Is Northern Ireland ready for another election?

The CountI thought that perhaps we had seen the end all our elections in 2007. But that may not be. Rumour is rife (Doughty Street)of Gordon Brown’s plans to cut and run (and some warnings to the contrary) for an early test at the polls: not least to try to finish off David Cameron before he has a chance to marshal his policy commissions into a coherent offering to the UK public. But is the shortened time quickening plans on the Unionist side for rapid moves (not to mention Senator Harris’s recent intervention) towards to co-operation? Single candidates in South Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone, could yield a couple of profitable results!

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  • me

    The quick answer is no, confrontation between the DUP and SF after their little love in could produce bad results. The people on the ground aren’t ready for it.

  • Dessertspoon

    I’ll only vote if all the people standing give up their “other” jobs. Sick of having the same people trying to do everything – conflict of interest and all that.

  • Another wee factor for Gordon to consider is the impact of the dark nights, as he has now missed any chance to go to the polls before the clocks go back. It seems he’s willing to take that risk, but I’m not sure that he’s right to take that risk.

  • Dewi

    I think he’s created 2 much momentum not to go. He’d look foolish or scared and I’m sure he doesn’t want that. Bad news for Plaid – skint….

  • Mick Fealty

    Aha, now this is genuinely interesting:

    “Bad news for Plaid – skint….”

    I suggested the same about here on Doughty Street last night…

    Part of Gordo’s master plan? Could it be the best time to run against the SNP, before hegemony sets in, and they’ve less cash to hand?

  • I blogged at the start of last week suggesting that any snap election’s timing would be least propitious for Northern Ireland. :-/

  • borderunionist

    This is my first blog on here although I have been a keen observer for some time.
    I’m not so sure the Prime Minister will go for a snap election. The announcement of 1000 troops returning home does not mean much till people see it happen. Possibly he could wait till that happens, and use the headlines to launch himself further ahead of the Tories. Notably, I think that following this Tory conference the ‘points’ difference between Labour and the Conservatives will be much smaller than at the moment.

  • Dewi

    Mick – did u mean Hogmany not hegemony ? Actually SNP got a pretty sophisticated money raising operation and being party of Government will naturally lead to increased donations.

    Tangentially it’s quite an interesting subject that Labour, for instance, can subsidise Devolved campaigns with central funds….Welsh cash for Welsh elections I say.

  • circles

    I think Gordy will go for it (not to would look quite foolish) and well before the festive season sets in. So after the clocks go back and before the last week of november probably – with a tendency to as early as possible. Anybody up for the first week in November? How about Guy Fawkes day – always seemd like a good day for radical change in parliament?

    This is of course bad news for the north. I can see the prescriptions for election fatigue already being written – election fever it certainly won’t be.

  • Turgon

    Gordon Brown has a pratically impossible decision. There are a vast number of variables even before any campaign gets underway let alone the potential problems in a campaign.

    Against going are a number of factores, not exclusively but including
    Dark nights may reduce turn out disproportionately amongst people happy enough with the current government but not that motivated.

    Then there is the lack of need to go now and so it could annoy people. I suspect, however, that would be quickly forgotten in a campaign.

    The Tory conference seems to be going better than expected (though expectations were low) and as border unionist correctly observes the polls will probably look less bad for the Tories in a couple of days.

    Unless Brown gets a decent majority I suspect he has a big problem. A reduced majority will make him look severely damaged, to loose an overall majority would be fairly disasterous. All those comments about being the shortest serving PM since Canning especially after waiting for so long for the job.

    In favour of going he has had a bounce in the polls and if he does not go and looses later he will make the mistake Jim Callaghan did. If he goes and wins he can destroy Cameron yet with no obvious Tory heir aparent (Hague?) to step into place a very wounded Cameron might have to soldier on.

    The momentum is such that not to go would at least temporarily make it look as if he did not go because Cameron did so well at the conference; helping Cameron and hurting Brown.

    On balance I tink he will wait until a couple of days after Cameron’s speech and decide then. If Cameron’s speech is poor or the polls show no bounce for the Conersatives he will go. What to I know though I am a prodiban who believes in creationism?

    In terms of Northern Ireland I would have thought the winners from an electionh would probably be the DUP. We have discussed at great length the Fermanagh/South Tyrone and South Belfast seats but whilst I entirely respect the counter ideas I think both will go unionist (FST temporarily). If the DUP win both they will gain and even if they let the UUP go for one it will be seen that the seat is UUP only by the grace and favour of the main unionist party, hence underlining the subservient nature of the UUP. If they could get North Down (unlikely but possible) then that would really hurt the UUP despite Hermon’s semi detached position. Ironically of course Empey could be helped by an election as I would suggest that the UUP would be unlikely to dump him at the start of an election campaign and if the UUP end up with two seats they can claim to be on the way back.

    I also suspect that an early election would be bad for the prodiban with no organisation ready and no candidates prepared for the fight. A bad showing (or even a no show) by prodiban candidates would allow the DUP to claim that there was very little real opposition to their recent change in policy.

    I am of course in no position to pontificate on nationalist politics but would a fair reading be that no or little change would be the likely outcome? I suspect Durkin is safe, McDonnell loosing would be considered not a big defeat and McGrady could probably hold South Down. Would Ritchie run instead?

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    What’s the minimum duration of an eletion campaign – is it definitely too late to call a poll on the 25th of October?

  • no irish here

    I think that an election in November would be fantastic – get the kid gloves off.

    I also suspect that the interest will only be in constituencies that have the name south in the title –

    South Down
    South Belfast
    Fermanagh South Tyrone
    South Antrim

    although also possibly North Down.

    BUT

    Is it too early for Allister and his crowd to make an impact in South Antrim; Eddie McGrady has already indicated he is running again in South Down; Planning (& Giants Causeway) will undermine Foster in Fermanagh South Tyrone; There will be no election pact between the UUP and DUP (South Belfast/FST).

  • In favour of going now: Brown is the architect of the modern British housing boom. If that boom turns to bust, Brown’s political career goes with it. If he gets a renewed mandate now, he at least gets a five year stint (and has four years to get out of any 2008 slump instead of two).

    Against going now: Labour’s finances are apalling; the SNP are riding high in Scotland; the polls almost certainly overstate Labour support as they have done for 15 years; November is not a good time to get Labour voters to the polls.

    In parochial terms; the SF-DUP relationship has more than enough coherence to survive what will be a low-key campaign where all parties have limited budgets and tired workers; the Unionists should win both FST and South Belfast with joint candidates and the SDLP should be able to squeeze enough tactical votes to win South Down and SF could see their percentage share increase significantly and still end up a seat down. That’s first past the post for you.

  • URQUHART

    Disagree with No Irish Here on his point that there will be no deal in South Belfast, but agree about the damage to Arlene Foster. Hence, I predict Jimmy Spratt as combined U candidate in South Belfast and Tom Elliot in FST. Spratt will win, Elliot will not.

  • Turgon

    no irish here,
    I agree entirely about the prodiban. Do you think they would do any better if the election was called later? Although they would become more organised; memories of the DUP sell out would be fadig a bit and if the show remains on track people might not want to rock the boat. You suggest South Antrim as a possible good place for Allister and co and I would agree; what about East and North Antrim, Strangford and East Belfast?

  • Turgon

    URQUHART,
    Interesting view re FST. Do you think Foster is so badly damaged that a decision would be made to run Tom Elliot? I am inclined to think he is pretty damaged goods after the last Westminister election. I doubt that the damage to Foster has made her a less attractive candidate than Elliot. I agree with the implication in your post that Elliot would have great difficulty taking FST.

  • Dewi

    “the Unionists should win both FST and South Belfast with joint candidates and the SDLP should be able to squeeze enough tactical votes to win South Down and SF could see their percentage share increase significantly and still end up a seat down”

    Impossible for SDLP to win – and given a single Unionist candidate won’t their 7000 odd vote disappear in FST ?

  • Dewi

    “What’s the minimum duration of an eletion campaign – is it definitely too late to call a poll on the 25th of October?”

    Election held 17 working days after Gordon sees the Queen so 25th out.

  • no irish here

    It is difficult to think what the impact if the election (although I think it will be in Nov) was later.

    Also the Boundary Commission has just released its recomendations (embargoed until midnight)

    Some big changes – East Belfast, North Belfast, west Belfast, South Belfast, Lagan valley, East Antrim, east derry, South Down, Strangford, South Antrim + some others.

  • Dewi

    How on earth did u get hold of that NIH ? And these can’t apply to these elections can they ?

  • Crow

    I think there is an outside possibility of an SF/SDLP counter pact to any unionist deal on FST/SB. After all Labour, the SDLP’s sister party, already broke the mold on SF election pacts with their Seanad deal. There is the troubling SF abstentionist policy for the SDLP to deal with but given that their potential suitors in FF said they would not be interested in Westminster maybe that’s no longer beyond the pale either.

    Perhaps SF would be willing to take their chances in FST and instead opt for a Belfast only pact, SF in the North and SDLP in the South.

  • Impossible for SDLP to win – and given a single Unionist candidate won’t their 7000 odd vote disappear in FST ?

    Although there is arguably less reason for SDLP voters not to vote tactically that at any point in recent times, the Shinners will have to carry off the mother of all squeezes to win against a single Unionist candidate.

    SF have been the largest nationalist party in every fought on the current boundaries. Despite that, the SDLP vote was essentially unsqueezed in 2001 and by only 1,100 votes in 2005 in Westminster as opposed to the local government elections on the same day. The Assembly election saw a combined Unionist vote of 21,360, an SF plus dissident vote of 18,078 and an SDLP vote of 6,483. SF would have to pull more than half of the SDLP’s Assembly vote which would require a collapse of bilbical proportions on the SDLP’s part. And Arlene might be DUP but she isn’t a bogey-person of Willie McCrea proportions.

    It’s possible SF can pull this off but the odds are against them.

    Perhaps SF would be willing to take their chances in FST and instead opt for a Belfast only pact, SF in the North and SDLP in the South.

    First I have heard of this, are you sure you aren’t kite flying?

    In a straight fight between Kelly and Dodds, Dodds still wins by about 5% points (Assembly 2007 is blurred by the McCord vote but a small but significant majority of those would probably otherwise have gone Unionist). Kelly misses the chance to crush Maginness in a fair dig and set the Shinners up for three Assembly seats next time. Maskey gets the shaft in South Belfast. Maginness probably says “over my dead body”. Relations between the Shinners and Stoops are apalling in Belfast anyway ever since Maginness did the dirty on the Shinners over the Mayoralty in June.

    The only person who really benefits from this proposal is Alasdair… you are Alisdair McDonnell, and I claim my ten pounds.

  • Dewi

    Personal view is that a single Unionist candidate in FST might trigger an SDLP collapse – but we”ll see. Fascinating in Belfast Noth Mccord’s transfers went in a ratio of 7:5 Unionist to Nationalist…….don’t quite understand system to work out what his 500 non-transerable would have done to this ratio.
    I can’t see SF and ADLP forming pact of anysort anywhere so Belfast South looks doomed…..best chance of nationalist gain ? …….Ceredigion !!!

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    You are much more expert with the numbers than me and I always respect your suggestions. I think an SDLP collapse in FST of the type you propose is relatively unlikely, but possible (he says covering himself).

    Running Elliot is something I have not heard before URQUHART’s suggestion. I think he would have more difficulty getting the vote out in an election after his failure last time.

    At a guess I would suggest if Foster runs she will win against Gildernew, Elliot would loose.

    If I am wrong I will of course be open to riducle but as a fundamentalist prodiban who believes in creationism that will be nothing new for me.

  • Dewi

    “….fundamentalist prodiban who believes in creationism that will be nothing new for me.”

    Keep on evangelicing – u might be right never know !!

    One thing I’ve asked before – do students vote at home or at college usually – do they get the choice these days ? relevant both to FST and Belfast South.

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    If I am right (which I believe I am obviously; I hope and pray all come to faith before death).

    On your question, my understanding is that students can choose. I think the vast majority of them vote at home. In fact I was registered to vote at my mum’s house until I got married (mummy’s boy I know) and I only got my driving licence changed when a policeman pointed out it was technically illegal to continue to be registered at my mum’s adress.

  • Dewi

    Tory inheritance tax move very clever – My family not that well off but with the house price boom had to transfer dad’s house etc etc many hundreds of thousands of peole affected in the key South East battlegrounds…was astonished Brown didn’t anticipate…unless he just bungs it in the Labour manifesto and says thanks Mr Cameron for your good suggestion….

  • kensei

    Turgon

    “You are much more expert with the numbers than me and I always respect your suggestions. I think an SDLP collapse in FST of the type you propose is relatively unlikely, but possible (he says covering himself).”

    I would say that it is likely, but not guaranteed.

    Where has this idea that Foster is palatable to Nationalists come from? She comes from under the wing as Donaldson, shares the same tone and face when talking to Republicans, has been marketed as close to Paisley and just had a PR screw up.

    There are several complicating factors. A lot of pressure would come on the SDLP to withdraw, or a dissident Unionist might step in to peel off a few votes. There could be leakage between the UUP->DUP transfer of votes. A close contest is likely to motivate people on both sides to vote. Demographics will also have shifted a little, probably in Nationalism’s favour.

    The worst case scenario for you is that SF crush the SDLP and retain the seat. That would be a rather big psychological blow for Unionists, I fancy. It is much less bad for SF to lose. It’ll be a temporary setback, through either demographics or splits on the Unionist side, you’ve have probably encouraged more new voters to SF, encouraged resentments among Nationalism and the accusation Unionism is unchanged, and handed them a stick to beat the SDLP with, repeatedly.

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    I am not trying to worry you but one of my best friends is a solictor who deals almost exclusively with wills and probate. He says you need to be very careful regarding transfer of property to avoid inheretance tax and nursing home fees. I cannot explain how but it can produce significant problems. I hope you got the house thing checked.

  • BonarLaw

    Weir vs. Hermon again in North Down? Or has he had his chance and blown it?

  • Crow

    Sammy,
    LOL. Definitely a kite but I’m not Alisdair McDonnell (nor am I a stoop or a shinner for that matter). So no ten pounds for you!

    I would tend to agree that a Dodds/Kelly head to head in NB would almost certainly result in a DUP victory but it would be a very close run thing indeed, maybe even less than your 5%. The question of which party’s sitting MLA would fare worse as a result of a Belfast pact is an interesting one. I would suggest that Maskey’s vote is much more likely to return in any subsequent Assembly election than Maginness’. That said the SDLP might still be tempted to try and keep their MP.

  • Turgon

    kensei,
    Sorry posts crossed.
    I am unclear whether or not you are saying an SDLP collapse is likely. I will bow to your idea on this (I am not being sarcastic, I cannot pretend to be an expert on FST nationalist/republician voting).

    I cannot argue with much of what you have said. I think Foster will be pretty unpopular with nationalists and there will be pressure on the SDLP I agree. Would that be enough to cause withdrawal/collapse. I do not know.

    I am not sure how bad the PR episode is for Foster herself and how much it is the DUP in general.

    Elliot might be a better bet for unionism but I just think he has fairly clearly failed once, the UUP has failed twice if you count Sam Foster in 2001 and he would have more trouble getting the vote out. Also is Foster such a hate figure that she would induce more SDLP voters to switch to SF to a much greater extent than Elliot? I do not know I would be interested in your view (and I will not scoff if you get it wrong).

    I know Gildernew is a bit of a hate figure for unionists so I think there will be a lot of pressure for a single candidate this time (whenever it is) and I think despite the recent events that Foster is the best unionist bet. As a realted side issue I doubt Jim Dixon or any other prodiban will stand.

    Who knows but I always think you should have a guess (it makes the thing more fun; its a sort of fundamentalist prod version of gambling with the advantage of not costing anything) and my guess is that if Foster is sole unionist candidate she will win, Elliot would loose.

  • steve48

    “my guess is that if Foster is sole unionist candidate she will win, Elliot would loose.”

    really

  • One thing I’ve asked before – do students vote at home or at college usually – do they get the choice these days ? relevant both to FST and Belfast South.

    Since our registration was tightened up it’s unusual (although I think not actually illegal) for students to only register at one address, and unless and until they burn their boats and move to South Belfast year round, it tends to be the parental address. Registration collapsed by up to half in parts of South Belfast when the new rules came into effect.

    Where has this idea that Foster is palatable to Nationalists come from?

    I’m not sure anyone said that. I said she was less of a hate figure than Singin’ Willie, which is pretty unarguable, and even McCrea didn’t trigger an SDLP collapse (although he did help McGuinness put on the squeeze). Times have changed and this is an interesting fight, but the form book would still say SF if all four parties fight, DUP in the even of a Unionist pact.

    I would suggest that Maskey’s vote is much more likely to return in any subsequent Assembly election than Maginness’.

    I agree and I think Alban would too, which is why there ain’t gonna be no pact in North Belfast.

  • kensei

    “I am unclear whether or not you are saying an SDLP collapse is likely. I will bow to your idea on this (I am not being sarcastic, I cannot pretend to be an expert on FST nationalist/republician voting).”

    I’m no expert on anything, especially FST. But my instinct would tell me I’d be pissed off if they tried to pull that if my constituency was set like that. Hell, I’d vote Alliance to keep them out. I’d say a collapse is better than possible, but worse than likely.

    Foster is probably your best bet, just in terms of maximizing Unionist vote. The PR fiasco might hurt her if it came up in a November campaign by discouraging UUP voters.

    Sammy

    “I said she was less of a hate figure than Singin’ Willie, which is pretty unarguable, and even McCrea didn’t trigger an SDLP collapse (although he did help McGuinness put on the squeeze). Times have changed and this is an interesting fight, but the form book would still say SF if all four parties fight, DUP in the even of a Unionist pact.”

    There are few hate figures as big as Willy. But I’d argue that the entire DUP lineup is almost instantly unlikable to Nationalists. Robinson (either)? Dodds? Donaldson? Campbell??? It’s something in the tone of voice and the faces they pull. Or maybe it’s just me.

    Times have changed, and this time what would be needed is a big SDLP->SF swing. The electorate is sophisticated enough to know that, and the type of swing necessary is perfectly possible. But as I said, a lot of complicating factors, plus you would have a campaign to deal with too.

  • dewi

    “I am not trying to worry you but one of my best friends is a solictor who deals almost exclusively with wills and probate. He says you need to be very careful regarding transfer of property to avoid inheretance tax and nursing home fees. I cannot explain how but it can produce significant problems. I hope you got the house thing checked.”

    Thanks for the advice Turgon…….I’m a bit of an expert myself – house not transferred to avoid any taxes – just as part of usual family retirement planning…..Mick will you please delete my previous post on this subject !!!

  • patrique

    I hope there is an election. On election day all Civil and Public servants could strike.

    We’ll see who are not needed then, and whether the savage job cuts are necessary.

    At the end of the day, without us, you can’t hold an election. So much for drinking tea all day.

  • Jonathan

    Can’t see exactly why Tom Elliot is such a hate figure but he (or his party) were the only ones to take more votes in 2007 than in 2005 in FST.
    DUP and UUP are quite close here. The DUP core were prepared to vote UUP when they had to and will do so again, and the UUP core will vote DUP if they are the only unionists on the menu. If it’s a deal the Unionist will win. Tom would probably be more likely than Arlene to win under a pact as some floating nat voters would be less scaremongered by the UUP than DUP

  • Interested Observer

    I believe there will be a unionist pact on FST and S Belfast as both unionist parties need it. The UUP will grasp at it because increasing to 2 MP’s would get them recognised as a party at Westminster again and hence a big increase in funding from Westminster for policy development etc. Also Empey could sell it as the beginning of their revival.
    The DUP need it as taking FST could be sold as another defeat for SF and further reinforce their line that unionism is on the front foot and retaking ground – it would keep the dissidents from gaining support.
    In terms of who fights each seat – The DUP are in the driving seat and can dictate terms. I believe they will opt for FST for a number of reasons (leaving S Belfast to the UUP. Firstly as mentioned above they can sell it as a great victory over SF, secondly they are now image orientated and want to increase the number of women in the team. Finally and most importantly they will have calculated that if they capture FST no unionist could challenge them in the future whereas in S Belfast at a future election they could get away with running against the UUP if their party vote continues to rise.

  • páid

    Lads,

    I am trying to come up with a nicer description of NI than a ‘sectarian statelet’.

    All this talk of Unionist and Nationalist pacts isn’t helping.

    Surely the Constitutional question is settled, and the election will be fought on left-right / liberal-conservative issues as is the case in erm non-sectarian erm states.

  • bangorunionist

    rumours have been circulating that sylvia hermon will not be standing again in north down.

    will this lose the uup a lot of voters that were attracted by hermons liberal views?

    if an alan mcfarland type candidate is choosen a lot of voters will go back to the alliance and maybe even the greens this time, and there doesnt exist the same anti dup feeling that there was 2 years ago in north down when it was felt that the dup was holding back peace in northern ireland. will it now be possible for the dup to capture north down? they were the party that got the most votes in the assembly elections in north down this year

  • An Lochlannach

    Interesting detail on proposed boundary changes: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2007/1003/breaking32.htm

  • Insider

    URQUHART & Others: Re. South Belfast – Jimmy Spratt, or indeed any other DUP candidate, cannot win this seat. There are too many small ‘u’ type unionists/alliance type unionists that will not vote DUP, and will not vote for Jimmy Spratt. Alasdair McDonnell is an excellent candidate for the SDLP – he can attract a small block of these middle ground small ‘u’ type voters who value his constituency work etc. and if it’s the wrong type of Unionist candidate Alasdair will hold this seat, even with a single Unionist candidate. If you need proof look at this year’s Assembly elections : All Unionists – 43%, All Nationalists/Republicans – 40%, Alliance/Green Party – 15% : It doesn’t need a high IQ to work out which voting block holds the balance of power!

  • Peter Brown

    Dewi & Turgon

    Tory IHT move is a good one – I too do a lot of probate work (but am not Turgon’s best friend at least for the purposes of his post) and many clients are already referring to this as a good thing for the middle classes in NI as well as GB but realise it is pie in the sky until they are in government and deliver. They are hoping it will provoke a lesser? reaction from Gordon and they can bank on that in the Budget next year not 2012 or beyond.

    The most significant thing about the IHT problem is that most people it affects probably don’t even know they are affected so how can they be influenced by politicians on this issue!

  • Picador

    The SDLP do not want to lose South Belfast
    Ditto with the Shinners in F & ST

    Surely common interest will enable them to come to an understanding.

  • picador

    Just had a quick look a the Boundary Commission’s ‘final proposals’

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q="northern+ireland"+boundary+commission&meta=

    They are more or less a rehash of previous proposals, somewhere between the ‘intial proposals’ and the ‘revised proposals’.

    Shoddy work designed to appease our tribal chiefs as they consolidate their fiefdoms.

  • Re: An Lochlannach’s link to the Irish Times story; the revised recommendations merely confirm what was already on the table.

    The Irish Times story is right in parts, but it’s pretty obvious that their basis was a phone call with the SDLP. You’d have thought they’d have learned their lesson earlier this year (Joe Boyle MLA where are ye?) or a long time ago (Brid Rodgers MP, where are ye?).

    The North and South Belfast changes were carefully designed to not affect the sectarian balance of either constituency as at the time of the review. However, in the case of North Belfast, the changes probably help Kelly in the long term as it adds an area which is still changing quite quickly demographically. In South Belfat it makes no odds to the SDLP (they are disappointed they didn’t get the extra bit they wanted); in South Down and Foyle it does make things a little more difficult for them. It doesn’t actually help them in East Antrim as it would probably make SF the biggest Nationalist party with SDLP transfers deciding whether SF or a 2nd Alliance candidate take a second non-unionist seat.

    It’s actually a pretty poor review – it doens’t deal with the massive oversizing of North Antrim, Newry and Armagh, and Upper Bann or relative undersizing of the Belfast seats all that well, probably because the Commission wanted to avoid any rerun of Eddie McGrady’s 1990s MOPE-fest. Time for STV for Westminster, methinks.

  • Picador

    Re: North Belfast

    Dodds, using spurious claims of ‘local ties’ got his way on two issues effecting North Belfast this time:

    1. The inclusion of Cloughfern, though the case was less than watertight

    2. No changes to the crazy boundaries that ficide up the Greater shankill between North and West Belfast.

    Sinn Fein helped him considerably on the latter point as they pursued their 5-seat strategy for the West to the detriment of nationalists in the North (Gerry Kelly is of course a leadership man from the West).

    Dodds let it be known at the review that, long-term, he sees Monkstown as part of his fief.

    With the unionist/nationalist split in North Belfast split so close we can expect more of the same – an unholy alliance of politicians, paramilitaries and loyal orders – for the forseeable future.

    The 17 peacelines will stay in place (the last went up this summer across the playground of an integrated school!). Large areas of the city – mainly Protestant – will remain a depopulated wasteland. Plans for Catholic housing near sectarian interfaces will be objected to. Then the next time the review comes up Doddsy will ask for Monkstown to counter the decline in unionist numbers elsewhere.

    It’s about time the nationalist parties got their act together to rid North Belfast of this scourge. Start preparing for the next boundary review NOW. Put personal and party egos aside and start looking for a unity candidate.

    P.S. Kelly will never be electable in this constituency as he is too much of a hard man.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    “The Irish Times story is right in parts, but it’s pretty obvious that their basis was a phone call with the SDLP. You’d have thought they’d have learned their lesson earlier this year (Joe Boyle MLA where are ye?) or a long time ago (Brid Rodgers MP, where are ye?)”

    Sammy It might be a 3 o clock lack of caffeine, but this has gone right over my head.

  • An Lochlannach

    Sammy Morse wrote: ‘the revised recommendations merely confirm what was already on the table.’

    I have to admit that I’m not at all aware of what is or isn’t on the table! Hints to where more info is available gratefully received.

    It seems to me that some of the proposed changes could be significant, if only in Assembly elections. The switching of Banagher & Claudy from Foyle to East Derry, for example, seems significant, or are those wards too sparsely populated to make much of a difference?

  • Sammy It might be a 3 o clock lack of caffeine, but this has gone right over my head.

    Basically, the Irish Times buy whatever ramping stories the SDLP decide to feed them before every election and run them uncritically. So Joe Boyle and Sharon Haughey were going to zip into the Assembly, Brid Rogers was going to clean Doherty’s clock in 2001, Marty Morgan was destined for a seat in Europe, etc. And they all turn out to be a load of shite. I don’t blame the SDLP for the ramping, that’s their job, but I do wonder that the Irish Times haven’t worked out that giving a quick phone call to your mates in the SDLP and repeating their line verbatim isn’t actually the smartest way to do things.

    I have to admit that I’m not at all aware of what is or isn’t on the table! Hints to where more info is available gratefully received.

    Just pop along over to http://www.boundarycommission.org.uk/ and your every wish will be fulfilled.

    The commission produced initial recommendations in April 2004, revised recommendations in May 2006, and this the confirmation that those revised recommendations will proceed unchanged. So these proposals are not new to insiders and sundry hacks. Some of the changes are reasonably significant but this was an incredibly conservative review and nothing is particularly drastic.

    Basically, in their 1990s review, the Commission decided to tackle the oversized Armagh/Down constituencies and undersized Belfast ones in quite a radical way; that happened to involved abolishing Eddie McGrady’s seat and creating a super-safe SDLP Newry and Mourne (ah, those were the days).

    The SDLP went on an over-the-top MOPE frenzy about how it was all discrimination, back to 1968, just like Alabama, etc., then called in the American Embassy. You’d have thought that Eddie McGrady actually attended Westminster and the rest of the party actually cared about it.

    Sure, it was an unfortunate decision from an SDLP point of view, but they went totally over the top. As they won, I’m sure they don’t care and probably wouldn’t in their position either.

    In any case, the Commission backed down then, went for a cautious approach this time, and we still have the same problem, viz. undersized seats in Belfast and big ones in Armagh and Down. Which some Nationalist commenters have the cheek to claim is discrimination when it’s all Eddie McGrady’s bloody fault in the first place!!!

    First Past The Post is a crap system and produces perverse outcomes like this all the time, but it can be made to function better or worse and this has made it function worse.

  • Turgon

    Dewi / Peter Brown,

    Just to clarify I am not a solicitor so I do not know re inheretance tax etc. I am not in any way implying transfer is illegal just that you can end up getting taxed when you think you have avoided it and hence you need to talk to a solicitor.

    I meant no harm and in no way was being critical, I was trying (and clearly failing to be helpful).

  • rj

    Sammy

    I was at the local hearing for Newry and Armagh and Down South in the previous review and you are absolutely right. SDLP went way over the top, demanded and got two constituencies with reasonable SDLP majorities (pity about Newry and Armagh), rather than a single super safe seat with some chance in ‘Blackwater’, ie Armagh plus Dungannon.

    I suspect that the two problems that arose last time scared the Commission this time. They were the SDLP whinge-fest in the South and the refusal of apparently sane people to recognise that Belfast has shrunk and cannot sustain four seats. (In the nineties it was entitled to three and a bit, now its only about two and a half.)

    This means that as well as tiny seats in Belfast (on revision) and large rural seats we have unnecessary changes to the suburban seats as they lose population inwards and have to grab some outwards. Antrim East, Antrim South, Lagan Valley, Strangford are all messed about. Down North is only saved by there being nothing left after Donaghadee but sea.

  • bertie

    “First Past The Post is a crap system ”

    It is indeed!

  • DK

    For those without the figures, here are the electoral populations of the various constituencies (Dec 2005), from small to big:

    Belfast West 59,018
    East Antrim 59,474
    Belfast South 59,961
    North Down 60,108
    Belfast East 60,129
    West Tyrone 60,186
    Strangford 60,349
    South Antrim 60,950
    Mid Ulster 63,015
    East Londonderry 63,680
    Lagan Valley 63,836
    Foyle 64,277
    Belfast North 64,605
    Fermanagh and South Tyrone 67,411
    South Down 68,415
    North Antrim 72,555
    Upper Bann 72,564
    Newry and Armagh 72,876

    In other words: if West Belfast has 6 MLAs, Newry and Armagh should have 7.4. Or the other way round, if Newry and Armagh have 6, West Belfast should have 4.9

  • Dewi

    http://www.forecastuk.org.uk/

    Gordon got an appointment with the Queen Tuesday night according to the above…..

  • Bigger Picture

    Is forecastuk not just a labour spin tool?? Think the figures are too risky for Brwon he needs a big personal victory and with all the polls going about it doesn’t seem he will get that. Tories and the Lib Dems don’t want one and the more the harp on at Brown to call one i think the more confident they are that one won’t be called

  • Dewi

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7031749.stm

    Hmmm – makes him look a bit foolish in my humble view. Good for Plaid though – chance to raise some dosh and select some candidates…..