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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