#AE16 North Down: UUP’s co-option of Chambers could be the deciding factor

Candidates: [DUP] Alex Easton, Gordon Dunne, Peter Weir. [UUP] Alan Chambers, Chris Eisenstadt, Carl McClean. [Alliance] Stephen Farry, Andrew Muir. [Greens] Steven Agnew. [SDLP] Conal Browne. [UKIP] Bill Piper. [TUV] John Brennan. [NI Conservatives] Frank Shivers; [Sinn Fein] Therese McCartney. [Independent] Brian Wilson. 

This largely middle class, and largely Protestant constituency hugs the southern shoreline of the Belfast Lough and around Orlock Point to Donaghadee. At 11.83%, it has the highest number designating as no religion. Male life expectancy is 78.5, rising to 82.2 in women.

In 1998 there were no DUP MLAs here, but since 2007 they’ve had three. It’s this kind of constituency in which the DUP must pitch Arlene Foster as a ‘liberal’ voice to counter Mike Nesbitt’s rather gentle hike to the ‘left’ in Unionist politics. But it may be too early for that effect to trickle down.

The UUP have drafted in a long time independent candidate Alan Chambers to replace long-serving former Mayor of North Down Leslie Cree to head up what looks like an ambitious three candidate strategy.

The party’s two candidates got them 2,928 (10.4%) in 2011, a thousand votes shy of quota.  Chambers’ poll-topping 1,311 in Bangor East and Donaghadee in 2014 he should comfortably take them up to base camp.

If you factor the modest bounce the party got in 2014’s local elections, then current deputy Mayor Carl McClean looks decently placed (and the third candidate acting as a sweeper) to take a seat away from the DUP and balance the books at 2:2.

Entry of former Green MLA Brian Wilson certainly took former colleagues in the Greens and Alliance by surprise. He’ll take first preferences away from both. As the only independent he’ll have to work out of Bangor West whilst the Greens now have 3 2 councillors in the new super council.3 councillors in the new super council.

On elimination his votes will probably favour Alliance by some considerable way, but it’s hard to see it helping to unseat Stephen Agnew in a constituency where elsewhere the Greens hit an historic high in Alliance’s own stronghold of Holywood in 2014.

Prediction: 2 DUP; 2 UUP; 1 Alliance; 1 Green. Hard to see poll topper Alex Easton or the deeply embedded Gordon Dunne vulnerable to a UUP swing. If there is a loser it’s may be the most talented and longest serving DUP MLA, Peter Weir who will have to wait it out to the end of the count.

Next: West Tyrone.

, ,

  • James Martin

    Interesting view here. I think that the UUP not having a candidate from the Holywood end of the constituency may hurt them, so I would tend to tip three DUP and one UUP. Seems pretty clear that Alan Chambers will get in and you are probably right about Peter Weir being the last DUP member to get in- will come down to him versus McClean. Is there any possibility of one of the two non-unionist seats falling to the UUP due to the entry of Brian Wilson in to the race? I doubt that many Unionist voters will vote for him and I wonder if he might make things interesting for both the Greens and Alliance at the end.

  • Gopher

    3 DUP 1 UUP 1 Alliance 1 Conservative

    UUP. Not running at Westminster then running 3!!!! will come back to bite them. Wilson polled more than Agnew did when he stood and UKIP and TUV votes have to end up somewhere.

  • mickfealty

    I felt I had to jump one way or another on that one, if only to keep things interesting. A lot of the aging UUP old guard are gone now, so bringing Chambers in ironically keeps that iron hot whilst looking to do a generational shift in McClean.

    That two seat pot has been consistently and discretely non unionist since 1998, and I would imagine Wilson may act as a double sweeper for both Alliance and Greens. It really depends on how successful the UUP is at getting people back from the Golf Course.

    There’s not much weather about which suggests to me that whatever swing to the UUs there was going to be is over. They have to get people back in the voting game. Pushing up turnout is probably needed to take the seat from a UU pov.

  • mickfealty

    2011 is not really the standard I’d been looking at. Greens (and UUs) have consolidated in the 2014 locals since then.

  • Gopher

    The Green vote is effectively split. The elimination goes first SF and then SDLP the majority of that is now split four ways instead of three. NI21 imploding the night before the election saved the UUP in the LG election as their tanking in the Euros on the same day proved. My belief is if you are of a liberal unionist the conservatives will become your home in North Down supplanting the UUP as they cannot deliver on the social issues and you have to register your protest somewhere.

  • mickfealty

    A very good belief to hold, if you’re a committed Conservative. 😉 Allow the rest of us a modicum of respectful scepticism in that regard though… 😉

  • Scott Wilson

    Correction, the Greens HAD 3 councillors. Councillor Noelle Robinson now an independent. My prediction 2 DUP 2 UUP 2 Alliance.

  • bogball88

    Who is the SF candidate?

  • Gopher

    If you know the North Down electorate and their capacity to buck the system you can keep your modicum of respective scepticism They always do the unexpected.

  • Gopher

    About 300 votes they call him/her

  • Scott Wilson

    Therese McCartney

  • mickfealty

    Yes. Of course. I’d forgotten that. Talk us through Andrew’s route to power Scott?

  • mickfealty

    Will add her now. Was going on David’s list and cross checking with wikipedia….

  • mickfealty

    Often, but not always. 😉

  • Gopher

    *Sits down with some cake* This Should be a good story.

  • Scott Wilson

    My guess is that Brian will split the Green vote and when he is eliminated he will transfer better to Alliance than Greens. Although if Stephen Farry still hasn’t reached quota by this stage he will probably take the majority of those similar to 2011. Hard to call!

  • Gopher

    True Hermon would be the safest seat in NI but at least they can agree from all backgrounds who the best MP is. At the assembly however opinion if it is even bothered to be expressed is harder to call

  • Everyone notes the ‘bounce’ for the UUP in the Council election in 2014, while forgetting that the Party didn’t do anything like as well in the Euro election on the same day. That is probably down to strong local ‘legacy’ candidates rather than anything to do with the Party. Same in Westminster, where Kinihan got in because of very poor vote by McCrea who consistently polled less at Westminster than the Party did at other elections. FST Tom Elliot was simply a candidate every Unionist could vote for (the previous campaign was a bit flat). So the UUP ‘success’ in recent elections has been down to strong local candidates with a legacy vote, and less strong DUP candidates. So as commentary develops, worth keeping in mind that our politics can be very (micro) local. So here, Chambers in with good chance. The question for Wilson is how may first preferences and how the elimination rounds fall.

  • Msiegnaro

    At Assembly it’s always been Jim Allister.

  • Gopher

    Fortunately for Jim he survived long enough for the assembly to become a farce and can now be seen as a maverick and no doubt North Down would return him to the assembly if he stood there. But there is always the cautionary tale Of Bob McCartney who became somewhat of a Cassandra due to his ego in the early halcyon days of the assembly and North Down let him go.for fear of being misrepresented. An interesting constituency North Down.

  • Msiegnaro

    I think Bob did the curious act of standing in six constituencies at once and was subsequently annihilated along with his party.

  • mickfealty

    Can you please remember the cardinal Slugger rule please?

  • Brian wilson

    I would not rule out an upset and have predicted the DUP will lose a seat .http://brianawilson.com/dup-to-lose-mla-in-north-down/.
    North Downs later seats are always won after a series of eliminations with the final seat usually going to a candidate with less than 2000 first preference votes.I would like to think I can do reasonably well as in my last election in Bangor West I achieved my highest ever percentage vote topping the poll with 1500 votes. However my absence from public life over the past year will probably effect my vote.

  • mickfealty

    Rigourously honest as ever Brian. Thanks, much appreciated!

  • Msiegnaro

    Brian, where do you see the key differences between yourself and Alliance/The Greens within ND?

  • Granni Trixie

    Scott
    there are many factors which make people vote for particular candidates one of which is their public profile and Andrew Muir sure has a high public profile. If Alliance stands a chance of two seats (which as you will know was almost achieved last time) then AM has a good chance of delivering this time.

  • Brian wilson

    Very little some personal differences. My main difference and my reason for standing down from North Down council was that neither party supported me in my campaign against the decision to replace the Clandeboye and District “B specials ” gun and rifle club in the council’s new community centre

  • Gopher

    My apologies no intention of playing any man just demonstrating the unforgiving nature of North Down and its relationship with its representatives which is continually evolving. Lady Hermon I think has the quality of humility which I think voters in North Down respect which perhaps explains her longevity, it also makes her hard to campaign against. Her independence is seen as rising above petty politics whist in others is seen as a more polemical nature to their personality. Its the fox and the hedgehog. Who is right? Whoever North Down decides is right.

  • Granni Trixie

    Brian, not meaning to be personal but just curious – how have you explained to the electorate your style of in out politics? Switching parties, ‘standing down’ etc. Or is it a gimmick or your usp, do you think?
    To be realistic, you’re right on the button in that last sentence. .

  • Granni Trixie

    Or too posh to push? Personally I find working with other people in a political party is a good test of many qualities. Not to say v challenging. Still, if you want to make a virtue out of opting out …well….

  • mjh

    Predicting North Down is a nightmare – the best you can do is to make a guess.
    We can be confident of at least 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance. But that’s it.

    DUP – hit 3.1 first preference quotas at the last Assembly but have been on the slide since then. On the same day they gained the equivalent of 2.7 quotas in the Council elections but were down to 2.2 in 2014. So while retaining a third seat well under quota cannot be ruled out is a very long stretch.

    UUP – only managed 0.7 of an Assembly quota, despite achieving the equivalent of 1.0 in the Council elections that day. As Mike noted they consolidated this vote, scoring 1.2 equivalent quotas in 2014. But getting from there to a second seat – especially with three candidates shedding transfers looks very, very difficult. Alan Chambers certainly has personal votes – some will not want to follow him in his change of label. Those that do could well transfer away from the party if he is excluded. The UUP would be well advised to try and manage the vote to get him over quota early so as to avoid wasting them. This would require good organisation – which has probably been weakened by their absence from the last Westminster contest. So a second UUP seat also looks very difficult.

    The total for all unionist parties and independents transferring predominantly to unionists took 4.9 quotas last Assembly and held steady at 4.8 in 2014 so there should be a fourth unionist seat.

    In 2014 the TUV took the equivalent of a third of an Assembly quota standing in 3 of the 4 and a bit DEA’s that make up the constituency. While UKIP managed a quarter of a quota from just 2, and the Conservatives a quarter running in all DEA’s. For any one of these to take a seat would be as unlikely as the DUP third or the UUP second.

    There is an unusually high leakage of unionist transfers to the centre, especially from the Conservatives and independent unionists, but also from UKIP and a lesser extend from UUP.

    There were 1.9 Centre quotas in 2011 and 2.0 in 2014. By the final stage of the 2011 count those unionist transfers, together with others from the nationalist parties who had 0.3 of a quota between them, had raised the combined Alliance and Green vote to 2.6 quotas. It would, however take a significant swing from unionist to the centre to turn that into a third centre seat. So a third is unlikely while two are virtually certain.

    Alliance took 1.3 quotas in both the Assembly and Council elections in 2011. They slipped to 1.1 in 2014, probably mainly to NI21 which achieved a quarter of a quota.

    The Greens went from 0.6 and 0.5 in 2011 to 0.6 in 2014. Agnew’s incumbency and high profile should help them.

    With all these unlikely options it would be wrong to exclude the possibility of Brian Wilson coming through. His 1458 votes in Bangor West in 2011 represented a third of an Assembly quota. He took 200 more than Alliance and five times the Green vote in that DEA. A quarter of his votes came from unionists.

    The only certain prediction for North Down is that at least one of the MLA’s will be a highly unlikely winner.

  • Reader

    Unfortunately the ND2011 spreadsheet is a bit mangled on Ark – but I don’t recall the result being that close.
    Also, I wander through several wards in Bangor on my commute and other journeys – ALL of the posters seem to say Farry 1, Muir 2, so Alliance don’t seem to be working too hard on balancing their vote.

  • Granni Trixie

    Absolutely depends on the route you take! TBH, Alliance do not have the money for a huge number of posters so have to target more carefully than some.

  • Scott Wilson

    It was 99 votes in the end. Labour candidate now confirmed too, ex-Green.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Sorry about the mangled spreadsheet link – I am on the road and can’t fix until the weekend. You should be able to find it at http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/xls/asby/2011/as11-North-Down.xlsx .

  • Reader

    Nicholas, it was the spreadsheet, not the link, that was broken – it looks like part rows have shifted, showing only 5 candidates elected, for instance.
    Both the direct link and the spreadsheet in the .rar file show the same problem.
    On my actual recollection – Scott Wilson here has said that it was only 99 votes in the end, which is actually pretty damn close.

  • Gingray

    The same North Down which elected Hermon as an independent
    candidate after leaving the UUP due to an alliance with the Conservative Party? She trounced the Tory candidate that year really badly.

    The same North Down which is home to high numbers of public sector workers?

  • Gingray

    Be interesting to see how low turnout here can go – it was 46% in 2011, could it go sub 40%?

    In elections without Hermon, Unionist parties get around 60% of the vote, with Others and Nats 40%. This has not changed much over the last 10 years, and even with poorer transfer rates within the Unionist parties, it should be 3 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 All, 1 Green.

  • Reader

    Granni – you’re right. My wife has reported seeing Muir (1) posters, so Alliance are definitely doing a bit of vote balancing in ND.

  • Austen

    I am not sure why Brian Wilson has to keep calling this a “B Special’ gun club? Perhaps he is wishing to make it an item of division in North Down.

    The fact is that it is a ‘Projectile Range’ which incorporates all kinds of Olympic Sports and ‘one’ of the clubs which use the facility is the ‘The Clandeboye and District Ulster Special Constabulary Pistol and Rifle Club’ which was formed in 1970…. Archery is also practised in the facility.. as are other projectile sports.

    …and to Correct Brian Wilson: No party supported you in the campaign of vilification… not just ‘two’

    Perhaps Brian Wilson would like the Council to discriminate against certain sports because of his ideology? The Council spent over £80,000,000 on all the other sports over the past ten years and just £750,000 on this projectile range.

    Brian Wilson’s extreme his ultra liberal left wing are more in keeping with the left-wing hysteria than the facts.