And so, we’re off. The general election has been called by the Prime Minister and it looks like he has taken everyone by surprise.

I was in Westminster when the buzz started last Wednesday morning, and as I was free at noon, I decided to go in and listen to Prime Minister’s Questions.

It was the usual knockabout and when he was asked by the Westminster SNP leader about an imminent election, Mr. Sunak answered that it would take place in the second half of the year, and so it is – July 4th is the date.

Just before questions to the Prime Minister, the inspirational Craig MacKinlay MP came into the Chamber.

Craig – who I have interviewed several times on GB News – contracted sepsis and as a result lost both legs below the knee, and both of his hands.

He arrived in with his new prosthetic limbs and hands, and my goodness, what a fighter he is.

His reception back to Parliament was heart-warming and reminded me of the goodness of people generally – there was no partisanship on display, and his wife and young daughter, who were sitting close by me in the gallery, were beaming with pride.

All that was soon forgotten as the questions began.

Most politicians get involved in politics for the right reason – public service.

They have a passion for a cause, and they get involved to promote that cause and be a voice for those without the ability to advocate for themselves.

I always had a desire to bring the cause of Unionism, especially from the most western constituency in the United Kingdom, to Westminster.

The pull of the green benches was strong, and so in 2005 I stood for the DUP.

It was a great campaign with super colleagues all pulling together.

We knew as a team the odds were against us, especially as the Ulster Unionists had put a candidate up as well, but we persevered and came in second with 28.8 per cent of the vote.

Sinn Féin won with 38.2 per cent, and the Ulster Unionists came third with 18.2 per cent.

Why am I telling you this? Well, that is the last time that the DUP ran a candidate in a general election in this constituency.

As a party, the DUP recognised that there was a strong desire not just for Unionism to succeed, but to also have representation in the House of Commons.

Now, given that the DUP were by far the largest Unionist party at the time – and still are to this day (2022 Assembly election results are the latest barometer of constituency polling) – you would think that they should have taken the chance to win the seat.

In the interests of representation and Unionist co-operation, however, they bowed out of the contest and, more than that, many of us – despite differences with the UUP, and their style of Unionism – proactively canvassed for the UUP candidate.

Judging by the tone of Doug Bettie’s recent statement, the goodwill that the DUP showed – and which was shared by members of the TUV, in this constituency – has not just been taken for granted, but thrown back in their faces.

Given the long history of Unionism working together at general elections in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, you would have thought that the UUP, instead of treating other Unionists like something from the bottom of their shoes, would have had conversations about an agreed candidate that everyone could support.

Obviously, the best option is a non-party candidate – but that hasn’t happened.

Instead, the UUP picked their own candidate, and have been behaving since then as if there are no other Unionist parties in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

It’s all incredibly sad, as the current Sinn Féin incumbent of the seat is not running again, and the people of the constituency could have had the chance to elect someone who goes to Westminster to sit in the chamber and advocate for us.

Although at present, Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in Westminster, they do actually travel to Westminster – I see them frequently catching the plane to London, and I see them frequenting the coffee shops and canteens of the Palace of Westminster.

As for the Ulster Unionist Leader, he tells us that he doesn’t do pacts. That’s fine; he is entitled to his view, but he will not win the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster election by alienating non-Ulster Unionist voters; a split in Unionism returns an abstentionist MP to Westminster.

A bland statement from the leader of the UUP that the Ulster Unionist candidate only lost by 57 votes at the last election is just so disingenuous.

At the last election for Westminster, Tom Elliott may have been an Ulster Unionist, but he was actively supported by the DUP and the TUV – indeed, if it is just an Ulster Unionist campaign this time round, I look forward to seeing the size of the canvass teams.

I am no longer a member of the DUP, and sit as an unaffiliated peer in the House of Lords, which means I don’t actually have a vote in this election – peers of the realm are not allowed to vote in a Westminster election for members of the House of Commons.

But it saddens me greatly that the opportunity to take a seat back for Unionism and representation has been sabotaged by the second-largest Unionist party in the constituency taking the other parties and those who are non-affiliated in the area for granted.

It is a salutary lesson, that no good deed goes unpunished.

It’s still not too late to find an agreed candidate, as nominations don’t open until next Tuesday, but then, in the end, it is indeed the hope that kills you.