This is worth noting since it’s a smart choice. And the SDLP have not been known for those in recent years. McGlone has a sound rural base of voters, and a decent local machine. You can almost certainly rule out a win against SF veteran Francie Molloy.
In the last Assembly elections Sinn Fein’s team scooped 50% to the SDLP’s 15%. That’s roughly in line with the last Westminster elections. McGlone may see a decent improvement in that relative performance, for three reasons:
- He’s not running against the single most popular politician in Northern Ireland today.
- Unlike Tony Quinn, the party’s candidate last time out, McGlone has been a public figure in the constituency for quite some time.
- Over the last two Assembly elections a sizeable chunk of Martin McGuinness’s surplus has made its way directly to McGlone rather than party colleagues.
Intriguingly last time out, with SF running four candidates, McGlone was the third man home after McGuinness and the DUP’s Ian McCrea, whilst Mr Molloy trailed the whole field on the final count.
Given that Sinn Fein cannot move the writ themselves, McGlone may be better placed to influence the timing of the by election itself.
Still, with a party base of such size and substance, the smart money’s got to be on the deputy Assembly speaker from Coalisland taking the seat. But it ought be a tougher contest than it at first looks on paper.