#SluggerReport: #AE16 is likely to be transitional rather a transformational election…

It’s been my view from the very start of this election campaign that it would be of very little consequence. The stop-start first nine years of Stormont have been little more than a throat-clearing exercise which its proudest boast is that it didn’t fall down.

In preparing my constituency report on East Londonderry, one of the UUP candidates Aaron Callan suggested that whilst this election would not be transformational, it would prove to be transitional.

Indeed whilst tribal politics is not likely to be eclipsed any time soon, there are signs that just showing up with the now proverbial #fleg at your back is no longer be enough to win seats or pull in votes.

And yet there’s still very little political money to be earned in policy alone. In part, that’s because of the solid state nature of the power-sharing settlement. If everyone’s in then everyone can claim a big chunk of the benefit, even if it was delivered by a rival minister.

But also identity still remains key. Yet all parties now know that they must roll up their sleeves and at least give the impression they can do the policy stuff, even if they can’t yet . The conversion process is inelegant and excruciating and will probably cost in a further lowering of turnout levels.

But, as I argue in the Report above, there is no future for any serious NI political party without taking policy a lot more seriously than any point heretofore.

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  • chrisjones2

    Forgive me but WHAT campaign

  • Lee

    it will be interesting see whether, despite the demographic tide, 1. will nationalist parties in particular lose votes and seats to those who designate ‘other’. Also 2. whether any proof is heightened of unionism running out of demographic road. Bit early for the latter perhaps, give it a couple of election cycles yet.
    Isn’t it funny how we are asking the first question in the year of 2016 when Catholics will outnumber Protestants in NI for the first time? And despite the SF brouhaha over the 1916 rising.

  • Brendan Heading

    I think a lot of people will be very disappointed, especially those predicting that the board will be swept over issues such as marriage equality and abortion rights. We’re still quite some way away from having maturity in political debate here. Another term of deadlock and non-delivery in the Assembly with ever-squeezing budgets from London will probably be what it takes to really focus minds.

  • Lee

    I don’t think anyone is saying the board will be swept, hence the use of the word transitional, but it could be the first evidence of issue led politics, or left/right politics, if PBP and the Greens can take a seat or two.

  • Pasty2012

    Clearly the Unionist politicians have turned their thoughts to the Demographics with the call for a one party state for Unionists. Nott being the First Minister in an office that can do nothing without the approval of the Deputy First Minister is the reason for the Unionists to circle their wagons. Nationalists on the other hand stating that should they be the largest party they will make the office and the two top posts equal in name as well as the current situation of being equal in power. Sinn Fein have stated they will change the name to the Office of the First Ministers. Equality only comes to the North when Nationalists are in the majority and able to force Equality through – somewhat ironic that isn’t it.

  • I’d agree – my earlier piece might have given the impression otherwise but it was more about the standard and nature of the campaigns, which are attempting to hold candidates to account on individual issues, than a realistic hope that there will be major shocks (as much as I’d like it to be the case!).

  • Acrobat_747

    It is interesting insofar as the raison d’etre of most political parties in NI is disappearing fast leaving them struggling to reinvent themselves.

    This campaign is notable as it contained so little orange or green politics. It’s all about bread and butter politics, or at least our yet infantile version of bread and butter politics.

    2021 will be all about who will be like a normal political party. I think SF and the DUP (and hopefully the UUP/SDLP/ALL) will appear unrecognisable by then.

  • Winston Duff

    total nationalist vote has consistently fallen back from 42% average to 38% average.

  • Gopher

    In the vein there are no stupid questions could someone enlighten me to the mechanics of a petition of concern for the group “Others” if they reach the magic number of 30 MLA’s? Could it be a viable play and opposition for the UUP and SDLP to redesignate post election?

  • Ryan A

    Yep – and a few independents. The ‘naughty corner’ has probably driven more transformation legislation of note than any policy that’s come out of the executive. It’d be sad to see it disappear.

  • Ryan A

    As far as I’m aware they can sign one, but when it comes to the actual vote they effectively don’t count as its only Nationalists / Unionists that matter, sadly. Hence the centre wants to end designation, bin the POC and bring in weighted majority votes.

  • Gopher

    It’s ludicrous “Others” don’t get a petition if the other designations do. That is in urgent need of reform. Hypothetically as it stands what would be the benefits of the UUP and SDLP redesignating? Any downsides?

  • hugh mccloy

    Every mandate so far was touted as transitional, I dont think the parties have it in them to change.

  • Nevin

    “.. this election would not be transformational, it would prove to be transitional. Indeed whilst tribal politics is not likely to be eclipsed any time soon ..”

    Up here on the North Coast, in McQuillan Country, I’ve received literature from the DUP, UUP and TUV but, this time, nothing from SF, SDLP, Alliance and the Greens. Does this mark a small transition to more tribal politics?

    These three unionist parties are each using vote management but have a different approach to voting down the list. The DUP has adopted a we ourselves stance, “A vote for anyone other than your DUP candidate would divide and weaken the pro Union vote ..”; the UUP is less blunt, it seeks to ‘maximise Ulster Unionist representation’; and the TUV is more generous in recommending voters to give ‘further preferences to other Unionist candidates’. The generosity probably doesn’t extend to the ‘Don’t be DUPed’ party!

  • Brendan Heading

    I accept that nobody is saying that, but I don’t see where this “transition” will go. These parties are competing largely inside the parameters that the Alliance Party has already pushed to their maximum extent. Let’s say the Greens take East and South Belfast and hold North Down. Where then ? I just don’t think they have the staying power, and their supporters will get disillusioned, having bought into unrealistic ideas of the kinds of compromises that are required to secure incremental progress.

  • Granni Trixie

    I tended to give my second preference to GP But will definately
    not do so in this election, The reason is not because I do not agree with their black and white analysis and policy on abortion (which I don’t) but because of how they are dealing with it. It suggests that they do not value compromise and diversity, values dear to my heart.

    I also think that by regarding their policy to support the adoption of 67 ACT in Ni as something which will make them popular with voters (for Clare Bailey in particular) shows they are not good at understanding the electorate. It’s one thing to take a principled stand whatever the cost but in thIs case they seem to think their stance will gain them support. It all adds up to they don’t know what they are about.

  • Lee

    Abortion is one issue amongst many though. Steven Agnew is seen as a half decent opposition left of centre type figure who comes across as competent, and against the backdrop of sectarian carve up and austerity they are seen as a realistic alternative or protest where your vote can actually count.
    I don’t intend to vote Green either btw, but I can see how a vote for them fits with the times.

  • Lee

    But protestants are highly over represented in the over 60′, 70, 80s age group, and this age group votes the most. Over the next 5-20 years this core chunk of the unionist vote downsizes massively, while those plentiful young+middle aged Catholics move into older vote-engaged categories. All this will be a big factor in altering the potential percentages.
    Or we could be far down the road of left/right or issue led politics, undermining the tribal bloc vote. There are lots of permeations and its hard to predict. But the unionist vote is soon to be demographically squeezed.

  • Newman

    Think you are getting at an issue about which few are aware. Greens don’t do compromise nor do they have any concept of conscience which queries the party line. Their world view is an entirely alternative one and when pressed it has almost a totalitarian feel.

  • Granni Trixie

    Indeed he comes across like a real nice guy. The picture alters however once you filter in that this election reveals that he leads a party which does not allow for various opinions in a matter of conscience s uch as abortion.I simply cannot believe that activists and other who support the greens all believe in abortion on demand which is what their policy amounts to.
    I would go so far as to say that it looks like (from the outside) that a cohort of single issue activists have taken over the Green agenda – which is likely to come at a cost.

  • Lee

    Well its interesting what you say I don’t really feel I can agree or disagree. I would say though that most members of a party don’t agree with every policy of a party. For example Labour in GB I wouldn’t say everyone in that party is pro-choice but may be exercised by their other policies.
    I do find that the further left one goes the scope for dissent or questioning gets tighter, as Newman alludes to. But I can see why they are growing.