Morse on, South Belfast…

Name’s Morse, Sammy Morse… and today he looks at what has to be Belfast’s most intriguing constituency: South. He is certain that sitting UUP MLA will lose his seat to Chris Stalford. On the Nationalist/Centrist side of the house, it is a little more complex, particularly if Anna Lo can produce a beefy challenge.If, and only if, Lo can take back some of a highly fluctuating Alliance/Women’s Coalition base 6% and 15%, then it might produce problems for Sinn Fein or the SDLP’s sitting candidates.

The SDLP’s weakness:

…it’s worth bearing in mind that the only time the SDLP have broken the two-quota mark here is in Westminster Elections when there was clear evidence tactical voting. It’s hard to see both SDLP candidates being all that close to a first stage quota and if they balance poorly, their second runner might just lose out. Which of the two is more vulnerable? That’s anyone’s guess.

And Sinn Fein’s:

Their problem is transfer repellance. Throughout the 2003 count, Maskey attracted less than 100 transfers. It is very difficult to judge what will happen to the Sinn Féin vote here; Maskey’s unprecedented win in 2003 on 12.6% of the vote turned out to something of a high water mark for SF. In 2005, undoubtedly affected by the Robert McCartney murder and Northern Bank robbery, both of which occurred in the constituency, it fell to just 10.3% in the local elections, and aided by tactical voting in the General to just 9.0%. This would put Maskey deep, deep, in the danger zone.

Given his transfer repellance and a much stronger Alliance campaign than in 2003, I reckon Maskey needs to be about least 3% points ahead of Lo on the first count to keep Alliance out, or alternatively be about half a percentage point ahead of the SDLP’s weaker runner. That probably means that Maskey needs at least 12% to be in with a chance, and maybe 13% to be absolutely safe. Rumblings from the Sinn Féin camp indicate they believe they will have to work hard to hold this seat – this is the only seat in the Assembly they there is a risk (and it is only a risk) of them losing.

How does Maskey produce that winning 13%? Most of Sinn Féin’s vote here is ‘new’ SF, rather than ‘traditional’ SF. They musy hope that the negative fallout from 2004-5 has blown away, possibly aided by recent Sinn Féin decisions on policing. If so, Maskey should be around the 13-14% mark. On other hand they must hope that the traditional Republican vote isn’t too put off by the modernisation of Sinn Féin; contrary to popular belief, such a vote isn’t confined to the Markets – there’s a smattering of it in Ardmore and the Lower Ormeau. More importantly, there might be a lot of it among students and ex-students from traditionally republican rural areas. Nobody knows, but Maskey’s coalition is so broad that he must be careful of leaking too much at either end.