By elections and Battleships

So the Enniskillen by election is almost upon us. I always avoid making predictions but I thought we might look at what various possible outcomes might tell us.I would not pretend to be a competent analyst of nationalism but the likely outcomes here seem the more straight forward. Whether or not SF capture the seat, I suspect they will get a substantial majority of the nationalist / republican vote. The SDLP seem to be running a pretty low key campaign and their support base in Fermanagh is now so small that a good showing for them is pretty unlikely. A good result for the SDLP would be a nasty shock for SF but I personally doubt we will see it.

Moving on to rejectionist Republicanism: I doubt a poor result for Karen McHugh could be interpreted as meaning poor support for anti agreement Republicans. I have frequently argued that Fermanagh contains much of the anti agreement Republican vote but that has seemed to be more concentrated in Erne East and Erne West rather than the Enniskillen / Tempo / Lisbellaw area. More importantly, although Ms. McHugh has made passing reference to her father being on the rejectionist wing of republicanism, she seems to have studiously avoided invoking such issues in her electoral pitch. As such whilst a good result for Ms. McHugh (which I do not expect) might well indicate significant support for anti agreement republicanism the converse is by no means necessarily correct and a poor showing by Ms. McHugh would, I suggest, tell us little.

Turning to Alliance: Although I have recently advocated them standing beyond the Pale, I do not expect a good showing for Dr. Kamble. I might be really nasty and suggest that if the good doctor gets more votes than he has letters after his name he would have reason to be satisfied.

Now on to the subject I am meant to know a little (very little) about: the unionists.

I said some time ago that the DUP were being clever by sending Mrs. Foster into battle and indeed as some will remember I likened her to the battleship HMS Warspite (again may I stress that that was meant as a compliment). Foster should be able (like our battleship) to annihilate the UUP challenge from Basil Johnston with little effort. She is by far the most prominent unionist in Co. Fermanagh and she topped the poll at the last election.

Of course such is the nature of Northern Ireland politics that perversely she could gain as much for the DUP by losing as by winning. If she gets much the biggest unionist vote but still loses, the DUP can (and indeed should) spin this as an idiotic unnecessary by election brought on by the UUP which has resulted in yet another republican victory west of the Bann. It would strengthen Peter Robinson’s arguments in favour of unionist unity and should end any lingering thoughts the UUP may have of trying to stand a candidate in F/ST at the next Westminster election.

Clearly a DUP win would also gain all of those and would provide positive momentum. However, I almost feel that the shock of the seat falling to nationalism despite a large DUP majority within the unionist community would be a bigger blow to the UUP than simply a DUP victory.

Bad outcomes for the DUP would be to loose the seat and see a large drop in their percentage of the unionist vote or indeed a drop in the total unionist percentage of the vote. Either would imply that voters are deserting the DUP: for either no one (possibly due to the absence of the TUV), or for the UUP.

A good UUP showing would be an interesting result but would also be a difficult one to interpret. As at Dromore it would be claimed by the UUP as proof that they are on the way back. Unlike at Dromore of course the TUV are not standing: As such, whatever the UUP try to claim, it would be difficult to calculate to what extent any UUP gain could be attributed to people trying to damage the DUP rather than actually wanting to return to the UUP fold. Clearly a UUP victory would be a massive success for them: the more so because it would have been won against Arlene Foster, as mentioned above, Fermanagh’s most prominent unionist and also someone who seems at times to have become something of a hate figure for Fermanagh UUP members.

As I suggested previously one must be very wary when analysing one council election. However, Dromore seems to have been the final nail in Dr. Paisley’s leadership coffin. As such despite this being a minor council by election it may well create significant ripples.

I will finish by suggesting that the critical things to look for are a significant drop in the SF vote (unlikely) and on the unionist side a drop in the total unionist or individual DUP vote (bad news for the DUP). Clearly if the DUP’s vote holds up well they will have considerable cause for celebration. We will wait and see if Mrs. Foster really is as lethally effective for the DUP’s cause as HMS Warspite was for Britain’s. The disaster for her would be to be her party’s HMS Prince of Wales.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Seriously, you have got to be joking.

  • percy

    If dear Arlene winneth, will she be a triple or a quadruple jobber?
    is there really no others of merit?

  • Don Quixote

    Turgon

    Do you think the NI electorate really care that much or will read anything in to the result – whatever it might be?

    I suspect some of the electorate might wonder why DUP put so much effort in to this irrelevance. Could it have more to do with the DUP needing to produce evidence that it can still win under Robinson? Why would Robinson need to invest his time in sending such a message? Or – more importantly – who is the message aimed at?

    This investment has to do with DUP internal politics and managing its red-necks. Apart from spitting hate – the DUP needs to deal with SF and this little bye-election will not change the balance. SF have little to offer the DUP, the DUP did well in St. Andrews – but SF know the DUP can’t do as well again short of SF giving them a platform. Without a SF platform the DUP loose seats at the next election.

    Meanwhile – SF needs only to broadly maintain its vote share to continue its view that their one ace card is to push the DUP to its electorate. Here Iris’ homophobia and relative ‘understanding’ of child molestors (who weren’t in need of being referred to her psychiatrist) will be the least of DUP worries. With the TUV, multi-member consituencies and STV SF have much less to worry about.

    Disolving the Executive is a real card SF can use. The question isn’t who’ll win an irrelevant bye-election to a post of no responsibility. The question is whether the DUP can keep its red-necks in camp enough to assure them all is OK while all SF are testing is whether they can sustain their vote share so that it can play its one card if it needs to.

    A downturn in SF votes will have relevance – how the DUP do is not important. The DUP already know they can’t get back what they have. Winning this bye-election doesn’t change that – but it just might buy Robinson some time.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Interesting to see if there is has been any movement by the DUP on Police and Justice if the UUP use this to Lundify them.

    Low overall turnout may point to dissatisfaction with Stormo stalemate.

  • DC

    I wonder if she does win could she give it up and push for a DUP party co-opt on recognised electoral terra firma and hope UUP wouldn’t dare an other run…?

    Quite frankly having a minister for enterprise fighting a council election amid economic turmoil and executive gridlock is just simply astonishing, as if she wins she will be double-jobbing whenever she herself legislated against all of that.

    Tactics may be right but if unionists really understand what the DUP is up to in terms of what Arlene said about double-jobbing and is now going to do it herself it could quite likely be Peter Robinson’s first error.

    From an observer’s point I still view it as an error regardless as having a minster fight a council seat after she gave up council is beyond me, it is ridiculous but proves too a certain degree of dishonesty.

  • percy

    DC this move could be palin-inpsired 😉

  • steve

    honestly Turgon, not a personal attac but the self depricating shit is really annoying. If you have an opinion get some balls and stand up and proclaim it.

    Otherwise if you have so little confidence in your opinion why declare it?

    I know i recently accused you of being bitter in your posting, but there is a world of difference between strident and bitter

    We are polar opposites but its interesting to see your point of view with out the shit

    lol code word: against

  • KieranJ

    Is this fellow, Turgon, supposed to be for real or is this a joke. I really can’t believe such outrageous siliness can possibly be taken in a serious manner; even as satire.

    What a buffoon.

    As an Irish American who follows closely the goings on in the six counties, I sometimes become numbed by the sheer ignorance displayed by Unionists vis-a-vis the outside world and reality.

  • nisa

    Yes an Irish American who clearly understands the world what next?

  • Ned

    The outcome on the Unionist side at least will tell us virtually nothing at all. Basil Johnston will probably be the last candidate ever to stand under the banner of the UUP.

    The next contest, in which the UUP will be standing as Conservatives and the TUV will have a candidate will be the one to watch.

  • It smacks of desperation when the dup have to bring a minister of the executive in to fight a council election.If she does not win big then there is going to be egg on the faces of the dup.To use a football analogy the premier league team would be expected to win4/5-o.

  • oneill

    As an Irish American who follows closely the goings on in the six counties, I sometimes become numbed by the sheer ignorance displayed by Unionists vis-a-vis the outside world and reality.

    Kieranj

    And what’s “Irish”-America’s take on the Enniskillen by-election, or are you too numb to give an opinion on that one?

    The interesting thing for me with this election will b

    e how the Unionist votes transfer down the card. If the DUP win, then “Unionist-Unity” will disappear down their list of immediate priorities; it will also prove that the Unionist electorate need not be denied the fullest range of candidates in order for a Unionist, of whatever hue, to be still elected

    If, however, SF win and it’s down to the reluctance of the Unionist electorate to give their “2” to either the UUP or DUP, then quite clearly it would prove there is no “Unionist Unity” anyway amongst the electorate and it would be in the interest of both parties to attempt to increase the aggregate total Unionsit vote whilst retaining their own separate identities.

  • oneill

    As an Irish American who follows closely the goings on in the six counties, I sometimes become numbed by the sheer ignorance displayed by Unionists vis-a-vis the outside world and reality.

    Kieranj

    And what’s “Irish”-America’s take on the Enniskillen by-election, or are you too numb to give an opinion on that one?

    The interesting thing for me with this election will be how the Unionist votes transfer down the card. If the DUP win, then “Unionist-Unity” will disappear down their list of immediate priorities; it will also prove that the Unionist electorate need not be denied the fullest range of candidates in order for a Unionist, of whatever hue, to be still elected

    If, however, SF win and it’s down to the reluctance of the Unionist electorate to give their “2” to either the UUP or DUP, then quite clearly it would prove there is no “Unionist Unity” anyway amongst the electorate and it would be in the interest of both parties to attempt to increase the aggregate total Unionsit vote whilst retaining their own separate identities.

  • Dewi

    It’s about turnout and transfers. It should be a nationalist win unless Arlene suceeds in hmmm “energizing the base” a lá Palin….

  • reckon the increase in the Alliance % share of the vote will easily surpass any of the other parties.

  • Just_Thoughts

    I would be surprised to see Alliance take more than 100-150 votes.

  • Well i note that Alliance don’t often stand in this area – no candidates in 1997, 2001 or 2005 but they did record 156 votes in 1997. I’ll guess at least a 40% increase in their vote (+63)bringing them to 219 votes. Lets see who betters that % increase.

  • IJP

    Militant is quite right – certainly compared to the last election in the Enniskillen EA, Alliance’s vote share will show the greatest percentage increase.

    I reckon this Militant guy would make a good election agent himself, you know.

  • Turgon

    Kieran J,
    I rarely respond to the sort of comments you make. However, on this occasion I will.

    I was attempting an analysis of the possible outcomes of the by election. By all means disagree with my analysis but I am afraid I am serious and am not joking.

    This by election is without doubt much less important than many other elections. However, this being a web site about Northern Ireland culture and politics I think a blog about the possible outcomes of an election is a reasonable idea. Currently living in Fermanagh I guess my interest is increased and since you have a keen interest in NI affairs you may be aware that Fermanagh is in Northern Ireland.

    I might also suggest that since you take an interest in NI affairs (which is fair enough) criticising someone for analysing unionist positions is somewhat odd, there being a considerable number of unionists in Northern Ireland.

    I would not pretend to be an expert on all the outside world though I guess I have a passing interest in literature, history and Southern and East African politics and culture.

    Now since you are such an expert tell me how would you analyse a good result for the UUP or DUP in this by election?

  • slug

    Turgon

    If the DUP win then its good for the DUP and bad for the UUP.

    Whereas if the UUP get more votes than the DUP this is a major setback for the DUP.

  • borderline

    I’ll tell you the result of this “election”. The same as every other tribal headcount held around here.

    It will be won by British Nationalists or Irish Nationalists.

    They will vote according to family tradition, going back to the Plantation.

    A miniscule number of people will vote how most of the restof the civilized world votes i.e. economics, liberalism, social democracy etc.

    Nothing has changed since Northern Ireland was created: it is a failed entity, a political slum.

    So don’t pretend that the tribal jockeying is electioneering; it’s not. It’s the headcount game, overseen by dreary steeples.

  • Come on IJP – dont just sit on the fence like most Alliance type folk !! Go on, be a devil, take the bull by the horns etc etc and make a prediction on number of Alliance votes and see who wins – you or me – as few others are making specific voting predictions here.

    ps prediction to be in by 10am tomorrow at latest.