Jim Wells will be among the DUP candidates throwing his hat in the ring to replace Iris Robinson as Strangford MP. Mrs Robinson made it known over Christmas she is quitting public life on health grounds. Now the jockeying for the Strangford seat at Westminster starts. Iris Robinson put in place one of the most ruthless party machines in any constituency and returned four members to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
It is expected that a sizeable field of runners will attempt to gain the nomination for the Strangford seat. Apart from Jim Wells it is being speculated that veteran DUP man Jim Shannon who currently sits in the Assembly, and his colleague Simon Hamilton will both let their names go forward.Mr Wells replaced Iris Robinson as chairperson of the Assembly’s health committee. He is highly articulate and is one of the few back bench members who can jump to his feet and flawlessly articulate his point of view. He has raised his profile in recent months by dint of holding the health committee post.
Simon Hamilton is deemed a rising star in the DUP who has proven himself regularly capable of thinking on his feet in the Assembly.
The Ulster Unionist and Conservative coalition is unlikely to mobilise enough support in Strangford to rob the DUP of the Westminster seat. Reg Empey may reckon that the Robinsons’ current crisis is his opportunity. The outworking of that theory will only become apparent when the full extent of The Robinson saga plays itself out.
Iris Robinson’s son Gareth may have notions of taking his mum’s seat in the Assembly. The new culture and opposition to the emergence of dynasties in the DUP might militate against such a development. These dynasties are a singular feature of DUP politics. There are the Paisleys, the Mc Creaghs, The Dodds and the Robinsons.