Page last updated at 18:15 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

UUP right not to rush Lady Sylvia

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

Sir Reg Empey has said it was right not to rush his party's only MP over whether she would stand under a joint ticket with the Conservative party.

Earlier this week, Lady Sylvia Hermon announced that she would not stand in North Down under the joint ticket.

The Ulster Unionist leader spoke on Thursday after Lady Sylvia said she will not rush into any decisions about her political future.

She said she wanted time to talk to friends and constituents.

In 2008 the Ulster Unionist and Conservative parties entered into an electoral pact to select joint candidates for European and Westminster elections.

Sir Reg said his party had been prepared to do whatever it could to persuade Lady Sylvia to stand under the Conservative and Unionist banner, but it had a policy to implement.

"Where you have people, particularly in her position, who take a different view for perfectly legitimate reasons I think we are entitled to take whatever time is required," he said.

"A party takes decisions after debate and consultation. We held meetings up and down the country, regional meetings, we held Executive meetings, we consulted widely.

"Every delegate from North Down on our executive committee voted for it."

'Fight to win'

Speaking on Thursday Lady Sylvia gave her broadest hint that she may stand in North Down as an Independent in the General Election.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but if I stand and fight my ground, I'll fight to win," she said.

Lady Sylvia said she has been inundated with messages of support ever since it became clear she would not be standing under the Conservative and Unionist banner.

Two Ulster Unionists have already applied to become the party's parliamentary candidate in North Down.

They are Johnny Andrews and Bill McKendry, who both live outside the constituency.

The Ulster Unionist Party will meet next week to select their nominee for the area.

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