Election 2015 Northern Ireland

Election 2015: Could Jim Wells controversy affect DUP vote?

Jim Wells Image copyright Julien Behal
Image caption Jim Wells is a DUP candidate for South Down in the general election

The resignation of Stormont's DUP Health Minister Jim Wells, a candidate in the general election, has prompted discussion about the wider Westminster campaign? Could it affect the DUP vote on 7 May?

In terms of the DUP's heartland vote it doesn't necessarily lose them too much.

You only have to look at the history of the DUP in their involvement with the Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign. They opposed civil partnerships and they are now opposed to gay marriage.

Interestingly, the woman who gave us an account (in Rathfriland) said at least one of those women in the house had voted for the DUP in the past but she wouldn't any longer.

But I don't think it's the votes in South Down that they will be particularly worried about.

'Devalues currency'

It's maybe in areas of Belfast, South Belfast and East Belfast, where there is a pact between the DUP and UUP, where the DUP will be hoping to appeal to more liberal unionist voters. It may lose them some votes there.

They also have something to lose out on the wider UK stage.

The DUP's campaign is all about the fact that they could make the difference; they could possibly hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, that they would use their position in order to influence the parties in London.

But these kind of comments and the controversy about these comments to some extent devalues their currency over in London and so it doesn't play well.

They are not the kind of headlines they would want there.

Even prior to the controversy about Jim Wells, the Lib Dems, who of course see themselves as the other viable, small party in any arrangement or loose coalition following the election, have been highlighting the DUP's views.

They had made this warning about what they said was an extreme right "Blukip" coalition that could be formed between the Conservatives, the DUP and UKIP.

They had actually put out a deck of cards on which they'd highlighted Jim Wells' and other DUP politician's comments about gay rights.

There was a particular card devoted to Jim Wells.

I think the whole approach to the DUP leadership has been: 'Look, we've got our particular views but these issues are devolved' and to play it down within the context of the general election campaign.

Of course, this controversy has very much highlighted it.

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