#AE16 East Belfast: DUP to come home with three courtesy of a splitting PUP base…

Candidates: [DUP] Joanne Bunting, Sammy Douglas, Robin Newton; [Alliance] Naomi Long, Chris Lyttle, Tim Morrow; [UUP] Andy Allen, Chris McGimpsey; [PUP] John Kyle; [TUV] Andrew Girvin; [UKIP] Jonny Lavery; [Greens] Ross Brown; [Sinn Fein] Niall Ó Donnghaile; [SDLP] Amy Doherty; [NI Conservatives] Neil Wilson; [Cross-Community Labour Alternative] Courtney Robinson; [NILRC] Erskine Holmes; [Independent] Maggie Hutton.

East Belfast has the fifth-lowest population of any constituency in Northern Ireland, and the most Protestant. It also has the lowest proportion of school leavers getting A*-C at GCSE, and a below the average unemployment rate for NI.

Since the 1979 election in which Peter Robinson squeezed ahead of Bill Craig and Oliver Napier most of the contests here have featured in often radically different proportions representatives of DUP, UUP and Alliance.

For a long time the party’s relied on a big poll toppers gravitational pull to get in a second MLA. Soberingly if you go right back to the first 1998 Assembly Peter Robinson pulled over a younger Sammy Wilson who garnered a mere 633 first preference votes.

18 years later and both the DUP’s and Alliance’s (though not quite yet the UUP) electoral effort has become a lot more sophisticated. Indeed, the overall proportions may come down to just who can best balance their vote.

If we look only at the 2014 locals then the DUP could have problems getting three back on just 33% of the vote. But what may stand them in good stead is the clear field given them last year when Gareth Robinson creamed 49.3% of the total vote.

Much of that will return to the UUP and PUP, but some of it may not. Added to the fact that with Robinson out of the way this time, balancing their ticket between three candidates (one a woman) will be much easier than before

Much further back a strongly trade unionised workforce had regularly returned members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. But deindustrialisation and the polarisation effect of the Troubles have meant that has long since disappeared.

If there was any outcropping of that leftist sentiment it was probably briefly captured by the high profile and transfer friendly David Ervine of the PUP who was returned twice to the Assembly and his protege and successor Dawn Purvis.

The seat was lost in 2011 after Ms Purvis split from the party of the unresolved issue of UVF guns. But from Nicholas Whyte’s extrapolations from 2014 they registered 8% (up three points from 2011) of the vote, eight points behind the DUP. With the UUP running two on something just over a quota that could put them in contention.

In John Kyle they’ve made the right choice, but he faces two difficulties beyond his control. Firstly, the entrance of independent candidate Maggie Hutton: who is ‘gene pool’ PUP. Secondly, if the DUP successfully balance their ticket, he may need double figures.

As for Alliance, although they are running three candidates, on just 21% of the council vote in 2014 there seems to be just two seats here for them. Tim Morrow in Castlereagh East in 2014 came in at the bottom of the poll, where they’d run two candidates.

The Green Party’s Ross Brown’s steady progress will cause Alliance some turbulence and perhaps some concerns for the future. Despite her year out Naomi Long remains one of the party’s prize assets and alone with Chris Lyttle there should be no problem ensuring two seats.

Last, but no means least, is the UUP. In 2005 Reg Empey took 30.1% of the East Belfast Westminster vote. In 2010 Trevor Ringland took 21.2%. A year later two candidates took just 9.7%, effectively abandoning large areas of ‘outer East’ to the Alliance party.

However that 16% from two years ago should be good for the one seat they retained last time: although by running two it may be a lottery as to which of them comes through in the end. The hope is they’ll try to expand the vote catch for the future.

Prediction: 3 DUP; 2 Alliance; 1 UUP.

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  • Ryan A

    I don’t think it’s fair to ignore the events of 2015 in this analysis. Albeit it may be a different type of election, but Alliance polled a massive vote that would see them swoop three seats and with the same candidate running in this election it’s not hard to imagine they are at least in the frame for the third. Worth remembering after 2010 when Michelle Gildernew was attacked in a pact her voters didn’t back off; they returned in equal number the next year and snatched another seat as a result – and I find it hard to imagine Naomi’s coalition will act any different whether it’s core Alliance vote or not. I’d also imagine the DUP vote will split everywhere between the TUV, UKIP and PUP and might not return in the same numbers as the count progresses. I’m calling Alliance 3, DUP 2 and UUP 1.

  • Leo Mulholland

    Courtney Robinson is not a member of Labour NI nor is she running on that ticket.
    She is a member of the Socialist party and is running under the banner Cross-community Labour Alternative.
    May the editor change this to avoid confusion?

  • Colin Lamont

    The UUP really does seem to have lost alot of middle class voters to Alliance in this constituency over the last 10 years. Until reading this post I didn’t realise the extent of it.

  • Gingray

    Unionists splits leading to the 2 DUP, 1 UUP, 3 Alliance

  • Msiegnaro

    The DUP have fielded a fairly undistinguished line-up in EB and they are going to have a real fight on their hands to keep hold onto their three seats here. I’ve noticed a lack of energy around the DUP campaign in this area and the cost of a seat here is a very real danger.

    The one saving grace for the DUP is the fact the Alliance have not covered themselves in glory with their current MLAs in this area. Chris Lyttle has been relatively invisible on the ground whilst I sometimes felt dealing with Judith Cochrane and her office they were not always capable of dealing effectively with the various nuances of political life. Ironically while Long is Alliances biggest asset, in this race some in the Lyttle camp consider her a liability with real fear of her swamping the vote too much.

    The UUP’s prime candidate is Andy Allen who seems popular with grassroot’s members and should easily capture a seat with McGimpsey acting as a sweeper although I’ve been advised that he is not expected to poll well.

    Of the other parties the TUV may put up a reasonable challenge and this could cost the DUP a seat but the Green party offer the real prospect of an upset and I expect them to be biting on the heels of Alliance.

  • Msiegnaro

    A couple of points, most non Unionists shored in behind Long as did many UUP and Green voters, this will not happen this time around.

    Also Long’s running mates are average at best in terms of ability and Long could well swamp their vote.

  • Gingray

    Greens have been very very active, which surprised me, first to the door

  • Msiegnaro

    During the Westminster election they found that when canvassing a lot of their voters openly advised that they were voting for Long as they felt it was a two horse race. If this is true and they can get those voters back then it gets very interesting. EB is a little stale at the moment with the current flock so a change here will do no harm.

  • Ryan A

    Why would they not row in behind Long this time? If the moderates came out enmasse to back Naomi last time I don’t think they’ll disappear in the space of a year. The stance on social issues if it goes against the DUP anywhere will likely stack against them in what is a fairly liberal urban seat. Worth noting Ross Browns vote between 2014 and 2015 doesn’t vary that much and the figures would suggest the UUP vote backed Robinson or stayed at home.

  • Gingray

    At 13%, too few Catholics to allow for a competitive nationalist candidate, so the Greens are the next best thing 😉

  • Gingray

    Maybe not first preferences, but the second prefs of say the two nationalist parties (about 5%) will go Alliance or Green.

    Ultimately it will come down to how well Unionists transfer to DUP/UUP, if it goes poorly, then by having fewer candidates, Alliance and/or Greens could benefit. Would not be surprised if Brown snuck it with Alliance transfers.

  • Msiegnaro

    There was some uneasiness in that election that the DUP didn’t capture a wholehearted UUP vote, in the other three pact constituencies they two parties worked very closely together – this was missing in EB.

  • Msiegnaro

    Some of the candidates are quite poor, Hutton stands out as quite a weak link and on her FB profile she is still down as being employed by the UUP.

  • Granni Trixie

    For the record you make statements/assertions about APNI which are factually inaccurate. But having been here before in other posts I don’t see the point in going over old ground other than to reiterate that you lose whatever point through a pattern of bias.

  • Granni Trixie

    Too late – hard to tell from what we know already who are the REAL labourites from the varieties around.

  • mjh

    It could all come down to turnout.

    At the last Assembly the combined unionist plus independents transferring mainly to unionists totalled 4.7 equivalent quotas. The centre took 2.0 and nationalists 0.3. The turnout was 52%.

    At the 2014 council elections the turnout was almost the same – 50%. Lo and behold the splits were almost identical – unionist 4.6, centre 2.1 and nationalist 0.3.

    Fast forward to 2015 and the turnout leapt to 63% – and so did the centre share. Both the unionist and centre were within a whisker of 3.4 equivalent quotas, and the nationalists 0.2.

    So, assuming the UUP take one (which is not guaranteed) whether the DUP or Alliance get three probably simply comes down to the old fashioned question of who can get the vote out.

  • Ryan A

    That’s true, but as it’s an STV election I’d imagine a chunk of that UUP vote feels closer to Alliance than DUP, perhaps now so more than ever.

  • Msiegnaro

    To an extent on some social issues I think you’re completely right. On cultural. religious and constitutional ssues the UUP voters will be closer to the DUP.

  • Ryan A

    And those cultural, religious and constitutional votes are likely already counted in the Robinson 19k from last year.

  • Msiegnaro

    They should but such is the venom between these two that many UUP supporters abstained but this is also true of TUV.

  • the keep

    For what it is worth I am tipping 3 Dup and 3 Alliance the UUP have picked candidates that will struggle in leafy East Belfast which leaves it open to the Alliance party

  • Ryan A

    I doubt it – Combined East Belfast Unionist Vote at the last few cycles:
    2011 Assembly – 21,364
    2014 LG – 20,496
    2015 W – 19,575

    Robinson’s vote was Unionism acting at full capacity. East Belfast is an on average older constituency, those dying off more likely protestant and those that move in more likely to be catholic, neither or foreign national, which might explain the decline in the vote.

  • Lee

    Yes it also has her down as the Labour NI candidate on the wikepedia page.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Just to say that my 8% figure for the PUP vote in 2014 may slightly underestimate their support. I suspect that their support in Lisnasharragh and Titanic DEAs is concentrated more in the East Belfast than the South Belfast end in both cases (ie away from the Ravenhill Road / Rosetta / Upper Knockbreda Road.) I can’t push it above 9.5% overall, though, and while that is better than the 7.8% I have given them, it still doesn’t guarantee a seat.

  • Msiegnaro

    So the signs are bad for Unionism then in EB?

  • Lee

    decline in the Westminster vote was because many unionists couldn’t stomach voting DUP and were happy to vote for the popular Naomi in the 2 horse race.
    Now they have choice again the totals for UUP should be healthy enough, with PUP and TUV getting a respectable number too.

  • Msiegnaro

    Andy Allen looks a reasonable prospect but I agree that McGimpsey was a poor choice.

  • Lee

    Andy Allen ex serviceman who has overcame horrific injuries whilst on service to forge a knew career, is very hard to vote against. He will be highly transfer friendly from all shades of unionism and from some of the alliance vote.
    Much of east Belfast is not leafy. It is a highly varied constituency.

  • Msiegnaro

    Where do you see the seats falling in this constituency?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I think that they will be won by six politicians!

    Seriously, though, two DUP, two Alliance and one UUP are probably safe. I’m not close enough to get a feel for the sixth.

  • Lee

    I believe the PUP through DR John Kyle will take a seat. PUP vote got halved last time by Dawn Purvis standing as an independent.
    He will be decently transfer friendly I’ll have PUP to take the last seat.
    I have DUP 2, UUP 1, Alliance 2, PUP 1.

  • the keep

    If I lived in East Belfast it wouldn’t influence me at all if he was disabled or not I would vote on his record.

  • Ryan A

    As I’ve illustrated above – those numbers are all shades of Unionism combined including UKIP, TUV and PUP. The combined Unionist vote in East Belfast won’t exceed 20,000 and they will face a battle to maintain a Unionist fourth seat against a Centre onslaught.

    I expect the PUP and TUV to get a nice share also – but that will be eaten out of the DUP’s 2011 14k.

  • the keep

    “Andy Allen should easily capture a seat” why has he done something remarkable in East Belfast or have the UUP become much more popular since the last election?
    The Green party wont be close to the Alliance party at all the Alliance control firmly the leafy parts of East Belfast

  • Ryan A

    I think in the current climate, were we have all shades of Unionism trying to occupy the far right and a loyalist paramilitary linked left, yes. 8% polled in Lagan Valley for NI21 in the locals two years ago … they MIGHT have been onto something.

  • Ryan A

    A decent part of it would be Woodstock which lies in South Belfast though.

  • the keep

    I suspect you are right Ryan

  • Msiegnaro

    Andy Allen is an ex serviceman who has served his country overseas suffering horrific injuries which he has overcame resulting in him being co-opted into an MLA role. Yes for me that’s remarkable.

  • the keep

    I admire his bravery and how he has fought against his horrific injuries however I suspect he would be insulted if he thought that was why people were voting for him rather that him being able to do the job well?

  • Msiegnaro

    He is up against it as some victim’s campaigners are against him standing as a UUP representative due to his past conviction.

  • Brendan Heading

    Ironically while Long is Alliances biggest asset, in this race some in the Lyttle camp consider her a liability with real fear of her swamping the vote too much.

    The issue of a well-known, high profile candidate unintentionally crowding out less known candidates when several are on a ticket is an age-old problem that all popular political parties have. The problem is solved with careful management of the vote to ensure it is properly balanced.

    Fortunately for the Ulster Unionists, the issue is unlikely to arrive since they will at best get one candidate elected. There is no Ulster Unionist constituency association in the area worth talking about, or in any other city constituency, given that the party effectively ceded Belfast to the DUP in the 2015 Westminster election.

    There is no “Lyttle camp” or “Long camp”, this is just mischief making. The party is running one campaign in the constituency.

  • Brendan Heading

    anonymous account sympathetic to the Ulster Unionists makes stuff up and passes it off as fact. It’s kind of sad.

  • Msiegnaro

    Perhaps they were short big camps 😉

  • Granni Trixie

    For once we are on the same page! For different reasons: I have heard him talk on many topics and he is comes across as his own man and very down to earth.

  • Lee

    He has set up a charity and is obviously a man of fortitude to get where he is. He is well liked by many from differing shades. I have a feeling many unionists will have him first on the ballot who might have otherwise voted elsewhere, I also think this could have a positive knock-on effect for McGimpsey, coupled with the UUP’s modest general improvements. It would honestly not surprise me if the UUP got 2 in the east end.

  • Brendan Heading

    A couple of points, most non Unionists shored in behind Long

    The Green vote doubled and the nationalist vote fell by 1/3rd. Maybe the election results are wrong ?

  • Msiegnaro

    Everyone new to politics has to start somewhere.

  • Lee

    but I suspect a chunk of the alliance vote came from UUP voters (myself included and several friends) and Andy Allen is a highly palatable candidate

  • the keep

    It would surprise a lot of people if I where you I would get down to the bookies you would get good odds on that happening.
    Agree Andy has overcome some terrible injuries for that he deserves some serious kudos

  • the keep

    That’s a fair point but as I said in a previous post I suspect he would be annoyed if people voted for him just on the back of his injuries?

  • Lee

    the ravenhill rd side of Woodstock is in south Belfast thses days, politically if not spiritually or geographically. There are substantial unionists in there but also a lot of immigrants and also people of catholic background especially up toward Ravenhill Ave that said I know one and he is not a nationalist I guess he would vote Alliance.

  • Granni Trixie

    I completely agree that it is patronising to award someone advantage because they are disabled. That said, if someone seems to have the qualities needed to be a politician it is definitely an enhancement as far as I’m concerned. I say this because is it 1 in 4 people are disabled and would be good to see some of that perspective/experience represented. Bit like the case for more women in politics or indeed diversity.

  • Msiegnaro

    Interesting analysis Lee. I was reading on Social Media how Aileen Quinton disapproved of him, however he was strongly defended by many others.

  • Brendan Heading

    It’s very hard to call Nick as you note. The PUP campaign in general feels very low key. Kyle is well liked but I don’t get the “feel” that he really wants the seat. The party just don’t come across as hungry, and this probably reflects internal tensions, especially related to the way they selected Hutchinson in North Belfast instead of Julie-Ann Corr Johnson.

    A complication is that Kyle is one of the view PUP activists who is in a position to donate any money to the party, and if he wins the election and becomes a full time MLA he will have to take an enormous salary cut from his role as a GP. Of course, he will be able to employ a few party activists to work on his office staff.

  • Msiegnaro

    It probably was wrong to an extent, we’ll know more this time around when everyone votes for their preferred party.

  • Brendan Heading

    I was being sarcastic. The election results weren’t wrong.

  • Lee

    Im not voting him because of his injuries I am voting him because I find him an incredible individual I find his recovery and adaption astounding. I consider him a figure of inspiration. Given what he has recovered from and adjusted to he obviously has incredible personal qualities, qualities I can only dream of. Yes I want someone like that representing East Belfast up at Stormont.

  • Msiegnaro

    Are you sure?

  • Lee

    He may be ready to wind down the GP employment and step further into politics he has been moving in this direction for years. I really hope he gets elected not least for the variety

  • Ryan A

    As I’ve said, you won’t max 20k and Unionists will struggle to hold 4 seats. You’ve got a late co-optee vs Long, Established Lyttle and a well known Morrow. If anything carries that through it will be UUP momentum across NI and I don’t doubt that exists – in fact I’m expecting it to save McCune in South Belfast. In any case though, the DUP won’t have the votes to hold all three seats and I predict Alliance pick one up.

  • Msiegnaro

    True but is shows personal sacrifice and character. Not bad attributes for someone going into public office.

  • Brendan Heading

    either you’re not very bright or you’re a master of irony. Either way I’ll leave you to work it out.

  • Brendan Heading

    I see nothing at all healthy about the UVF’s political wing being present in the Assembly. Dawn Purvis resigned for good reasons.

  • Ryan A

    I’d still imagine that is the biggest chunk of PUP vote though in Lisnasharragh.

  • Lee

    lol I might get a fiver on it!
    Things do change. The UUP are seen to be improving and their moderate tones will take votes back from the Alliance and or transfer. Shocks do happen and this is the constituency that booted Robinson out for Long those years ago.

  • Msiegnaro

    Try to keep up and don’t take everything so serious 😉

  • Granni Trixie

    I make it you did not hear Nesbitt on Nolan today talking about UUP manifesto?
    He was unbelievable.

  • the keep

    If he UUP were serious about getting a second candidate elected in they wouldn’t have selected McGimpsey.

  • the keep

    Completely agree no Redline issues couldn’t name a teachers trade union who supported his education policies which was a disgrace basically somebody who didn’t have a bottom line on anything shameful really.

  • Lee

    They didn’t really cede it East Belfast if you look at the bigger picture-they got 2 Westminster MPs from a position of zero thus allowing a bigger overall profile and an impression that they are on the way back. I expect that modest recovery to continue including in east. People in East don’t consider the UUP ceded to the DUP rather took steps to ensure unionist representation. They wont be punished for that.

  • the keep

    Parties don’t get rewarded for pulling out of electoral fights just look at the DUP during the 80`s and 90`s when they choose not to run candidates against the UUP

  • Lee

    I think representation at Stormont level is much needed for working class loyalists. They have been rudderless and leaderless for too long

  • Lee

    Honestly think the situation amongst a core post flags was different. A unionist working class core wanted east Belfast to have unionist representation again no matter what, especially after some had voted Long previous as a protest vote. Rightly or wrongly they felt betrayed. I would agree with you if UUP’s decline was continuing but overall they are modestly recovering and I think this will fit in with East

  • Msiegnaro

    Not a UUP person and Alliance are not above criticism.

  • Granni Trixie

    He also highlighted that UUP wants to increase GP numbers to 110 (DUP 65 I think) by 2020 – when asked how long it would take to train them he said he didn’t know but presumed it was say 3 years! Surely it is 7? In any event the proposal is not feasible and surely you would think he would have thought of the implications of training Doctors in order to achieve the goal in the manifesto?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I see nothing at all healthy about the PIRA’s political wing being present in the Assembly. Denis Donaldson resigned for good reasons.

  • theeastbelfastman

    All this Talk about Andy Allen the man with a criminal conviction for an attack on a fellow serviceman. Andy Allen the man who is Mike Nesbitt puppet who will say and and vote the way Nesbitt says. I will be voting for Chris McGimpsey a man who has his own mind will say what is right and vote the way the people of east Belfast would like him to vote and not just what Nesbitt wants. Chris stood up in Ulster’s time of need who has articulated the Unionist position for over 40 years the world over. He has done the work on the ground and opened his own advice centre with his own money to help people with there problems and is more helpful than any of the MLA’s and I hope that it is Chris McGimpsey and not Andy Allen that is the UUP MLA for East Belfast on the 6th May.

  • submariner

    Working class loyalists do have representation at stormont. They are called the DUP and working class loyalists vote for them in their droves.

  • Brendan Heading

    The PIRA have more or less disbanded. The UVF are intact and are controlling the PUP. Denis Donaldson resigned because he was discovered to be an agent.

    Dawn Purvis resigned because when she objected to the UVF murdering civilians in broad daylight they told her to get stuffed. I wonder if the next time the UVF murder someone how many resignations from the PUP there will be.

  • Brendan Heading

    Working class loyalists are very well represented at Stormont by the party they all vote for, which is the DUP.

  • Brendan Heading

    The UUP got two rural Westminster seats, partially through a pact in which they ceded North and East Belfast to the DUP.

  • Brendan Heading

    Long’s vote went up from about 33% in 2010 to 42% in 2015 against a backdrop where the nationalist vote fell only slightly and the Greens ate into Alliance’s base. The unmistakeable conclusion is that more unionists voted for Long, not less.

    Whether they were all “working class” or not is something that nobody will truthfully know, but I think that people in working class neighbourhoods are more progressive and less fleg-oriented than some people might think.

  • Brendan Heading

    your contributions are not “criticism” they are falsehoods.

  • Kevin Breslin

    How can East Belfast be deindustrialised when it has one of the highest employment rates in Northern Ireland, the island of Ireland, heck these islands? Eighty percent or something?

    Is this the false belief that only metalworks, heavy duty manufacturing and energy production the only industries out there? Surely every job is industry whether it’s the call centre industry, the tourism industry, heck even the prostitution industry!

    Also with regards to the paradox of low school attainment but high employment I would like to make a point. Since the general attitude stroke dogma is that all an education is for is to get a job, is there anyone in East Belfast driving the demand for better education and evangelising the benefits of it?

    People are not going to be driven to get better formal education if the driving force is simply so the region saves face on constituency statistics.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well Danny Kinnehan got South Antrim despite the pact. Jo-Anne Dobson didn’t win a seat because of the pact in my opinion.

  • Msiegnaro

    Elaborate.

  • Lee

    a couple of inner easts polling stations reported exit polls showing a substantial minority voting Long. I did too at WM. But the point I’m making is that some of the WM Alliance votes natural home is UUP, and they now have a choice to return there. Preferences should be favourable to both. But I remain with my prediction in East Bel of 2 DUP,1 UUP, 1 PUP, 2 alliance

  • Brendan Heading

    The perception among some working class loyalists that they were betrayed and let down was not sufficient to secure the seat for Unionism – they had to form a five-party pact to stop Naomi Long after her popularity soared following the flag protests.

    Of course, some would say that this was the DUP strategy working exactly as it was intended to, although the result came far closer at the end than it needed to. Had Greens and nationalists voted strategically for Long, she’d have kept the seat.

  • Lee

    The NI Conservatives appear to be putting the effort in since they reorganised. They have loads of posters up of candidate Neil Wilson who was out and about other day in BallyHack with Teresa Villers. They got over 1200 votes at the Westminsters, if they can repeat this and get transfers they will have a decent showing to build upon. Will still likely fall short

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