Unionist co-operation still in play?

Is the Doc is making a play to take the former UUP stronghold for the DUP’s Arlene Foster from Michelle Gildernew, in return for a freeish ride for UUP’s Michael McGimpsey in South Belfast? Whatever the gameplan, his prediction of a 9 to 2 sweep looks ominous for his UUP rivals. East and South Antrim look highly vulnerable. So is the other one Upper Bann, North Down, or South Belfast?

45 thoughts on “Unionist co-operation still in play?”

  1. The figure of 9-2 suggest no Unionist gain which confirms my suspicion that Michelle Gildernew will hold Fermanagh/South Tyrone with or without an agreed Unionist candidate. If I was in either Unionist party I’d be desperate to get the other party to commit to a losing battle in F/ST and gain the safe seat for a united Unionist candidate that is available in South Belfast.

  2. FST is a safe seat with a sole unionist candidate. Look at coopers results last time and that was with another unionist. As long as the SDLP stand once again unionists should be confident of a sucess here and to recieve the best possible result Tom Elliot should be the sole candidate.

  3. FYU a sole unionist candidate will bring many SDLP voters to vote Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein will retain this seat come what will.

  4. J Kelly,
    For the SDLP vote to slump low enough to allow SF to beat a united unionist candidate it would take the SDLP to get only approx 3000 votes. (on the basis of the 2001 figures)

    Their vote would probably fall in the face of a single candidate but it would not drop to those levels.

  5. It’s going to be like this until mid May now, isn’t it?

    (Note to self: must increase alcohol consumption ’til it’s all over and we emerge blinking into the half light of a new Parliament before realising that sweet FA has changed)

  6. That is to say that all unionist will vote for the agreed candidate would Arlene Foster vote for James Cooper or vice versa. I dont think so. Sinn Fein would need 4000 SDLP votes to secure the seat in front of an agreed candidate. It was done in Mid Ulster to defeat Box car Willie. The SDLP are almost dead and gone in Fermanagh as it is anyway.

  7. J Kelly,
    The defeat of ‘boxcar Willie’ as you call him was aided somewhat by the redrawing of the Parliamentary boundaries which meant the constituency is a much stronger nationalist constituency than that of Fermanagh South Tyrone. (Mid Ulster being probably around 35% Protestant to Fermanagh South Tyrone being probably around 45%+ Protestant – and before anyone says it, Protestant doesnt = unionist, but it certainly isnt a bad guide).

    On to F&ST. If there was an candidate agreed by and supported by both Parties then there probably would be a few people who wouldnt vote for them – UUP supporters who just cant bring themselves to vote for DUP and vice versa. However it would be nowhere near the levels of 2001 where 6000+ people didnt vote for Cooper. If there was a second candidate in the field, for example Jim Dixon again, I would say the absolute maximum number of votes he would get would be somewhere around the 1000 mark.

    However, if Dixon (or other candidate) only got a few hundred votes then it keeps upping the pressure on SF to eat into the core SDLP vote. Michelle Gildernew isnt a Martin McGuinness candidate who will have wowed the people of Fermanagh South Tyrone with her negotiation skills or even her high profile over the last few years. The SDLP done have a towering collossus to fight her with either, but I still remain to be convinced that their vote will somehow collapse by 50% in this election – its hardly as if Sinn Fein have been cast in the most flattering of lights recently.

  8. Fermanagh/S.Tyrone will return to the Unionist fold.The last election in 2001 made the west look like a nationalist fiefdom. There is plenty going on to ensure one Unionist candidate. I doubt SF can hold on there. In W.Tyrone an independent could well win. It is vitally important that SF are beat wherever possible.

    In Newry/ Armagh the SDLP could well hold on.Given recent events the SF vote will be down to its core. Its vote will be well down from the 26% it got in the Euro election.

    9 DUP seats sounds about right I would add Fermanagh to that. A deal will be done and MCGimpsy will be given a free run in S.Belfast even though he is a renegade Unionist.

    May 5th will be a glorious day for Ulster. The Papists will have little to celebrate that day. The Pope will have to return to the drawing board and think up another evil plan to conquer the Ulster Nation.

    The result could well be 10DUP,2UUP,3SDLP,2SF and one Unionist backed independent.

    Oh what a happy result that will be. The Union secured forever.

    God Save The Queen.

  9. All this talk of a DUP-UUP pact for F/ST is intriguing, but does anybody think there is a chance of a Sinn Fein-SDLP pact in an effort to stop the likely gain of the seat by an agreed unionist candidate?

    Admittedly, Sinn Fein are once agin very much in the bad books, and the SDLP may find it hard to co-operate with Sinn Fein given recent events, but surely, as a nationalist party, they will not want to see overall nationalist representation diminish at Westminster?

    Theoretically (although pie-in-the-skyly) speaking, SDLP should withdraw from F/ST in exchange for a free run at South Belfast.

  10. IJP
    Whatever, the answer to the question is Upper Bann.

    I agree the question is as always Upper Bann. All political careers end in failure so better to jump I would have thought.

    I think we are looking at a post election political landscape where the SDLP and UUP are in terminal decline. It is not just a question of how many Westminster seats they hold but equally how many council seats they loose. Despite recent events I can not see the SF vote declining and I see no reason to expect a resurgence of the UUP or SDLP. Also the DUP are going to have a very good election, All very depressing but that is Northern Ireland.

    SF may loose a seat to an Independent and to the DUP in Fermanagh & S Tyrone but they will gain Newry and South Armagh and are well positioned in S Down and Foyle though I expect the SDLP to hold those seats. Overall their underlying position will be stronger.

    The news post this election will be the SDLP and UUP as the big losers.

  11. I think the UUP will have some serious discussions post election about their future. The DUP will win up to ten seats. The UUP will be left with two. I doubt very much that the SDLP under any circumstanes could win S.Belfast.There vote there does not tally with a win. The Unionist turnout there will be well up anyway.

    Newry/Armagh is not a cert for SF. There is still 16000 Unionists there, a lot of whom will vote tactically to keep SF out.

    The SDLP will probably stay about evens. They will improve on their hapless European election result.

    God Save The Queen.

  12. The SDLP existence in FST is safe as long as they can keep Tommy Gallagher, he is relatively popular among nationalists here and in the last westminister here recieved over 35% of the overall nationalist votes here, I seriously doubt if his result is going to decrease significantly, maybe by 1-2 thousand at most.

  13. What are the chances of an agreed Nationalist candidate in South Belfast, Big Alisdair is damaged by his recent amnesia,
    The SDLp can in no way let Feeney have a free run against Pat Doc unless a deal has already been done for him to join the SDLP after the election, either wat it would be folly as the only catchment area for Deeney is around Omagh and th e Strabane nationalist/republican commmunity who use Derry Hospital would not vote for him
    my prediction DUP/UUP pact in SB & FST but Gildernew to hold, Mc Gimpsey to win easily, and Pat Doc to ccanter home. Foyle and South Down still too close to call

  14. Deeney has just over 6000 votes and SF 19000 about 40% of the vote. He has no hope of winning unless all other parties stood aside in which case SF loose.

    In Foyle there are only a few thousand votes in it and much depends on where McCann’s vote goes assuming he is not standing. I think on a good day SF will take but difficult to know after recent events.

    South Down McCrady will be hard to shift I don’t think SF will take that seat.

    Newry and South Armagh will be a SF gain.

  15. I would predict the following (D=definite, L=likely, C=really too close/early to call):

    Antrim, East – DUP gain D
    Antrim, North – DUP hold D
    Antrim, South – DUP gain D
    Belfast East – DUP hold D
    Belfast North – DUP hold D
    Belfast South – UU hold C
    Belfast West – SF hold D
    Down, North – UU hold L
    Down, South – SDLP hold L
    Fermanagh & South Tyrone – SF hold L
    Foyle – SDLP hold C
    Lagan Valley – DUP (technical) gain D
    Londonderry, East – DUP hold D
    Newry & Armagh – SF gain D
    Strangford – DUP hold D
    Tyrone, West – SF hold D
    Ulster, Mid – SF hold D
    Upper Bann – DUP gain L

    DUP 9 (D 8, L 1)
    SF 5 (D 4, L 1)
    UU 2 (L 1, C 1)
    SDLP 2 (L 1, C 1)

    I wouldn’t suggest anyone listen to me on such matters, but those tallies do coincide with the DUP’s suggestions, and note that the most vulnerable seats are all UU/SDLP, so wipeout is still not out of the question.

    (And why do they not just call Strangford ‘East Down’…?)

  16. IJP

    Your predictions mirror my own so it looks like we’ll be together in N Whyte’s prediction comp this year!

  17. IJP

    Not too much to argue about with your predictions, but hope you don’t get them all right. It wouldn’t be my wish list!

    I notice you use the abbreviation UU to denote the Ulster Unionist Party. I assume that Jeffrey and Arlene took the P when they defected ;-)!

  18. IJP Thank you thank you thank you I need not follow the election at all now. A seat either way and I don’t care. Maybe I’ll get some gardening done.

  19. Ted

    A very good spot!

    I use ‘UU’ partly just to distinguish from ‘DUP’ (in case of typos, for example). But also because of another important point: the Ulster Unionists were not formed as a political party, but rather a political movement made up of independent associations. Although now legally a political party, this heritage is very important to understand Ulster Unionism and indeed NI politics fully, and you see this heritage is every aspect of how the Ulster Unionists function (or don’t). The two Unionist ‘parties’ are fundamentally different organizations. My use of ‘UU’ reflects that quite deliberately.

    And yes, I hope I don’t get them all right as well – I’d love to think Alliance could nick 13…

    (Far-fetched you might think, but let’s face it it’s no dafter than fair_deal‘s idea about NI beating England…!!!)

  20. IJP
    Not a bad set of predictions at all – in the absence of a unionist deal on FST and SB and without knowledge of the DUP candidate in South Belfast and presuming Bob McCartney runs in North Down (fair few assumptions) I would find it hard to disagree too much with any of those.

  21. Speaking of typos…

    you see this heritage is every aspect of how the Ulster Unionists function

    In fact: you see this heritage in every aspect of how the Ulster Unionists function

  22. aquifier

    Indeed, I was thinking of spending it with my North Down neighbours on the golf course or down the garden centre…!


    Clearly you have to make assumptions (hence the CLD system), and of course there’s nothing more unreliable than the electorate…!

  23. 9:2 a depressing scenario, but the result of the consociational approach in the GFA. If you bolster the extremes by writing extremism into the political fabric and deliberately disenfranchise the centre, this is what you get.

    Any chance of the SDLP and UUP changing their attitudes on community voting now?

    On an alternative tack, I have often wondered how the Westminster elections would figure if they were run under PR. Take Belfast as one constituency, for instance.

  24. The Brit form of PR might have been suitable to ensure the representation of a minority of about 10% in post partition southern Ireland, but lately it just rewards ‘intra group outbidding’, or extremism to most of us. It may be unsuitable for an electorate severely split about 60/40, especially alongside an added requirement for everyone’s consent to form a government. It offers the elector little reward for chosing middle ground ‘least bad’ candidates who in other systems would be surer of being in any voluntary coalition. We voted for the GFA, but things did not have to be done THIS way.

    Danes and others do it different

  25. IJP and Irishman,

    Yeah, pretty much the way I’m thinking too. I’m not totally sure about the SDLP holding Foyle, but I suppose it’s more likely than not. Looks like I’ll have to use the local election results as a tie-breaker.


    The only party other than the UUP that might win in South Belfast is the DUP. However the fact that they don’t seem to have chosen a candidate yet won’t help. The 1600 pro-Agreement voters who backed the SDLP (for the first and last time in their lives) in 2001 will vote for McGimpsey this time (as they did in 2003).


    I will of course run an election prediction contest this year as on previous occasions. As usual, I will not launch it before nominations have closed. My problem is that I’m due to be travelling quite a lot that week (second week of April) so it may be the 18th before I am properly sorted. Just so as you can contain your enthusiasm!

  26. Nicholas,
    That is what I was thinking too, but just wahted to check as South Belfast is the only seat where there is even the remote possibility of three different parties winning it.

  27. Given the current dissention in the DUP in South Antrim it is very doubtful that Willie can take the seat.

  28. Nicholas

    You’ll note the ‘C’ next to Foyle – I wouldn’t be at all sure, I don’t think 20 Dec or 30 Jan will make even the slightest difference up there, and Durkan’s recent pronouncements have been unimpressive. Nevertheless the SDLP threw everything at it in June and appeared to win (according to tallies), and if a Belfastman can win it for the SDLP I’d just edge towards saying a Derryman can too.


    I agree with Nicholas. Even with the DUP standing and despite June’s tallies, I suspect the UUs would ease home. But only ‘suspect’…

  29. Aquifier

    We’ve had this debate before, but I think you have to bear in mind the democratic tradition of the country when applying electoral systems. Consensus politics are the norm in Germanic continental Europe, but not in Great Britain. Changing system in Great Britain would mean changing the whole way we do democracy – and in a country of ‘evolution not revolution’ such rapid change has never really worked before. Whether this system suits NI of course is a completely different matter.

    I do think complexity of the system matters too. Polls show that 80% of Germans do not understand whether their first or second vote is more important to the final election outcome – and their system is much simpler than the Scandinavians’!

    The last Swedish election saw the governing Social Democrats persuading some people in some areas to vote for the Greens rather than for them, to ensure the Greens overcame the hurdle and could therefore form a coalition with them. A situation no more or less farcical than happens with FPTP.

    As Garrett FitzGerald wisely noted, there’s no perfect democratic system.

  30. “I’m not totally sure about the SDLP holding Foyle, but I suppose it’s more likely than not.”

    Is there any truth to the rumour that Martin McGuinness is going to run in Foyle to make sure the shinners get in there, with Mitchel McLoughlin running in Mid-Ulster? If thats the case I’d day Foyle is definitely going to Sinn Fein.

    Also, does anyone have any predictions about the local gov. elections?

  31. Belfast City council will return to the Unionist fold. The SF seat in Pottinger is being heavily targeted. With a 30 vote majority the SF councillor is a goner.

    The DUP will do extremely well. Again the difficulty is how many candidates to run. The Alliance faces wipe out.

  32. Ulsterman

    What if one of the McCartney sisters ran for that seat? They would attract cross community support and most likely beat both of the unionist and the shinner.

  33. Very unlikely. The McCartneys aint going to stand.Even if one did there would be no cross community vote for them. They freely admit they have voted SF in the past.

    The Shortstrand and Markets area have both had massive redevelopment over the last number of years. A lot of nationalists have left the area while middle class Unionists have moved in. There aint a nationalist quota in Pottinger. SF squeaked in the last time for the last seat and without a quota. It wont happen again. This seat in Pottinger is a must win for the Unionists to regain control of Belfast Council.

    God Save The Queen.

  34. IJP, What tallies are being referred to in relation to June for Foyle?

    My sense of that election in Foyle was that SF continued their upward trajectory in Foyle that saw the gap narrow massively in November 03.

    Heard it said by Sfers that they won in Foyle last year, outpolled the SDLP and are confident of doing the same this time out.

    Would love to know what odds the bookies are offering re McLaughlin v Durkan.

  35. Hi DT

    I’ve no idea how accurate or widespread they were, but the Gilliland team’s tallies (which were also based on other parties’ shared info) appeared to indicate Derry was the only place the SDLP vote had held up in comparison with Nov ’03.

    This surprised me a little as I had understood SDLP morale in Derry to be very low – hardly surprising when they and their property are being attacked so often.

    That said, I was out of the country for a week straight after the election so don’t have the direct comparative info.

  36. IJP,

    there’s no doubting that the 2004 election was a very bad one for the stoops but the tallies from Gilliland and the SDLP showed that their vote held solid in Foyle, South Belfast and Strangford amongst others. Morgan’s profile was not really that high although he was a very good candidate and the stoops definitely beat PSF in Foyle, much greater than the Republican sympathisers here claim.
    In Foyle PSF have never broken 32% of the vote and even then ( in Nov 2003)the SDLP still managed to beat them by 4%. However, there is no doubt that it’ll be close but the feeling amongst many in Derry is that they will not be voting for Mitchel, especially after his gaffes on Questions and Answers a few months ago.
    Indeed, many friends of mine who voted Alliance or UUP in the past have stated that they will put an ‘X’ beside Durkans name. So I would have some confidence to state that Durkan will win – mind you the PSFers will still claim some sort of victory when they lose Foyle again!!

  37. The issue of the Euro Election Tallies were practically impossible to predict but on the day of the count the SDLP tried to spin that they won Foyle and SB. This was a bit of spinning and thinking forward.

    Local government predictions for Foyle SF will take four extra seats and the SDLP could possibly lose up to sixseats. This will put SF as the largest party in the City, 14 SF seats, the unionist block and SDLP on 8 seats each.

    With these predictions I will forecast SF to win Foyle comfortably.

  38. It would seem to me that the SDLP are courting the Unionist vote in Foyle as DR JOE did once in West Belfast & we all know how that ended up.
    I still think Foyle is too close to call, however playing the long game, just as SF will do, even if Durkan wins he will only serve one term as the seat is sure to go to SF in the the one after this. I agree with most commentators that it is too early to write the SDLP off yet, 2009 will suit me fine.
    Alisdair will not come within 2000 votes of taking the SB seat as a Unionist WILL win it and Gildernew will hold FST, though, there will be a unionist pact in both constituencies

  39. FST is a dead-cert Unionist seat if;

    1. There IS a sole Unionist candidate
    2. Tommy Gallagher stands

  40. ‘J’,

    spinning wildly yet again!!! At least your local predictions gave me a larf!!! The PSF winning four seats, wind your neck down lad! where??
    my predictions will be that it’ll be 12 each from SDLP and PSF or, most likely that it’ll be 13 12 in favour of the stoops??
    How do you think the Rural ward will go ‘J’??
    You do seem to be very confidant, the electors in Foyle will not like this air of smugness – it will be close but the feeling in Derry is that Durkan will win with a majority of about 2/3000 and the SDLP will retain control of the council. And shouldn’t PSF be couting all shades of the vote as they claim to be for an Ireland of equals.

  41. ‘J’,

    spinning wildly yet again!!! At least your local predictions gave me a larf!!! The PSF winning four seats, wind your neck down lad! where??
    my predictions will be that it’ll be 12 each from SDLP and PSF or, most likely that it’ll be 13 12 in favour of the stoops??
    How do you think the Rural ward will go ‘J’??
    You do seem to be very confidant, the electors in Foyle will not like this air of smugness – it will be close but the feeling in Derry is that Durkan will win with a majority of about 2/3000 and the SDLP will retain control of the council. And shouldn’t PSF be couting all shades of the vote as they claim to be for an Ireland of equals.

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