The UUP backroom boys planned this set piece outside the City Hall. For the first time in this campaign we got a clear view of of his candidate team, as they trailed out of the City Hall and down the front gates in slow motion – for the benefit of the dozen or so cameramen waiting outside.
Prominence was given first of all to Michael McGimpsey (under pressure but still asserting he’s the leader in the S Belfast scramble. Then to Reg Empey (a target seat, according to the party). And then to Basil McCrea (Lagan Valley).
Despite persistent requests to speak to Sylvia Hermon (the party’s ‘safest’ candidate, the men predominated. Towards the end a bit of a verbal scrap ensued when radio journalist Eammon Maillie asked him about a leaflet apparently emanating from the UUP (McGimpsey denied it had come from his office), asking people to prevent “South Belfast from going green”.
Finally as the rest of the team was heading for City Hall Hermon was finally pursuaded come back and speak on the issue of tactical voting in her North Down constituency. After suggesting that many Alliance voters were angry with their party for standing in marginal seats, she got the heart of what will undoubtedly affect even her political future tomorrow:
“My greatest concern is voter apathy. We can’t afford the luxury of voter apathy tomorrow. Everyone who is entitled to a vote no matter what age must come out and vote”.