The former Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt is warning that it would be ‘nothing short of hypocrisy’ for his party to sign up to an electoral pact with the Democratic Unionist Party.
It comes after the incoming UUP leader Steve Aiken ruled out a unionist electoral pact for the upcoming election.
Meanwhile, the DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her party will support the UUP candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone instead of contesting the seat – and called for unionist cooperation in an effort to “maximise representation.”
She said the party would support UUP member Tom Elliot – even though he has yet to be nominated by his own party.
On Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh this morning, former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said the election offers an opportunity for unionists to voice their anger at the DUPs actions in recent years.
“Since the last election, the DUP have been embroiled in a sort of alphabet soup of scandals – both corporately with the likes of RHI and individually with Ian Paisley Jr,” he said.
“And also their stance on Brexit, I think, is an existential threat to the future of the United Kingdom.
“So it is very difficult to be making those sort of criticisms of a party and then to go into the ballot box on the 12th of December coming and give them one of their preferences. That is nothing short in my analysis of hypocrisy.”
He said the pressure coming from the DUP is “frankly undemocratic.”
“I mean, they are criticising us for saying we want to run candidates in a political election,” he said.
“If it is a democracy, we are entitled to run in all 18 constituencies.
“In Fermanagh, are they really saying we want you to run Tom Elliot? Well that is our choice surely. We are the UUP we if we want to run a candidate, we will decide who it is.”
He confirmed that UUP workers have suffered intimidation since Mr Aiken ruled out the pact – with threats of violence made received at party HQ.
“If we are going to have a democracy, my message to the people making those threats is this: You are going to hear things you don’t like and you are going to see thing you don’t like – that is the price of being in a democracy.
“You can go and cast your vote. You can knock doors and encourage others to vote in a certain way but you can’t step over the line and threaten people.”
The election will be held on December 12th.