Sammy Morse has turned his psephological eye to the constituency of Lagan Valley. In another impressive analysis piece in the latest of his series of constituency profiles, Sammy identifies the real battle in Lagan Valley as being the fight between Sinn Fein and the DUP for the last seat- something which the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson and Sinn Fein’s Paul Butler have both identified as a key pitch in their electoral canvassing in recent times.I must declare a personal interest in this constituency. As a former Sinn Fein election candidate for Lisburn council and a party activist in the constituency, I am naturally finding most of my time at present being occupied by issues surrounding the electoral campaign in Lagan Valley.
I find Sammy’s analysis to be fairly accurate. The DUP have three seats in the bag, with the UUP another one and the final two seats a toss up between the Alliance, Sinn Fein and either of the two large unionist parties. Personally, from my own knowledge of the constituency and the feedback from canvasses across the area, I believe the Alliance seat will be safe and that the final seat will come down to a tussle between the fourth DUP candidate (likely to be Paul Givan) and Sinn Fein’s Paul Butler.
Sammy hits the nail on the head when he identifies the pattern of transfers between the SDLP and Sinn Fein as being the critical dimension in this constituency. From personal experience, I can categorically state that the SDLP voter in Lagan Valley has been responding very positively to the campaign slogan being used by Sinn Fein, which stresses that only Sinn Fein can retain a seat for nationalists in Lagan Valley.
It is a theme which has been used – with undeniably effective results- by nationalists in the past decade to secure electoral victories. Indeed, the four new nationalist MPs elected to northern constituencies since 1997 have all utilised it as a key plank to win their campaigns (in 1997- Martin McGuinness; in 2001- Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew; in 2005- Alisdair McDonnell.)
For what its worth, my prediction for Lagan Valley is 3 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance and 1 Sinn Fein.