#ProjectFear: DUP profiting from projected danger of a false political prophesy?

Last week Sam McBride pointed to an important underlying truth of this Assembly election campaign. Whilst Arlene Foster may get political money out of using her main partner in government at OFMdFM as some latter-day Guy Fawkes scare figure, there’s very little danger of it happening.

At first glance, the gap may seem much closer than it actually is. Indeed, over two or three elections it’s possible to conceive that the crude mechanism of making the leader of the largest single party symbolic First Minister could see unionism overhauled.

This works better if you assume that the two smaller parties carry no weight in future elections.  A far stronger bet for a strategic target on Thursday is the uptick of just one seat for Sinn Fein so that they can have their own powerful veto in the Assembly and be able to table their petitions of concern.

Sam notes:

…any party with 30 MLAs also represents a majority within unionism and nationalism respectively, that means that in effect any party able to single-handedly table a petition of concern can effectively veto any Assembly business of which it disapproves.

In 2011, Sinn Fein fell just one short of that number and therefore could only table petitions of concern where it could persuade at least one other MLA – generally from the SDLP – to sign the document.

That meant, for instance, that although Sinn Fein has a veto at the Executive table the party found itself powerless to block legislation – including Jim Allister’s Special Advisers Bill and John McCallister’s Opposition Bill – emanating from the Assembly itself.

As a one-off, the SpAd Bill was an exceptional measure which snuck through the administration’s net (where both OFMdFM parties already have fabulous curative powers). Winning 30 seats would mean Sinn Fein could wield the knife as comprehensively as the DUP currently does.

But even here there’s a problem. No one doubts that in the internal unionist race the DUP will lose seats: thus, the plausibility of the ‘keep Martin out’ campaign. But the stasis in Nationalism means it won’t be easy for SF even to pick up that extra seat never mind overhaul the DUP.

The UUP would have an unfeasibly large amount of ground to cover in order to cut the DUP down to a dangerously low level of 30 seats, at a time when the most optimistic projections have them barely breaking 20 seats.

As Chris notes, the Nationalist vote share is currently getting squeezed (there are places where a nationalist quota at council level seems not to materialise in the Assembly and vice versa, suggesting the vote is only holding together on the basis of personality).

Within that scenario, Sinn Fein too is at about the zenith of its own growth point (or within this long phase anyhow), so that some drop back in their seat position is also to be expected.

Somehow the scenario of Martin as First Minister doesn’t seem quite so real and as present a danger as it’s so regularly projected by the DUP and within the discourse of the wider media.

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  • ted hagan

    It’s hardly a huge deal. Ring up the party, concerned, or confront the candidate concerned. I think you are over egging the pudding here.

  • Skibo

    Hardly doomed. You will simply be paying your taxes in euro instead of sterling. Your rights will be the same.

  • Skibo

    I believe SF has already muted to this. The public sector has to be reduced and the private sector enlarged. These steps alone will make the reunification more feasible especially if the south can keep the celtic tiger on the rise.

  • ted hagan

    I have a feeling that there’s a deep-seated cry, from the depths of the soul of the Northern Ireland people, that it’s time to grow up and mature little, and that this will be reflected, at long last, in our politicians,

  • Tochais Siorai

    Methinks the Grim Reaper is shredding the Scot No vote a good bit quicker than the Unionist vote in NI.

  • Gopher

    Lets look at the record, signs off on a Budget then U turns because Gerry needs him too. This costs NI millions. Then because PBP get Gerry Carroll elected in West Belfast he runs scared before the general election and cant make a deal. He backs Labour and the Conservatives win. He then proceeds to take the North to near bankruptcy fighting against the treasury until finally accepting nothing that could not have been agreed earlier in Fresh Start.

    I’ll avoid mentioning all the times poor Marty had to expend all the political capital he built up post agreement to defend his glorious Leader. I find it tragic that he wasted his political career in such a manner instead of becoming his own man.

  • Skibo

    That’s simple Msiegnaro, there won’t be any. In the days that it is, of mobile phones, facebook and snapchat, there will be no space for anyone to act in a sectarian way. Publicity will be the end of it, that and the fact that we as a people have grown up.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well, if you’re not a Roman Catholic then my point that you said was pointless on account of you being a ‘Catholic’ is no longer pointless then, is it?
    What was pointless was saying “I’m a Catholic”.

  • Skibo

    I do not see the analogy there. The Native Americans were the ones put off their lands, not the ones who inhabited the lands after it was cleansed of the natives.
    Let bygones be bygones and share this island as equals.

  • mac tire

    He did say catholic (small c) – but careful, AG, you are being pulled down a particular road.

  • Skibo

    Schmitty, spoiling your ballot is a cop-out. If you do not think there is a party to represent you then stand as an independent. If you get enough votes, you will have shown that there is a quorum for your political beliefs. If you do not then you have to accept you are only a voice crying in the wilderness.

  • Skibo

    I agree. The ability to vote has been hard earned. Perhaps if it was harder to vote, more would vote!

  • Skibo

    Are COI not also Catholic, just not affiliated with Rome

  • Gopher

    Right so Henry and Donald don’t need Jim on their posters. Henry I’ve actually heard of and seems to have a bit of personality, Donald I have not and he might need all the help he can get.

    Anyway I don’t underestimate the power of Leadership on the electorate. For example I can understand the decency of letting Ford to continue for Alliance but I think this was a wasted opportunity not to put the more combative and news worthy Long at the helm for this election. I think Alliance missed a trick there.

  • mac tire

    Honestly, I have absolutely no idea. I’m not into all the religious schisms etc.
    I’m merely pointing out that I have seen this game played before. “But I am catholic just not Catholic.” “How can you be a Catholic?” “Ah, but I’m not a ROMAN Catholic.”
    And then you go down the old well trodden road of gobbledygook from a few hundred years ago.
    What I am sure of, however, is that it is childish, tiring and well past its sell by date..

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Don’t ever accuse me of having a soul again!

  • WindsorRocker

    There are more than the DUP have used PoC’s in a way they weren’t designed for. Welfare reform was another example where a PoC was wielded and bills were withdrawn.
    Parties will use PoC’s as they are there and especially the DUP are in the position where to NOT use it will leave them vulnerable to criticism from opportunists who are competing for the same electoral space. Can you imagine if the DUP refrained from using a PoC for a SSM vote, Jim Allister and the like would throw it back in their faces that they could have stopped it but chose not to.
    We need legislation to prevent PoC’s being used for “non sectarian” matters but will everyone agree to that. Will SF agree to that? Will the SDLP agree to that? This isn’t just about the DUP.

  • Schmitty

    “Spoiling your ballot is a copy out” – yes it most certainly is! But sitting at home more so.

    What I’m suggesting though is that if one feels no party can represent them then send that message.

    Not everyone has the resources to stand themselves but I do believe that everyone has the ability (and dare I say duty) to saunter round to their polling station and make some form of statement.

  • Skibo

    Here is the problem, we all could have our own idea about what a political party should be so just how many parties should we have?
    There are plenty of hustings and you can raise the issues that mean most to you then.

  • Msiegnaro

    Couldn’t agree more, I don’t think Crawford has a remote chance, however his posters are vastly superior to the DUPs.

  • cu chulainn

    Unfortunately, SF are busy promoting more public expenditure and more tax on the private sector in the 26 counties and so cannot easily square advocating the necessary normalisation of public expenditure in NI. However London might do some of this normalisation of public expenditure for them.

    The ROI economy is again the fastest growing in Europe, but if it moves further above UK levels it then becomes impossible for NI to catch up. This may increase interest in a UI, when people notice, but doesn’t help the practical issues,

  • cu chulainn

    Does your million British people include the British people in the Republic, they don’t seem to cause much trouble? Those in the 6 counties would only be about one seventh of the population,and a voluntary programme could offer some help for these to go and actually live in the place they identify with.

  • Skibo

    CC you are not comparing apples and apples. The economies of the two states in Ireland are run differently.
    Unfortunately we do not have the power over setting tax levels to allow the levels of taxation to be adjusted and raise more tax.
    Changes in taxation does not mean more tax paid by everyone but can be prioritised to those who can afford, pay more.
    The growth in ROI economy has two issues. As the economy grows, so two will the belief in the reunification of the two economies and second as you say, the expanse between the two economies will make it more difficult to merge.
    This is the reason that SF must push the economy to increase the private percentage of the northern economy.
    At the same time they need to nurture the third level education to ensure the graduates are there when required.
    The Education Minister needs to push through the legislation to allow finances to be directed where the need is most. To me this will be raising the level of the lowest performers.
    To prioritise the higher performers will do little to raise the overall average while increasing the lower level will show faster returns. It is a sign of failure that we trumpet the fact that we have the best performing students in the UK and at the same time 70% of boys from the lowest level of society leave school with less than 5 CGSEs.

  • Skibo

    Agreed some old same old. Referring to labels rather than people.

  • Backbencher

    Not quite sure what you mean by ‘time to grow up and mature’, but I suspect the electorate will elect, by and large, the same parties in the same numbers as the last time. Don’t confuse the ‘noise’ made by activists as reflective of the general population.

  • Skibo

    At some stage Nevin we have to leave the past in the past and accept people for what they are prepared to do now.

  • Skibo

    I would not tar Ann Travers with emotional blackmail, I lay it at the feet of Jim Alistair who used her for political assassination. I note the DUP were quite happy to allow the bill to be introduced to prevent people with criminal records not to have posts but when the vote came to reduce the number and wages of SPADs the DUP were not prepared to back it. It seems sticking it to Republican prisoners was more important than reducing the bill.

  • Declan Doyle

    Sinn Fein along with others on the left are promoting a plan to alleviate the crises in Health, Housing and Homelessness. Whatever way you look at it, a state cannot function without taxation. SF are asking for modest increases in taxation affecting the rich and for multinational corporations to pay their actual share of corporation tax as required under the law. Nothing more.

  • Pasty2012

    The DUP have to pick some issue that they can and know will be the likely outcome as the old Vote DUP and we will get the Orange Order up this or that Road can be seen as total rubbish and the UUP would have a field day with their broken election promises on those issues. Claiming the DUP minister is somehow “First” and has more power than the Deputy First is easily feed to the foot soldiers and one that the likes of the TUV are pointing out is totally meaningless in truth.
    The issue isn’t really about the Joint Position in the First and Deputy First Ministers Office between DUP and Sinn Fein it is more about who in Unionism will be sitting in the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers Office. Remember neither can make a decision without the other signing off on it and so therefore Arlene cannot make a move without permission for Martin anyway!!!!

  • Skibo

    So its ok to have a peace process as long as those who took part on the Republican movement hide away and not seen in public. They have as much ownership of the peace process as anyone else.

  • Thomas Barber

    Nevin if the bill had of been universal then it might have been morally justifiable. There is no bar from being Spads for the likes of Jim Fisher and Mark Wright two British soldiers convicted for the murder of Peter McBride in fact it would not bar UDR member Susan Christie, convicted of the murder of Penny McAllister the wife of a British soldier either. They all served less than five years. The aforementioned people were not only re-instated back into the British army they were promoted.

  • Schmitty

    Just to clarify – I will be voting on Thursday.

    And I agree with you that we have a duty to vote and it is well earned.

    What I am saying is that of those 45% who choose not to vote that figure includes both the apathetic and those who believe that no party represents them, like murdockp. If the latter group spoil their vote then we would have a quantitative value with which to gauge disillusionment.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m all for any ex prisoner getting a opportunities to make a fresh start – but to be privileged as in present case is absurd. Also no one is supposed to benefit from their crimes (ask Hazel Stewart who is now having t pay back her RUC pension for this reason).

  • Skibo

    As long as those opportunities don’t bring them into the public eye.
    I think there is a big difference in Hazel Stewart gaining from a pension for her husband whom she was found guilty of assisting in his death.
    Should the minister not have a certain amount of scope for choosing their SPAD?

  • Sharpie

    Are you insinuating that the context is not an Island-based one going back through history. No matter which period of history you examine it starts and finishes with an island. An island that throughout the ages has been visited by friend and foe.

    In reading between the lines you are making a case for a “These Islands” context which is indeed important but is likely to be a secondary reality to “this island”. Time will play that out. Who knows what one hundred years will bring, given what has changed in the past 100 with the transformation of the Empire and the rise of democracy and globalisation. The one thing that will be true in 100 years is that it will still be a “this island” context -when all the man made stuff that occupies political movements has evolved to something else entirely.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It does include them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This island is apolitical term, I think you will find it’s a geophysical term actually.

  • Msiegnaro

    Care to qualify your comments or are you simply a one word poster?

  • Sharpie

    Yes, you are making monkeys of people who are trying to converse with you. Something akin to:

    When Ireland is united I will never visit England as the Queen will put all Irish people in the Tower and behead them. This is the only logical thing that can happen as she will be annoyed because the irish people left the UK. It is clear that this is what will happen. People with Irish accents will be beaten up on the streets and Brendan Rogers will never be able to manage a club in England again. The ferries to UK will have to stop because Irish cars will have stones thrown at them in Liverpool and Holyhead. All the Irish students at universities in England will have to come home and be subsistence farmers or priests because there will be no work because English companies will not buy anything from Irish companies.

    Actually – this is a revelation – it’s so much fun imagining how bad it could be. Thanks Msiegnaro.

  • Msiegnaro

    Evidently the real troll has emerged. A UI is a very real fear for Unionists and as Arlene Foster recently pointed out a SF FM is a terrifying prospect, how much worse would it be if they were in control of all of Ireland?

  • Sharpie

    Keep perspective – you could be in Homs or Aleppo and then have a real reason to fear the future.

  • Msiegnaro

    I love NI and I love living here, I’m just saddened that due to demographic changes things are going to change irreversibly for the worst and it will mean an end to my way of life.

  • Other

    A mass ballot spoiling would be a talking point and would create a debate outside this forum. Not voting is a lazy acceptance of the staus quo. The fact that people dont feel represented by the big 5 just proves that we need a wider debate and review of the alternative parties not a call for independents.

  • cu chulainn

    I think the integrity of SFs interest in the homeless can be seen in their voting on Dublin CIty council for a reduction in property tax, thereby denying the council the funds to build homes and facilities like playgrounds etc.

  • cu chulainn

    UU was reported to be cutting the school of modern languages at its Coleraine campus and cut maths degrees. This is not the direction of a modern economy. The ROI government cut in the recent recession, but managed to increase the number of third level graduates, albeit at the expense of those who teach them.

  • Skibo

    That shows a severe short sightedness. I agree with Alliance that third level education need it expand but I do wonder if Alliance was not the minister for the relevant department would they be shouting so loudly.
    I am a bit miffed at Stephen Farry’s push to close St Marys College in favour of Stranmillis when St Marys is streets ahead in the tables.

  • Declan Doyle

    Actually you are wrong there. The government gave councils the power to reduce property tax with no consequences i terms of funding available for housing initiatives. The money saved by hard pressed families went straight back into their local communities lifting local business and creating jobs.

  • cu chulainn

    Really? What aspects of council expenditure where cut then and who did they benefit? Were any jobs lost because the council spent less?

  • Declan Doyle

    Well it is your claim therefore surely it is u to you to provide the details?

  • cu chulainn

    I contend that no genuine “left” party would cut services to facilitate tax cuts. The details are neither here nor there.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well in fact they are. The reduction in the family home tax as Sinn fein calls it put cash back into the hands of the very families who were struggling due to USC, Water Charges, Huge mortgages, negative equity etc. etc. That for many people might be seen as true left ambition realised.

  • cu chulainn

    All tax cuts put money back into people’s hands, it is just that there is then no money for services. The people who own houses are relatively privileged compared to the homeless, who have to spend their days in the parks whose expenditure has been cut by SF policies.

  • Declan Doyle

    SF policies envisage an increase in spending for homelessness through progressive taxation, not taking money off struggling families who are facing eviction because they can barely raise their mortgage payments never mind pay a property tax on top.

  • cu chulainn

    SF cut services to facilitate tax cuts for their electorate, just like the so called right wing parties, all for property taxes that are half what they charge in the 6 counties where they do not seem to be driving reductions.

  • Declan Doyle

    Rates charges in the North are set in England and have been in place long before Sinn fein ever entered government there, a government which has no revenue raising powers similar to Dublin. The two are not comparable as Stormont is restricted by an outside force (London) unlike the Dublin government which has full control over the states finances. You have fallen into a disengenuous trap accepting the right wing narrative on North South comparisons. Cutting unfair and crippling taxes on those who are struggling and imposed by the right wing parties in the state is the right thing to do.

  • cu chulainn

    Rates are entirely with the remit of Stormont. The amount of rates is determined by local councils, if SF are willing to see services cut as they have in Dublin City, then rates can be cut.

    SF is the only “left” party in Europe opposed to taxes on property.

  • Declan Doyle

    SF is not opposed to taxes on property, it is opposed to tax on the family home.