DUP: Winners yes, but with some work to do…

In case it has escaped some of our reader’s notice, the biggest winners of this election were the DUP. If you put the three defector’s seats into the pot already you might argue that they added only three seats to Sinn Fein’s four, but it puts them sufficiently far ahead to give them four Executive seats to Sinn Fein’s three. One of those defectors, Jeffrey Donaldson had this to say about his old party:

But former Ulster Unionist and re-elected DUP MLA Jeffrey Donaldson noted the UUP had now “dipped to an all-time low”. The UUP were given good advice over a number of years, but would not listen and they are now paying the price for their arrogance and their failure to heed those warnings,” he said.

However, there are remain some tough nuts for them to crack. As the UUP weakens more and more Unionist voters are just not turning up. The no show of so many in Loyalist West Belfast to save Diane Dodds’ seat, demonstrates that there are residual antagonisms still to be resolved with people in Loyalist working class areas.

The poor showing in South Belfast shows they are still capable of motivating voters to act accordingly to keep them out. If they want to press home their strategic game with those liberal unionist voters who continue to stay at home in droves, or are now beginning to vote for non unionist parties they will need to find voices that speak to an increasingly heterogeneous society.

It would probably be a mistake for the party to pursue the kind of ‘niceness’ that the Tories were deluded into pursuing a few years ago. They have prospered in Unionism by playing hardball against Sinn Fein. But they are very short of the Jeffrey Donaldson type, who will happily toe the party line but has nevertheless carved out a useful role for himself as a new liberal voice in the new DUP choir.

If the UUP can re-group and actually engage the voters they keep promising to pull back into the big democratic game, so much the better. But, increasingly, it looks like the task of re-engaging the wider (ie non voting) small ‘u’ unionist population will necessarily fall to the DUP.

It is unlikely the DUP will ever produce the 93% turn out amongst first generation middle class nationalist voters reported by Sinn Fein in Lagmore in the Lagan Valley constituency. In some respects, whilst they still retain a substantial majority, they just don’t need to perform at that level. Yet it does need to give some thought to that last passage in A Long Peace:

In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive. For that, a firmer, bolder, more far-sighted unionism will be needed. In a ‘long peace’, after all, people must want the Union for it to survive.

Serious application to some of those bread and butter issues inside a democratic chamber might provide them with both the battleground and the scope to bring some of those voters back into the game.

,

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    The turnout in Lagmore was 70% (10% above the constituency average)

    The vote tally had all three boxes running at over 94%.

  • Mark McGregor

    Tally of 94% is voters giving SF No1.

  • Nevin

    “Jeffrey Donaldson type, …. a new liberal voice in the new DUP choir.”

    Mick, do you imagine Jeffrey as a Daniel O’Donnell clone? :>)

    Jeffrey is a useful fall guy to test out a shift in DUP tactics.

  • Rubicon

    Mick, you post an interesting question. The union may motivate the so-called ‘garden centre unionists’ to the polls but party politics – as it is presently constructed – seems to leave them happy enough to stay at home.

    A context of power-sharing may provide the DUP opportunity to address this problem – not least because some of its backwoods support will need kept in the backbenches. A refusal from the DUP to enter power sharing will pass control out of unionist hands and the question you pose will have passed to irrelevance.

    I don’t see a unionist political response to this risk. Perhaps it’s too early (but it has been on the cards for a while) or perhaps the alternative is just to unpalatable. Such an alternative would require parties in favour of devolution and power sharing to adopt a common cause to sideline the DUP.

    The election results show a great number of votes didn’t cross the sectarian divide and the DUP gained 7 seats because of it. On the votes cast last Wednesday, inter-party (UUP/AP/SDLP/SF) agreement in 7 constituencies could have the party strengths at DUP 29, SF 29, UUP 21, SDLP 18 and AP 8. FM would still go to the DUP but the AP declaring unionist would leave cross-community voting in pro-power sharing hands.

    This would allow devolution of policing and justice powers. The 11 ministers then would be; DUP & SF 3 ministers, SDLP and UUP 2 ministers and AP 1 minister.

    All this – without increasing unionist turnout.

    Ah – but I’m dreaming! What could I be thinking of?

  • Cato

    I think that the big message from this election is actually clear within the statement that Bob McCartney released after his demise.
    He offered unionists a relatively realistic alternative to powersharing with Sinn Fein, was roundly rejected and clearly admitted that his point of view was no longer relevant.
    At no point in this DUP campaign was there a ‘sackcloth and ashes’ statement and I cannot recall at any point a DUP candidate explicitly ruling out the possibility of powersharing with Sinn Fein at any point in the future.
    Therefore it seems clear that there is a growing, strengthening realisation within a huge majority of unionism that a powersharing government including Sinn Fein is inevitable.
    I think what the DUP has succeeded in doing is convincing those unionists that, while they will do a deal with Sinn Fein, they will do it on their own terms and when they decide, factors which act like a security blanket for unionists.
    After each election here, I never fail to think about how politically aware the electorate here has grown to be over the years.
    Unionists have gradually and sensibly realised that an immediate threat to the union is non-existent and furthermore that pretending otherwise irritates the British government into closer links with Dublin.
    On another point, I read on another thread that Sinn Fein say they can live with the DUP breaking the deadline.
    I am an Alliance supporter rather than a unionist but I do still feel it rather hypocritical of Sinn Fein given that they took almost nine years to finally put their demons to rest whereas the DUP rank-and-file, when presented with a possibility they were repeatedly told would never happen, are given just a few months to get used to the idea.
    If Sinn Fein had done what they should have done after the Good Friday Agreement, then we would have had stable government for the past five years. I don’t believe they are in any position to be going around lecturing others about deadlines.
    The other issue which I want to make a point about is decommissioning of loyalist weapons – probably a little bit off thread but nevertheless I feel it is an issue which, like On The Runs, has kind of gone off the political radar but will have to be dealt with.
    Does the election of Dawn Purvis strengthen the possibility of UVF decommissioning? What sort of arsenal are we talking about? Are loyalist paramilitaries so infiltrated by the security services that it is just a matter of the PSNI going and lifting these when it suits them? If so, why have they not already done so?
    Finally as a post-scriptum, this was the first election I have covered as a journalist and I don’t think I have ever experienced a buzz like that I felt on the first morning.
    But can someone please explain to me WHY IT TAKES EIGHT HOURS TO COUNT 30,000 FIRST PREFERENCE VOTES? I reckon I could count them quicker myself with a tally sheet.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Cato,

    I found your contribution very insightful. I agree with you that since the DUP did not rule out powersharing, their vote can be seen as an endorsement of an executive which incorporates Sinn Fein. Peter Robinson gave a high profile interview (where he made the “battle a day” comment) which suggested powersharing as a “when” rather than an “if”.

    The ongoing problem of loyalist paramilitaries is, for me, the single big problem that unionists need to be honest with and stop lying about. Ian Paisley said the other day that he doesn’t talk to loyalist or republicans – that is a flat lie. William McCrea stood up on a platform and condemned SF over alleged utterances of “up the ‘ra” outside the count centre – even though he has never apologized for his own little soiree with Billy Wright. The DUP seem to provide political cover for loyalists, and this needs to be confronted. If it is to be a requirement that Sinn Fein must assist the police with enquiries into IRA murders, surely the DUP need to provide evidence that they too co-operate with the police over loyalist activity.

  • Stevo

    Would be interesting to see the percentage of DUP lower pref transfers to the UUP – or did the votes dry up more than normal. Anyone know where you can get the details of the transfers at each count? Bought lots of newspapers, but no details….

  • Rubicon
  • Cato

    Thank you for the compliment Comrade Stalin.
    I do agree that the DUP do have some influence over loyalist paramilitaries on the ground but they have a much greater influence over them as the leaders of the largest political party in Northern Ireland and of course one from the same political tradition.
    The DUP now have a massive responsibility, and one I believe they are starting to grasp, to present the Union as safe and to talk about unionism more in terms of what it is for rather than just what it is against.
    The DUP should have the confidence to point to the principle of consent and say that there is no need for the guns any longer.
    When they can do that, then I believe that they will have matured into the sensible, strong, outward-looking unionist party which their electorate deserve.
    Having said that, I think if I was a DUP party strategist, I would find it very difficult to leave the fear politics behind.
    Everyone I think acknowledges that the majority of those who do not vote are unionists and if you don’t have a modicum of fear, more will join them.
    The one thing that will always keep the turn-out here around 60 per cent is the belief of some unionists that if they don’t get up off the armchair and vote, they will wake up in Dublin.
    As witnessed by the Anglo-Irish Agreement rally at the City Hall, when I believe half the unionist people were present, the politics of fear works.
    The DUP have the responsibility to say that unionists don’t have to be afraid and to the loyalist paramilitaries for that reason that they do not need their weapons.

  • slug

    Good discussion Cato and CS.

    I think that the DUP have been softening a litle in their interactions with Sinn Féin. Nigel Dodds was on a TV Panel, called Lets Talk, and I thought that the discussion involving Mitchel McLaughlin, while serious, was also not so tense as it would have been a few years ago, and he did acknowledge the progress that has been made on policing. He seemed to be saying that its tactically stupid not to keep these negotiations going up to the start date for devolution, which was interesting, because it suggested that he had in mind to form the executive.

    I agree with Cato’s point that once the executive gets going, if it really focuses on real issues, then people may be less motivated to vote because the stability will reduce the fear. THat presumes the Executive will last, but the stability of the new arrangements seems to be something that the DUP are aiming for.

    I find it hard to predict what mood the new Executive will generate. Will it generate more sectarian tensions, and create a hugely confrontational situation, or will parties sit down and work together and genuinely try to make the best for the people who vote for them on practical issues?

  • sms

    stevo
    Irish times has a supplement today on all the counts plus transfers

  • sms

    slug
    will parties sit down and cooperate with one another

    the DUP is the only party with no record of working with other parties, remember the semi detached stance in the last executive. In a party dominated by a small fundamentalist religious group it is hard to see them shaking off a lifetime of biblical ranting and discourteous bahaviour,but then the good Doc. may get a sign from God, with whom he is in daily contact, to tell him that the ” unclean” have been cleansed and it is safe to go amongst them.I wouldn’t put money on it but who knows.

  • Comrade Stalin

    the DUP is the only party with no record of working with other parties, remember the semi detached stance in the last executive. In a party dominated by a small fundamentalist religious group it is hard to see them shaking off a lifetime of biblical ranting and discourteous bahaviour,but then the good Doc. may get a sign from God, with whom he is in daily contact, to tell him that the “ unclean” have been cleansed and it is safe to go amongst them.I wouldn’t put money on it but who knows.

    The funny thing about the DUP is that a lot of that is just bluster. SF quite correctly point out that they do co-operate on city councils behind closed doors. They just make a big show of not doing it in public.

  • BP1078

    “But, increasingly, it looks like the task of re-engaging the wider (ie non voting) small ‘u’ unionist population will necessarily fall to the DUP.”

    And at the moment they haven’t a hope in hell in achieving that target; those unionists who no longer vote have sussed that a 50 plus 1 % nationalist turnout at any poll, other than the border referendum ,will not deliver us into a United Ireland- we are then left with the DUP’s *bread and butter* policies to consider.

    Ultra-conservative on the main moral issues, pampering to the prejudices of the middle-class on other topics such as the grammar schools; take away the constitutional question (which with the Shinners accepting the POC, has been to all intents and purposes safeguarded for at least a generation) and there’s no reason whatsoever that a substantial proportion of the unionist electorate should support the DUP.

    In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive. For that, a firmer, bolder, more far-sighted unionism will be needed. In a ‘long peace’, after all, people must want the Union for it to survive.

    How about us unionists out of the DUP and UUP forgeting about the Union for the time being; we don’t need the Unionist parties to keep us British, indeed, it’s more and more obvious that they are actually 100% incapable of actually realising and promoting the real benefits of keeping the link.

    Let’s continue to build up a joint civil society, the east-west economic and political links. Take what advantage we can of closer north-south cooperation. Concentrate on the daily issues, if, needs be, aligning on certain topics with those who may take a different view to us on the constitutional status of NI. Reclaim back our Irishness from those on both sides who’ve attempted to keep it as an exclusive concept.

    If we (unionists) make NI work, then, not only is it to all of our material benefit, people, whether unionist or not, will be more reluctant to take the risk of upsetting the applecart.

  • slug

    sms thats kind of the point.

    There were a lot of tensions that ultimately brought down the last Executive. My sense is that the DUP will have a much easier time of powersharing, because they won’t have the DUP opposing it. They have killed off all the opposition to powersharing so when they do it they will not feel an electoral self interest in bringing it down, nor hopefully will Sinn Féin. So the four parties may find this one more cooperative.

  • Yoda

    And at the moment they haven’t a hope in hell in achieving that target; those unionists who no longer vote have sussed that a 50 plus 1 % nationalist turnout at any poll, other than the border referendum ,will not deliver us into a United Ireland- we are then left with the DUP’s *bread and butter* policies to consider.

    The problem is that this just sounds like spin (born of fear) to account for poor unionist voter turnout: unionist voters will only vote if there is a border poll, but they’ll happily not vote on the issues that affect their daily lives? Are you seriously saying that the only thing that will get non-voting unionists off their backsides is the fear of a green tide? Isn’t it possible that unionist simply don’t like what’s on the menu and want a more profound kind of change? Isn’t it also possible that non-voters won’t vote in a border poll either?

    The rest of your post suggests that unionism doesn’t need even need democracy. It seems you do you community a great disservice; and yet I’m starting to hear it more and more on this site.

  • starbuck

    some good points there cato but i disagree that the DUP voters have had only months to adjust. They should have been quite able to read the GFA just as well as SF voters with respect to power sharing.

    They weren’t helped by the DUP vowing to smash the GFA which clearly hasn’t happened.

    Seamus Mallon said SF signing up to the GFA was Sunningdale for slow learners

    Would the DUP signing up to GFA MkII be “Home Rule for slow learners” ?

  • Pete Baker

    Starbuck

    And when SF, eventually, support policing?

    That is the other side of the current agreement.

    Unless they are afraid of doing that…

  • Dewi

    Whatever anyone says that’s a time and a place.

  • Wilde Rover

    Blatantly off thread, but,

    I was trying to get on to http://www.langerland.com and a message came up saying it had been hacked by a guy calling himself Tam Turk. He described himself as a Turkish hacker.

    Given the fact that it’s Langerland it could all just be an amusing gag, but if it is, they seem to have gone to a lot of trouble.

    As I said, could be nothing, or be something and be sorted out quickly.

    Just in case though…

  • BP1078

    Yoda

    The problem is that this just sounds like spin (born of fear) to account for poor unionist voter turnout: unionist voters will only vote if there is a border poll, but they’ll happily not vote on the issues that affect their daily lives?

    How much of this election was based on issues that affect our daily lives?
    The simple fact is that other than on the constitutional issue,neither the DUP nor the UUP represent my views on a whole range of things from woman’s reproductive rights to the grammar schools. On specific issues, I’d vote for the party that most represent my opinion on the particular topic; none of the other parties provided a good enough all-round package to tempt me out this time.

    Isn’t it possible that unionist simply don’t like what’s on the menu and want a more profound kind of change?

    For a number of reasons, I think continuing the Union remains our best option at the present, so I’m still a unionist. I’d still love to see a profound change in political Unionism, but at the minute it seems to be a forlorn hope. You could argue that people like me should attempt change from within, but how much success do you really think we’d have at trying to promote a liberal agenda within the DUP against the likes of Willie Mc Crea or Paisley Jr?

    “Isn’t it also possible that non-voters won’t vote in a border poll either?”

    Of course it is.
    But I’d suspect that the turnout for a border referendum would be higher than the 60% odd percentage we got this time and there is a precedent, the referendum for the Belfast Agreement brought out a much higher turnout in Unionist areas than we saw on Wednesday.

    The rest of your post suggests that unionism doesn’t need even need democracy.

    Not at all. I simply no longer feel the need to give the UUP/DUP automatically my vote simply because they are on the same *side* as me or to *keep out* the other *side*. I’ll cherry-pick the issues I get involved in (e.g. “we” had quite a successful campaign this time actually at raising the profile of the Maze Stadium issue amongst the various candidates), democracy means so much more than simply putting your “x” or “1” in the expected slot every couple of years or so and if enough withhold their support, then just maybe we’ll start to see a bit more serious long-term thinking on the part of political unionism.

  • Spinster

    DUP protestant fundamentalism has successfully alienated the british from the Unionist cause, and without british backing there is no Union. When they say no selfish or strategic interest they really really mean it. And what can ‘big’ Ian do about that?

    Former Unionist voters staying away from the polls is a reasonable strategy, allowing nationalists more influence than they are currently due in order to test their bone-fides.

    If they show themselves more reasonable than the prod fundis, nationalism gets rehabilitated after the provo abattoir excursion.

    If plan B is implemented, there will still be garden centres.

    So don’t worry, even if Ian would like to insist we do.

  • Bob

    Muppets as candidates doesn’t help- South Antrim, South Down, Upper Bann, Mid-Ulster……

  • DJK

    In my view the new era of relative peace has given some within the unionist/protestant community the space to challenge the blind faith in the union. Yes there are certainly good arguments to support maintaining the union. Those arguments are becoming more focused on material benefits and less on the fear of “Rome Rule” and an image of third class status in a third world catholic state for a catholic people. Given the transformation in the ROI economic well being, coupled with the breaking of the catholic churches influence on ROI government policies, there are now equally valid arguments for a new agreed Ireland under one administration.

    Young protestants may well be interested in having the discussion now that the gun has been taken from their heads.

    Pity about the last thirty years.

  • Cato

    DJK

    I agree that there is a potential for an agreed Ireland but I do think that realistically that will be one with two administrations for quite some time.
    I think the best that republicans can hope for in the next hundred years is a kind of federal Ireland with a strong government in Belfast which has not so much devolved powers from London but permanently transferred powers which will never return to London.
    When people talk of a united Ireland in terms of a handover of the sovereignty of the Northern part of the country to Dublin, the one major problem that remains is the fact that a huge number of people do not want that to happen.
    A united Ireland on that basis would be dreadfully unstable and could I think see a huge amount of bloodshed which is avoidable under the federal model.
    Nationalists who are not content with that have to explain why, with full equality under not a British parliament but a Belfast parliament of which they are an integral part, they would have such a continuing, ongoing, visceral need to pay taxes to Dublin rather than London.
    The one thing I say to nationalists who claim they want to be ruled by Dublin is to remind them of the disinterested farce of direct rule from London which I feel Dublin would simply replicate on a similar scale.
    While nationalists and unionists can have genuine representation at Stormont, unionists would never have a prayer of getting into government in the South and indeed it is hard to see unionism existing as a strong organised political force.
    Who then would be left to defend the political interests of unionism, their cultural heritage?
    Quite simply they do not believe this would happen in a united Ireland and that is the simple, straightforward reason it will not happen for a very long time.
    One other thing – can we please stop any talk about a damn border poll?
    Holding one of these would be one of the most divisive, and downright stupid things we have ever done in this country.
    It will entrench sectarianism – something we need to move away from, if only for the cash it will save. Alliance estimates I think £1 billion annually is spent on segregation.
    A border poll will be another couple of million to decide whether we pay our taxes to the exchequer in London or in Dublin.
    Does it really make much difference who we pay them to?
    One last thing – I also worry that the border poll would see a prolonged outbreak of violence here, so let us hit the idea on the head.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Young protestants may well be interested in having the discussion now that the gun has been taken from their heads.

    No. The UDA and UVF are still very active and they are still intimidating, racketeering and drug dealing in the neighbourhoods where they are strong.

  • T.Ruth

    The turn out figures are interesting or rather the figures concerning those who do not turn out are interesting.
    Those keen on a united Ireland dominated by Dublin have a long wait.The people in the South don’t want to wreck their own boat. No one would want to countenance the resultant instability that would follow any move in that direction. For better or for worse the people of NI must develop an ourselves alone approach to building a better future.

    The DUP can live with power sharing- although its supporters resent being forced to share power with the unrepentant and still belligerent representatives of terrorism-who have yet to sign up to unequivocal support of policing and justice and the PSNI-continuing to distinguish between civic and other dimensions of policing. Without that acceptance of the legitimacy of the PSNI in all aspects of policing and the Northern Ireland state then agreement to enter into government is
    by no means a certainty-though if Sinn Fein come up to the mark on their St.Andrew’s obligation it will be all systems go.
    Importantly then the border issue is now removed from our politics and parties will be judged on their ability to do real business.
    The loyalist political groupings are all in favour of the Assembly being up and running as soon as possible.Mainstream Unionists warmly welcome the return of devolved government.
    The DUP will press for real democracy with the removal of D;Hondt and mandatory coalition in the planned efficiency review which will bring our Assembly into the style of the Welsh and Scottish assembly.
    For now we have the means to remove from our politics the malign influence of the Irish and British governments and to control the power of Ministers and unaccountable North South bodies.
    I think if people are genuinely looking to build a better future we are now in a position to do that.
    T.Ruth

  • Stevo

    Thanks Rubicon and sms for the info re vote transfer details – appreciated

  • kensei

    “The DUP will press for real democracy with the removal of D;Hondt and mandatory coalition in the planned efficiency review which will bring our Assembly into the style of the Welsh and Scottish assembly. ”

    Look up “Mutual veto”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The DUP can live with power sharing- although its supporters resent being forced to share power with the unrepentant and still belligerent representatives of terrorism-who have yet to sign up to unequivocal support of policing and justice and the PSNI-continuing to distinguish between civic and other dimensions of policing.

    T.Ruth,

    The DUP do not support the rule of law whenever it is being applied to loyalists. When are the DUP going to call for the PSNI to move into Sandy Row, Monkstown, Ballyduff, Rathcoole and all of these other housing estates and lift all the active loyalists ? Face it – loyalists are an integral part of the unionist family. You are in no position to expect other people to rat out their paramilitaries when you won’t rat out yours.

    The DUP will press for real democracy with the removal of D;Hondt and mandatory coalition in the planned efficiency review which will bring our Assembly into the style of the Welsh and Scottish assembly.

    We need to have d’Hondt removed, it is a stupid system, but there can be no overall majority rule. Personally I’m in favour of a 65-70% weighted majority rule, but the parties would have to form a workable voluntary coalition. Something akin to this may possibly happen if the UUP,SDLP, and Alliance refuse to nominate ministers for the executive.

  • Billy

    T.Ruth

    I agree that d’Hondt needs to be removed once the assembly has achieved relative stability.

    However, there can be no overall majority rule. This is down to the fact that Unionism, the DUP in particular, cannot be trusted. There are still plenty of us around who remember what it was like when Unionists ran NI unchecked – no one person – one vote,gerrymandering, discrimination in housing, jobs etc, the B-Specials.

    One only has to look at DUP behaviour in councils where they have control to see that their attitude to Catholics/Nationalists hasn’t changed all that much.

    From a Unionist point of view, Sinn Fein may well have to prove their sincerity on supporting policing.

    Fair enough.

    From a Nationalist point of view, Unionism has to prove their sincerity on governing in a fair an unbiassed manner and not just for their own community.

    It will take some time for the UK govt to remove d’Hondt. Even then, as Comrade Stalin says, it will go to some sort of weighted majority.

    NI may perhaps have a local administration with an identical style to Scotland and Wales one day. However, the UK govt will only allow that once Unionism has demonstrated that it has left the old “Protestant State for a Protestant people” ideal behind.

    Looking at the “modern” day DUP and the extremely strong fundamentalist Free Presbyterian ethos within it, that’ll be a long time away.

  • BonarLaw

    Comrade Stalin

    “Something akin to this may possibly happen if the UUP,SDLP, and Alliance refuse to nominate ministers for the executive”

    Er, the only thing that would happen is that the DUP and SF get two more ministers.

    D’hondt is fundamentally undemocratic- the SDLP get more votes than the UUP but half the representation on the Executive. Then again, slap it up them as it was their stupid idea in the first place. Remember the silhouette of Brid Rodgers embracing some fellow Stoop at Castle Buildings on Good Friday 1998? That was in response to Trimble caving in to the SDLP on Strand One.

  • páid

    So BonarLaw, you don’t like d’Hondt.

    Any suggestions as to an alternative.

  • Roger

    Was Mark Robinson deselected by the DUP in south Belfast due to his £18000 expense claim?