out for a forward looking, full time, energetic and positive MP. People are weary of the same old faces and the same old negative politics that makes no difference in their lives. I want to see positive change on jobs, the economy, tourism, education and health, for all of us. It’s time for a fresh start.’