Owen Paterson, responding no doubt to Michael Crick’s attempt to play him, has this to say about what Slugger understands to be the Orange Order’s regular and usually ill-fated attempt (they tried in 2001 and 2005) to get unionist unity before a general election:
In his capacity as Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Reg Empey regularly meets all strands of opinion throughout Northern Ireland. He referred in passing to a meeting, requested in October and held in December, but I was not aware of the content or the participants.
As there was nothing of consequence arising from the meeting he did not mention it to me again. Sir Reg Empey has made clear to me that it has no bearing on our joint determination to stand together as Conservatives and Unionists at the forthcoming Westminster elections to bring national, mainstream and non-sectarian politics to Northern Ireland.
A Tory source in London told Slugger that Cameron’s 18 seat strategy remains intact…