Crikey!

The BBC has announced that Independent Conservative MP Andrew Hunter, who is standing down at the next election, is joining the DUP and will become their first English MP. Tory MP Andrew Hunter joins DUP

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m fairly sure I blogged that story a year or two back, somewhere on poor old lost Slugger.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Hunter’s just seeing out his parliamentary days in the company of those he feels most at home with – he retires in May. He previously stood for the DUP in last year’s Assembly election. Maybe that’s what you’re thinking of Mick.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/03lv.htm

  • Belfast Gonzo

    FRIDAY 10/12/2004 17:57:54
    English unionist rejects by-election call

    The first ever English MP for the Democratic Unionists tonight vowed to continue to serve the people of Basingstoke until the next General Election.

    Andrew Hunter, who quit the Conservative whip in 2002, rejected calls for him to seek a fresh mandate for his House of Commons seat after he formally joined the Reverend Ian Paisley`s DUP Parliamentary team.

    The decision makes him the party`s first and only English MP.

    But tonight he rejected calls from Labour`s General Election candidate in Basingstoke, Councillor Paul Harvey for him to hold a by-election and seek a new mandate as a DUP candidate.

    Mr Hunter, who has family connections in County Londonderry, told PA: “This announcement shouldn`t come as a surprise to anyone as I have been a member of the DUP for some time and even ran for the party at the last Northern Ireland Assembly election.

    “For some time, I have been observing the DUP whip in the House of Commons.

    “I am also standing down as the MP for Basingstoke at the next General Election and will be moving to Northern Ireland where I intend to play a greater role in the Democratic Unionists.

    “It is also no surprise to me that one of my opponents in Basingstoke wants me to stand down but my decision to join the DUP Parliamentary team will make no difference to my constituents who I will continue to serve faithfully.”

    In last year`s Assembly Election, Mr Hunter narrowly missed out on a seat in Jeffrey Donaldson`s Lagan Valley constituency, securing 3,300 first preference votes.

    Since 2002, the Basingstoke MP has been sitting as an Independent Conservative in the House of Commons since resigning the Tory whip.

    Mr Hunter was one of the few Conservatives to oppose the Good Friday Agreement in the House of Commons and is a member of the Protestant Orange Order.

    A DUP statement confirmed he MP officially joined the DUP Parliamentary Party yesterday and was recognised as such by the Speaker of the House.

    The party has six MPs in Northern Ireland – the Reverend Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and his wife Iris, Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell and Jeffrey Donaldson.

    Mr Hunter was urged today by Basingstoke councillor and Labour`s candidate in the constituency, Paul Harvey to seek a new mandate.

    “I have to say it is a bit odd having a Democratic Unionist MP for Basingstoke,” the Labour councillor said.

    “Obviously Andrew has had more than a passing interest in Northern Ireland over the years and even had DUP members campaigning for him in this constituency in 2001 when he was a Conservative.

    “But I would hope being an honourable man, he will seek re-election now that he has officially switched parties.

    “I think Andrew should seek a new mandate in the House of Commons and stand properly as a DUP candidate. I must say I would very much relish contesting the DUP in an election.”

    Five years ago the DUP were reported to be considering a branch in Liverpool but it never materialised.

    A DUP spokesman laughed off Councillor Harvey`s call for Andrew Hunter to stand down and also dismissed tongue in cheek suggestions that the party might expand its electoral base into England, Scotland and Wales.

    “Andrew is due to retire from Westminster at the next general election,” he said.

    “His connection with the DUP is well established.

    “We have a number of people over on the mainland who support the party but that`s all.

    “But no, we are not setting up constituency associations over there.”

    Mr Hunter will move permanently to a new home in Moira, Co Down after the next General Election.

    “In Basingstoke terms, I am a Conservative in my blood and bones and always will be,” he told PA as he travelled to a civic function in Ballymena, Co Antrim where the Reverend Ian Paisley will be given the freedom of the borough by councillors.

    “They have a good candidate in Maria Miller at the next General Election, a friend of mine.”

  • Davros

    I didn’t realise he was a member of the Orange Order.

  • Tom Griffin

    The new development seems to be that it’s been officially recognised by the speaker.

    It doesn’t say much for the ‘modernisation’ of the DUP if its prepared to take on board someone who was too right-wing for the Tories under Ian Duncan-Smith.
    This should open up the DUP to a lot more scrutiny over its relations with the hard-right in Britain (The Monday Club/Swinton Circle etc.,) especially now that racism has become more of an issue in Northern Ireland.

    This Telegraph article has some of the background on Hunter and the Monday Club:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/10/08/ntory208.xml

  • davidbrew

    He’s a direct descendant of John Hunter of Maghera, who was at the Siege of Londonderry, a fragment of whose diary is one of the few primary sources on the siege.

  • barney

    “He’s a direct descendant of John Hunter of Maghera, who was at the Siege of Londonderry…”

    er… the siege of where??

  • alex s

    The DUP, the party of waifs and strays?

  • Davros

    I don’t know about waifs and strays alex, but I get the impression that the UUP have become the party for the middle classes in much the same manner as the SDLP, with the working class vote now mainly going to the DUP and SF.

  • willowfield

    Hunter joined the DUP ages ago.

    Sure he stood for them in last year’s election!