After the election… NI21…

So, before I get to finish off with the big boys and girls of Northern Ireland (Sinn Fein and the DUP tomorrow and Thursday), lets go briefly to the smallest of all the challengers, NI21.

I suppose it helps prove one of FitzJamesHorse’s most persistent contentions about NI politics, that just because the media say they love you doesn’t mean they actually do, or that the voters will.

To look at the hard figures, Tina McKenzie lifted 10,553 or 1.7% of the overall European vote, and slightly better in the council elections at 11,495.

The bad news is that the two MLAs, Basil McCrea won 5,771 in Lagan Valley in 2011, and John McCallister pulled 4,409. Roughly the same vote, but for a massive field 47 candidates.

As noted before with the Greens and the UKIP, STV PR forces parties to start at the edge and work their into the centre. There is no easy way to power. It embeds ‘the parish’ (in the civic sense of the term), so to speak, as the power of the base.

It’s one reason the bigger parties, with more time and less worries about the future do better with candidate selection, pulling them in from outside the party if they cannot get the right one from within their own ranks.

A media campaign alone was always going to struggle to pull such a wide field in over the line. And one so evidently based on social media was going to struggle even more.

The governing idea behind the party, ie, to start putting Northern Ireland first and other longer term objectives second was not a bad idea for a campaign slogan. But the last minute wobble over designation indicates there was no inner consensus on what that meant.

On this reasoning John and Basil might have done better to have stuck with the vision thing, but tamp down the ambition for the short term and consolidated their bases by getting councillors elected in their Assembly constituencies.

In the event Basil has one councillor in Lisburn North, and John none in his.

In event, they were eclipsed by an improved performance by the party they both jumped ship from and by the UKIP who already look more likely than McCallister to take the South Down seat in 2016.

At the end of the day, you have to pull in the votes of those who vote, not those who say they will but don’t. Otherwise you are left looking very like what Newton Emerson once skitted as the Conservatory Party, ‘who don’t so much vote, as return their RSVPs’.

That’s not where the long term political value of the broad middle lies…

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  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    Or learn from SF and frogmarch your voters to the polling booth, to make damn sure.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com John Mooney

    I think my persistent contention is that Tinternet bears little resemblance to Reality.
    And this is particuarly true of NI21.
    Less than 11,000 people voted for them but a high percentage seem to be active on Tinternet.
    The only question for me is how would NI21 have polled if the Election had been held a week earlier?
    More votes?
    Few votes?
    Same?
    Did potential voters stay at home or vote for an alternative. Who benefitted from the implosion?

  • Morpheus

    “Who benefitted from the implosion?”

    At a guess, the next least worst unionist party, the UUP, even though they positioned themselves out on the far-right looney-tune fringes with the DUP.

    What were NI21 thinking telling everyone that they were switching their designation right before the elections when it couldn’t even take effect until 2016? They had a whole moderate, non-OO, pro-UK section of the electorate to aim at and they balls it up. It is so disappointing. They had a good message which I think is attractive to the general population, Catholics, Protestants and Other, but poor leadership has cost them everything

  • Barry the Blender

    Mmm it’s hard to judge what might have been. Pulling yourself apart during the week the election makes it harder still.

    The designation thing was bizarre : ni21’s selling point was it was pro union but not anti catholic.

    I still find it hard to believe they got 11 k of votes.

    Hard they run one candidate per sea they may have got another councillor or two.

    When considering ni21 I find myself asking, do they still exist?

  • Mick Fealty

    Until we are informed otherwise Barry, I say that’s a yes!

  • Framer

    Check the NI21 transfers but my impression is that they went heavily to nationalists rather than unionists. This might explain the redesignation strategy although it brought the house down around them thanks to McCallister’s rush to the media.
    The ‘Northern Irish’ seem disproportionately Catholic. Without the redesignation and consequent implosion they might have got the Protestant Northern Irish and more and equalled UKIP.

  • Gopher

    To be fair on NI21 sections of the press really tore into them and had really failed to land any blow until the implosion, then in traditional (Northern) Irish style it was put the boot in. So much so that the DUP, SF, SDLP, Alliance and UUP got a free ride. Lazy reporting at its best.

    I will say it again in Northern Ireland we have the worst news media in the UK. Most of them need culled, could not cut it nationally so they bog down all our outlets here until they die. As much a part of the problem here as the political parties.

    We will never know how successful the election might have been for NI21, the pathetic UUP result in the Euros where alternative candidates stood points to a good result.

    In the end Basil, John, and Tina had a Devon Loch fiasco which was down to lack of cohesion and discipline amongst their leadership. How far that goes back I dont know maybe they did well to keep a lid on it for so long. Who knows? The Candidates where first rate and blameless.

  • mac tire

    “Or learn from SF and frogmarch your voters to the polling booth, to make damn sure.”

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” MLK jnr.

  • Naughton

    At the risk of going a bit Monty Python, I voted NI21 and so did my wife. Mixed marriage, professionals, we would usually give Alliance 1st preferences and then vote down the ballot on the more moderate sides.

    The Ulster Unionists would historically have got a vote on down the ballot, but under Elliot and even more so Nesbitt I no longer consider them worth anything other than contempt.

    NI21 seemed to give those of us who would be pro-union, but totally turned off by fleg waving O.O. supporting ‘traditional unionists’ a way to express support for continuing union in a more moderate properly British country.

    The party’s evident disorganisation (far too many candidates) and eventual implosion was disappointing, but I still think there is a need for a moderate pluralist voice that can support the union rather than bring it into disrepute and ridicule like Robinson and Nesbitt.

    I hope they regroup and keep going. It will be a long road, but it is needed, so I wish them well.

  • aquifer

    The centre should sort itself out, without the UUP who have gone off to play lowest sectarian denominator with the DUP.

    If you are serious about politics having the balance of power must be worth a deal to target assembly seats. Standing could be OK, and maybe the more candidates the better, to get the voters off the couch, but NI21, Alliance Greens, and the SDLP should deploy their canvassing teams in different target constituencies.

    Centre parties could use the D’Hondt system with previous overall NI vote share to choose their target seats, with say 30% more seats in total than they have representation in at present. If parties choose to ignore the agreement close to the election they should be required to report this to one another and to attend a post-election review. That way they would be accountable to their partners for their stupidities or any successes, like real governments.

  • BarneyT

    NI21 has no future as as many have stated they disenfranchised themselves from their natural base in an attempt to reach out to another via the re-designation.

    Even before the pre-election car crash, many were asking who and what are they. The lurch towards a cross-community identify was commendable, but badly timed and should have been better conceived from the outset.

    I don’t understand how they could sell as cross community on the EU stage and unionist in NI. This fuelled the “What are they” camp. McAllister perhaps should have acted on this inconsistency, but didn’t.

    They then tried to align their colours by opting for “other” which I believe IS cross community? That sent the message “We don’t even know what we are”

    Other events and matters clearly conspired to hasten their demise, but they were always heading for slaughter by re designating (timing only compounded in the short term) and walking away from the fight with the UUP.

    They had to target the party they were most dissatisfied with. That was surely their raison d’etre. Instead they positioned themselves on a collision course with the Alliance.

    The two nicest kids in the school were pitched against each other. There was never going to be any action from that point onwards.

  • Granni Trixie

    At the outset you felt you knew the two defectors from the UUP to set up NI21 but The third leader, Tina, was an unknown quantity therefore with potential to impress. Instead the more exposure her ideas got the more she proved a turn off. (Only my impression).
    She also came across as arrogant. This is also illustrated by a headline in her election literature “what have Alliance done in 40 Years”. What a way to reach out to voters you would thnk they would be targeting? You would think they would have looked closely at the model of the Greens – small but effective, slowly growing. Many Alliance supporters respect the Greens, give them transfers and Generally the two parties work well together at Stormont.

    Also, others above talk of middle ground parties doing deals to maximise votes in particular areas. I am absolutely sure then would not work. People belong to different party’s for good reasons …they see things differently. Infact recently an SDLP supporter asked me why would her party and Alliance not amalgamate. I had the difficulty of explaining without giving offence that I had chosen (in context of WB in 70s) to join a particular party, one other than the SDLP.

    I think you would be wrong to assume that parties in the so called middle ground havr a lot in common other than in not perceiving themselves as “extremests”.

  • Reader

    Granni Trixie: You would think they would have looked closely at the model of the Greens – small but effective, slowly growing. Many Alliance supporters respect the Greens, give them transfers and Generally the two parties work well together at Stormont.
    The Greens are slowly shrinking, not growing, aren’t they? A drop in vote share in both council and EU elections, in spite of being fronted by the highly-evolved Ross Brown.

  • Red Lion

    A few things, in any order.

    First off, I think the party are waiting until the allegations investigation has been completed before deciding next move. That should shed light on some of the imponderables and accusations about what happened. This includes-why redesignate was it an attempt to marginalize John, or deflect from other issues? And of course is there any truth in the allegations of misconduct against Basil and is he then fit to be leader. Was John justified in going to the News Letter 36 hours before polls opened? Just how dysfunctional was the leadership organization?

    All these questions, and judgements cant be properly made until the investigation is completed.

    Re redesignation; you would be raging this was done without being communicated to candidates- some of whom were informed on the doorsteps ‘no youre not unionist you are other’. This gives rise to the suspicion of inept leadership not fit for purpose. However, I think most NI21ers are at ease with ‘others’. The message of being pro-UK or pro-union but not ‘unionist’ is a central theme of the party and works well. But important decisions like this can’t bedone on a seeming whim without consultaion or communication.

    The strength of NI21 was the convictions and commitment of its candidates. Personally I believe that from within that diverse and skilled bunch a much better leadership for NI21 exists. Much more grounded and common sense than what they have at the mo. If they bring forward this from-the-ground-up approach, while retaining core messages, they can consolidate and grow.

    I believe having their efforts cruelly sabotaged at the 11th hour cost the good NI21 candidates another 3-5k votes and another 2 councillors. A disgrace on the leadership. Can the leadership really retain credibility within and outwith the party after that, or do they taint the NI21 brand and message?

    And of course another way of looking at it is they got 11500 votes in spite of the implosion-they had/have a market. Pup got 12700 votes and were considered to have a successful election.

    Best of luck to those local level candidates who missed the cut; your county still needs NI21

  • Red Lion

    Your county still needs NI21 but so does your COUNTRY :)

  • Charles_Gould

    Granni

    One of my non political friends said she wasn’t voting NI21 because the election literature was “too negative”.

    I didn’t ask her to elaborate but its always interesting when a non political person who only thinks about how to vote a day before the election gives their impressions.

    I think that comment that NI21 “are too negative” relates somewhat to your point – essentially I interpreted that comment as saying “ok there is a lot of criticism and negative campaiganing about other parties coming from NI21, but what are NI21’s positive messages?”

    In retrospect NI21 would have been better to run John.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “Tina, was an unknown quantity therefore with potential to impress. Instead the more exposure her ideas got the more she proved a turn off. (Only my impression).
    She also came across as arrogant. This is also illustrated by a headline in her election literature “what have Alliance done in 40 Years”. What a way to reach out to voters you would thnk they would be targeting?”

    @Granni,

    I agree with you regarding McKenzie. There is, however, something to be said for going after Allliance. Traditionally in Anglo-Saxon countries with first-past-the-post franchise systems political reporting is about horse racing and sporting metaphors concentrating on who is winning and what their strategies are. This is so that no one will accuse the reporters of being biased or having a particular ideology. So traditionally Ulster politics has been seen as a contest between the two main unionist parties for the unionist vote with the PUP and TUV providing some color, and between the two nationalist parties for the nationalist vote. So if NI21 figured that its potential market was first-time voters and non-voters who were pro-union they could afford to write off Alliance voters by insulting them while attacting the attention of the media by picking a fight with Alliance. If they hadn’t of scored an own goal at the end through the redesignation issue it might have worked.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “I will say it again in Northern Ireland we have the worst news media in the UK. Most of them need culled, could not cut it nationally so they bog down all our outlets here until they die. As much a part of the problem here as the political parties. ”

    @Gopher,

    Actually NI has a number of very talented journalists working in the province: Henry McDonald, Brian Rowan, Ed Moloney, and Suzanne Breen just to name a few. Most of these are in the security field. Breen did a good job of exposing Adams’ lies in the Liam Adams affair.

  • BarneyT

    I dont think NI21 should have openly targeted the Alliance. Pursuing the UUP with a more liberal and inclusive agenda and message would have naturally attracted Alliance type supporters and would have allowed them to absorb those that sit on the UUP left and Alliance right.

    It was far too soon for them to step outside the pro-UK\Unionist camp,,,as they only served for frighten the horses….and then caused them to bolt by setting off fireworks…in the stables…when the door was open…ok enough of the Horse analogies :-)

  • Gopher

    @tmitch57

    Sorry just don’t see it, the internet does most of the work for “talented” journalists now like in the case you mention of Adams then a reporter comes along puts it together and gets a pay cheque. Anybody that is any good works nationally

    If you ever go to a comedy (sic) night in Belfast you will see the equivalent of Northern Irish political commentators, predictable repetitive regurgitated unimaginative materiel all troubles related recounted every show presented to an ever decreasing audience.

  • snow white

    You know I could have probably signed up for NI21 if it hadn’t been for the buffoon leading it. I’ve had many dealings with John and Basil in the past.

    As with the majority of people who meet Basil I thought he was great, for about 8 months. Then like the majority of people realised he was the mos egotistic and self-centred waking media storm. I remember 3 days after the UUP leadership election (I supported Basil to my shame) he messaged me asking, “are you ready to continue the crusade ?”. At this point I realised when a man is beaten fair and square should your loyalty not fall in behind the party so that unity can be established. That was not Basils intention, he would war no matter what, and did so.

    John and Basil had a MAJOR falling out 10 weeks before the election were an NI21 executive meeting descended into swearing and screaming at each other. The plans and time frame for the election had been put together over the day. At 5pm Basil walked in and literally tore up the plans everyone had been working on.
    NI21 have been fractured for quite sometime and I entirely agree about NI media. They talk parties like NI21 and Alliance up massively and are incredibly bias towards them especially the Belfast Telegraph. NI21 was a good concept I hated their leaflets though. South Down had different leaflets compared to the rest of NI.
    I’ll say it again, there was probably a great opportunity there for a party with basic ideals as NI21 but they were never getting anywhere with Basil at the helm.

  • Granni Trixie

    Snow White
    You can’t with credibility espouse “fresh,new politics” which implies certain values if your leadership does not embody those values.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    [i]The Greens are slowly shrinking, not growing, aren’t they? A drop in vote share in both council and EU elections, in spite of being fronted by the highly-evolved Ross Brown[/i]

    Targetting in Bangor and Ormiston was effective. As a supporter outside NI I’d like a lot more than 14 candidates next time.

    Any figures/ guesses on how much of the 2009 EU vote went to NI21?

  • http://eastbelfastdiary.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    The Greens increased our number of council seats from two to four, which is a result consistent with the ‘steady growth’ analysis. The European vote was down due to more candidates and, IMO, the press coverage which excluded smaller parties from some election debates and in other cases set them apart into their own debates, which I doubt many people bothered to watch. Thanks to Granni for at least giving the party a mention, it seems to have fallen off the Slugger radar otherwise and I have limited time to try to put that right.

  • Granni Trixie

    Thanks Jenny.

    Also, I agree with you as regards the struggle for smaller parties to capture media attention. For years and years Alliance was in exactly this position. I myself often wrote to the BBC to complain about lack of representation. I think that an increase in Independents will increase the problem.

    However there really is a limit to how far one can ‘blame the media’ something I wish PR and the DUP would take note off .

  • Granni Trixie

    Thanks Jenny.

    Also, I agree with you as regards the struggle for smaller parties to capture media attention. For years and years Alliance was in exactly this position. I myself often wrote to the BBC to complain about lack of representation. I think that an increase in Independents will increase the problem.

    However there really is a limit to how far one can ‘blame the media’ something I wish PR and the DUP would take note of.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    I think their only councilor Johnny McCarthy could be making hay at the moment but he seems to have disappeared, he is pretty much the only elected politican that we know 100% is actually still in NI21.

    on the 24th he popped up to say it was great to be elected, on the 26th to say he didn’t know what was going on in NI21, on the 27th to beg Tina not to leave the party.

    His last FB update is “I don’t think our country is being run very well. My name is Johnny McCarthy and I am your councillor for Lisburn/Castlereagh”

    Jonny; Time to Man-Up stop acting like you’ve just been elected to the students union, do something and you could easily end up running a political party and be a MLA in a few years,

  • PaddyReilly

    So where are we with the Unicorns?

    Opinion polls have been showing a considerable Catholic interest in remaining in the Union, with 20% rising to 80% and probably even 120% in some surveys. However, when it comes to Elections, Catholics don’t ever seem to vote for Unionist parties.

    The solution? A new party, which favours the Union and targets Catholic voters. The result? 1.7% of the turn-out vote for them. Probably made up of the relations of the candidates.

    Nevertheless, I am assured that the Opinion Polls are honest, accurate and correct. So where are these pro-Union Catholics?

    My theory is that the apparent pro-Union answers of those polled merely refers to the present situation, where there is no pro-UI majority, and that the moment there is a Nationalist majority among Westminster or Stormont seats, the answer will change.

  • Morpheus

    Zeno will be along in a minute to say that unicorns don’t have to vote for anybody because staying the union is the default position therefore unicorns are, by default, unionist

  • BarneyT

    PaddyReilly…it all depends on the questions thats asked as I’m sure you’ll agree.

    “Would you want a United Ireland if it meant losing health care free at the point of delivery?” That would generate a No from many Catholics.

    It wouldn’t mean much however is a straight fight between remaining under British rule or gaining independence in a united Ireland.

  • Comrade Stalin

    NI21 was a mess before it even started – it took them months to think of a name (a week should have done that job) and they never put together an actual policy handbook. The reason for this is obvious – the party has no proper policymaking procedure, which appears to be because Basil wanted to keep it in the hands of the executive committee where he could easily lean on them (such as when they made their designation policy change).

    You then have the farce around candidate selection, the daft decision to run more candidates than there were winnable seats, and all the rest. All of this is down to Basil who, as was already more than clear from his record as an MLA, is a man who simply does not know his own limitations when it comes to organizing or running anything.

    I knew from the very start that it would all end in tears, although I had thought that it would fall to pieces after they came out of the election (I’d predicted they would probably win no seats, or at most one or two) rather than blowing up before they had even had their first electoral test.

    I still think NI21 are going nowhere. Anyone with any sense will have quit the party as its brand and ideals have been fundamentally compromised by the row at the top. Basil himself has been damaged by the allegations made against him by John McC about trying to push him out of the party. The remaining individuals seem to be young and rather naive, and unaware of the fact that a party can’t really survive this kind of cataclysm.

    RegisterForThisSite

    Jonny; Time to Man-Up stop acting like you’ve just been elected to the students union, do something and you could easily end up running a political party and be a MLA in a few years,

    Given that the council which Jonny has actually been elected to doesn’t even exist yet, and won’t for a while (except in shadow form) I’m not sure what it is you think he should reasonably be doing.

    But this seems to be what you do, demand that other people do things that are completely unreasonable.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    A wise man once said: “When you come to the final page, close the book”.

  • mjh

    What effect did NI21 have on the votes for the other parties?

    I have analysed the transfers to and from NI21 in all but two of the DEA’s where they stood. (The Mid and East Antrim all-stage counts have not yet been posted on council websites.)

    Transfers out went 41% Alliance and 7% Green.
    12% UUP, 11% DUP and 7% other unionists.
    7% SDLP and 1% SF.
    Independents 1%. Non transferable 13%.

    Taken together with transfers in, these suggest that without NI21 the DUP and UUP Local Government vote shares would each have been 0.2 points higher, taking them to 23.3% and 16.3% respectively.
    SDLP would have had a lift of 0.1 points to 13.7%.
    The Greens would also have been up by 0.1 point, as may also the TUV.
    The biggest difference would be the Alliance party. It would have stood 0.8 points higher on 7.5%.