Page last updated at 19:30 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

No comment on Tory 'withdrawals'

Westminster
The three Conservatives were nominees for the Westminster election

Three prospective Conservative candidates have refused to comment on speculation that they have withdrawn their general election candidacies.

Sheila Davidson, Deirdre Nelson and Peter McCann all declined to comment on if they had withdrawn.

It follows the revelation of private talks between the Conservatives, the UUP and the DUP in London.

It is understood there has been frustration that the UUP has not sorted out a joint nomination process.

"This is a big hiccup for the whole Conservative and Unionist experiment, they were trying to attract new people in to politics," BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said.

"Now we have this very strong report that three of the nominees, they are called this because they have not been adopted as full candidates, have withdrawn their names."

He said it could be a reaction to the Conservative involvement in recent meetings with the DUP and UUP, which may been seen as a dilution of their brand as new force for "normal politics" in Northern Ireland.

He said that there was an Ulster Unionist special executive meeting on Saturday which had been expected to deal with the nomination issue, but that there had still been no decision on the crucial North Down constituency.

Lady Sylvia Hermon, the UUP MP for the North Down, has indicated she may attend this meeting. She has said that she is unhappy with her party's pact with the Conservatives.

"It looks like these three prospective nominees have just decided to call it a day," Mr Devenport said.



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