One of the batch of recent Ulster Unionist defectors, David McClarty, has decided to defend his Stormont seat as an independent. The East Londonderry MLA was the only UUP candidate to squeak home in that constituency last time, although he was still some 2,000 votes under quota.
His decision will give the party a major headache. It is running two of its brighter prospects in East Londonderry, Lesley Macaulay and David Harding, but there was always a suspicion that the Ulster Unionists would have to settle for one seat. McClarty’s involvement throws even that likelihood into considerable doubt.
In the 2010 general election Macaulay claimed a reasonably creditable total of 6,218 votes. This time round some of those voters will stick with McClarty and those who remain loyal to the Ulster Unionists will be spread across two candidates. Things are likely to get very tight and only the most indefatigable UUP optimist would predict a gain in East Londonderry this time round.