Lockhart a shining light for DUP as she strengthens grip further

Despite boundary changes removing ‘Sham fight’ village from her constituency, Carla Lockhart increases share of vote

The DUP's Carla Lockhart was her party's shining light in this general election as she easily retained her seat in Upper Bann Photo by Philip Magowan / Press Eye (Philip Magowan/Phil Magowan / Press Eye)

In arguably its most inauspicious election since the party’s formation, the DUP knew it could rely on its shining light Carla Lockhart.

For as things were crumbling around her in other constituencies, her vice-like grip in Upper Bann tightened further as she upped her share of the vote from 41% in 2019 to 45.7%, and was triumphantly returned to the Westminster benches with more than 7,400 votes to spare over her nearest rival.

With boundary changes having removed a chunk of traditional unionist strongholds from the constituency (including the village of Scarva, where 200,000 people will gather for the ‘Sham Fight’ on July 13), there was a whiff of speculation (and some Twitter noise) that the DUP’s near two-decades stranglehold on this safe unionist seat might be under threat to Sinn Fein.

But Ms Lockhart, who now has a 17-year career in politics on her CV, was having none of it, saying: “Boundary changes are always an unknown, with areas leaving the others coming in, which makes this result all the more unbelievable. To increase my vote with a reduced electorate is something I never imagined.”

She said she had heard the concerns people had around trusted politics, the NHS and cost of living - “which are lessons for the DUP”.

She added: “I listened on the doors, I heard the messages of the people. Hard work is my mantra, and now I’m making sure Upper Bann is heard at Westminster, where I’m able to say that violence was never justified as the real progressive politics here.”

Ms Lockhart - who admitted she’d injured her back during an exhausting six-week hustings in which her party knocked on 30,000 doors - got emotional during her victory speech, she said her campaign had been tinged with sadness after she lost her much loved dad “and my biggest fan” a year ago, as well as her driver Junior McCrum, who passed away since the last election.

Sinn Fein’s Catherine Nelson increased her vote share from 24.6% last time to more than 30%, which came largely at the expense of the SDLP, whose candidate Malachy Quinn could only muster 1,496 votes for a paltry 3.16% share of the poll - an historic low in this particular constituency.

Alliance’s Owen Tennyson more than consolidated his party’s third place position here, polling more votes (6,322) than both the UUP and SDLP combined.