Strangford: UUP looking for an incremental improvement

It’s been suggested to Slugger that Strangford could conceiveably be the scene of an electoral upset in this year’s Westminster election. The basis for UUP optimism seems to be placed on the energy and youthfulness of their candidate, Gareth McGimpsey, and (possibly) an underestimation of their opponent, Iris Robinson. The Irish Times had an interesting constituency report (subs only) on Saturday.Robinson’s parliamentary pitch looks good at first sight:

Certainly she gives the impression of activity. She claims to have “questioned more ministers” than all but one of the 659 members of the House of Commons. A local councillor, MLA and MP, she runs “satellite surgeries” in local Orange halls and claims to have just one Saturday a month off.

But, McGimpsey retorts, “she has only spoken in 17 debates in the House of Commons, I will be a full-time MP.” It’s a formidable, but one paper at least not an insurmountable task:

Robinson claimed the seat by 1,110 votes in 2001 after then sitting MP John Taylor (now Lord Kilclooney) dropped out of the contest before election day.

However, in the wake of the Assembly elections in November 2003, McGimpsey is fairly modest in his own personal target:

I’ve got to be realistic. I’m a serious underdog, and it’s always extremely hard to shift a sitting MP. In 2003, we were over 7,000 votes behind. So anything less than 7,000 will be an improvement.