Why TUV, on their own terms, are wrong to stand aside

Turgon’s analysis is always well thought out and well written. As is not unusual, I disagree with him, this time on it being best for the TUV to stand aside in Enniskillen. Here’s why:He says:

It will be suggested that in an STV election there should be no problem with vote splitting (the answer to that of course is: SDLP, West Tyrone)

Had the TUV stood it is highly likely that if this seat falls to SF the other unionist parties would have taken the opportunity to blame the TUV for the loss of the seat. They would have looked at how many TUV votes failed to transfer and would have blamed the TUV party for that. The fact that the UUP forced this election and that the DUP insisted on a problematic candidate for co-option would all have been forgotten in the race to find a scapegoat. I can easily imagine the cries that the TUV supposedly so opposed to SF had handed the seat to them; I can even guess which commentors on slugger would have said it.

Standing three candidates to hold one seat is not in itself total madness, the PDs did it very well in Galway West not so very long ago. West Tyrone was however for various reasons madness, that isn’t really in dispute. But this argument runs into a problem when we look at Dromore. 739 citizens of Dromore voted for Harbinson in the by election, 707 of them (or more accurately 707 of the 828 votes he had when he was knocked out) transferred to either Carol Black or Paul Stewart. That’s a pretty high transfer rate. Would the 377 of them who transferred UUP have turned out and voted had TUV not been on the ticket? Frankly I find it unlikely. Turgon himself admits that there are people who will not now turn out in Enniskillen. This provides a compelling argument that TUV standing aside is what will hand the seat to Sinn Fein, not them standing.

Unionism is not united now, and in all sobriety never really has been. We hate eachother, always have and always will. Chekov’s piece today does a good job of identifying the factions between whom the hatred exists. There are former DUP voters in Enniskillen who would want to give the DUP a bloody nose, who knows, perhaps more than there would have been a week ago. Some of those people will now vote UUP, but it would be a fallacy to suggest that all of them will, doubtful to say that most of them will. Dromore tells us that it is likely that more than 50% of those who will now stay at home would have transferred UUP or DUP. In Fermanagh surely that will be higher.

I have no doubts that the TUV think they are doing the right thing rather than backing away from a fight. I suspect the public of Fermanagh will know this also. But Dromore actually tells us a lot about who votes TUV, why they do it, and what it is they want to see. The TUV electorate of Enniskillen will now be torn three ways, the third way being to stay at home. That is a much greater danger to Unionism than a failure to transfer. At least if the TUV had stood there would have been a chance they would have transferred. Now it’s a matter of asking people to hold their noses and you have to wonder how many Fermanagh TUV type Unionists will do that. Perhaps in this instance, it’s NOT standing three candidates where the real madness lies.

I used to write and get paid, now I read and don’t.

Former UUP staffer, currently living in London. @mjshilliday