Election results 2014: Unionism’s natural internal level

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The dust is beginning to settle on the election. In actual fact the dust settled fairly quickly as there was not much created. On the nationalist / republican side there seemed remarkably little though I will leave discussion of that to those better qualified. On the unionist side there was slightly more but only slightly and if the results were compared say to the mainland GB elections one would say business as usual.

Diane Dodds gained a small percentage at the European election but the party lost a small percentage at the council elections which seemed to be regarded more seriously – though it is worth noting that the DUP always tends to do less well at council elections than it does at Westminster or Stormont elections. The DUP’s failure to eat any further into the UUP vote may be of some concern but again this is clutching at straws from those opposed to the DUP. The relatively minor nature of the changes in the election was demonstrated by the rapid way in which the largely anti DUP media moved on to the Pastor McConnell story and forgot about the election. One notable defeat, which saddened me personally, was that of Lee Reynolds. Lee is to my mind one of the best strategists in unionism: then again his defeat might allow him to devote more time to strategizing which could be to unionism’s advantage. Overall though Robinson’s description of the DUPs elections as like the curate’s egg saying – good and bad in places seemed about correct.

The DUP still have by far the largest number of elected representatives and whilst they do not have a monopoly of talent they certainly have more talented politicians than the other parties. Furthermore with this election campaign they seem to have stayed away from any significant sign of the arrogance and sense of entitlement which they seemed to display prior to the 2009 European elections. It looked as though that was beginning to reemerge during last summer over the Maze shrine. However, they have managed at least for the moment to put that behind them.

If there is little to be said about the largest party in unionism its small leakage of support has provided proportionally greater gains for the smaller unionist parties.

The TUV did well by surviving and indeed progressing a little. It needs to be remembered that at the last Stormont elections Jim Allister limped home sub quota: gone the triumph of the 2009 European election. The chances that Jim would return to anyway near the 2009 result seemed almost impossible but come close to it he did. This is largely a personal vote achieved by his work at Stormont and which has led to respect grudging or otherwise from a number of quarters albeit it mainly on the unionist side. At Europe Allister seems to have managed to bring together a coalition of people to support him which includes those opposed to the process per se; those who want to see it extensively modified and those who are simply protesting.

This personal support is likely to ensure he keeps his North Antrim seat at the next Stormont election. The TUV has also increased its representation to 13 seats despite a fall in total number of councillors. Whilst pleasing for them this is not a major breakthrough. It makes the TUV less of a one man band but it is still a band with one dominant player. It probably means long term survival for the party but far from guarantees what Allister must really want which is a couple of colleagues at Stormont.

A less dramatic but possibly more significant issue was the UUP’s performance. Jim Nicholson’s vote did fall a little but considering his relatively low profile and increasing age this may be less concerning than Mick has suggested below. The mooted suggestion that Nicholson may stand aside at some point during this European Parliament would seem sensible: Tom Elliott would look like an obvious replacement choice.

The improvement in the council elections especially with some modest successes in Belfast is much more relevant. More than anything this election has begun to reverse the narrative of gradual decline which the UUP seemed to have be stuck in for years. They have also begun to attract genuinely talented new people as councillors such as Graham Craig in Botanic.

This election has also, to an extent, vindicated Mike Nesbitt’s leadership. When recently Martin McGuinness attacked Nesbitt’s leadership of the UUP it struck me that maybe Nesbitt was doing something right. That is not a knee jerk comment but rather an observation that McGuinness was taking enough notice of the UUP to feel the need to attack it and Nesbitt’s leadership. The challenge for Nesbitt will be whether he can turn some of the council gains into MLAs.

The other parties seem less relevant apart maybe from NI21. The garden centre Prod was given an opportunity to come out and vote for a party so well versed in shrubbery that its logo should maybe be the dinosaur at Ballylesson garden centre. In the event the garden centre Prods seemed as gnome like as ever: existing only in the fevered imaginations of gardeners with delusions (unlike Ballylesson’s excellent dinosaur which always pleases my children).

The other function of NI21 and in particular its complete meltdown prior to the election is to illustrate the utter folly which electing Basil McCrea rather than Tom Elliott would have been. Some years ago now I predicted that if the UUP elected McCrea it would result in a complete disaster and many, many “progressive” unionists told me what a fool I was. Those progressives may now have gone from slugger but it is worth remembering that people did suggest McCrea as the great hope for the UUP. The allegations about him, extremely serious as they are, are not the central issue (they remain currently allegations). Rather the practically unbelievable handling of internal issues and the clearly highly divisive and egocentric leadership were well known about in most political circles years ago. Despite that he was lauded as a far superior leader to Elliott. The other comedy group maybe worth mention are the NI Tories who were going to provide a real alternative: in Northern Ireland they function as the Ulster branch of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Overall what seems to have been happening is what one might call a settling of the unionist vote into what currently feels, for now, its natural state. That seems to be with a largely but far from completely dominant DUP, a sizeable but smaller UUP and a small TUV. Clearly nothing stays the same forever in politics but currently that seems to be about where unionism natural internal level should be.

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  • MYtwocents

    Hello Turgon, nothing on the PUP, word is they got the “working class” vote out like never before, enough indeed to cost lee “best strategists in unionism” his seat, in this they may even done as much if not more than NI21 in holding up the pro union % of the vote*. Jim Nicholson it could be claimed his low profile was the best thing he had going for him, I heard him discuss europe (in or out) and he seemed to come down in favour of in, this was after the election,a bit late to effect my transfer. the DUP and arrogance, it did not take them long to get right back on that wagon if robbos crazy Islam statement was anything to go by. Finally a big thank you needs to be given to Anna Lo for her anti imperialist/Brits out soundings which along with her Parties flag stance helped realign Alliance as middle of the road, sucking in Irish Nats (SDLP) voters and spitting out non Irish Nats, this to me is the good news story of the elections and has caused the natural state to return.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘The other comedy group maybe worth mention are the NI Tories who were going to provide a real alternative: in Northern Ireland they function as the Ulster branch of the Monster Raving Loony Party.’

    That observation is more a reflection of the parlous state of democracy in Northern Ireland: that the only party which would advocate lower public spending (and lower taxation) gain receive so little support.
    The simple truth is that so many people in NI now depend on the state for their income that the exercise of democracy can only have destructive consequences.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “If there is little to be said about the largest party in unionism its small leakage of support has provided proportionally greater gains for the smaller unionist parties.”

    Turgon, the DUP council first preference vote dropped from 179436 in 2011 to 144928, a fall of 19% – not exactly a ‘small leakage’.

    Things were worse in the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council district where the vote fell from 16292 to 12582, a fall of 29%. The drop of 4710 votes in the DUP vote should be seen in the context of a modest increase for the UUP [290], 777 for a new PUP candidate in Coleraine and an impressive gain for the TUV [2819]

    The DUP’s 19 candidates 12582 votes yielded 11 seats whereas the UUP’s 12 candidates 7978 votes yielded 10 seats. Did the DUP spread itself too thinly?

    SF also saw a drop [797] and the SDLP a modest increase [94]. The SDLP’s 12 candidates’ 5911 votes yielded 6 seats whereas SF’s 12 candidates’ 9313 votes yielded just 7 seats.

    APNI only got one of the 40 seats and saw a small drop from 1963 to 1822 in its first preference votes.

  • Red Lion

    Turgon doing the analysis without the PUP is a major omission. They had a good election and may be a significant influence in future; hopefully with a strategic alternative voice on flags/parades (I wn’t hold my breath) but with bread/butter issues their main raison d’etre. They seem to have decent number of educated young people in their ranks, along with a few head-the-balls I hope the former hold sway.It is good to see a buying in to politics by unionist working classes.

    That said, PUPhad a good, well managed election delivering councillors. But they polled just 1200 votes ahead of the calamitous NI21 effort. Surely NI21 would be ahead of PUP on votes but for the fine efforts of Basil+John 2 days before election. Shows there was a market for NI21.

    I hold my hand up, irrespective of the serious allegations against Basil, the fact is he presided over a shambles-his redesignation effort 2 days before the election was disgraceful ‘leadership’. Not for the substance of it, but how it was grossly mishandled. I think the new-to-politics NI21 candidates who were mostly all really good just assumed that because he was a seasoned campaigner Basil just knew best. He clearly didn’t.

    NI21 can reorganise themselves, but only by bringing forward the talent and skills from the unknowns within their membership, and sticking to core messages and good admin. Out with the old and on with the new. 11500 votes for a new 1 year old party who were sabotaged by their own inept leadership 2days before election shows public appetite for the message. New leader, new executive and new organisation and groundwork needed.

  • notimetoshine

    Turgon you seem to have a good grasp on the realities of unionist politics, so I think you are as good as any to answer a question for me.

    With the implosion of NI21, and the move away from liberal unionism on the part of the UUP, where does the pro union but not unionist voter go?

    More specifically in my case I am a Catholic and I am pro union as is the majority of my extended family and friends, but there is now no place for us to go.

    What should liberal and catholic pro union folks do?

  • Turgon

    Thanks all for replies. I had thought about putting in a bit on the PUP but then I would have had to do UKIP as well and I thought it would make the whole thing a bit unwieldy.

    On the PUP they have stopped declining and their success in Causeway Coast is interesting but I suspect reflects changes in Coleraine’s working class population (movements in from elsewhere mainly Belfast). It is also worth noting that despite this relative success their web site has not been updated and still trumpets only two councillors. It is failings like this that make me highly dubious that they are yet a serious political party rather than simply the mouth piece of the UVF. Time will of course tell.

    I am also always a bit dubious about this PUP working class thing. Most working class unionists who vote do so for the DUP (and some for the UUP and indeed TUV). Also working class unionists occur outwith Belfast (and not only in Coleraine). They occur in the country towns and in the countryside yet the PUP seem awfully Belfast focused despite their Coleraine success and seem unaware of the existence of the likes of Fermanagh: not all Fermanagh Prods live in houses like the Blessed Viscount’s.

    notimetoshine,
    If serious a good and interesting question for which there is currently no answer. I wrote some time ago about the DUP being the surprising but correct choice: maybe worth a read if you can be bothered.

    I think that has now changed a bit but not completely. However, Robinson has abandoned that strategy in the medium term. In the long term I think he was still correct and he or a successor may return to it.

    Indeed I think either the DUP or UUP or both should be trying to broaden their appeal to achieve what you suggest. They are handicapped not only by their history but also by the failure of unicorns (pro union Catholics – I coined the phrase years ago) and gnomes (garden centre Prods – still trying to get that one off the ground) to go out and vote. To my mind there are a few unicorns but gnomes I am less clear about.

    What I mean in seriousness is that I am unconvinced that non voting prods are actually that liberal and that those who do not bother to vote liberal or not will be attracted by the correct alchemy of policies. That was the arrogant folly of UCUNF and persists with the likes of Ringland and the NI Conservatives who seem to want to replace the electorate with one more amenable to their self declared brilliance.

    What you should do is whatever you want clearly but I would submit that this is a chicken and egg situation. Unless and until there is proof that unionist parties can gain electoral advantage from moving leftwards (I hate the misuse of left right in NI political terms but there it is) then they will have no incentive to do so. If liberal pro unionists started voting or better still joining the UUP or DUP that would shift their centre of gravity.

    I always doubted NI21 centrally because having been an observer of NI politics for many years I doubted both McCrea and McCallister. McCrea always had vast personal baggage and a string of people who had fallen out with him so long that it had to be more him than all of them and had to be personal rather than political. John McCallister seems amiable enough but also seems not especially politically bright and also poor at thinking on his feet or adapting to changes. In may ways I regard him as the anthesis of Tom Elliott. Unlike Tom he is regarded as bright and more urbane whilst Elliott is actually bright and urbane.

    So sorry no real answer but a very valid question.

  • Red Lion

    notmetoshine

    Keep an eye on NI21 they aren’t dead yet. I think a reborn NI21 devoid of known figures but a party built on solid foundations is much more sustainable. I know they are reorganising but I hope it is without the 2 leaders

    It is a tragic fact of life that unionist parties don’t actually think of ‘how do we make NI life comfortable for all’ rather than let’s just represent basically protestants

  • MYtwocents

    It is a tragic* fact of life that political parties don’t actually think of ‘how do we make life comfortable for all’ rather than let’s just represent basically our voters.

    * if understandable

  • notimetoshine

    Turgon,

    It was most definitely a serious question, I am aware of many Catholics who for various reasons are pro union. The problem for me and I know for certain members of my family is the cultural aspect, I am by no means culturally a Unionist, nor am I sentimental about the union. For me it just makes sense in practical economic terms and in terms of the development of our society for the union.

    It is the reason I would love to see a border poll, I personally believe (and this is an opinion based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence) that many Catholic voters who are comfortable with the union would come out in favour of it. Now I think the problem has been that those folks like myself couldn’t vote or be involved with the current unionist parties for cultural and legacy reasons, but that does not necessarily make them nationalists. It would be interesting to see the results. It is why I really enjoy the debates on slugger regarding demographics and a border poll. There may not be many Catholic voters for the unionist parties, but that won’t make them vote for unification in a border poll.

    I suppose it comes down to those including myself from a Catholic/Nationalist background doing very well out of NI since 1998. In business, the arts, education etc. Many now have a stake in NI in socio economic terms if not culturally. A sweeping generalisation yes, but the guys I went to school with nearly to a man had parents who came from poor working class areas, whose children are now educated professionals, doing well and building a future for themselves here.

    I think if the Unionist parties could make a concerted effort to accept that the cultural mores of those pro union Catholics (who may be passionate about gaelic games, Irish language etc) aren’t secretly being used to bring about a united Ireland, along with a truly welcoming and maybe espousing more practical reasons for the union they could be pleasantly surprised.

    Regarding your article on Unicorns, you made some really interesting points . I think you could extend the geographical locations of those unicorns though! However in their current form and with the current cabal in the DUP it would be hard if not impossible for most if not all Catholic voters to seriously consider them as an option. They simply do not ‘stand’ for them.

    I agree with your points regarding the conservatives, there was a mission that failed badly. Ironically that model (if it were used with a party with electoral success behind it) could attract pro union Catholics.

    I would also be interested in your views regarding Catholic voters and their liberal tendencies. Again just my perception, but I have found that the nationalist electorate seem to be more liberal in social/moral policies than the DUP/UUP. Abortion aside, those of a Nationalist background for instance seem to be alot more accepting of LGBT issues than the DUP for example. Also the perception rightly or wrongly of the fundamentalist Christian right being endemic in the DUP I think does concern Catholics, what with their sometimes visceral dislike of the Catholic faith, which while lapsed to births, weddings and funerals in many young Catholics still puts them on the defensive.

    One note, I think that Arlene Foster would be a DUP politician who pro union Catholics could respond to. She seems very competent in her current ministry and doesn’t make outlandish comments and do silly things with her ministry ( a la Edwin Poots). As something of an economics geek, I think she is doing a good job in often difficult circumstances.

  • MYtwocents

    I dare say you have already considered this notimetoshine but surely your place is among the alliance party, border poll it would only work if before it was held it was understood there was going to be a set and decent period of time before another would be held say 50 years, this would give people time without the constitutional issue hanging over every election, time to work on all those issues that affect day to day living and those issues that affect only a few (LGBT) ect.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Hello Turgon, nothing on the PUP, word is they got the “working class” vote out like never before

    Let’s not overegg the pudding. They got two councillors elected, one in a safe seat, and the other in a seat that they used to hold before they abandoned it in 2005 by not bothering to campaign. They failed to make any breakthroughs anywhere else and there’s no basis to believe that they will return to where they were in 1998 when they were able to hold two Assembly seats.

    It’s the TUV’s performance which is more interesting here. They got a nondescript muppet that nobody ever heard of elected without bothering to run any kind of campaign.

    MYtwocents:

    I dare say you have already considered this notimetoshine but surely your place is among the alliance party

    Not necessarily.

    notimetoshine is talking about people who identify strongly as culturally Irish, but in the privacy of the polling booth on referendum day may express the view that they are entirely comfortable with being Irish in a region of the UK where they have veto power in the government and the sympathetic ear of a post-colonial British governing mentality.

  • MYtwocents

    They got three councillors elected (in Belfast).

  • MYtwocents

    CS, What part of your above stops notimetoshine from being an Alliance supporter/voter/member. is it your saying that Alliance is a cold house for the Irish,

  • MYtwocents

    “They failed to make any breakthroughs anywhere else”
    They got a councillor elected in Coleraine.

  • MYtwocents

    “nondescript muppet”
    charming, and of the mark considering the lady in Q caused quite a lot of interest AFTER her election.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mytwocents, no they got two councillors elected in Belfast and one in Coleraine – I stand corrected, guilty of taking a Belfast-centric view.

    CS, What part of your above stops notimetoshine from being an Alliance supporter/voter/member.

    Nothing.

    is it your saying that Alliance is a cold house for the Irish,

    Not at all. Alliance’s principal objective is reconciliation across the community; not the promotion of one of the several cultures we have here.

    charming, and of the mark considering the lady in Q caused quite a lot of interest AFTER her election.

    The TUV had to dig deep to find a person even less intelligent than Ruth Patterson, and clearly they hit paydirt.

  • socaire

    Turgon, you give the impression of being a reasonably intelligent fellow so why do you refer to ‘mainland GB’? This is not GB. Force majeure has designated this part of Ireland as part of the UK so ‘mainland UK’ is de facto correct. You may also refer to ‘the British community in Ireland’.

  • Barry the Blender

    Mytwocents, no they got two councillors elected in Belfast and one in Coleraine – I stand corrected, guilty of taking a Belfast-centric view.

    1 in Oldpark, 1 in Court, 1 in Titanic.

    All ones they’ve held in the recent past. They came from nowhere in Coleraine.

    Around lots of parts of Belfast the PUP pulled in a respectable vote which the UUP and DUP were grateful on transfers. I think they look like they could retake an MLA in E Belfast, probably from the DUP.

  • MYtwocents

    CS see above, three in Belfast one in Coleraine, you will get there yet.*
    “The TUV had to dig deep to find a person even less intelligent than Ruth Patterson, and clearly they hit paydirt.”
    Have you got something against the ladys, you could have picked many a party member, and you went for another woman!.
    Alliance, so you agree notime could find a home there, and your “Not necessarily.” was not necessary.

  • notimetoshine

    @mytwocents

    I have considered Alliance, indeed I was once a member, but the don’t seem to be doing much to reach out to those in Nationalist areas, and I would say that I am not agnostic on the union, I am very much pro union.

    @Comrade Stalin

    I quite agree with you reading on my stance, especially considering you were able to sum it up much more succinctly than I was!

    Ideally the UUP would be the place for me, but they seem to be drifting away from liberal unionism.

    @Red Lion
    I put a great deal of faith in NI21, even began to get involved with them, but after the mess that was made before the elections I can’t see how they can create and maintain a presence in local politics.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Barry & Mytwocents, sorry, I’m talking nonsense. Four councillors; Titanic, Oldpark and Court, and Coleraine. Brain isn’t working too well today.

    You are right, there’s always been a solid loyalist seat in East Belfast which would be taken at the expense either of Sammy Douglas or Michael Copeland. The only reason why they lost it the last time is because the vote got split between the PUP and Dawn Purvis running as an independent.

    Have you got something against the ladys, you could have picked many a party member, and you went for another woman

    Ruth is the only councillor of late to actually be prosecuted over remarks on Facebook, and some of Jolene’s remarks were pretty close to the wire.

    Alliance, so you agree notime could find a home there

    Depends. Alliance is obviously not the place for people who want to cheerlead for cultural supremacy.

    notimetoshine:

    I have considered Alliance, indeed I was once a member, but the don’t seem to be doing much to reach out to those in Nationalist areas,

    I’m getting a bit of deja vu here, I’m sure I asked you once to explain what you meant by “reaching out to those in nationalist areas”.

    and I would say that I am not agnostic on the union, I am very much pro union.

    Good for you, but why do you think that precludes being an Alliance supporter ?

  • notimetoshine

    @ Stalin

    Yes I think you may have asked me that before, and I think it is a case of increasing their exposure in nationalist areas, (south down for example), building a base by running viable candidates in those areas even if they do fail for the first few elections, and I can’t explain it well but a move in style and appearance away from liberal south belfast, the middle class and liberal protestantdom, find it hard to verbalise that style change but I hope you get the jist.

    As for the agnostic on the union side, I would want a more openly pro union party, along the lines of the UUP.

    Also I think that Alliance have soiled themselves staying in government with the current bunch of cretins.

  • PaddyReilly

    You are right, there’s always been a solid loyalist seat in East Belfast which would be taken at the expense either of Sammy Douglas or Michael Copeland. The only reason why they lost it the last time is because the vote got split between the PUP and Dawn Purvis running as an independent.

    The combined PUP/Purvis vote was only 9.9% of the total. A centrist party could bump that up to a quota, but not the PUP.

    Belfast is changing, and the working class Unionist vote is disappearing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    notimetoshine,

    That’s not a bad answer to my question actually. The party does of course run candidates in “nationalist areas” but in the main those surrounding greater Belfast. It’s a chicken and egg problem to some extent; setting that up requires someone from those parts of the world to join the party and commit to building it up out there.

    Paddy,

    The PUP vote in East Belfast was 13% in 1998 but has held constant at just below 10% since 2001 and they held a seat there in the 2003 and 2007 assembly elections. This vote evidently went almost exclusively to either PUP or Purvis in 2011. There’s every reason to believe that a PUP candidate with a good campaign would win the seat in 2016.

  • MYtwocents

    Paddy, would that be like the disappearance of the disappeared ie overnight and never seen again, or more like the disappearance of the ice caps, only to reappear.

  • MYtwocents

    sorry, only to reappear when they can be bothered.

  • HopefulPessimist

    “The DUP still have by far the largest number of elected representatives and whilst they do not have a monopoly of talent they certainly have more talented politicians than the other parties.”

    Jesus they must be hiding them well!

  • Politico68

    Ntts, are there any circumstances you could see yourself voting for Irish unity?

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

    “As for the agnostic on the union side, I would want a more openly pro union party, along the lines of the UUP.

    Also I think that Alliance have soiled themselves staying in government with the current bunch of cretins.”

    @notimetoshine,

    My guestimate is that at least 70 to 80 per cent of Alliance voters lean pro union, although the core of Alliance members are people who do not consider themselves to be either nationalist or unionist. The focus of the party, however, is in reconciling the population of NI and in making the territory work no matter in which sovereignty it ultimately resides.

    I believe that being in government does hurt Alliance, but in the absence of any legislation supporting an official opposition and Alliance’s orphan status over the decades it is perfectly understandable that the party’s leadership wants to use their influence in government. Until the UUP and the SDLP both decide to go into opposition, it is very unlikely that Alliance will, absent some very terrible actions on the part of both the DUP and Sinn Fein.

  • PaddyReilly

    My guestimate is that at least 70 to 80 per cent of Alliance voters lean pro union

    When Anna Lo was eliminated in the Euros her 55,347 votes were redistributed as follows:-

    Diane Dodds (TUV) 3,218

    Jim Nicholson (UUP) 6,959

    Jim Allister (TUV) 1,582

    Alex Attwood (SDLP) 24,675

    So the electoral data, at present, shows the opposite.

  • PaddyReilly

    Sorry that should have read Diane Dodds (DUP)

  • Comrade Stalin

    tmitch57,

    I’d say you’re fairly close to the money there.

    Being in government is a risk, but I’m not sure that voters see Alliance as being part of the problem when it comes to executive dysfunction. People understand that nothing gets past a DUP or SF veto.

    Paddy,

    I am one of those whose Alliance vote would have eventually ended up going to Attwood. It doesn’t make me a nationalist, just a person pissed off that the other three candidates are part of parties who are trying to drag the country backwards.

  • Charles_Gould

    CS makes a good point.

  • PaddyReilly

    It doesn’t make me a nationalist, just a person pissed off that the other three candidates are part of parties who are trying to drag the country backwards.

    I never said it did. I said that it suggests that you don’t lean pro-Union. Do I have to search through your recorded statements to show that this is actually the case?

  • notimetoshine

    @politico

    I’m not sure I would be in a position to back unity. However at a minimum at less 75% of the NI population in favour of unity, a comprehensive settlement for those of a unionist persuasion, a more balanced and stable southern economy , root and branch constitutional reform in the republic, a complete review of healthcare and social provisioning in the republic and that’s jus for starters. Simply for me to even consider unity I would need to be assured of a stable economy with growth prospects long term, public service provision at a level equal to what is currently provided in the north and a 50 year plan to integrate NI with the republic. I am however sceptical that this could be possible either economically or politically. I would imagine that any unification would mean considerable sacrifices on the part of citizens in the north potentially unacceptable sacrifices.

  • OneNI

    Any interesting summary of the electoral facts but short on analysis. Truth is that the NI Conservatives have a political vision of the future while DUP and UUP clearly do not.
    Even many of their own MLAs privately acknowledge the self defeating nature of the tribal nonsense that passes for ‘unionism’ here.
    They may well get the votes but the prognosis is gloomy if it throws up no leaders just buggins turn journeymen like Robbo

  • Politico68

    ntts,

    I agree with a lot of your views. Ireland has a long way to go before it is in a healthy economic state. However, the signs of improvement are there and one can only hope that growth continues at a sustainable pace. It will be at least a decade before we get to vote, I hope by then the conditions you outline make it easier for people like me to persuade people like you.

  • http://nwhyte.livejournal.com Nicholas Whyte

    OneNI:

    Truth is that the NI Conservatives have a political vision of the future while DUP and UUP clearly do not.

    Well, the electorate have made their preference between the NI Conservatives’ vision and the UUP and DUP practice pretty clear…

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

    I’ll try this once, and once only.

    NI21 is dead.

    There is in fact no evidence that the Wednesday debacle cost NI21 votes. In fact, the evidence (paltry though it is) suggests it actually gained them votes, as tallies (taken only from votes cast on election day) consistently had NI21 ahead of where they actually were (which would include votes cast by post beforehand). Some people – notably the guy behind #BackInBelfast – were quite clear that the announcement of re-designation was the reason they now intended to vote NI21 first preference, instead of Alliance as previously intended. (I do happen to think that the chaos cost NI21 preferences, but those were effectively irrelevant anyway.)

    None of this really matters, because ultimately the brand depended on Basil, and both he and the brand are now irreparably damaged. Already candidates and campaigners are abandoning ship (Neil McNickle yesterday, for example).

    Having wasted time and money on NI21, for very good but obviously now flawed reasons, no one should be suggesting wasting even more time and money on it. The electorate gave its verdict – as it did with UCUNF, and UKUP, and NIWC, and UPNI before it – and it was “Thanks for trying but no thanks”.

    And the NI Conservatives are dead.

    With money from HQ for an office and a paid staff member and a Cabinet member campaigning for them, they still failed to get a single person elected and mustered a paltry 4,000 votes.

    To make matters worse, those 4,000 then went all over the place – 23% to the UUP, 16% to the DUP, 13% to Alliance, 9% to TUV… even those 4,000 aren’t remotely coherent!

    As they say in business and should say in politics – the electorate is always right, even when it’s wrong. Again the electorate has given its verdict at every election since the Agreement – it’s “Go away”.

    I say that as someone with sympathy with both. But like I said elsewhere – when you reach the final page, you close the book.

  • Red Lion

    That’s just your say so, IJP.

    The people of NI21will close the book when they wish to close the book.

    NI21 have a good message and they got 11500 votes and an elected councillor which is not to be sniffed at; I have a lot of respect for that and it is good to see new ones getting involved, ones who were not motivated by other parties. I would encourage them to carry on

  • Politico68

    I don’t see why NI21 should be finished, for sure they have had a fantastic disaster but the election is over and if enough heads in the party pull together, they have a year to get their message out. I was happy to see them come about, such a relief to see the beginnings of a Unionist Party that doesn’t hate everyone; i hope they make it.

  • Reader

    IJP : I say that as someone with sympathy with both. But like I said elsewhere – when you reach the final page, you close the book.
    How about the Greens? Close that book too?

  • http://nwhyte.livejournal.com Nicholas Whyte

    Red Lion / Politico68,

    You can try and hide your heads in the sand, but IJP is right. Yes, NI21 managed to get a single elected councillor (who got a miserable first preference share, but squeezed in on the last count); their only successful election bid of dozens. That’s the same number of elected councillors as the People Before Profit Alliance, two less than UKIP (UKIP, for heaven’s sake!), three less than the Greens or PUP, 12 less than TUV. For a party with two members of the Assembly, it is simply not a sustainable outcome.

    The writing was clearly on the wall when they advertised for local candidates only a few weeks before the election. The standard model for campaigning is to establish your network and organisation at local level, building from the relatively low-hanging fruit of a council base to be in a position to challenge for an Assembly seat the following year. I have always felt that a committed candidate – with at least two committed campaign workers – should be able to win a seat in any council area, regardless of party label (as long as it’s not actively toxic) if they start a year or so in advance. Heck, we all know people who have actually done this. But you can’t achieve that if you are still looking for candidates less than two months out. And it is now too late to do more than desperately defend the two Assembly seats – held by the discredited and the disaffected incumbents. Turn the page; move on.

    (And I won’t waste time reiterating what IJP says about the Conservatives, because he’s right.)

    Reader – The Greens are in a different category. They have won an Assembly seat in two electoral cycles with two different candidates; they have that nucleus of successful councillors in North Down (where they were frankly unlucky in 2011, and clearly just kept on working); if their ambition is to hold what they have and aspire to modest expansion, that strikes me as achievable. Northern Ireland politics has always had space for small parties which come and go, with a cluster of elected reps here and there. (The DUP began that way, don’t forget.) Mostly these parties are not sustainable in the long term (Women’s Coalition, Newtownabbey Labour Party, UPUP). For the moment the Greens are sustainable. They benefit from recognisable branding and, by this stage, longevity; by contrast, NI21 has neither.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Red Lion/Politico68

    When those 11500 votes were being cast for NI21, the massive internal split and scandal within the party had not yet become public. It is those events which have critically damaged the NI21 brand. I’d point out that a person has already gone on the record to say she was a victim of unwarranted harassment.

    A political party can’t survive that. For any new political party to stick it needs experienced people in elected office to lead it. NI21′s two MLAs have each lost the support of a substantial chunk of the party and at this point it does not look at all clear that either of them will be re-elected to the assembly when the point comes. They will already be irrelevant in the Westminster election and given the absence of funding sources it is not clear to me how they could even run a Westminster campaign.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nick,

    You are of course absolutely right about the Greens. They, not NI21, are the biggest threat to Alliance for the centre ground and they held a seat in North Down that would otherwise have gone to Alliance.

    They seem to understand elections well and know how to campaign, and are making a good stab (in relative terms) at opposition politics. Alliance will need to work hard to see off the Green challenge to the party’s second seat in East Belfast.

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

    Of course, the other reason the Greens are sustainable is that, whether you agree or disagree with it, they actually stand for something.

  • OneNI

    Nicholas and IJP protest a bit too much. Symptomatic of those who fail to realise that Alliance has simply become a cog in our old style politics.
    I didn’t make any comment on the electoral success or otherwise of the DUP, UUP or the NI Conservatives for that matter.
    I merely commented that NI Conservatives have a more coherent vision than UUP or DUP.
    What is the medium or long term vision of Alliance btw? Total acceptance of what passes for politics here?

    And before you talk about ‘practical realities’ name me one substantial achievement of any Minister in the Executive past or present?

  • OneNI

    If Greens are sustainable then surely so are the Conservatives because not only do they stand for something but they have actually achieved something?How much of the economic recovery was made in Westminster and how much in Stormont? I’ll be generous and say 90:10.
    DUP and UUP are electorally ‘successfully’ but actually don’t stand for anything beyond Reacting against Nationalism. That and a mix of unpleasant unBritish and even anti British attitudes.
    SF are locked in to regional Parliament and have plateaued. The combined nationalist vote is declining. SDLP like Alliance are mere spectators no one notices their powerless because the whole Executive is gridlocked and increasingly ignored or despised.

    UKIP was the story of the election – with no charismatic leader and one at best slightly odd MLA they polled very respectably. I think its a mistake to dismiss it simply as a ‘hardline’ vote – if voters wanted hardline they had Jim Allister.

    Interesting to see if it is just a novelty factor

  • Comrade Stalin

    OneNI,

    You’re shooting the messenger here.

    I merely commented that NI Conservatives have a more coherent vision than UUP or DUP.

    the electorate don’t seem to think so

    What is the medium or long term vision of Alliance btw?

    A united, prosperous and pluralist community free from sectarian vision. More or less the same as the long term vision professed by both the NI Conservatives and NI21. The difference being that there are policies and a party infrastructure engaged in pursuing it.

    Total acceptance of what passes for politics here?

    Alliance is dedicated to ending, not accepting, tribal politics in NI. But at the moment it is still at the stage of trying to persuade people to vote for this idea.

    And before you talk about ‘practical realities’ name me one substantial achievement of any Minister in the Executive past or present?

    Delivery of the new super councils.

    If Greens are sustainable then surely so are the Conservatives because not only do they stand for something but they have actually achieved something?

    Yes, they have several councillors and one MLA with a stab at getting a second one.

    How much of the economic recovery was made in Westminster and how much in Stormont? I’ll be generous and say 90:10.

    OK so now you’re arguing that devolution is the problem.

  • OneNI

    ‘A united, prosperous and pluralist community free from sectarian vision.’ Mmmm that’s a bit applehood and motherpie. Like the other local parties there is no sign of a determination to take tough decisions – althou to be fair Alliance supported water charges. Of course by chosing to be locked into the system you lose the opportunity to be a radical alternative.

    You then de facto become part of the problem – you can be totally dedicated to ending tribal politics (and I don’t doubt Alliance are) but in reailty they are helping to ensconce it.

    Re; Substantial achievements the Super Councils. Wont save a single penny and makes local government more remote. Personally having gone to the Super Councils I think it simply raises the question ‘Do we need Stormont at all’

    Re Greens – you are totally correct IF you political vision stops at the shores of NI.
    In the UK context the Conservatives have 8,000 cllrs and SF have less than 1% of the vote.

    On the economic recovery – no devolution is not the problem the problem is a dysfunctional party political system populated with puffed up characters who call themselves Ministers and deliver nothing.
    I note you didn’t dispute the Recovery was 90% Westminster.

    I’ll save you the list of achievements on the deficit, employment, economic growth. Not to mention the special treatment of NI in the spending round, the PMS, exemption from the carbon levy, devolution of int air duty to name a few.

    Actually lets to totally honest the economic recovery in NI is 100% done to Osborne et al. The main contribution of the local Exec has been to LOSE jobs over the flags and other pathetic rows, resignation threats and ‘withdraw support from the police’ nonsense