Alex Kane in the Newsletter has had an early look at the runners and riders in this year’s European election. Alex’s primary focus is on the unionist battle, with his assumption – widely shared- being that Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson will claim a seat and leave the SDLP’s Alex Attwood battling merely for an increased share of the Euro vote (the party has been stuck on the 16% mark for the previous two European contests.)
The fact that the local council elections are held the same day might deliver a higher turnout than would have been the case for an election which should return the usual compliment of two unionists and one nationalist.
The battle within unionism is of slightly more interest given the likelihood of an assortment of candidates ranging from Jamie Bryson to (possibly) Jim Allister and an as yet unidentified NI21 candidate, but these characters shall be fighting for scraps in the margins with the regional nominees of UKIP and the Conservative Party- though Allister’s track record means he’d likely be a fair distance ahead of this pack.
Anna Lo’s performance for Alliance will be worth watching for reasons Kane outlines:
This is going to be the first electoral test for Alliance since the fallout from the ‘flags vote’ in December 2012. It will let them know if they have lost any of that softer pro-Union vote which wandered to them between 2009 and 2011 and which helped them pick off Peter Robinson, as well as win an extra Assembly seat and 14 council seats.
On Mike Nesbitt’s first major electoral test, Kane has this to say:
This is a big election for the UUP and the first one under Mike Nesbitt’s leadership (the mid-Ulster by-election doesn’t really count). Opinion polls put the party at around 11-12 per cent and if that turns out to be the case then Jim Nicholson could be in trouble. My own instinct is that he will hold the seat. But if he holds it on a lower percentage then he’s going to have nothing to pass down to the council candidates; and that’s where the real damage could be done to the party.
It’s hard to look past Anderson, Dodds and Nicholson.
I don’t think Allister will gain the impressive vote tally he received in 2009 (13.7% on 66,000 votes) so I’d suggest that Dodds and Anderson will be a much closer contest at the top this time.
The only way this could get interesting would be if Attwood pushes the SDLP share towards 20% and Nicholson comes in with a paltry 11-13%, in which case Lo’s transfers could actually mean we’d a European election without an entirely predictable outcome for the first time ever.
Don’t bet on that though……