Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Two Ulster Unionists apply for North Down MP role

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Lady Sylvia Hermon will not stand as a Conservative and Unionist candidate

The BBC has learned that two Ulster Unionists have applied to become the party's parliamentary candidate in North Down.

It follows the announcement that Lady Sylvia Hermon will not be standing as a joint Conservative and Unionist candidate in the constituency.

Her decision has increased speculation that she may run as an independent in the General Election.

The two UUP applications are from Johnny Andrews and Bill McKendry.

Both men live outside the constituency.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the North Down Association, Alan McFarland, said efforts were made to find a compromise to allow Lady Hermon to stand for re-election as an Ulster Unionist.

He said the party had tried to find a way by which she could run as an Ulster Unionist and "perhaps have a slightly freer rein at Westminster than taking the Conservative whip".

But he said "that did not prove possible".

Lady Hermon has yet to comment over her move not to stand as a joint candidate.

Mr Andrews, a grandson of former Northern Ireland Prime Minister JM Andrews, is currently a party officer and is from Comber.

Mr McKendry recently applied to be the party's candidate in Strangford.

That nomination was won by former UTV presenter Mike Nesbitt.

Mr McKendry was part of Jim Nicholson's election team last year during the European Parliamentary campaign.

Tory whip

If successful they have agreed to stand as a joint Conservative and Unionist candidate and take the Tory whip at Westminster.

Whoever is chosen will face opposition from the former Alliance Councillor Ian Parsley, who the Conservatives have already selected.

A joint committee of Ulster Unionists and Conservatives will decide which candidate to run.

A selection meeting for North Down is expected to be held next week.

The Ulster Unionist Party was informed this week by Lady Hermon that she would not be seeking the nomination as a Conservative and Unionist candidate.

The North Down MP said she would not apply to stand for election under the joint Ulster Unionist and Conservative banner.

Sir Reg Empey and UUP Chairman David Campbell said they wished to record their regret at her decision.

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