In strategy it is important…

Miyamoto Musashi said, “In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” in this regard. David Maxwell a journalist with City Beat radio has some interesting Stormont gossip . He’s heard (as have we) that Eddie McGrady is going to stand in South Down, instead of Margaret Ritchie. But it’s hard to argue with David’s view that whilst it makes the short term a certainty against Catriona Ruane (keep an eye out for a last minute candidate switcheroo), who is clearly struggling with the weight and detail of her Education brief. In the longer term, Ritchie may just be kissing the boat goodbye (not least if this election is delayed a further two years. He also hears that the DUP have offered the UUP a deal that doesn’t look great on the surface either: Tom Elliot for FST and Jimmy Spratt for South Belfast (which would almost certainly go UU, if given a chance). It’s doubted by some that Elliot has sufficient ‘convening power’ to get the fragmented Unionist vote out, whilst a clear run for Spratt should unseat the SDLP incumbent. The question is: why would Arlene Foster not run? The answer might lie in her own difficulties with her Agricultural Environment (eek, blogging under pressure) brief. It’s a two edged sword this devolution lark.

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  • BonarLaw

    Mick

    “The answer might lie in her own difficulties with her Agricultural brief.”

    Except that Arlene is the Environment Minister…

  • Ian

    Mick,

    Isn’t Arlene the minster for Environment (not Agriculture which is Gildernew’s post)?

    “In the longer term, Ritchie may just be kissing the boat goodbye (not least if this election is delayed a further two years)”

    Isn’t Ritchie more likely to get a pop at South Down if the election doesn’t happen for two years (after accruing two years of ministerial experience)? Surely McGrady is less likely to stand again in 2009?

    Also, the outlined deal offered by the DUP is a strange choice, if true. I would have thought DUP for FST and UUP for South Belfast would have made more sense from a Unionist perspective. Are middle-class middle-of-the-road types in SB really going to favour Spratt over Dr McDonnell?

  • The original Sam Maguire

    I don’t find it a strange offer from a DUP perspective

    1. Spratt doesn’t really need that many UUP votes to take him over the top even if some go the way of Alliance and McDonnell. Out of 5500 UUP votes (this years assembly election) it’s fairly likely 3500 minimun will go to Spratt – more than enough

    2. In FST I’d envison it would take a bigger jump for current UUPers to vote for Foster than it would for ex UUPers to vote for Elliot. Plus FST isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion.

    3. Long Term, SB will be a Unionist hold for a couple more Westminister elections at least, FST will go green again very quickly.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    I probably should have added about the symbolism of 3 out of 4 Belfast seats being DUP despite the precarious situation of the Unionist majority on Belfast City Council.

    Out of curiousity Mick, which party do you see with the last minute switcheroo in South Down?

  • URQUHART

    Would Reg Empey not fancy a crack at SB as an agreed candidate?

  • I Wonder

    I would have thought he was referring to Caitriona being dropped?

  • fair_deal

    “He also hears that the DUP have offered the UUP a deal that doesn’t look great on the surface either: Tom Elliot for FST and Jimmy Spratt for South Belfast (which would almost certainly go UU, if given a chance).”

    Difficult to have made an offer when the pact talks haven’t even begun as Reg Empey made clear last night

    “Sir Reg confirmed he has replied to the DUP talks offer positively and sought suggestions for where and when and the size of delegations.”

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Merger-is-hard-to-imagine.3257655.jp

  • Turgon

    The original Sam Maguire,
    An excellent suggestion re FST / SB.

    I must admit the DUP are appearing really quite generous if they do indeed give the UUP a free run in either seat. At the last Westminster election they offered that and were rejected. Then essentially the UUP managed to prevent either seat being unionist, or at least that is a common perception amongst unionists.

    I thought the DUP would demand the UUP stand aside in both FST and SB. If the UUP did not they could be presented as splitting the vote which could be a major problem for the UUP and they might come under major pressure to stand aside.

    If the DUP are being generous it looks initially like an odd decision. I think it is really quite likely that Foster will take FST but I am very uncertain whether or not Elliot can. He has failed pretty badly once and I do not think the hardline vote will come out with that much enthusiam, though I doubt a Jim Dixon type candidate will stand. Even a few stay at home unionists and the seat could be lost again.

    In SB I agree that the UUP are in a better position and Spratt may not be the perfect candidate whereas a UUP candidate (eg Empey) might have a good chance.

    In all this there could, however, be a Machiavellian DUP strategy.

    If the DUP gain SB (which I still think is more likely than them loosing; if the only unionist) then they will have got it for some time as The original Sam Maguire has suggested, quite possibly for two or more elections. If the UUP do get FST fair enough, it will be seen as only by the grace and favour of the “magnaminous” DUP. If, however, the UUP do not get FST then that would be a huge nail in their coffin and would presumably mean that at any subsequent election the UUP would have to stand aside as they would have failed despite DUP support.

    The proposed strategy (SB DUP: FST UUP) whilst initially illogical and higher risk could be in a way a no loose for the DUP.

  • BonarLaw

    Tom Elliot (and therefore the UUP?) won’t run in FST because he is being lined up for Europe in 2009.

  • Mick

    You are a wise man and make a good point about strategy.

    Problem with politics is:

    First rule – get elected
    Essential truth – a week is a long time in politics.

    Poss Sat poll I am told. More on http://www.oconallstreet.com.

  • In the Book of Five Rings, he said “By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist.” (The Void Book)

    By which he meant, the Creationists on Lisburn Council are arse-backwards.

  • Ian

    “If the DUP gain SB (which I still think is more likely than them loosing; if the only unionist) then they will have got it for some time as The original Sam Maguire has suggested, quite possibly for two or more elections. If the UUP do get FST fair enough, it will be seen as only by the grace and favour of the “magnaminous” DUP. If, however, the UUP do not get FST then that would be a huge nail in their coffin and would presumably mean that at any subsequent election the UUP would have to stand aside as they would have failed despite DUP support.”

    Perhaps I should clarify – when I said it was a strange offer by the DUP (again, if true), I really meant a cynical offer, since (as Turgon outlined above) they would be prioritising finishing off the UUP over and above regaining two seats for Unionism in the next election.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    Turgon, believe me I wasn’t offering a suggestion I was just speculating on why I thought the DUP would make said offer. My advice would be for the DUP, UUP, UKUP, UKIP and Conservative Parties to run in both constituencies 🙂

    In an unrelated point, I can’t see why the DUP or SF would run any of their ministers in “safe” seats in any upcoming election. I mean, wouldn’t it be worthwhile trying to elevate some of their middle tier to Westminster instead of Paisley, Dodds and Robinson for the DUP and McGuinness & Murphy for SF?

  • MacAedha

    Of greater interest than Belfast south is the potential for a possible ‘pan-nationalist’ coalition in Belfast north where Dodds holds his seat by only a few thousand votes against a potential agreed nationalist
    *@ Nigel Dodds (DUP) 13935 (45.6% +4.8%)
    @Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein) 8747 (28.6% +3.4%)
    @Alban Maginness (SDLP) 4950 (16.2% -4.8%)
    @Fred Cobain (UUP) 2154 (7.1% -4.9%)
    Marjorie Hawkins (Alliance) 438 (1.4%)
    Marcella Delaney (Workers Party) 165 (0.5% -0.1%)
    Lynda Gilby (Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket) 151 (0.5% +0.3%) (ark.ac.uk)
    It would be remiss of nationalist parties to afford agreed unionist candidates something of a ‘free run’ in any general election and not attempt to maximise their own votes.
    I still think Tom Elliot could take FST but don’t be too certain Jimmy Spratt will be selected as an agreed candidate in Belfast south, there are other battles going on that the traditional nationalist/unionist one.

  • Dessertspoon

    How about only running candidates that don’t have any other job to do? So that when they are elected they can get on with being MPs without worrying about being Ministers, MLA, Councillors etc etc. I mean I’m all for a “protestant” work ethic but come on give someone else a chance lads (and lasses)!

  • Picador

    I suspect that talk of a unionist pact is spin coming from the DUP. Looking at the numbers for SB and FST I can’t see how they would benefit such from a pact. SB is clearly a good prospect for them with or without a pact while FST is substantially less likely. Hot air!

  • Hogan from County Tyrone

    On the point of a nationalist pact in North Belfast this would obviously have to be reciprocated by asking Alex Maskey to give Alasdair McDonnell a clear run in the face of a Unionist deal in South Belfast???
    I’m not sure Alex would be up for a bit of quid pro quo?

  • Of greater interest than Belfast south is the potential for a possible ‘pan-nationalist’ coalition in Belfast north where Dodds holds his seat by only a few thousand votes against a potential agreed nationalist

    You’re assuming that every nationalist in North Belfast is going to agree to voting for Gerry Kelly. I suspect quite a few wouldn’t, lead among them being Alban Maginness.

  • MacAedha

    Unless Sammy, Alban Maginness was the candidate.

  • Picador

    I suspect that many SDLP supporters in north Belfast would vote Alliance before they would go near Gerry Kelly as he is perceived as a hardman. Unfortnately it’s hard to see an alternative SF candidate as they keep chopping and changing their MLAs, councillors in the area.

    The idea of Alban standing for SF is frankly ridiculous. Martin Morgan has no time for the Provos either.

    Brian Feeney would make a great agreed candidate in my view – though God knows how old he would be by the time the seat is actually attainable.

  • Picador

    Going back to that old dinosaur Eddie McGrady. It’s a real pity for the SDLP that he’s decided to stand again. With Margaret Ritchie’s current high-profile – in light of her admirable stance on UDA gangsterism – there could be no better time for a transition.

    In a way this typifies the problems of the SDLP – a party of automomous chieftains which lacks central authority. Who among their ranks has the authority to impose new candidates or make electoral pacts? Mark Durkan? You must be joking!

  • Turgon

    The original Sam Maguire,
    Do not worry I was commending your political analysis not trying to coopt you into unionism.

    In terms of your comments about running less well known people in safe seats, that might be a reasonable idea. It does, however, run the risk of the DUP / SF giving the other party (UUP/SDLP respectively) a chance of increasing their share of the vote and appearing to be on the way back.

    In addition there is still quite a kudous to being an MP especially for unionists (I do not know about nationalists). Hence, to allow a more junior person to stand in the “mother” parliment could be a difficult pill for some leading DUPers to swallow. In the DUP’s case as you, I and Ian have noted there is probably a desire to finish off the UUP at this election and a need to ensure no prodiban vote of any consequence. As such I would suggest this is at least one Westminister election too early for the DUP to contemplate such a strategy. In the case of SF a need to have a good outing after the RoI elections might result in similar decisions.

    Picador,
    I agree there may be some spin from the DUP but I suggest you underestimate the importance some unionists (not just in SB and FST) place on regaining both of these seats; for subtly different reasons in each case. In the case of SB there is the fact that it is at least for the meantime a unionist majority seat (though I accept Alliance etc are an unknown quantitiy). In FST the priority is, I suggest, to get the bogey person (can you have a bogeywoman?) of Gildernew out.

    For the DUP to be seen to fail to ensure both seats have a good chance of going unionist could be seen as a failure of their leadership in unionism. To have made a big effort (even including standing aside in one seat) would help them further cement their claim to actual and moral leadership within unionism. That does not, of course, out rule the Machiavellian: let the UUP run Elliot so he will loose plan. To ensure a unionist failure by running two opposing candidates could damage the DUP at this point. To stand aside in one would look like statesmanship and moral authority even if it had devious motives.

    Bonar Law,
    If not Elliot who? any suggestions for a UUP candidate for FST? As I have said before I suspect Elliot is badly damaged after last time, a different face might stand a better chance.

  • slug

    Turgon

    What about Kenny Donaldson?

  • BonarLaw

    Turgon

    As I said Elliot is being groomed for Europe. The EP has admirable rules about dual mandates- it doesn’t allow them. So if Elliot was to run and win then no Euro gravy train for him, just endless sectarian headcounts until the boundary commission comes to his aid/ administers the coup de grace. If he was to fail again then his shoe-in to Brussels might face a challenge.

  • noel adams

    What is with the DELAYED for two years the next general election can be called up to may 2100

  • The EP has admirable rules about dual mandates- it doesn’t allow them.

    Erm, 2003; The Rt. Hon Dr Rev Ian Paisley MLA, MP, MEP

  • Grouch

    I have said before and I will say it again, even if you have already heard it. The union is not at risk, a deal by the DUP and UU is surely only necessary if there was this great need to make the union safe. A pact like this amongst the Unionists is just a pure sectarian tactic. Surely we are moving to new political dispensations?

    I am seriously disgusted at any suggestion of a pact. Let’s look at the hypocracy of the situation. A large number of Empey’s party actually wanted to be a party in opposition. How can they then go into an electoral pact to win a seat. They can’t say it is because they don’t want the shinners to get a seat, as they would be preventing one of our best all-round MPs from retaining a seat in South Belfast.

    So, back to the sad old dark politics of the past for the DUP. Ye olde sectarian sleazebags and cronyists

  • The original Sam Maguire

    “They can’t say it is because they don’t want the shinners to get a seat, as they would be preventing one of our best all-round MPs from retaining a seat in South Belfast.”

    Pardon? Are you Alistair in disguise?

    Turgon,

    I can see what you’re saying, but wouldn’t it be in the best interests of the DUP and SF to avoid – whenever possible – Ministers holding dual mandates. I reckon that’s just asking for bother down the line when someone needs to be deselected.

    Plus it seems that, possibly moreso in the DUP rather than SF, there are plenty of career politicians who aren’t too happy at getting a bit part role in Stormont and may need to be placated a bit.

  • Ian

    Grouch:

    “I have said before and I will say it again, even if you have already heard it. The union is not at risk, a deal by the DUP and UU is surely only necessary if there was this great need to make the union safe. A pact like this amongst the Unionists is just a pure sectarian tactic. Surely we are moving to new political dispensations?

    I am seriously disgusted at any suggestion of a pact. Let’s look at the hypocracy of the situation. A large number of Empey’s party actually wanted to be a party in opposition. How can they then go into an electoral pact to win a seat. They can’t say it is because they don’t want the shinners to get a seat, as they would be preventing one of our best all-round MPs from retaining a seat in South Belfast.”

    Actually, if you read Reg Empey’s comments in the Newsletter, he seems to be trying to avoid the sectarian allegation:

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Merger-is-hard-to-imagine.3257655.jp

    “We will approach discussions with the DUP in good faith to see if we can end the lack of representation in Parliament that so many people in Northern Ireland have to endure. How can it be of benefit to stay away from the Parliament that votes vast sums of money for us to spend in Northern Ireland. Yet this is what Sinn Fein and shortly to arrive Fianna Fail intend for the people.

    If there is a realistic possibility of helping any electors in Northern Ireland achieve representation, then Ulster Unionists will take seriously a proposal that could bring about change.”

    If Empey is true to his words then he should only be contemplating an electoral pact in seats currently held by SF, i.e. bring WT, MU or N&A into the mix along with FST, but there won’t be an agreed single Unionist candidate in South Belfast, where the electorate currently do have access to full Parliamentary representation via the SDLP’s MP McDonnell.

    (Fianna Fail aren’t in the picture yet and indeed recent comments by McDonnell seem to suggest that an SDLP/FF merger would be conditional on continued attendance at Westminster for MPs of the combined party.)

  • ”Catriona Ruane… who is clearly struggling with the weight and detail of her Education brief.”

    I don’t think she’s clearly struggling, or at least that anyone could have prevented this TA strike, so it’s a little unfair to blame her for that entirely. Same with the controversies over the 11 plus and selection and Irish schools and creationism etc. etc. I think she should be scrutinized closely in her actions, but the fact that she hasn’t really made any progress isn’t really her fault.

  • DK

    Jeepers Abdul – it’s only when you list all of Catriona’s failures, as you have done, that you realise how truly useless she is.

  • Different Drummer

    MMMMMMM DK…..

    As you have all been saying it is important that the Pan nationalist front is defeated and replaced with a pan unionist front.

    Even if the Unionist front also turns out to be ‘useless’. Because as has been demonstrated the ‘majority’ prefer useless Unionists – it makes a lot of constitutional sense.

    #Hey ho the merry oh!….

    who wants to lock up the electorial swings

    wins a place in Mr Brown’s election merry go round.

    Hey ho they merry oh!….#

  • Picador

    North Belfast Assembly Election Results 2007

    DUP 11,108 (37.4%, +3.2%) 2 seats
    SF 9,094 (30.6%, +3.6%) 2 seats
    SDLP 4,080 (13.7%, -3.1%) 1 seat
    UUP 2,498 (8.4%, -1.0%) 1 seat
    Ind 1,320 (4.4%)
    Green 590 (2.0%, +1.2%)
    Alliance 486 (1.6%, +0.7%)
    UKUP 360 (1.2%)
    WP 139 (0.5%, +0.2%)
    Rainbow George 0.1% (+0.1%)

    Combined Unionist Vote: 13,968 (47.0%)
    Combined Nationalist Vote: 13,174 (44.3%)

    The seat is on!!

  • Picador

    It seems I can’t add properly!

    Combined Unionist Vote: 13,966 (47.0%)
    Combined Nationalist Vote: 13,174 (44.3%)

    The difference is just 792 votes

    A Nationalist Unity / Get Dodds Out candidate could win it – a non-Shinner running on an abstentionist ticket. Turnout would be the key factor.

  • Diffrent Drummer

    Yes

    He – sorry it swings both ways.