Hermon unease at Tory alliance

By Alex Stevenson

Opposition to the Ulster Unionist party’s (UUP) alliance with the Conservatives forced its only MP to boycott the party’s conference.

Sylvia Hermon confirmed her absence at the event, the party’s biggest event before the coming general election, was a protest against the Tory tie-up.

She had been spotted walking her dog instead of attending the conference, which was addressed by shadow foreign secretary William Hague. He said he was “excited” by the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force alliance.

“I’ve been made deeply unhappy by my party’s decision to align itself with the Tories. It was a decision made without any prior consultation with me,” the Belfast Telegraph newspaper quoted Lady Hermon as saying.

“While I am truly sorry to have missed seeing many of my Ulster Unionist friends at yesterday’s conference, I simply couldn’t go along and pretend to endorse the New Force arrangements.”

She had previously made clear she would not stand under a Tory banner.

The Conservatives have selected Ian Parsley to be their candidate for North Down, Ms Hermon’s seat. If the UUP confirm him as their joint candidate it is possible Lady Hermon could stand as an independent.