Conservative Leslie to run in North Down…

As predicted by commenter ‘slug’ some time back, the NI Conservatives have just announced that they are running former UUP MLA James Leslie in North Down. Should add to an interesting mix in a constituency where the DUP are expected to easily hold on to their two seats, but where the UUP’s second runner Alan McFarland may struggle to hold. The high profile of Robert McCartney should see him back in too. Leaving Leslie to compete in a two or more likely one seat scramble for Eileen Bell’s seat between Alliance’s Stephen Farry, and the Green’s best hope anywhere for an Assembly place, Brian Wilson.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • PaddyReilly

    Ah, the joys of NI micropolitics! The Conservatives took 2718 votes province wide in last year’s election, not really enough to distinguish them from the raving looney party. That even a blogger should take note of their intervention is remarkable, for anyone who has grown used to elections in saner countries.

  • For a party without any elected representatives locally, parachuting someone from North Antrim into what is still in many ways a parochial constituency seems a bit desperate. I’d be surprised if Leslie breaks 1000 votes and isn’t eliminated early on.

    I’d be interested to see if Brian Wilson, a former Alliance mayor, can capitalise on Eileen Bell’s retirement.

    I’d be surprised if there is any great change in North Down this time. The one wild card is Lady Sylvia. If she is in the field she might just be able to bring in 2 running mates.

  • slug

    The Tory, Green, and Alliance battle does look interesting.

  • Excellent news, for the local Tories, and for Stormont as a whole. There are easily enough wannabes and snobs in North Down for a credible Tory to be elected, especially if Dave jets in for an afternoon or two during the campaign. Watch the hype: this will now be one of the most reported upon seats in the election.

    Ditching Leslie in North Antrim was yet another sign of just how bone-headed the UUP manages to be, and I say that obviously as someone who didn’t agree with on either the agreement, or his fidelity to the Turtle. And it fits into a pattern, eg the failure in east Londonderry to select the excellent Antony Alcock (whose passing I was sorry Slugger didn’t note), and again, i say that despite his views on Trimble &c. But James Leslie, meanwhile, was the only minister truly worth his salary in the last set-up, and I’m sure, if elected, he’ll serve as a magnet for more UUP defectors. Not least one or two of those who’ll be elected this time round as Ulster Unionists, once it’s evident that that party’s finished, will sooner jump to the Tories than to the Paisleyites. I know how they feel.

  • slug

    Its true that the Tories nationally have picked up in the polls and this effect is likely to have some impact in North Down. Its also true that the local Conservatives seem a good home for many who want to move on from the local parties. Further, James Leslie is a very well educated and experienced person, the sort of experience in business that would be useful to have in politician. I would think a lot of people would be tempted to vote for him. That said, Alliance will make hay on the Conservatives failure to back Trimbles bill in the Lords last week, that one that opposed higher water charges; gives the appearance that the Tories don’t actually care about the local NI Conservatives’ electoral fate.

  • unionfirst

    In ways the selection of candidates is more interesting than the election will be.

    I am dubious about James Leslie’s chances, he is not a native of the area, he doesn’t have that great a profile and

    However if the UUP does something as dim as running three candidates in the constituency, they could well end up handing Leslie a seat. The vote here in 2003 was as follows:

    Leslie Cree (UUP) 3900 (12.6%)
    *Peter Weir (DUP) 3675 (11.9%)
    Alex Easton (DUP) 3570 (11.6%)
    *Alan McFarland (UUP) 3421 (11.1%)
    *Robert McCartney (UKUP) 3374 (10.9%)
    Diana Peacocke (UUP) 2566 (8.3%)
    *Eileen Bell (Alliance) 1951 (6.3%)
    Liam Logan (SDLP) 1519 (4.9%)
    Brian Wilson (Ind) 1350 (4.4%)
    *Jane Morrice (NIWC) 1181 (3.8%)
    Alan Chambers (Ind) 1077 (3.5%)
    John Barry (Green) 730 (2.4%)
    Stephen Farry (Alliance) 704 (2.3%)
    Julian Robertson (Cons) 491 (1.6%)
    Alan Field (Ind) 428 (1.4%)
    David Rose (PUP) 316 (1.0%)
    Maria George (SF) 264 (0.9%)
    Tom Sheridan (UKUP) 209 (0.7%)
    Chris Carter (Ind) 109 (0.4%)

    Now the tory vote went up to 822 in the 2005 but that is still nowhere near the quota. With the hugely irritating Robertson being replaced by James Leslie this could go up again depending on how much the mainland tories decide to support their candidates this time. The unionist vote will be split with the ongoing brawl between the DUP, UKUP and UUP which conceively could lead to Leslie sneaking in between them but it does look doubtful. North Down is also a notoriously difficult one to predict.

    It’ll be a good one to watch.

  • Nevin

    “parachuting someone from North Antrim”

    I understood he’s been living in North Down for several years now.

    “Ditching Leslie in North Antrim”

    Didn’t he just drive away?

  • I’ve no idea what he’s saying these days, but driven out of the UUP in NA he most certainly was (and his despair at the stupidity of the UUP is more than understandable). As for this sh*t (cited, not voiced, by posters above) about, my God in heaven, people moving from one tiny place to another tiny place in what remains overall a very small place, I still can hardly credit that anyone actually cares. He’s from Antrim! And now he’s in Down! for example. The horror, the horror. I’m not doubting for one moment that there *are* people who think like that, but the only legitimate response should surely be sustained ridicule.

  • Gonzo


    I think you’re right that the Tories will be haunted by that water charges debate in the Lords last week.

  • Nevin

    Driven out? I understand he ‘failed’ the reselection test. In other parties the MLAs and Councillors appear to work as a team; they also maintain a high public profile. I got the impression that Leslie didn’t cut the mustard on either count.

  • Alex Kane

    James does indeed live in Holywood and has had a base there for some time.

    He was, as Karl Rove says, hounded out of North Antrim and a UUP seat was consequently lost.

    James’ defection to the Tories was a loss to the UUP. For purely non party political reasons I hope he does get elected—the Assembly, and particularly the UUP Assembly Group, is a poorer place without him. Better to have him in as a Tory than not in at all.


  • Nevin

    Alex, I think the UUP would have lost the seat anyway. James Currie had at least as high a public profile as James Leslie and the latter didn’t appear to be putting the effort into constituency work that is now expected of public representatives.

  • Crataegus

    Consider the council election results of 2005

    DUP: 8,901 (31.4%)

    UUP: 6,055 (21.5%)

    Alliance: 4,533 (16.0%)

    Green: 2,548 (9.1%),

    NIWC: 738 (2.6%)

    UKUP: 734 (2.6%)

    PUP: 651 (2.3%)

    SDLP: 525 (1.9%)

    Cons: 353 (1.3%)

    Ind: 3,114 (11.1%),

    The independents were many Unionists, but if BOB stands we would expect the UUP and DUP vote to decline. Leslie will take some vote from everyone SO the way I would read it would be Bob, the DUP and the UUP 1 safe seat. The remaining seats will be a dog fight. 4th seat should go to the DUP but it is not a cert. 5th is probably Alliance and 6th may well be between the Greens and the Conservatives. I would be inclined to put this one down as a UUP loss. It will really depend on the resources the Conservatives and Greens have to through at the constituency between now and the election. There are potentially 2 non Unionist seats in North Down.

  • Crataegus

    Sorry for gibberish above its ‘mainly Unionists’ and ‘throw at’.

  • IJP

    Wearing my analyst’s hat, it is worth noting that it is reckoned Gilliland (with Alliance, Tory and then-Brian-Wilson-independent backing) scored about 12% in North Down, plus 8% for the Nationalists if I recall correctly from the tallies (but open to correction).

    So while there’s talk of 30% “non-Unionist” votes out there, actually there’s little more than a single quota. That Morrice was elected as a second “non-Unionist” in 1998 was something of a (in my view welcome) quirk.

    So the question becomes, can Leslie take sufficient from both the “Unionist” and “non-Unionist” vote to make it interesting.

    Frankly, I doubt it. I didn’t even know he lived in Holywood until it was mentioned above, so there’s no profile. The quicker the Tories realise you have to do some hard work within communities before getting elected (if you can’t just “wave a flag”), the more dangerous they will become.

    But broadly I wish him well as I agree with Alex that he offers a sensible voice. He’ll have my Number ‘3’, lucky chap – it’s just a shame that I don’t think my first three will all be elected!

  • IJP


    Quick correction (which doesn’t do Alliance any favours actually) – I believe your figures are for the borough, not the constituency. The latter includes Donaghadee which, since the incumbent MP and potential poll-topper lives there, is not insignificant, especially in a potentially tight election like this.

  • neill armstrong

    No Alex he was not hounded out of North Antrim,he failed to be selected that was the democratic decision of the North Antrim unionist Asc.were everybobdy had a free vote to select the candidates they wanted. At least in North Antrim we still do this i hear it might be to popular in other areas in Northern Ireland.
    As for james leslie a really good guy,i wish him all the best for North Down but not at the expense of our ulster unionist candidates

  • neill armstrong

    Sorry for the mistake there should have been a not after might.

  • slug

    Neil who are UUP selecting this time in North Antrim?

  • neill armstrong

    Good question slug will tell you on the 20th of january!

  • Crataegus


    Sorry you are of course right it is the Borough and Donaghadee will give a boost to Unionist votes. I have a blind spot for Donaghadee easy place to forget. My mind is on far off places.

    Bob and the Conservatives will help to shred the DUP and UUP vote, by how much is open to guess, but it will make the election interesting. I would still hold that the last 3 seats will be a dog fight and still think there are potentially 2 non Unionist seats if the Conservatives and Greens mount an effective campaign. I think the Alliance seat is safe enough. You need to look to Green and Conservative transfers as a safety net. I assume David Alderdice is the candidate?

    Are the SDLP or SF standing for if they are, Alliance, Green and Conservative 1st preferences go down, and who gets eliminated first becomes important. Assuming the Green is Brian Wilson (is he the candidate?) he will have a substantial personal vote and if he is still in the running could gain from SF and SDLP transfers. Green gain vaguely possible, but it is a long shot and they would need an effective campaign across the entire constituency as their votes are dispersed in all communities. If they don’t get in the interesting consideration is where their vote transfers, I imagine Alliance the main beneficiary, but then who?

  • slug

    Actually I like both David Ald. and IJP so its a pity they are both in North Doan. IJP – I hear Lisburn is a nice place these days..?

  • Alex Kane

    Hi Neill,

    Let’s agree to disagree about James and deselection. The decision may have been democratic in one sense of the term but, believe me, there were NA members gunning for him since the autumn of 1998.

    Although I wish him well, my hunch is that he won’t win a seat.

    Have a good Christmas.

    Best wishes,


  • IJP

    Crat and Slug

    You’re very kind – but actually neither David Alderdice nor I is the candidate.

    Does that make any difference to your analysis?

  • slug

    IJP who IS the candidate?

  • Percival


    Farry was a bad choice, you should have gone with Alderdice – if the Greens go for Brian Wilson or Kelly Andrews (young personable female candidate), Alliance are in for a stiff test.

    I hope getting rid of Bob was worth it, Ian.

    PS. If Lady Sylv runs would IJP please turn out the lights on the way out.

  • IJP


    David Alderdice did not stand for selection. Stephen Farry was selected by the Association fairly and squarely and, if elected, will make an excellent MLA. I know that from having worked with him at Council level for 18 months, his work behind the scenes goes unnoticed but is crucial. I think his Council colleagues from all parties would agree with that.

    I’ll repeat again for the record, I was staunchly opposed to Alliance’s withdrawal from the Westminster election in 2001.

    I was not a party member then, and in the event I ripped up my ballot paper rather than vote for a Unionist.

    I make no apology for saying publicly that it was the wrong decision then, it’s the wrong decision now, and the party got absolutely nothing back for it, and we are still paying for it.

    I joined the party in late 2002, having stewed for a year, in an attempt to stop such daft decisions happening again.

    Goes back to my point made on other threads that if you agree with a party’s principles, get involved to make sure its strategy works to promote those principles! Also, parties must think long-term, not just next-election.

    In short, you must stand up for what you stand for.

  • Percival


    I am fully aware that Farry has brains to burn and is an effective enough operator (he certainly handled the Queens Parade thing well), but he’s not as voter friendly as Alderdice, or even, dare I say it, you!

    APNI will be pressed very hard if Wilson is the Green candidate and Her Snootiness condascends to run for Stormont.

  • Julian Robertson


    ref below from Glentoran on the vote ref charging, grandstanding vs politics maybe:

    “The changes we secured will directly benefit consumers in Northern Ireland – of which I am one.

    If we had voted down the Order, then these improvements to the legislation would have been lost. The Government would simply have re-tabled the Order and forced it through Parliament in its original form, leaving people in Northern Ireland worse off. It would certainly not have prevented the introduction of charging.”


    sorry to irritate and do so hugely apparently. And this supposed to be the season of goodwill ….Maybe I should find out which constituency you are in and run there just to cheer you up.

    As to how we’ll do, who knows? Lets wait and see.

    Merry Christmas.

  • slug

    I hate to embarras IJP but honestly if Alliance aren’t running IJP for the Assembly elections they are wasting talent.


  • Crataegus


    If it’s not David Alderdice you are going to have a hard time. Surely not Stephen Farry? Most of the rest of the councillors are mature so someone new? Some one with their own vote perhaps?

  • Crataegus


    Sorry difficulty posting from the outback time delay on server in office, earlier post already answered. Stephen is very clever but he is no vote winner. His vote in the last election went down from 1195 to 713. Is this a suicide pact, your vote is going to be shredded between Greens, her Ladyship and the Conservatives. It would be interesting to see who the Greens field. Brian Wilson has 1593 votes in Abbey and his wife 757. He is well placed and you can expect the Greens and Conservatives to throw everything at this one.

    I don’t believe it you would have been a better choice! You may lose this seat!!!!

  • Eddie

    If Alan Chambers, the long-serving Independent (unionist) stands it could make the dog-fight for the last seat even more interesting. He has a way of capturing headlines and garnering votes from a wide spectrum.

  • idunnomeself


    Speaking as a memebr of a North Down Alliance voting clan it wasn’t worth their while standing against Sylvia, they did canvas their voters before they made the decision

  • doagh


    I can’t understand what Glentoran is on about.

    He didn’t oppose Labour on either capital value rates or on water. He let the orders go through the Lords without any amendment (because it couldn’t be amended). He didn’t work with Smith, or Trimble, who actively opposed the orders, each proposing a ‘fatal amendment’ to one of the two orders. Yet Glentoran claims some mysterious gains. They are lost on me so far.

    If the Tories had joined the Northern Ireland peers and the Lib Dems in voting down the Orders on rates and water surely they would have been voted down. The government would have had to agree changes with opposition before reintroducing them. They couldn’t have rameed them through on the second try if they couldn’t do so first time.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    It doesn’t quite work like that, the Government can always get what they want even in its original form so the changes for the better can be lost.

  • Truth & Justice

    North Down is going to be interesting, Farry is a bad chooce for the Alliance Party is very anti Unionist and even moderate Unionists wont vote for him, has made a mess over Queens Parade will be fighing it out for the last seat. Leslie for Consevative will not get a seat may get 600 – 800 votes if lucky will be seen as a blow in and a deselected UUP member. Certain two DUP seats will be interesting to see if Easton or Weir come out top. McCartney will hold his seat but has not been doing anything on the ground and is not going to make an impact. I dont belive Hermon will run and there are two UUP seats for Cree and McFarland, the last seat is between Alliance or Greens fighting it out but Wilson has been very Anti Unionist aswell it will be close between the two!

  • Percival

    The DUP need to balance their candidates – one from either Holywood or D’dee would help.

  • Truth & Justice

    totally agree with you Percival are the DUP runing three it may make last seat even more interesting?

  • Percival

    I don’t know.

  • grassroots

    “McCartney will hold his seat but has not been doing anything on the ground”

    The fact that McCartney does frig all in the constituency will not affect his vote. He has had a very high profile recently especially about the new rates which will secure him alot of vote. The new rating system affects North Down more than any other constituency and since he has been publicly opposing rates, lots of wealthy householders in North Down will support him. Lets also remember that people tend to vote for names that are most familar. Alex Easton (the second DUP MLA) has next to no profile for example so people will be more likely to vote McCartney than Easton, the DUP second seat may be in danger unless they pick a more high profile candidate. And if Alliance have any sense they will pick Mr Parsley to maximise their vote.

    It gives me little joy but I predict McCartney’s vote will go up.

  • IJP

    Slug et al

    Your comments are much appreciated. It’s not often you get them in this game!

    However, I repeat that Stephen is essential to the work of Council, more than any other Councillor, and would bring that same exceptional diligence and ability to the Assembly.

    He will stand on that record and I trust he will be elected on that record.

    Assuming there’s an election at all in March!


    No problem with the delays.

    Your points are all entirely accurate.

    I would be confident but far from complacent! It will be interesting – North Down always is!


    No matter who they canvassed, they made the wrong decision. Sometimes you need to lead, not be led.

    If you don’t stand up for what you stand for, people give up on you.

    You’re from an Alliance family yourself. Tell me, which way do you vote these days?


  • Bob Wilson

    Bonjour all
    On the question of the rates and water charges can we just spell out a few hometruths.
    All four major parties were privately desperate for the NIO to push these through – so that they can escape the difficult decisions.

    In Glentoran’s defence on Rates he secured important concessions on behalf of less well off pensioners and a cap (the acceptance of the concept being as important as the level).

    On Water Charges the concessions are more of a technical nature – but the Consumer Council wanted them and they improve the Act.

    Glentoran’s choice was whether to pocket these or simply delay these measures. The Govt conceded them in order to keep to their timetable.

    If Glentoran had succeeded in blocking both these measures the Govt would simply have (almost immediately) reintroduced them WITHOUT these concessions.

    Those who carp from the sidelines simply reveal the fact that they have never been faced with having to make difficult decisions.

  • Taking for once a positive view of human nature, I think our drear local pundits could stand to be surprised by how willing much of the public is to vote for people who tell them the truth. And the truth is it’s absurd for us to be feather-bedded re water bills, just as we are in so many other things. If Leslie stands up and says, ‘we can pay, and we should pay’, that’s going to strike a cord with enough people.

  • Percival


    Certainly Leslie coming out and saying that would be a damn sight more productive than Bob the Snob urging everyone to go to gaol over the issue.

    My prediction for North Down?

    2 DUP
    2 UUP
    1 APNI

    Final seat scrap between 3rd DUP, Bob and Greens. At this point it’s hard to call. Bob’s right-wing message might play better in Sth. Antrim or Upper Bann than in North Down. The DUP also has a fairly impressive constituency outfit – three offices etc.

  • Percival

    PS. The challenge for the DUP is to have three in front of Bob on the first count. Given the strong correlation between the Westminster and local council results for that party – 35% and 34% respectively and Weir’s reputation for vote management ( he and Easton were within 150 votes of each other last time out), there is a distinct possibility that they could squezze McCartney out – the bubbly will be opened in my house if they pull it off.

  • Truth and Justice

    McCartney does nothing and talks big just before an election the voters have caught on to him!

  • Julian Robertson

    T and J

    I think calling someone a blow in from N Antrim to N Down is pushing it a bit. Are you saying everyone is really that parochial? As someone said earlier, that really is micropolitics

  • exuup

    looking at the figures for the last Local Gov election and the last assembly election show the reversal of UUP/ DUP fortunes

    2005lg 34% 2% 23%
    2003a 23% 12% 32%

    If managed right there certainly is the possiblity of the DUP landing 3 seats here, with Leslie eating into a crumbling UUP vote

  • Percival


    Weir will have the votes managed extremely carefully, as he did before.

  • Percival


    If I remeber rightly what sunk Empey when he sought the nomination in 95 was the view of him as a blow in…..from East Belfast!!!

    PS. If James Leslie breaks 1700 first preferences I shall donate £50 to a charity of your choice!!!

  • Eddie

    “The bubbly will be opened in my house if the DUP pull it off” – i.e take three seats in North Down – according to Percival.
    DUP supporters getting a bit up-market these days? Better watch the party doesn’t start flying too close to the sun!

  • exuup

    looks almost certain that Sylvia will run for the UUPs

  • Truth and Justice

    If Hermon runs all that bashing of weir over three mandates goes out the window, and all the stuff she has to look after her family too!

  • elvis parker

    Lady Sylvia Hermon, Northern Ireland Grand Committee. Wednesday 13th
    December 2006…

    “The Minister and all the Committee members will know from my voting record—
    and anyone who uses YouGov or who checks the statistics will also know—that
    I am the Unionist Member who has walked more often than any other through
    the Lobby in support of the Labour Government. I am not ashamed of this.”

    Look forward to her defending the abolition of academic selection, rates revaluation and water charges in North Down


  • Percival


    The bubbly will of course be a cheap Marks and Sparks Cava!!!

  • Porlock

    My understanding is that “The Lady” will not be throwing her hat into the ring.

    I’m also being told that “personal reasons” will prevent Mrs. Peacock from standing, either.


  • exuup

    will the uup play safe and run the two sitting mlas then?

  • crataegus


    My understanding is that “The Lady” will not be throwing her hat into the ring.

    Alliance should then take 5th seat (despite candidate). The 6th seat becomes interesting.