Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Thanks to everyone for all your hard work

We just want to acknowledge our gratitude and deepest thanks to everyone who helped in working towards the General Election and after.

It was a lot of hard work, fun and now we have a new age in UK politics.

Interesting times ahead.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Why you should vote Conservatives and Unionists on 6 May

For too long Northern Ireland has been a place apart.

We have had no real say in who would be Prime Minister of our country, no meaningful role in the Mother of Parliaments, and no chance of being involved in the government of the United Kingdom.

Conservatives and Unionists have changed all that.

The Ulster Unionist Party - the party that ensured Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom; The party which defended democratic values against the onslaught of terrorism during the dark years of the Troubles. The party which took the courageous decision in 1998 to build the peace.

And our colleagues and friends in the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party which governed the United Kingdom for most of the 20th century, stood firm during the Cold War, ended British decline and restored British pride, and is now ready to give the decisive government required to lead our country out of recession.

Our two great parties are now working together in partnership to build on these achievements and to end Northern Ireland's semi-detached status within the United Kingdom.

The Conservatives and Unionists manifesto is a manifesto for a government of the entire United Kingdom. It signals that the days are past when Northern Ireland was relegated to the window-ledge of the Union. It is a manifesto that puts Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union. It is a manifesto which expresses unionism's historic belief in 'our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom'.

Others in this election tell us that Northern Ireland would be best served by a hung parliament.

It is hard to believe that self-proclaimed unionists are actually promoting this.

Not only would a hung parliament undermine the ability of a government to take the decisive action required to lead our country out of recession. It would hand influence to the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, determined to break up the Union. It would hand influence to the Lib Dems, determined to see the UK in the Euro and governed by a federal Europe.

Those of us who cherish the United Kingdom cannot be hoping for such an outcome.

Those of us who want to see our economy led out of recession and debt must be campaigning for a strong mandate for a Conservative and Unionist government, not the indecision and grubby back-room deals of a hung parliament.

If we want to see change - real, meaningful change - in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingom, it will only come through a Conservative and Unionist government.

The change that will restore economic prosperity. And that, by the way, does mean - must mean - growing Northern Ireland's private sector.

The change that will put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union.

The change that will deliver a government which is not neutral on the Union like Labour, but passionately committed to our United Kingdom.

The change that will restore economic opportunity to all parts of the United Kingdom.

This is the change for which we - Conservatives and Unionists - stand.

So let's take this message right across Northern Ireland.

And take Northern Ireland into the heart of the Union.

The BBC NI Leader's Debate

Conservatives and Unionists - the only party who cares about the Creative Industries


Only the Conservatives and Unionists replied 

And only the Conservatives and Unionists will deliver.

Here's what we had to say:

The Conservatives and Unionists believe that the Creative Industries have an important role to play in the growth of Northern Ireland's economy. Many businesses in the Creative Industries are small and under a Labour government have faced a struggle to establish themselves, to build and to expand. Many young people coming out of universities are planning to start their own businesses. They have an entrepreneurial spirit and have been inspired by others from Northern Ireland who have built careers and businesses here and around the world. They know Northern Ireland can be a hub for the Creative Industries and the Digital Economy, but they face enormous problems establishing themselves.
The Conservatives and Unionists will make the process of starting and running a business easier and reduce the costs.
It is the link between the Conservatives and Unionists in Northern Ireland and the support we will give a Conservative government that will benefit the Creative Industries. We will be a voice within a Conservative government where the real decisions will be made about how all our industries will flourish. Any new business started in the first two years of a Conservative government will pay no Employer National Insurance on the first ten employees it hires during its first year. This is crucial assistance to young entrepreneurs who have the vision and drive that Northern Ireland needs for our economy to prosper.
Many businesses in the Creative Industries require and rely on technological infrastructure here in Northern Ireland and through out the UK to reach and supply their customers. Being in Northern Ireland is not a disadvantage to many in the Creative Insustries. With better connectivity, businesses here can work for customers around the world. We will deliver a faster more widely available broadband infrastructure and link our Creative Industries globally. In Northern Ireland we recognise the potential of project Kelvin and we will work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues to ensure that the project's economic potential is maximised.
Entrepreneurs will be supported through a network of business mentors and provide loans to entrepreneurs who are just starting out. And all those forms you need to fill in when you are starting a business will be a thing of the past. A "one-click" registration model will make the UK the fastest place to start a business.
We have heard small and medium sized businesses complain about endless problems with government procurement. We will open up government procurement to small and medium sized businesses by reducing admin costs with the ambition that 25% of government contracts go to SMEs. Businesses in the Creative Industries are suppliers to government and will continue to be. We want to make it easier for them to work with government. We will work with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure best practice throughout the UK.
Conservatives and Unionists will get the UK working by boosting enterprise - so we'll cut corporation tax rates, abolish taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses, promote green jobs, and get people off welfare and into work. And we'll stop Labour's jobs tax which would wreck the recovery.
Conservatives and Unionists will look at specific measures to turn Northern Ireland into an economic 'Enterprise Zone'. We will bring forward a government paper to look at the mechanisms for a different corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland.
We recognise that the Labour Government has neglected the crucial Digital Economy up until now and that legislation is urgently needed. We support the ambition of the Digital Economy Bill and much of what it contains. But we will not support specific measures which prop up old business models and create unnecessary duties.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Conservatives and Unionists 'Contract for Northern Ireland'




Speaking in County Down, David Cameron said:

"It's great to be back in Northern Ireland.

One and a half years ago the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party made a bold step to realign the political map of Northern Ireland.

I want to pay tribute here to the work of Reg Empey and Owen Paterson, whose efforts helped bring us together.

Our two great parties have created a dynamic new electoral force for Northern Ireland.

And it's because we made that step that today we are not just saying that we are the party of the union, we are showing that we are the party of the union, the party of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England - with candidates standing in every part of the United Kingdom.

Nobody else can say that. Not Labour. Not the Liberal Democrats.

And none of the local parties here in Northern Ireland.

As Reg says we are not fighting to be an opposition, we are fighting to be the government of our country, all of it.

WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?

So why is this so important?

It's important because of our deep commitment to the union.

So let me repeat the pledge I made to you in Belfast a year and a half ago.

I will never be neutral on our Union.

We passionately believe that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are stronger together, weaker apart - and the union of our two parties strengthens those bonds.

But our new electoral force is also important for other reasons.

For as long as anyone can remember, politics here has been dominated by constitutional issues - the latest developments in the peace process.

This election presents a new opportunity to participate in the mainstream of British politics.

Mainstream politics in which issues like taxes, pensions, defence and foreign policy, that are decided in Westminster yet affect every single person in Northern Ireland, are part of the mainstream political debate.

Mainstream politics in which people in Northern Ireland can participate at all levels of government in the UK - from the council chamber right the way to the Cabinet table itself.

At this election, only Conservatives and Unionists are offering people in Northern Ireland that opportunity - the chance to elect MPs who can be part of the government of the United Kingdom.

That's good for my party - as we get the very best working alongside us, as partners in government.

And it's good for Northern Ireland too - as you will have powerful voices in Westminster raising the issues that matter to you.

Not just raising their voice but making their voice heard and getting things done. Not just turning up and collecting the expenses and flying back to Belfast on a Wednesday afternoon but taking part in parliament.

CONTRACT

And that voice can already be heard, in the contract we are launching today.

While we've been clear in this election campaign that we hope people will respond to our invitation to help change our country, in the final days before polling day, we are setting out our side of the bargain.

The things we will do to help Northern Ireland move forward.

It's a contract to end the semi-detached political status of Northern Ireland, to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics, to put Northern Ireland at the very heart of the Union.

It's our contract with the voters - and I want the people of Northern Ireland to read it, keep it, stick it to your fridge, use it to hold us to account, and if we don't do what we promise to do - kick us out in five years' time.

So what's in this contract?

ECONOMY

It's a contract that will bring change to our economy.

We've got record government debt. Record government borrowing. Unemployment is up.

In this contract are the radical plans to dig us out of that mess.

Plans to make government accountable, stop the waste, stop Labour's jobs tax - and get better services for the taxes you pay.

Plans to make the UK the best place in the world to do business.

Stopping the rise of red tape, lowering corporation tax rates, abolishing employment taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses.

We'll bring a new age of enterprise and ambition across the United Kingdom.

In this part of the UK we'll go even further, looking at ways of turning Northern Ireland into an enterprise zone.

And we'll produce a government paper examining how we can change the corporation tax rate here, so that we can get even more investment coming in.

We want to grow the size of the private sector in Northern Ireland to create new jobs and investment.

But let me also say this.

The country faces some difficult decisions ahead on how we will tackle the deficit.

I want people to know that if elected I will make these decisions with compassion, reasonableness and a concern for the most disadvantaged.

That is who I am and that is what a government I lead will be like.

So we will continue to fund Northern Ireland according to its needs, and we will tackle the deficit while protecting the essential frontline public services that we all rely on.

There is no way Northern Ireland will be singled out over and above any other part of the UK will be singled out, that people need to know.

As unionists who believe in the United Kingdom, we recognise that we're all in this together - and we'll only rebuild a stronger economy together.

SOCIETY

It's in that spirit that we will change our society.

We've got great social problems in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

Crime and disorder. Poverty and inequality. Drug and alcohol abuse.

This contract sets out bold plans to tackle not just the symptoms of these problems but their causes too.

So much of social breakdown comes back to three things - a chaotic or broken family background, poor schooling and worklessness.

So we'll have a relentless focus on these areas.

We'll make the United Kingdom more family friendly, recognising marriage in the tax system and giving more parents the right to request flexible working.

We'll work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues in the Assembly to build on excellence in Northern Ireland's schools, defending our education system from those who are out to destroy it and ensure excellence, diversity and choice for all.

We'll shake-up the welfare system and say to people if you want to work we'll give you all the help you need - but if you refuse to work, your benefits will be cut. The rules are going to change.

This is all about a simple value, building a society where we reward those who do the right thing.

Last year we saw the Prime Minister betraying those who had done the right thing, when he boasted that 'not one British saver has lost a single penny' in the banking crisis.

He should try telling that to investors in the PMS who worked hard, saved hard - and then saw their money disappear. Are they not British, did they not lose money, why has he forgotten about them?

So I give you this pledge.

If I am Prime Minister a Conservative and Unionist Government will work with the Executive here to ensure a just and fair resolution of the PMS.

It's about saying we're all in this together, you've done the right thing and you deserve for that to be recognised and rewarded.

POLITICS

We need great change in our politics too.

The scandals at Westminster and the recent allegations here in Northern Ireland have rocked confidence in politics and politicians.

This is no time for business as usual.

We need to change the whole way politics is done, to make it more accountable, more transparent and cheaper.

This contract sets out exactly how.

We'll make it more accountable by giving you the power to sack your MP and banning the 'double-jobbing' that has scarred politics in this part of the United Kingdom.

We'll make it more transparent by publishing online every item of public spending over £25,000 - so you can see how your money is being spent.

And we'll make it cheaper by cutting the perks and subsidies in Westminster and cutting ministers' pay.

There is a great family of candidates standing behind me but there will be nothing swish about the Conservative and Unionist family in Northern Ireland.

All these changes are designed to do one thing: make politicians serve the public again, not the other way round.

SECURITY

So this contract shows a way forward for our economy, our society, our politics.

And it points the direction for a new kind of politics for Northern Ireland, which moves on from the troubles of the past.

Of course there's still a serious dissident threat and we'll do everything to counter it.

Conservatives and Unionists support the political institutions established over the past decade and are committed to making devolution work, including on policing and justice.

Northern Ireland needs effective law and order, and we're committed to funding it.

We want to build a peaceful and stable society in which everybody is treated with equal respect - whatever their background or political aspiration.

We believe in a shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

And we look forward to continuing our close relationship with the Government of the Republic of Ireland as we uphold our international obligations under the agreements.

Of course we'll never forget the sacrifice of those who ensured that the future of Northern Ireland would be determined by the ballot box and not the bullet or the bomb, just as we take great pride and remember all the things they currently are doing in Afghanistan we take great pride in the brave men and women from Northern Ireland who today serve in the Royal Irish and elsewhere in the armed forces, protecting our freedoms. We are proud of what they do.

There are some who wish to re-write history and put those who upheld democracy on an equivalent footing with those who sought to destroy it.

No government I lead will ever accept that.

And in this hotel we remember in particular those civilians murdered and injured in one of the most wicked and cowardly acts of terrorism.

Politically motivated violence was never justified, whatever side it came from.

So a Conservative and Unionist Government won't take forward the proposal for universal Recognition Payments.

We'll draw a line under the past with no more costly and open ended inquiries.

It's time to move on - and move forward to a better future for Northern Ireland.

CONCLUSION

I know that for many years people in Northern Ireland felt cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom, including from the government.

I want to end that sense of isolation.

I want to give voters in Northern Ireland the right - for the first time in generations - to vote for a party capable of forming the government of our United Kingdom, to enable people in Northern Ireland to play their full part in the affairs of the country as a whole, and to realise at long last the basic democratic right to equal citizenship within the United Kingdom.

That can only happen through the partnership of our two parties.

Other parties can talk about this.

Only Conservatives and Unionists can deliver.

Of all the parties standing in Northern Ireland at this election - only we can form the government of our country.

Of all the parties standing in Northern Ireland at this election - only we can get a decisive mandate and strong majority in the House of Commons.

Of all the parties promising change - only we can deliver it.

So join us in our mission.

Join us in our fight.

And let me tell you what we're fighting for.

We're not fighting Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg in this election.

We're fighting poverty, disadvantage, blocked opportunity.

We're fighting for people.

We're fighting for all the couples who can't afford to own their own home.

We're fighting for all the children growing up in homes where no-one works.

We're fighting for all those who are held back because of their race, their gender or their sexuality.

We're fighting for all the businesses struggling to stay afloat.

We're fighting for all the parents who can't find a good school for their kids.

We're fighting for all those who are struggling to make ends meet, month after month.

We're fighting for the nurse covered in red tape who just wants to do her job.

We're fighting for the pensioner who's saved and doesn't want to sell his home to pay for his care.

We're fighting for everyone who just wants to do the right thing, to do the best for their families and to make a difference to our country.

That's why we're fighting for change.

That's why we're fighting to win.

So come out and fight and win with the Conservatives and Unionists.

Let's go for it."

Monday, 3 May 2010

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Conservatives and Unionists launch Armed Forces Manifesto

The Conservatives and Unionists Armed Forces Manifesto was launched by the Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox today in East Belfast.

In a statement Liam said:

"I am delighted to be in Northern Ireland again to launch the Conservatives and Unionists Armed Forces Manifesto. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces, many of whom are from Northern Ireland. It is shameful that the Military Covenant has been neglected by Gordon Brown and the Labour government.

"If elected, a Conservative and Unionist government will work from day one to improve the lives of everyone in our Forces. And we will work to improve the lives of all their families.

We pledge to:

  • Give the Armed Forces clear leadership - we'll hold a Strategic Defence and Security Review to make sure resources match commitments. In the meantime, we'll protect the defence budget for 2010/11.

  • Equip our Armed Forces properly - we'll reform procurement so our Forces get the equipment they need when they need it, at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.

  • Support our servicemen and women - we'll double the operational allowance, improve rest and recuperation leave and establish a tri-Service Military Covenant.

  • Support service families and children - we will work to give Forces children extra support in school, and seek to provide college and university bursaries for the children of Forces personnel who have been killed.

  • Support our veterans - with a new mental health screening process and work for a new 'Troops for Teachers' programme to get ex-service personnel into teaching.


Speaking at the Launch, Trevor Ringland, Conservatives and Unionists candidate for East Belfast said:

"For generations people form all backgrounds in Northern Ireland have made an outstanding contribution to the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom. It is right and proper that their service is recognised and that those garrisoned in Northern Ireland get the support they need.

"Michael McGimpsey in particular has done excellent work to ensure that service personnel get the support from Health and Social Services they deserve. However, we believe that every Executive department should make a pledge. This manifesto today will help us deliver for the men and women, and the families, who serve our country and place themselves in harm's way. We are committed to rebuilding the Military Covenant in every part of the United Kingdom.

"Other parties may talk about renewing the Military Covenant. Only the Conservatives and Unionists can deliver for our armed forces and their families".

Reg says McCrea's claims on South Antrim are ludicrous

Sir Reg Empey,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for South Antrim

I would like to thank Mr McCrea for his concern about how well my campaign is going and would like to assure him that I have been and continue to be very active on the ground in South Antrim in addition to carrying out my Ministerial duties.

With regard to the GMU programme, there was indeed a mis-understanding but in no way could I be said to have been avoiding either the media or the public.

To date I have been involved in, the UTV Party Leaders' debate, the Newsletter webchat, UTV Live, BBC Newsline, BBC Hearts and Minds, a panel debate on the local radio station Seven FM and and given countless interviews to our local print jouralists.

I have also canvassed extensively in South Antrim including Carnmoney, Ballyduff, Ballyclare, Antrim town, Randalstown and Templetpatrick. Today I have been in Crumlin, Glenavy, Straid and Ballyeaston and have met a great many of - what Mr McCrea so condescendingly describes as - ordinary people.

The curious thing is that in all my travels in South Antrim I have not come across a single DUP canvasser. It is as if they have put up their posters and all gone to ground.

I would suggest that someone may indeed be "terrified" in the South Antrim campaign. But it isn't me.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Fred highlights DUP hypocrisy over Civil Service cuts

Fred Cobain,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for North Belfast

The recent street protest by NIPSA civil servants is the latest visible sign of DUP economic mismanagement.

Earlier this week they tried to scare the electorate with forecasts of cuts that would come if the Conservatives and Unionists win the forthcoming Election. Those claims were exposed as lies and if further proof were needed, it has emerged today in the shape of the NIPSA protests over fears that the DUP Environment Minister is about to cut 270 jobs in the Planning Service.

This is in addition to the £113 million of cuts which the DUP Finance Minister has imposed on the local Health budget in this financial year.

People are not stupid. They know the economy is in a bad way and they know that hard decisions will need to be taken.

But they also know that it is utter hypocrisy for the DUP to scare-monger about what the Conservatives and Unionists might do if they came to power, at the same time as DUP cuts are already crippling the Health Service and forcing civil servants onto the street.

At Stormont the Ulster Unionist Party has consistently warned the DUP about the black hole which had been allowed to develop in the Stormont budget, but the DUP's response was to deny reality and accuse us of being financially illiterate.

Peter Robinson is busy saying one thing on public spending - and printing entirely another in his manifesto wish list.

As recent events have shown, it is the DUP who are financially illiterate. Except it would seem when it comes to claiming Westminster expenses, munching their way through mountains of food or selling off plots of land.

Mike Nesbitt speaking at the Conservatives and Unionists manifesto launch

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Ross says Northern Ireland has everything to gain from 25 year plan for businesses

Ross Hussey,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for West Tyrone.


The shocking misreporting of what David Cameron actually said does nothing to assist the debate on how we achieve what everyone knows needs to be done - namely the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy and the growth of local enterprises.

The Conservatives and Unionists already have plans to help businesses employ more people - by cutting corporation tax, stopping labour's tax on jobs, and promoting more flexible employment so that work pays.

No one disputes the need to tackle the UK's national debt and make public services more efficient. The UK will pay £42billion on interest payments this year alone. That is money that will never be spent on health, education or infrastructure. If we do not get the national debt undercontrol interest rates will also go up hitting every mortgage holder in Northern Ireland. We also risk the long-term economic stability of the UK. You only have to look at Greece to see how badly it can go wrong if national debt ets out of control.

In direct contrast to the policy Labour would be forced to adopt, the Conservatives and Unionists want to develop a 25-year plan to re-build the private sector in Northern Ireland and move away from our dependence on public funding in a managed way. It is essential there are Conservatives and Unionists elected as MPs to ensure this remains high on any incoming government's agenda.

Thus, the choice at this election is again clear. We can have five years of chaotic and unplanned cuts under Labour with no voice for Northern Ireland, or we can have change and the development of a 25-year economic plan for growth under the Conservatives and Unionists directly influenced by MPs from Northern Ireland.

Danny asks for the DUP to clarify where they stand on public spending

Danny Kennedy,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Newry and Armagh 

The DUP's rejection of David Cameron's call to grow the private sector in Northern Ireland is a staggering rejection of previously stated DUP policy.

The DUP's confusion, however, does not stop there. On the issue of public spending the DUP leader has now explicitly contradicted his own manifesto, less than 1 week after its publication.

The opening paragraph of the DUP manifesto economy section states:

Growing the private sector is the key to economic success. It will be the private sector that will lead the UK into economic recovery. We need low interest rates and must reign back public spending and invest more wisely. Spending reductions must be pursued rather than seeking to increase taxes, though restricted spending cannot jeopardise recovery. A key priority of the next Government must be reducing debt. Public spending in recent decades, and particularly over the last two years in response to the recession, has caused the United Kingdom to be laden with exceptionally high levels of debt.

Yesterday, however, Peter Robinson totally refuted this stance and his previous statements on the size of the public sector in Northern Ireland. He said:

The public sector in Northern Ireland as a percentage of the population is of a similar size to elsewhere in the United Kingdom … We need more public funding.

The DUP must tell voters in Northern Ireland which position it actually stands for. Is it the "spending reductions" of their manifesto or the "more public funding" of yesterday's Peter Robinson statement?

First the DUP supported growing the private sector - now it appears to be against it. First the DUP called for spending restraint - now it wants more public money spent. When will the confusion and the flip-flops end

Sir Reg Empey at the Conservatives and Unionists manifesto launch

Sir Reg Empey,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for South Antrim

For most of my political life manifesto launches in Northern Ireland have summed up how our politics was cut off from mainstream British politics.

Across all parties, we talked about what we would like to do ...

but it stopped there.  Why?

Because Northern Ireland was a place apart.  We had no real say in who would be Prime Minister of our country.  No meaningful role in the Mother of Parliaments.  No chance of being involved in the government of the United Kingdom.  Well, we have changed all that …

We, the two great parties who stand on this manifesto have already changed politics in Northern Ireland.  The Ulster Unionist Party - the party that ensured Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom.  The party which defended democratic values against the onslaught of terrorism during the dark years of the Troubles.  The party which took the courageous decision in 1998 to build the peace.

And our colleagues and friends in the Conservative Party.  The Conservative Party which governed the United Kingdom for most of the 20th century.  Stood firm during the Cold War, ended British decline and restored British pride.  And is now ready to give the decisive government required to lead our country out of recession.  

Our two great parties are now working together in partnership to build on these achievements.  And to end Northern Ireland's semi-detached status within the United Kingdom.

William Hague's presence with us demonstrates the Conservative and Unionist conviction that Northern Ireland is not a place apart - but an integral part of the United Kingdom.  Needless to say, you are once again very welcome to Northern Ireland.

This Conservatives and Unionists manifesto - a manifesto for a government of the entire United Kingdom - signals that the days are past when Northern Ireland was relegated to the window-ledge of the Union.  This is a manifesto to put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union.  A manifesto which expresses unionism's historic belief in 'our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom'.

Others in this election tell us that Northern Ireland would be best served by a hung parliament.  It is hard to believe that self-proclaimed unionists are actually promoting this.  Not only would a hung parliament undermine the ability of a government to take the decisive action required to lead our country out of recession.  It would hand influence to the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, determined to break up the Union.  It would hand influence to the Lib Dems, determined to see the UK in the Euro and governed by a federal Europe.

Those of us who cherish the United Kingdom cannot be hoping for such an outcome.

Those of us who want to see our economy led out of recession and debt must be campaigning for a strong mandate for a Conservative and Unionist government.  Not the indecision and grubby back-room deals of a hung parliament.  

If we want to see change - real, meaningful change - in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom - it will only come through a Conservative and Unionist government.  The change that will restore economic prosperity.

And that, by the way, does mean - must mean - growing Northern Ireland's private sector.

Over the weekend we saw just how worthless are the words spoken by the other political parties on growing the private sector. The other parties argue against us.

Because we have the audacity to suggest that Northern Ireland should not be left on the window ledge of the British economy.  That we in this part of the United Kingdom should have the jobs and economic opportunity that come with a vibrant private sector.

I can't think of a better illustration to show how we must vote for change on 6th May.

The change that will put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union.

The change that will deliver a government which is not neutral on the Union like Labour.

But passionately committed to our United Kingdom.

The change that will restore economic opportunity to all parts of the United Kingdom.

This is the change for which this Conservative and Unionist manifesto stands.

This is the change for which we - Conservatives and Unionists - stand.

So let's take this message right across Northern Ireland.

And take Northern Ireland into the heart of the Union.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Sandra welcomes Conservatives and Unionists commitment to female candidates

Sandra Overend, 
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Mid-Ulster 

As Women’s Development Officer for the Ulster Unionist Party I have been well aware that there was a lack of female representatives at a senior level in the Party.

This is something which the Party has sought to address and I am delighted to say that this is now a thing of the past, as evidenced by the fact that we have four female candidates standing under the Conservatives and Unionists banner in the forthcoming Westminster Election.

Paula Bradshaw is standing in South Belfast, Lesley Macaulay is running in East Londonderry, Daphne Trimble is our candidate in Lagan Valley and I shall be contesting Mid-Ulster.

Indeed with four female candidates, that is four more than the DUP, who have in the past not been slow to criticise us on this very issue.

I myself have been keen to ensure that people are promoted on merit regardless of whether they are male or female – to do so would mean losing out on a great deal of talent.

Irwin comments on DUP’s economically illiterate manifesto

Irwin Armstrong, 
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for North Antrim,

The DUP manifesto emphasises why we badly need a change of political direction in North Antrim. 

Not only is this document economically illiterate, its brass neck when it comes to expenses is scarcely believable!

While other parties have at least shown some contrition for exploiting the expenses system, the DUP is still trying to justify its behaviour! 

In fact it claims its MPs’ expenses “were of an entirely different nature” to those of other MPs. What arrogance!

While people in North Antrim work hard and struggle to pay their weekly food bills, our outgoing MP repeatedly claimed £400 worth of food a month for the short time he actually turned up to Westminster. His son was forced to resign as junior minister after constant questions about his relationship with a property developer.

After forty years of DUP/Paisley domination the last major international investment in this area was before Ian Paisley won our Westminster seat, the major hospital was lost to Antrim, the Army barracks closed, the local tax office is now closed, Ballymoney has lost much of its manufacturing industry and the side roads are in an appalling state. In contrast the Paisley dynasty’s chief legacy to North Antrim is a plush DUP constituency office in Ballymena. As one local man on the doorsteps summed it up ‘£60,000 a year for their office from the tax payer and I struggle to meet my bills’.

Voters in North Antrim are not fools. Many people I speak to on the doorsteps are angry about the expenses scandal and they know that the DUP are up to their necks in it. They want change and an end to dynasty, coat tail politics.

I, as a first time candidate and business owner, offer a chance for a new, transparent style of politics in North Antrim. I will publish my expenses monthly, so that every constituent can assess how they are being represented and every taxpayer can find out how their money is being spent and I will publish a monthly summary of my work for the people of North Antrim.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Political careers seem to begin in West Belfast!

Bill Manwaring,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for West Belfast

In February 1969 a young man took his first steps as a political activist, canvassing a small area of West Belfast for the Ulster Unionist Candidate Basil McIvor. This young man knocked on doors and extolled the virtues of Mr. McIvor as a good man and a caring politician. That young man's name was David Trimble.

41 years later it was my good fortune to be able to invite Lord Trimble to help me canvas a part of that same area - the now much expanded Riverdale area of West Belfast.

For Lord Trimble it was an opportunity to revisit the start of a political career which has so far included the glowing achievements of the Good Friday Agreement and a Nobel Peace prize.

For me it was a great chance to show the resulting political changes where I, a pro- union politician, can knock on doors across West Belfast and talk openly with the residents, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, about change for us and our children.

The work that has been done by Lord Trimble and so many others in the last fifteen years has made Northern Ireland such a better place - but we are only at the start of this journey. Over the last three weeks, knocking on doors all over West Belfast, I keep hearing that people want change, they want politicians who will address the economy, poverty, housing and crime - these are the things that the people today in Riverdale were talking about.

That is the change I am proud to be campaigning for.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

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Sandra is committed to resolving difficulties faced by older people

Sandra Overend, 
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Mid-Ulster 

Pensioners have worked hard all their lives; they have paid their taxes and contributed to our economy and society. It is simply unacceptable that thousands of older people are continually facing poverty and hardship.

This election is crucially important for pensioners. 13 years of a Labour Government has seen the state pension depleted and private pensions decimated by Gordon Brown.

Conservatives and Unionists believe that pensioners deserve a better deal and that is why we are committed to protect existing age-related entitlements and increase the basic state pension in line with rising living standards.

We are committed to look at how to abolish the Default Retirement Age allowing people to work longer. We will protect free TV licenses, disability living allowances, attendance allowance and the pension credit.

Locally we need to rejuvenate the Warm Homes Scheme to ensure that as many people as possible are protected against fuel poverty.

Conservatives and Unionists are the only candidates in this election who can deliver for pensioners. I firmly believe that as a society we need greater respect and collaboration between the generations and we need to ensure that pensioners have the dignity and security in their old age that they deserve.

Harry says the DUP hung parliament strategy threatens the Union

Harry Hamilton,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Upper Bann

The DUP Manifesto attempts to portray the possibility of a hung parliament as 'a once in a lifetime opportunity' for Northern Ireland. This is almost precisely the same language used by the anti-unionist Scottish and Welsh nationalists. In a joint statement last month, the SNP and Plaid described a hung parliament as 'a once in a generation opportunity' to advance their agenda.

The DUP are prepared to dangerously gamble with the Union by aiming for a hung parliament. The very fact that Scottish and Welsh nationalists are also working for this should alert unionists to the real dangers in this strategy. A hung parliament would result in a weak government and a weak Union. It would increase the power of the separatists, seeking to use their influence in Parliament to tear the Union apart.

While the DUP share a platform with the SNP and Plaid, the Conservatives and Unionists are determined to see Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union - not allied to those who want to end it. Being on the window ledge of the Union, giving influence to Scottish and Welsh nationalists, is not a unionist vision. Nor is hoping for a weak government that can be held to ransom by the SNP and Plaid. On 6th May the people of Northern Ireland can vote for a strong, pro-Union government at Westminster by voting Conservatives and Unionists.

Paula says votes are not for sale in South Belfast

Paula Bradshaw,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for South Belfast

I want to clarify that votes are not for sale in South Belfast.  I would emphasis this after the news of Jimmy Spratt's offer to trade his Assembly seat in return for the withdrawal from the Westminster campaign.

This is typical of the DUP who think that everything has a price. Contrary to Jimmy's policy I do not believe that constituents, or constituencies can be traded like a sliver of land.

For that reason I would never accept a seat to which I was not democratically elected. I am not prepared to deny voters their right to real representation. As far as I am concerned seats cannot be traded. Although when it comes to what the DUP really stands for the electorate have come to the realisation that it is not trust and integrity - particularly given the news reports and revelations over the last few months.

I am deeply disappointed that Mr Spratt has ignored the invitation to join my campaign. I have been canvassing for six weeks and the message on the doors has been clear. Unionist voters want a Unionist returned at this election. The only way we can ensure that this happens is by putting up a strong candidate who can attract votes from right across the pro-Union constituency and those who may never have voted unionist in the past. I believe I am that person.

Let us not forget what this is really about. The DUP may attempt to claim that this is about unionist unity. Who split unionism in the first place? If this is about the best thing for Unionism then why are the DUP refusing to back a candidate who can boost Northern Ireland's role within the UK? Is that not what Unionism is meant to be about? While the DUP share a platform with the SNP and Plaid, the Conservatives and Unionists are determined to see Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union - not allied to those who want to end it."

There is still time for one candidate to unite voters in South Belfast - therefore to Jimmy I would say - my door is always open.

Mike Nesbitt says it is time to move beyond 'Little Ulster'


Mike Nesbitt, 
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Strangford

This Election will provide the Unionist voters of Northern Ireland with a genuine choice.

I believe Conservatives and Unionists are offering candidates who, if elected, will take their seats at Westminster with hundreds of other Conservatives and Unionists from throughout the United Kingdom, and be in a position to shape the policies of the next Government of the United Kingdom from its very core. For the first time in over 40 years, locally elected politicians will be at the heart of British politics.

I believe that the people of Northern Ireland deserve the opportunity to engage fully in mainstream National political life. The Union and Unionism is bigger than a "little-Ulster" mentality. For the past 40 years Northern Ireland political life became detatched from the British mainstream, and as the terrorist campaign unfolded in the 1970s and 1980s we did become a place apart. At last we have an opportunity to remedy that.

The local political scene has changed utterly since 1998, and now is the time for Northern Ireland and its People to regain their rightful place within the Union. I believe that we can best do that as an integral part of the Conservatives and Unionists at Westminster, with the genuine prospect of real power and influence over issues such as taxation, benefits and defence. Unlike any other Northern Ireland Party, we actually can deliver on the promises we make and the policies we put before the electorate.

Others can promise, but only Conservatives and Unionists can deliver.

A vote for the DUP is a vote to weaken the Union and endanger the economy. If elected, DUP members will sit as a small pressure group on the Opposition benches with the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists. A fringe grouping sitting amongst those whose sole aim is the breakup of the United Kingdom, but who will settle in the meantime for a Hung Parliament in which they can use their votes as a bargaining chip to loosen the ties that bind us together as a Nation.

Second Television Party Election Broadcast - Conservatives and Unionists

The Second of our Party Election Broadcasts (PEB) for the television


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Paula calls on the DUP to commit to debate on real election issues

I submitted my papers yesterday, and can confirm I am now officially the Conservatives and Unionists candidate for South Belfast.

I really am looking forward to a campaign based on issues, and I note that the DUP alone stand outside such a campaign.

I have been on the doorsteps for weeks now, in campaign with the Alliance Party, the SDLP and the Green Party which has been based solely on the issues which count at this election - taxation, welfare and pensions. I am looking forward to continuing that debate over the coming two weeks or so.

The DUP and Sinn Fein alone have, uniquely, has stood apart from that debate, instead trying to base its campaign on narrow, sectarian interests. The DUP is the only party delivering a ‘split’ - splitting Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK by attempting to deprive us, uniquely in our country, of a full role in UK affairs. The DUP will have to explain why it is seeking to deprive us of the type of British political debate which would be taken for granted in every other part of the UK.

The DUP has already admitted that it cannot win the seat, otherwise it would not have put so much effort into campaigning for a ‘Unionist Unity’ candidate. Nevertheless, the challenge now is for the DUP to engage in the same debate that the rest of us have been engaged in - on issues, not identity.

I have been clear all along that I believe I can win the seat, without any such pacts, by engaging with the people of South Belfast on the issues which matter to them, and on the issues on which we have a real voice at Westminster.

Ian Parsley on having a say in who will be in government

Conservatives and Unionists Westminster candidate Ian Parsley was out and about in North Down at the weekend with Ulster Unionist MLA Leslie Cree and supporters to engage with people at the doorstep as wel as gauge public opinion in one the its busiest shopping areas, Main Street, Bangor.

Ian Parsley, already a well known face in local council, said "I am encouraged by the response on the doorsteps. People are responding well to the need for us to bring national politics to Northern ireland and deliver a change of government. This applies right across the constituency."

Local Northern Ireland Assembly member Leslie Cree, in support of Mr Parsley's campaign, said "This is realistically the first time people in North Down will have a say on who will form the next Government of the United Kingdom.

"I believe, and none of the constituents I have met disagrees, Brown and Labour must go!

"Gordon Brown is responsible for destroying final salary pension schemes. He sold the country's gold reserves at the worst possible time, and he has accumilatied a massive deficit which our grandchildren are likely still to be repaying. It is crucial the Labour Party is replaced."

The group was supported by Owen Paterson, who may be the next Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This is further evidence of the commitment to North Down shown by senior Conservatives.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Only Conservatives and Unionists can strengthen influence at Westminster

Trevor Ringland
Trevor Ringland, Conservatives and Unionists candidate for East Belfast, speaks on who will be best placed to strengthen Northern Ireland's best interests at Westminster.

The idea that a tiny bloc of ‘ourselves alone’ DUP MPs at Westminster can have more influence over Northern Ireland policy than Conservative and Unionist MPs operating within the mainstream is frankly laughable.

Conservative and Unionist MPs elected from Northern Ireland will be part of UK-wide pro-union party; the DUP will be a stand alone rump trying to sell themselves to the highest bidder.

Conservative and Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland will be eligible to serve as ministers in government; no DUP MP will ever be a minister in a Westminster government.

Conservative and Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland will be able to influence government from the inside; DUP MPs will be permanently on the outside.

Conservative and Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland will back David Cameron who has said that he’ll never be neutral on the Union; DUP MPs are prepared to give us five more years of Gordon Brown and Shaun Woodward who are at best neutral on the Union.

“The whole of the DUPs strategy appears to be borrowed from the anti-Union Scottish Nationalists, who are campaigning for the political and economic instability of a hung parliament. They would marginalise and weaken Northern Ireland within Westminster.

“Instead, Conservatives and Unionists are campaigning for a decisive mandate for change, and end to Northern Ireland’s semi-detached status and participation in the mainstream of national, UK politics.”

“We will bring out the best in all our people in a Northern Ireland for all, inside a United Kingdom for all, and we will work constructively with all those with whom share this island.”

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Mike Nesbitt challenges DUP to public debate

Mike Nesbitt, Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Strangford, has challenged the DUP’s Jim Shannon to join the other main candidates at the election debate scheduled for Regent Street Presbyterian Church on Thursday 29th April.

“I understand most of the candidates have already indicated their willingness to attend, but Mr Shannon has quoted a prior engagement. I also had plans for next Thursday evening, but was happy to cancel and attend the debate. The public are right to expect all the candidates to do likewise.

"The debate is being organised by Christian Aid and will be the only opportunity the voters of Strangford will have to question the Parliamentary candidates on their views.

“After a year of shame and scandal in politics, all candidates have a duty to be totally open and transparent with the voters. That means standing in front of real voters, answering real questions.

“I repeat, I have cancelled my plans and will attend Regent Street on Thursday 29th. If Jim really cannot break his prior engagement, let him propose an alternative time, and I’ll be there."

Friday, 16 April 2010

Sandra Overend calls for support for Police in War on Drugs

Sandra Overend, the Conservatives and Unionists Candidate for Mid-Ulster in the forthcoming Westminster Election has praised Police for their actions in seizing £20,000 worth of drugs in Magherafelt on Thursday 15th April.

Sandra said;

"I know the entire community will join me in congratulating the Police for this seizure of cannabis resin in Magherafelt.

It is every parent’s nightmare to learn that their child is involved with drugs, and I know that every family in Mid-Ulster will be delighted to learn that this particular consignment of drugs is off our streets.

This is more good news following the Government’s decision to ban Mephedrone which had emerged as a so-called “legal high” and was having a terrible impact on young people .

The Police both need and deserve the support of the entire community in Mid-Ulster and far beyond to combat the criminal gangs who deal in drugs and seek to make money from selling their poison to young people, destroying families and communities in the process.”

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bill out and about in West Belfast

Yesterday morning saw The Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Caroline Spelman visiting my constituency. Caroline has a real grasp of the key social issues facing marginalised communities and must be a real asset to her own constituents in Meriden.

We started the morning by visiting residents living in some of the worst conditions I have ever experienced. Hearing their stories of how they feel that they have been abandoned by the statutory agencies as well as their elected representatives underlines the feeling of despair being shown by many of the people in West Belfast.

From here we visited the offices of the Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA) to discuss the problems that our young people are facing which are forcing more and more into drug addiction and suicide.

Caroline was involved in the formation and currently sits on the board of a similar organisation at home called 'Welcome'. It was great to have a future minister showing her clear understanding and empathy of this challenging and devastating issue.

Our next stop was to visit the Suffolk and Lenadoon Interface Group (SLIG) where we met with staff and community leaders involved with this very successful project.

Formed 16 years ago, SLIG has proven to be an excellent example of how our two communities can work together towards understanding and reconciliation. The success of this group is used throughout the UK and beyond as an excellent example of post-confrontation development.

My sincerest thanks to Caroline (and Simon) for their support today, it is exciting to think that, as Conservatives and Unionists we could have such a qualified and committed minister in the next government. All we need is for each of us who have had enough of the double jobbing and lack of accountability shown by our politicians to VOTE FOR CHANGE.