The last Hurdle

The last area where the DUP are currently behind the UUP in representation is Local Government. With that in mind, it is interesting to note that this election is the first ever where the DUP are running more candidates for Local Government than the UUP. Is the sign of a growing party a growing number of candidates?

My count has the party totals running at the DUP on 215 and the UUP on 186. The DUP will be fielding more candidates than their unionist rivals in 17 of the 26 Local Council areas with the only exceptions being Craigavon, Down, Fermanagh, Larne, Newry & Mourne, North Down and Omagh.

Obviously while the number of candidates fielded doesnt equate to the seats won it certainly must be a blow to the UUP to have the DUP running nearly 30 more candidates in the Local Government elections.

I haven’t counted the numbers of candidates for the nationalist parties so maybe someone else will have done the homework on those.

  • peter

    The problem with PR is that the number of candidates has to be chosen wisely. To many are to few can cost seats in both directions.

  • Liam

    SDLP are running 154 candidates.

  • fair_deal

    While I expect (and I am betting) that the DUP will have a good Westminster and outpoll the UUP. I do not think they will have as successful a local government election.

    They don’t seem to be ensuring that a strong vote management system is in place and that could cost them seats.

  • Rethinking Uniuonism

    Chances of transfers to DUP from Alliance and SDLP nil. Chances of transfers to UUP from same much more likely. A PR election will always favour a centrist party who can attract transfers and the Council elections will reveal that the DUP’s new found dominance is based on the view of some number of unionists that the party of una duce una voce should be given the chance to negotiate. It is a chimera. You can’t grow oranges in Iceland. The DUP vision for Northern Ireland is not a cross community vision but a nasty Balkanised carving up of territory. Sooner or later that will beclome clear and the party that likes to say No will realise that you can only not deliver for so long.

  • Rethinking Uniuonism

    Chances of transfers to DUP from Alliance and SDLP nil. Chances of transfers to UUP from same much more likely. A PR election will always favour a centrist party who can attract transfers and the Council elections will reveal that the DUP’s new found dominance is based on the view of some number of unionists that the party of una duce una voce should be given the chance to negotiate. It is a chimera. You can’t grow oranges in Iceland. The DUP vision for Northern Ireland is not a cross community vision but a nasty Balkanised carving up of territory. Sooner or later that will beclome clear and the party that likes to say No will realise that you can only not deliver for so long.

  • Traditional Unionist

    Daft management by the DUP. I can spot loads of DEAs where they have a chance of 2 seats at a stretch, however will only get one because they are running 3 candidates, and you just know 70% of 1st preferences will go to the big name in the area. Of course there are other areas where they are under plaing their hand big style and will save the uup by default by not running enough candidates!

    Really badly organised local govt campaign, not a growing party.

  • PS

    The DUP are probably keen to avoid a repeat of 1981 when not having enough candidates was a factor in their failing to get more councillors elected than the UUP, despite outpolling their Unionist rivals in terms of seats.

  • fair_deal

    TU

    “70% of 1st preferences will go to the big name in the area.”

    Not if you communicate with your voters and ask them to vote in particular ways. The DUP managed its vote very well in the Assembly elections in constituencies such as North Down, Strangford and East Antrim.

    That said the DUP show no signs of doing so in local government on a systematic basis. I can;t understand why as it showed its worth in the assembly election.

  • Keith M

    Does anyone genuinely care about local elections apart from those taking part? The current councils will all be gone in the next couple of years.

  • Clive McFarland

    It hasnt just been an increase in candidates by the DUP though, there has been a near corresponding drop in UUP candidates

    Last time round by my counting it was DUP = 190 and the UUP = 211.

    Why have the UUP reduced the number of candidates they are running?

    Take for instance Ballymena Council. Going by the UUP website they are running 10 candidates – granted it is 3 more than the seats they hold now, but actually one less than the number of councillors they went into the 2001 election with.

    In Armagh the UUP are running 7 candidates (according to the website) when they currently have 7 seats. That doesnt exactly send out a message that they are hoping to grow, again given the fact that they went into the 2001 with 10 Councillors. The DUP were unlucky to not win an extra seat there in 2001, but extra emphasis is being put on vote management which hopefully will pay dividends this time.

    In the Waterside area of Londonderry the UUP are only running one candidate despite this being an area which returns four unionist seats.

    DUP vote management maybe hasnt been the most effective traditionally, but the examples of places like North Down and East Antrim from the Assembly election have shown just exactly how important it is. Its all about hanging in the race for as long as possible and at the end you might just get that last seat, but the UUP cant really do that in somewhere like Armagh where they aren’t even running any extra candidates, despte the fact that they held these seats prior to 2001.

  • Traditional Unionist

    All true clive, but ain’t vote splitting a dangerous thing? or don’t the dup think about that?

  • Clive McFarland

    If your only concern was vote splitting (which is much reduced if you transfer down the paper anyway) then you would never run any extra candidates.

    The DUP are no more vote splitting by running an additional candidate in a particular area than any party is by running an extra candidate(s) to attempt to pick up extra seats.

    Take Craigavon Central – currently 4 unionist seats (2-2 DUP/UUP split). The DUP are running 3 (fair chance of gain) yet the UUP are running 4 candidates. Who is splitting the vote there? The UUP also ran 4 in 2001 (as they are perfectly entitled to do) and it didnt affect the number of unionists returned.

    Running too many candidates in a particular area is probably more likely to affect the party who runs them rather than the opposition.

  • Traditional Unionist

    Larne Lough, DUP not going to make any gains, UUP can’t lose as they hold 2, running three and there are 6 going for 5.

    Downshire (Lisburn) DUP running three, only a slim chance of getting two as a result, UUP running 4 with a reasonable chance of getting all in for the same reason as they have a good chance of gaining in Larne Lough, strong candidates.

    Castlereagh East and Central will be a laugh as usual as well.

  • Traditional Unionist

    Running too many candidates in a particular area is probably more likely to affect the party who runs them rather than the opposition.

    Thats my point!!

  • yerman

    Traditional Unionist
    Why such a slim chance of 3 DUP seats in Downshire? Only narrowly missed out on 2 in 2001 – better vote management and the increased DUP vote in the area with Jeffrey Donaldson’s arrival makes three very possible.

    The DUP are the party running to win extra seats. The UUP are bunkering down in an attempt to minimise losses. Anyone sense sitting councillors pushing out new candidates so that their own seats are preserved?

    The Ulster Unionists are about to be eclipsed at every level – and the heart of all parties are their councillors – it isnt until they start losing seats en masse that you really will hear some squealing.

    Also, once the DUP take a lead at all levels of Government it will be much, much harder for the UUP to recover. Where do the new prospects for revival appear from?

  • Young Irelander

    I hear that the main reason behind the UUP not running more candidates is as a double bluff. They believe that its best to lure the DUP into a false sense of security as they kwow the councils will be changed next april and so are concentrating only on the westminister election.

    I’d rather them than the criminals that are IRA/SF. Bobby Sands would be turning in his grave at the carry on in McGuinness’s bar. First Jean Mc Conville and then this, the 10 brave men would be ashamed of present day so called republicans.

  • Justice

    Traditional Unionist, you obviously do not live in Castlereagh East or Central or know anybody in the DUP in these areas or you would know the areas have been divided with the Robinsons getting significantly smaller areas in each.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I’ll bet you anything you like that the current councils serve out their full terms before any local government reforms are implemented. Think about it – after the initial proposal, which hasn’t yet been finalised, there’ll have to be a round of public enquiries and then new primary legislation. That will take at least two and a half years, in which case there’s little reason for councils not to serve out their full mandates.

    If the UUP are banking on DUP and SF electoral gains being wiped out by legislation shortly afterwards, then that’s very nearly as stupid a mistake as their “Decent People” slogan.

    In most elections the DUP’s running too many candidates would indeed risk losing seats due to vote splitting. But in an election where you anticipate sweeping gains and are not entirely sure where they will be concentrated, it’s a sane and sensible tactic. (Certainly the second seat in Downshire should be considered a certainty and a third within the bounds of reasonable expectation.)

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    I wondered about that too – I mean the government have been talking about this reform for years and they’re still only talking. It’ll be at least half way through this term before they actually do anything.

  • Clive McFarland

    I didn’t think there had been any real suggestion that this Local Government term wouldn’t run through until the next election. I dont think any party should seriously be running a campaign on the basis that the term will be cut short. Even if it were though, electoral gains made in this election should be carried through to new councils. Reformed Local Government wouldn’t just start at some ‘Year Zero’ where all people would immediately forget how they had voted in the past.

    It would also be a big mistake to abandon the Council elections to concentrate on the General Election. In terms of the UUP, I’ve yet to hear a commentator suggest they will actually win any seats – its all about minimising losses. The Council Elections would be the only area where the UUP could possibly make some gains. Also, the two elections aren’t mutually exclusive in campaigning terms – council candidates out on the ground canvassing shouldnt just be handing out their own leaflets, but making sure there is a throuough canvass for the relevant Westminster candidate also.

    Of course the DUP expects to make gains in the Council elections – recent voting trends should hardly lead you to believe anything different. An increased vote and better vote management should mean that in somewhere like Downshire as Nicholas has said, three seats is certainly not out of the question. That goes for a lot of different areas, especially given that the party has extensive tallys taken at the European election as well as the Assembly election results which can all be used to look at likely progress in this election and where there will be seats up for grabs.

    Surely its much easier for a party to justify why it is running more candidates. How does a party like the UUP justify running significantly less candidates?

  • The Gent.

    Why in Castlereagh are the DUP running fewer candidates (13), than they ran in 1997 and 2001, when they ran a toal of 14? Given that they are by their own admission Northern Ireland’s largest party, why are they in fact reducing in size in Castlereagh under the stewardship of their esteemed Deputy Leader?

  • Mike Stevenson

    UUP are running too many candidates in some areas particularly Lisburn where the Donaldson factor will hit them. Don’t write the Alliance party off for local government – Larne Lough will almost certainly finish 2 DUP 2 UUP 1 Alliance. The same distribution is expected for Lisburn Downshire which represents a gain to DUP from UUP.

  • Downshire Unionist

    Certainly the second seat in Downshire should be considered a certainty and a third within the bounds of reasonable expectation.)

    I will tell you here and now the DUP will not take 3 seats in Downshire and will be luckey to take two. Lisburn south the DUP are running too few candidates, take away the no hoper nationalists and there are 8 going for 7. Lisburn North is almost the same, only 3 DUP candidates? stupid.

    Too many in Downshire, not enough everywhere else in Lisburn (except Dunmurry Cross)

  • fair_deal

    Clive

    “An increased vote and better vote management”

    I agree it could lead to gains but I am hearing of too many areas where the DUP do not seem to be adopting vote manangement.

  • Mike Stevenson

    Lisburn North ultimately managed 5 UUP seats the last time thanks to an independent rejoining UUP. Not bad for 44% of the vote, helped by Alliance only running one candidate and having excess votes. This time Alliance run two candidates and there is also an SDLP runner (and a Shinner). The latter are no-hopers but the SDLP entrant may help boost transfers to the second Alliance candidate. I see UUP losing 2 seats – one to DUP and the other a close contest between DUP and Alliance with Alliance just shading it to make a net gain. Lisburn North could join the small list of select seats that actually elect more than one Alliance councillor (Belfast Victoria, Bangor West, Kilroot and Knockagh Monument with a close call in Holywood)

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Gent, DUP only need to win 12 seats in Castlereagh to control the council. Obviously they are targeting gains in Castlereagh South (fairly easy I would have thought) and East (a slightly longer shot) with Central as a backup.

    Downshire Unionist, 2001 DUP vote was 1.9 quotas; their vote will be up this time; I repeat, the second seat is certain, and the third

    Mike, on Lisburn North, I agree with your analysis. Also Alliance has a strong chance of second seat in Holywood this time.

  • RJM

    The fall in the number of council candidates for the UUP seems quite dramatic, and you have to wonder what exactly their expectations are for the council elections. In some cases, they are not even going as far as to defend seats they won in 2001! Just as an example, in Erne East in Fermanagh, in 2001 they gained three times the vote to that of the DUP (27% to 9%) and won two seats to the DUP’s none, yet this election they only have one candidate.

    In other areas which tend to be more strongly unionist in character and where the UUP have played second fiddle to the DUP for several years, the Ulster Unionists have rung up the flag and surrendered. The Bannside DEA of Ballymena Borough Council is over 80% Unionist in character, yet the Ulster Unionists have elected to run only the candidate defending his seat, William McNeilly. This is can be interpreted as a sign of either two things.

    1. The party has retreated into merely trying to consolidate it’s current standing in the council by running one individual for a constituency in the hope that he tops the poll and boosts his standing, as well as his ego, in order to assume a more prominent role in local politics.

    2. They couldn’t find anybody else to run.

    Which of the above is more likely?

  • The Gent.

    Nicholas Whyte,

    In descending order the DUP’s best prospect of gains in Castlereagh are, Central then South. To expect a gain in East would be a very tall order indeed,(5 out of a total of 7 seats). I was wondering about the DUP’s apparent lack of ambition in west Castlereagh,(in comparison to the rest of the Borough), where they had previously ran 3 candidates, but this time only 2?