After spending the last few days canvassing our old stomping ground of Lurgan in support of Jo-Anne Dobson running for Council in the by-election due on 13 January, it is clear that the mood of the electorate has changed.
The last time I canvassed here was 2005, perhaps the low point for the UUP over the last number of years, and while most people were polite on the doorstep, they were not welcoming. It was interesting that we were not then met with the venom we had received in earlier, successful, campaigns from DUP supporters.
In the European election earlier this year, I canvassed widely around Lisburn. The single biggest issue on the doorstep was MPs’ expenses, but overall people were mostly welcoming and responded positively to the link up with the Conservatives.
This time I feel there is a greater change in our favour. A good many people expressed their delight at seeing David on their doorstep again. Expenses still get a mention, but it is not as raw an issue as earlier this year. Some people raised genuine council issues, e.g. swimming pools, but quite a number greeted us with ‘At least you are not the DUP’.
There remains a less than clear understanding of the implications of the UUP/Conservative link, but all comments I received about it are wholly favourable.
Our canvassing team has been very upbeat, turning up in substantial numbers, despite treacherous conditions underfoot.
Turn-out will be very low, as always in a by-election, but particularly if the snow remains until polling day, as weather forecasters are predicting. I am confident we will repeat the success of the Dromore by-election. This will be a great morale booster to lead us in to our next election campaign.