An Ulster Unionist candidate for Upper Bann said he would rather stick knitting needles in his eyes than vote DUP.
In a bitter Twitter spat, DUP assembley candidate Carla Lockhart goaded Ulster Unionist candidate Doug Beattie: “So you don’t actually support RVT Thanks for clarifying.”
In response Cllr Beattie said: “I’d rather stick knitting needles in my eyes than vote DUP - I hope that is clarity enough”.
Traditionally, unionist parties have – despite significant policy differences – publicly called on their supporters to vote down the ballot paper for all the unionist candidates.
However, some members of all unionist parties have long been unenthusiastic about the policy, given the sometimes massive differences between various unionist candidates.
Now, two Ulster Unionist candidates have publicly declined to endorse the policy of past elections.
Speaking at the UUP manifesto launch, new party member and North Belfast candidate the Rev Lesley Carroll made clear that she did not believe in telling voters who they should transfer to.
When asked if she would urge her voters to transfer to other unionist candidates, the Rev Carroll said: “I think every member of the electorate should decide for themselves what they think is going to work, and they should put their vote there.
“If anything, I would encourage every member of the electorate to put me somewhere near the top of the ticket, if not on the top.”
Doug Beattie said that last year’s unionist pact – where the UUP stood aside in two constituencies in favour of the DUP – had been “a necessary evil”.
By contrast, two years ago at the UUP annual general meeting, leader Mike Nesbitt made clear that he would support a call between all the unionist parties for their voters to transfer between each other – at that point, in the forthcoming council and European elections.
He said at the time: “I would be more than happy to recommend that people vote down the unionist card if the other unionist parties are going to reciprocate.
“That conversation has not been had. If that is the way the other unionist parties feel, it doesn’t give me an issue at all.”
And in a later Tweet, Cllr Beattie said: “I will not be telling anyone not to vote DUP or anyone else for that matter. But I won’t be voting for them.”