Yesterday morning I re-iterated the firm pledge that at the next general election the Conservatives will be the only party contesting every seat in every part of the United Kingdom. We’ll be demonstrating that the Conservative Party is a national party and a unionist party.
It was great to have Sir Reg Empey at our Conference. Last year Reg and David Cameron agreed that our two parties would come together to form a dynamic new force of Conservatives and Unionists in Northern Ireland.
We will offer the Northern Irish electorate the chance to participate in national politics. For decades, the Northern Ireland electorate could only vote for local parties; they could not elect anyone who could become a Minister in a Westminster government.
That’s bad for democracy. The Conservatives and Unionists are dedicated to ending the semi-detached status of Northern Ireland and bringing it back into the mainstream of United Kingdom politics by standing in every one of the 18 seats.
We’re already attracting new talent. Last month Ian Parsley, the Alliance Party’s European candidate, joined the Conservatives. We want to bring into politics those who’ve been put off by the sectarian divisions of the past.
Conservatives and Unionists are a modern, inclusive, tolerant and compassionate centre-right force committed to social justice. We’re not interested in people’s community background or religion – only what they can offer as we seek to build a shared future for everybody. I am delighted that we now have people on our candidates list from all parts of the community.
I look forward to working with Reg to bring about the change we need in Northern Ireland and for the first time in decades making a significant contribution to a Conservative victory at the next election.