Tories: “There was no discussion of a hung parliament.”

Well, it seems that Eamonn’s story about the Tories meeting with the DUP and UUP in London over the weekend has kicked up a minor storm… But in a statement (carried below the fold), the Conservatives deny there was any discussion of a hung parliament. In fact the senior Conservative spokesman insisted the discussions were focused on the current difficulties at Stormont. The spokesman claims Owen Paterson was meeting the two parties in his capacity as shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland:

“What this was, was the shadow Secretary of State as somebody who could potentially be the actual Secretary of State in a matter of weeks, holding private talks with representatives of the two main unionist parties to explore how we might overcome some of the political instabilities at Stormont, and to avoid a situation in which we might potentially, should we win the election, inherit a collapsed Assembly and direct rule.

“That is an entirely responsible role for a potential Secretary of State, away from the glare of the media.

“So far as the Westminster election is concerned, the only deal is the current deal between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists. We will be putting up 18 Conservative and Unionist candidates at the next election, offering the people of Northern Ireland national politics and the chance to vote for modern, centre-right inclusive candidates.

“There was no discussion of a hung parliament.”