Video: Tories vetoed election broadcast that portrayed DUP/Sinn Féin as clowns
SENIOR Tories vetoed a party election broadcast by the NI Conservatives because it was too hard on the DUP and Sinn Féin.
Former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and spin doctor Lynton Crosby are understood to have been among those who blocked the three-minute film, which portrayed Stormont's two largest parties as clowns.
The video, which would have been played on BBC NI and UTV, showed two clowns removing their make-up and revealing themselves to be the DUP and Sinn Féin.
And it advised voters: "Before you vote ... ask yourself, who are you really voting for? You're already £864 worse off than everyone else in the UK due to the clowns in Stormont and now they want you to vote again ... please don't send them back to Westminster."
The revelation comes amid disquiet among NI Conservatives over their party's increasingly cosy relationship with the DUP.
Conservative Party headquarters' veto of the proposed election broadcast came in the midst of the 2015 Westminster campaign, at a time when then DUP leader Peter Robinson was playing up his party's potential as 'kingmakers' in a hung parliament.
The party's eight MPs had just been entertained by then Prime Minister David Cameron in the No 10 rose garden, with a view to exploring an informal coalition after the election.
According to one NI Conservative source, the decision to pull the locally-made election broadcast and replace it with one commissioned by Tory HQ caused a major row and led to several members threatening to resign from the party.
"We had gone to a lot of effort to put this thing together and suddenly central office put the kibosh on it because they claimed it was inappropriate and demeaning to the DUP and Sinn Féin," the source said.
"We felt this was strange because weeks earlier the Scottish Conservatives had used social media and a billboard to cast Alex Salmond and Ed Miliband as Laurel and Hardy."
The source said that while the short film was critical of both Stormont's biggest parties, it was felt it was pulled so as not to harm relations with the DUP.
"It was soon after David Cameron had invited the DUP to a drinks reception in Downing Street and it was clear they were trying to butter them up," the source said.
The NI Conservatives broadcast said voters in the north were "already £864 worse off than everybody else in the UK because of the clowns at Stormont".
Meanwhile, a letter addressed to Conservative Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin from regional party activists has emerged that is critical of the decision to allow a DUP reception at the Tory conference in Birmingham earlier this month.
"The decision to allow them to rally our party members within the conference venue at a fringe event was bewildering but to see them fêted in the conference arena by Esther McVey was particularly galling," the letter states.
"This act handed credibility to our political opponents and further set back the prospects of equal citizenship, and Conservative representation in Northern Ireland. For those of us who recently worked for 18 months, over two gruelling campaigns, to provide the positive change Northern Ireland requires, the day’s events were particularly hurtful."
Neither the Conservative party headquarters nor Theresa Villiers responded to a request for a comment.