The North's two main Unionist parties must work together at future elections to maximise their strength, a senior DUP figure has claimed.
The Upper Bann MP David Simpson said greater cooperation between his party and the Ulster Unionists is essential if unionism wants to win back seats lost to nationalists and republicans as a result of fielding separate candidates.
Mr Simpson claimed that in the 2005 Westminster election a unionist candidate would have prevailed in both Fermanagh and South Tyrone (which was won by Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew) and South Belfast (SDLP Alasdair McDonnell) if the parties had joined forces.
The Assembly member signalled that his party was now willing to contemplate pacts in order to avoid this scenario in future polls.
"Those two constituencies should not be left without a Unionist MP," he said at the Mini-Twelfth demonstration in Portadown last night.
"They should be won back and reclaimed to take their rightful place alongside the other 10 unionist MPs at Westminster.
"I for one pledge to you that I shall do all in my power to work for that - and not only in those two constituencies - but right across this province.
"We need to see to it that unionism is the winner and that the unionist people can see more Unionists - not fewer returned.
"Greater vote management within the unionist community is a must at future elections.
"It is my sincere hope that we shall see such a realism seize upon unionists of all shades that we might strengthen rather than weaken our hands.
"While many issues may divide us there are many more which unite us."