Sammy Morse on, East Londonderry

Sammy reckons that there is going to be no change here within the nationalist fight. It looks set to provide one seat apiece for Sinn Fein and the SDLP, though there is some interesting detail on the geographical spread. The real fight is going to be on the Unionist side. Here the UU’s face a similar challenge to that of South Belfast: ie they are standing “three candidates in a constituency where they have a difficult defence of two seats”.

Even in 2003, the DUP considerably outpolled the UUP here and since then the DUP have outpolled the UUP by 43% to 21% in the Westminster Election and by 32.1% to 24.3% in the local elections. As in many other places, based on the local government figures the Ulster Unionists would have a fighting chance of holding both seats, whereas based on the general election figures, the DUP would sweep three seats relatively easily. This is very difficult to call but I’m inclined to think the odds favour the DUP.

One reason is that those local election figures almost certainly understate the DUP’s level of support a bit. The ‘United Unionist Coalition’ a small anti-agreement group associated with former Assembly member Boyd Douglas polled a further 3.8%, mostly in the Dungiven area where they were given a free run by the DUP. Similarly, in the 2003 Assembly elections, Boyd Douglas and anti-Agreement former UUP MLA Pauline Armitage polled 8.2% of the vote between them, well over half a quota. This indicates plenty of room for right-wing Unionism to grow.

Secondly, the Ulster Unionists are, once again, running three candidates in a constituency where they have a difficult defence of two seats. Sitting Assembly members David McClarty (based in Coleraine) and David Hillis (based in Portrush) will be joined, once again, by Limavady Councillor Edwin Stevenson. While one might argue that this gives them geographical width, it also leaves them with three candidates fighting over less than two quotas, with all the problems of leakage that brings with it. Last time they lost 19% of Stevenson’s votes when he was eliminated.

McClarty has traditionally been the leading UUP votegetter in East Derry, with 4069 votes in 2003, and I don’t expect that to change. Hillis did not poll all that well last time, with 2292 first preferences and although he has incumbency on his side, his base is rather isolated geographically. A stronger challenger may have given him pause for thought, but Stevenson managed only a measly 1408 first preferences last time. In any case, if the DUP are well organised, McClarty may well be the only UUP candidate elected anyway.

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

  • This is a better prospect for them than South Belfast – but it’s not great.

  • Marcus Aurelius Maximus

    I think you’ll find the second candidate for the Ulster Unionist Party is called Norman Hillis and not David Hillis. Maybe checking basic facts would be beneficial.

  • It’s called a typo, MAM. Maybe if you were less aggressive, you’d have more friends?

  • Mick Fealty

    Now, now guys… Back to the subject in hand!

  • darth rumsfeld

    Superhero Leslie Cubitt will hoover up a lot of the historic anti-Agreement vote within Unionism in the constituency (remember EL was the second most anti-GFA constituency in the 1998 referendum), and will dent the DUP chance of 3 seats, unless his voters transfer through to McQuillan. Campbell has never exactly been loved in the area, and his vote is small enough to make him vulnerable in ordinary circumstances, but the utterly useless UUP will never be capable of mounting a serious challenge.

    Gregory has no real personal vote to dispense, and there are tensions within the DUP, even before Cubitt’s defection. Armitage withdrew as a DUP candidate citing the DUP willingness to go into government with the Shinners, and got the biggest round of applause at the selection meeting for saying so.

    Hillis postured as anti-Agreement last time, but has never raised a cheep since election. Last seat between Hillis, McQuillan, and Cubitt is too close to call, but the other 5 are all certain. I bet McQuillan will just fail to oust Hillis after his campaign primarily aimed at bashing serial letter writer and irritant Billy “Look at me! look at me!” Leonard.

  • Superhero Leslie Cubitt

    No prizes for guessing who’s getting your Number 1 then Garth?

    PS – what do you think of the internal SDLP fight – could Dallat be ambushed by Orla Beattie?

  • darth rumsfeld

    not unless his ego explodes- her own mother hasn’t ever heard of La Beattie

  • More importantly – does Cubitt have an organisation worth speaking of? And has anyone in Coleraine ever heard of him?

  • John Farrell

    Id keep an eye on Billy Leonard of Sinn Fein here.
    Clearly there is only one SF quota here but SF-lite voters might want to note Leonard was in the old RUC. Backing the police service is one thing. Electing an ex-reservist would amuse many (but Francie Brolly might not see the funny side).
    John Dallat has for many years been SDLP front runner here. Maybe a gender or generational thing at work but maybe Dallat has had his day. Maybe his running mate can break thru.
    Maybe Dallat would be ok with that or Beattie is being lined up for the next time.
    On Unionist side…DUP 3 UUP 1

  • darth rumsfeld

    he’ll have the Douglas organisation, and probably Armitage’s endorsement. Though not an Orangeman, there’ll be a lot of Orange sympathy. But he will suffer from lack of organisation. He’s from Ballymena and has a lot of Coleraine connections, but I agree he has organisational problems.

    Mind you, there’s hardly a sign of the DUP yet, and the UUP have all their posters out, making a change from last time, and I still doubt it will help them a jot.

    Oh, and I haven’t ever said what constituecny I’m from. Though I will be giving a Cubitt my first preference, you’ll have to guess which one…..

  • BonarLaw

    DUP banners were spotted across the new Bann bridge in Colersine ten days ago.

  • darth rumsfeld

    …and that’s it so far BL-no posters, no canvassers, no press statements

  • I suspect the dear old UUP is fooling itself that it is still the same party of old. East Londonderry strikes me as one of the most typical unionist parts of Ulster: a few towns, lots of countryside, far from Belfast’s quasi-metropolitanism, with a lot of traditional unionist votes. No wonder the UUP is on the back foot. At the same time, a party that was serious about a comeback would be able to exploit the DUP’s problems here.

  • Oh, and I haven’t ever said what constituecny I’m from. Though I will be giving a Cubitt my first preference, you’ll have to guess which one…..

    I’d guess Joseph rather than Lyle. You always seem to pop up on Coleraine and Derry threads, and I can’t remember you being so present on Ballymena ones. Of course, that’s only a guess.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I hear the NIO private polling says the UUP will actually make a slight recovery in NI generally but EL/MU/NA particularly, not down to Reggiephilia, but traditional Unionists staying at home in protest at the DUP’s wetting down. No expectation of Bob troubling the scorers, and PUPs toast- the only predicted DUP gain being the walrus’ seat. No UUP gains expected anywhere.

  • brendan,belfast

    funny how everyone has picked up some tittle tattle from the NIO ‘private polling’. apparently the Stoops are going to ‘more than simply hold their own…’

  • I hear the NIO private polling says the UUP will actually make a slight recovery in NI generally

    The NIO’s private polling isn’t worth spit.

    There were all sorts of stories emerging from NIO Private Polls in 2005, and as those of us who’ve spent mony a long nighte on Slugger will remember, most of them were wrong.

    The methodology isn’t available for public inspection; and in any case, any fule knowe that every poll in NI overstates the UUP and SDLP and undercounts the DUP and, especially, SF. Wouldn’t the NIO like to see a recovery in the UUP and SDLP? Isn’t it convenient that their poll found exactly that? Isn’t it odd that their polls found exactly the same thing in 2005, and turned out not to be worth the paper they were written on.

    The scenario darth rumsfeld outlined is entirely plausible; it’s also virtually impossible to detect accurately using polling alone, without some qualitative analysis to back it up. And that’s particularly difficult to do in Northern Ireland. Which is why I think the NIO are spinning the most plausible scenario that would actually look good from their point of view with only a misinterpreted C Grade poll to back it up.

    Treat with caution, folks.

  • insider

    “I hear the NIO private polling says the UUP will actually make a slight recovery in NI generally”

    And I hear that the NIO actually hasn’t done any polling…. People may be grasping at straws somewhat.

  • John Farrell

    Polling organisations are getting money for old rope.
    I dont blame them for making a few quid. They report results and people lie.
    Frankly if you went out on the street in Belfast and asked people if they washed their hands after going to the bathroom……100 per cent would say yes.
    But any casual straw poll actually in a public toilet in say Castle Court might give a different result.
    Thus all polls overstate the middle ground.

    I can confidently predict that three days before the election, the Belfast Telegraph will be telling us that their very expensive poll predicts an Alliance landslide.

  • IJP

    I remember one very expensive marketing firm telling us at an Electoral Commission do soon after one election: “Our survey showed that 67% of people voted.”

    In fact, turnout had been 62%.

    Oh dear.

  • darth rumsfeld

    lads, lads, I don’t believe polls either, but the point is the NIO do commission them- and have done this time “insider”-as you would know if you were one-and they factor the conclusions into their strategies.

    So what they will be hearing is that the DUP 40 seat target is -always was- a nonsense, and that Unionist community has plenty of sceptics who’ll consider abstaining or voting BOB.In turn this means the rotting corpse of the UUP still has some minimal potential for the short term in case the war of succession splits the DUP-expect a couple more peerages for Dermot and Reg to keep them sweet

    And if any of the DUP children were prepared to be as open to debate as mad, they’d admit they’re getting pelters about their change of policy over getting into bed with the Shinners