The DUP have written to the UUP seeking wide-ranging talks to “maximise the Unionist vote at future elections” and UUP leader Sir Reg Empey is considering it. While Westminster seats, and talk of early elections is probably most prevalent in minds, the impression is the talks will be more wide-ranging. In a interview Peter Robinson mentioned the Assembly election results:
“The Assembly election results demonstrated that greater co-operation between unionist candidates could have increased the total number of unionists returned to the Assembly”
In Westminster terms there are two clear target seats for Unionism, South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Another potential target is South Down, where the nationalist split gives a sole Unionist candidate an outside chance under first past the post a la West Tyrone in 1997, (at the Assembly elections the combined Unionist percentage was 32% compared with 31% for the SDLP and SF respectively in South Down) . The YU’s website have recently been discussing the issue of pacts even if one has remarkably high expectations of UUP future performance.
In Assembly terms, greater co-operation could regain a number of seats in key ‘East of the Bann’ constituencies and maintain the existing levels of representation in ‘West of the Bann’ plus maximise representation in the new council structures. A pact for European elections would also secure the second European seat.
Other potenital issues of common concern could be voter registration, turnout for all elections and vote/transfer management in the PR elections.