“This is a pact that was sealed in East Belfast with 40,000 bogus leaflets. The DUP clearly now know that Gavin Robinson cannot win against Alliance in a fair fight, so they have resorted to this anti-democratic move in a desperate attempt to strengthen their position.
“Many UUP voters were already disillusioned by the party’s involvement in whipping up sectarian tensions around flags and parades and this decision will only serve to further alienate them. This decision has sounded the death knell for the UUP in East Belfast, who have abandoned their voters without gaining any truly winnable seats in return. It has also confirmed what has long been the case – if you vote UUP in East Belfast, you get the DUP.
“People already viewed the seat as a two-horse race so this changes nothing electorally, other than delivering a calculated insult to UUP voters and to the East Belfast electorate as a whole, by admitting the party is struggling.
“The people I represent deserve not to have their vote to taken for granted, but rather earned through engagement, commitment to work and a track record. The DUP-UUP clearly do not trust the people of East Belfast to exercise real choice.
“My vision is a more constructive form of unity – building a united community for all people of East Belfast, not a carve-up. Rather than denying people a choice, I offer them a real one: back to sectarian headcounts and the politics of fear and division, or forward to inclusive and progressive politics and a shared future.
“We have seen unionist pacts before – this did not work in Fermanagh-South Tyrone in 2010. It will be the same in East Belfast in 2015.”