No change in Dreary Steeples

Well the dust has begun to settle (rather quickly) after the by election and I thought it worth putting together a few thoughts. The reality is of course that council by elections are pretty irrelevant. I do, however, take seriously Horseman’s criticism of me for describing the Fermanagh election as a cure for insomnia. He said (very correctly) that one should never have contempt for any exercising of democracy: I stand corrected.The outcome of this election is to be honest pretty irrelevant simply because despite all the ink which will be spilt over it: the status quo has largely been maintained. Clearly Arlene Foster won for the DUP and their proportion of the vote went up marginally. The DUP can proclaim this as a victory and that they have defeated the UUP in one of their very few semi strongholds west of the Bann. I said when Foster’s candidacy was announced that this was clever politics from the DUP and I still feel it was: it ensured a convincing win. I suspect Arlene Foster’s name probably is worth the 500 votes which separated the DUP and UUP. However, the fact that they had to draft in Foster shows that the DUP were far from supremely confident of victory. Had they achieved this win with Thomas Hogg that would have been a more significant result and a significant defeat for the UUP.
Jim Gibney recently suggested (in my view inaccurately) that the DUP’s stance on policing and justice is solely motivated by fear of other unionists. Even if that were true, this election is not going to make the DUP feel that they have a free run to do as they will on matters such as P&J.

The UUP have avoided humiliation and will be able to justify to themselves at least the forcing of this election. They will also be able to say that they scared the DUP into running Foster and have shown that they are still a party of significance in at least one seat beyond the Pale. However, they did not really make inroads into the DUP lead within unionism and as such are still very much second fiddle to the DUP. There may be no shame in Basil Johnston losing by only 500 votes to Arlene Foster but it is still a defeat and in terms of electoral support they are an enormously long way from the position they were in a decade ago in Fermanagh. This election will not make Reg Empey or his acolytes change tack and nor will it result in his downfall. However, the systemic problems within the UUP remain as obvious to everyone (apart from some UUP members) as they have done for some time. I remain relatively dubious that they will end up with a formal merger with the Tories and remain extremely dubious even if they do link up with them that such a deal will solve the UUP’s problems.

The TUV of course did not contest this election but asked their potential supporters to go out and vote for either of the other unionist parties. In view of the relatively comfortable unionist victory one might suggest that this was a flawed decision. However, crystal balls are I believe few in number in Jim Allister’s office and as such a difficult 50:50 decision before the election is not really made wrong afterwards by this outcome. Clearly had the TUV gained a large first preference vote that would have been relevant. Equally had splits resulted in giving the seat to SF, the TUV would have been blamed by the other unionist parties; or if the TUV had polled badly they would have been significantly damaged. No doubt the DUP will continue to try to argue that Dromore was the TUV’s high water mark and that it will be downhill from there. However, that is purely speculation and I might just as easily proclaim that all the unionists who did not turn out were actually TUV supporters so sickened by the DUP and UUP that they would not vote for either despite Jim Allister and Sammy Morrison’s pleas and that lots of the unionists who did vote would have preferred to vote TUV. Neither is likely to be accurate and we will have to wait until the TUV next contest an election to gauge what their actual support level is.

The biggest story of this election is of course the collapse in the SDLP vote. However, even here to read too much into it is probably very flawed. The SDLP ran an extremely low-key campaign: only they can answer as to why. I almost wonder if they knew that they could not beat SF in Fermanagh and as such tried to keep their vote down so that they would then not give second preferences to SF and help an SF victory. That would be extremely Machiavellian and of course if (a big if) they did that consciously they have suffered somewhat from it. However, they do seem extremely angry with SF at the moment and the outcome of this election has hurt SF (albeit only a little).

Probably more likely they knew they would not win, had relatively few election workers and thought that a low-key campaign would result in defeat being more easily explicable and people not knowing how their overall support was doing.

SF of course have remained static despite a pretty intense campaign. I know Ms. Coyle tried to proclaim an advance in percentage terms but fractions of a percent do not really count if you regard yourself as a major political party. Whilst some others might suggest that this was a set back for SF, I would not agree. They have retained the status quo and that is despite a previously relatively unknown candidate who might even have been disadvantaged by being originally English? They cannot, however, proclaim that they are either making major advances or that they are capitalising electorally on nationalist anger regarding supposed DUP intransigence. I would have thought, however, that Coyle did enough to be worth running again.

One might suggest that Gerry McHugh and anti agreement republicans are major losers from this election. Again, however, I would argue that such an interpretation would be fallacious. Karen McHugh did come across as a very inexperienced potential councillor when interviewed and her campaign seemed to be directed almost entirely at young people and to studiously avoid mentioning her own hard line background. Her campaign seemed more suited to standing for QUB Students’ Union than for Fermanagh District Council. Also as I have suggested previously a rejectionist republican might have fared much better in Erne East or Erne West than in the area around Enniskillen town. I honestly do not know to what extent Ms. McHugh was running on a rejectionist republican ticket: however, if rejectionist republicans wish to run again they would be better advised to be more overt with their views (it might at least allow politicos to gauge their level of support.

Turning finally to Alliance. I will admit to being a little surprised by Dr. Kamble’s relative success. One must remember that it was less than 4% of the vote but it was a start for a party which recently has not stood in the area. I confess to being a bit irritated by one comment he made: namely that people would listen to him if he were elected because he is a doctor. In a democracy a politician derives political importance from the people who elected them and whom they serve and not titles before nor letters after their name. Having got my mini rant over, Dr. Kamble ran a pretty effective campaign and might well have done enough to be given another go at the next election. He might well be able to improve his vote on subsequent outings but Alliance is an enormously long way from winning a council seat in Fermanagh.

So overall I would suggest that this election has told us nothing new and is most unlikely to change politics in either Fermanagh or Northern Ireland. Still it gave us all something to argue about. As the dust settles on this very minor tumult the Dreary Steeples are pretty unchanged.

  • Mark McGregor

    Turgon,

    Sometimes conspiracy theories are better replaced by facts. For a long time the SDLP have been unable to run an effective electoral or canvass campaign anywhere.

    As for McHugh, why they hell would any dissenting republican vote for someone so clear in their absolute rejection of addressing any republican topic? Don’t agree with SF, vote for a youth club – give me a break!

    For me the story of the election was the UUP, I had expected a DUP victory from the start, their vote holding up so well in a race that was billed as two horse was surprising. To me it demonstrates they were right to go head to head with the DUP.

    But it was a bye election and when it comes down to it Arlene now has the privledge of not doing any of the things she was elected to do – like actually turning up to meetings and sorting out that dog mess. Someone else will do it by proxy, what a waste of time.

  • Turgon

    Mark,
    A bit bad this, I agree with almost everything you say. I agree entirely re McHugh: I end up wondering if she does actually have the same political views as her father.

    Re the SDLP: sorry again I think you are right, incompetence seems more likely. The conspiracy theory is more fun though.

    I guess Arlene could resign and they could co-opt someone?

  • Big Maggie

    Turgon

    I stand corrected.

    Which is more than can be said for your typo on that other thread. It’s quite noble of you to let it stand.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    I guess Arlene could resign and they could co-opt someone?

    They would have a hard time selling that one to the people of the town! The DUP wouldn’t be able to efficiently use the argument that ‘she had to run to keep Coyle out’ either. My guess is she will lay low, acting as a more of a caretaker cllr until all the Ministers are forced to stand down. Bit of a waste of a council position really…

  • Turgon

    Big Maggie,
    I try to correct the typos but sometimes I give up: also my spelling is less than perfect. Thankfully Firefox has a spell checker.

  • Turgon

    Fermanagh Young Unionist,
    Sorry the suggestion was in jest.

  • DC

    • 1
    • 2
    • 3

    Turgon, there take some by-election bullet points and use them next time around….

    Unionist storm-in-a-teacup played out on the basis of factions – finally over: good.

    Oh btw, where’s this spellchecker on firefox…oh hold on I’ve just found it…

  • Dewi

    Does this mean that the DUP are actually strong enough to devolve P&J;without waiting for Allister’s permission?

    Turgon – ignore them – you are terribly verbose but endearing….

  • Brian Walker

    Turgon, Surely the TUV can only afford to stand in Pale areas where there is a full quota+ over a nationalist minority, else they have three way split and risk letting in the nationalist/republican? I enjoyed the coverage. Its the stuff of electoral politics and you should submit it for at least as MA.

  • I end up wondering if she does actually have the same political views as her father.

    Her father isn’t really a dissident either. He only left the Shinners after they queried him appointing his (English) partner to a job working for him. Check out Sunday Worlds passim for stories about the ‘Lakeland Love Rat’.

    Equally had splits resulted in giving the seat to SF, the TUV would have been blamed by the other unionist parties; or if the TUV had polled badly they would have been significantly damaged.

    Yes, but at the end of the day, the TUV either ran away, or frankly couldn’t find anyone to run. Or at least, anyone sane to run. It’s a momentum stopper for TUV who very cleverly used to the last by-election as a vaulting pole to get over the credibility hurdle, but now have people once more asking T Who V?

    Also, the dreary steeples line from Churchill annoys me, especially in context. The empires of Eastern Europe were being dismembered and their borders were being withdrawn for exactly the same reasons as we were and are squabbling among the steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone, many of them actually rather pleasant. It’s just a typically Brit establishment way of looking down your nose at the Irish.

  • Mark McGregor

    Sammy,

    But we do have a very clear demonstration of the utter irrelevance in yet another election of APNI and an emphasis of the pointlessness of voting for them West of the Bann. You can’t even work out a demographic for the future with that crap return.

  • Dewi

    Sammy – cool head – it’s the integrity of the quarrel that was Churchill’s point.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “The reality is of course that council by elections are pretty irrelevant.”

    Hasn’t stopped you writing at ridiculous length about it time out of number. This dull, hicksville sectarian headcount was over long before the first vote was cast and yet another multiple-jobbing politician won. We know the result, no need to speculate. Move on.

  • Dewi

    BJR – say something useful?

  • frustrated democrat

    Elections are now about organisation and money, guess which party has lots of both, no not SF, the Conservatives. If the UUP and Conservatives link up in some form or other expect a major investment in key Westminister seats and a new clutch of candidates who tick all the right boxes.

    So I wouldn’t bet against some form of partnership just yet, or assume it wouldn’t work.

  • ben

    [edited by moderator – play the ball] Yellow card

  • You can’t even work out a demographic for the future with that crap return.

    Yes you can, and I have.

    Anyway, we’ve never elected a councillor in Fermanagh ever. Never even been close. Derry, West Belfast, Newry, Ballymena, Keady, even Strabane yes, but never anywhere in Fermanagh. In that context it wasn’t a bad result.

    You’re as aware as I am that the next tier of Alliance growth has to be in the places where we did modestly well until the mid 1990s and then disappeared off a cliff. Like Coleraine, Ballymena, North Belfast, Down, Craigavon and Omagh. In the boxes that most resemble the places we need to do well in the above, I’m very happy with how we polled.

    This dull, hicksville sectarian headcount was over long before the first vote was cast

    Except that if it was over before the first vote was cast, then the Shinners would have won it. I know you can over-analyse local by-elections, but this is probably the first example of a Unionist majority in a previously majority Nationalist area since the 1980s. That’s actually quite interesting.

    Elections are now about organisation and money, guess which party has lots of both, no not SF, the Conservatives. If the UUP and Conservatives link up in some form or other expect a major investment in key Westminister seats and a new clutch of candidates who tick all the right boxes.

    It’s that old deus ex machina riding in from somewhere else to save us from ourselves. It’s just as likely that the Tory Party will be embarrassed by a backwoods Unionist saying they wouldn’t support their local GAA team and then CCO will back out of the Ulster project as fast as it can. After all, that’s what happened the last time the Tories tried to organise over here.

    Does trendy metrosexual Cameron really want to have to defend even, say, Danny Kennedy’s views on homosexuality?

    By the way, I’ve fought elections against both the Tories and the Shinners – and not the NI Tories either – and I’d give the Shinners the advantage on both money and organisation, which makes yesterday’s result all the more surprising.

  • Dewi

    Sammy – why don’t you get out? What’s the commitment?

  • Ben,

    What’s your problem with Turgon? That he’s of a different political stripe and/or that he forces you to read more than a paragraph? I don’t agree with a lot of what Turgon says/stands for (being a nationalist from the South) but he’s articulate and puts his opinions across clearly and intelligently. I’ve learnt a lot from his postings.

  • DC

    “I’ve learnt a lot from his postings.” well me too but it’s kinda like learning to work a VCR now we are using DVDs.

  • Analysis

    Fair enough analysis Turgon but as a SF supporter I do think that questions remain over the reason for the drop in turnout from the nationalist community. Yes the SDLP vote did drop significantly, this could have been as a result of the SDLP vote staying at home but another possibility is that SF made big inroads into the SDLP vote in Enniskillen and that a significant percentage of SF grassroots supporters didnt come out. It may be difficult to analyse this but I’m sure some of those keeping an eye on the by-election would have seen turnout figures for the respective boxes and the analysis of those figures would indicate to some degree or another who came out and who didn’t.

  • DC

    Sammy re your: deus ex machina

    There’s been a lot of it going on these days:

    While the sovereign wealth funds of countries such as Kuwait and China have come to the rescue of banks such as Barclays and Citigroup with large injections of cash, the report points out that they are reluctant to invest further until the turmoil in western stock markets has calmed. South Korea’s sovereign wealth fund pulled out of a last-ditch rescue deal of Lehman’s last week, triggering its collapse.

    Maybe, just maybe, what if the Republic’s economic eggs are in a better basket of goods and Britain’s aren’t and Gordon Brown takes us all down while Cowen and his crew ride to the rescue…*removes funny pipe from lips – exhales*

  • borderline

    I’m well aware it’s unrequited love, but when it comes to picking up on shifts Sammy Morse is the man.

    Nationalists not voting. That’s a lot more serious than Nationalists voting. All along the border, the actualité of British rule gets ever more frustrating for Irish Nationalists.

    Local control of the police should come quick.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Congratulations to Ms Foster on her victory,some of the criticism of her was shameful,nobody quedtions a man about his family committments. I also think that she is a good minister,who had the integrity to resign wheh she had a conflict of interest as environment minister,which leaves the question WHAT ABOUT SAMMY ?

  • Danny O’Connor

    questions – sorry about the typo

  • Dewi

    borderline – u got it.

  • Cahal

    I don’t read Turgon’s bizzaroland posts anymore – I just scroll down to read billy-joe-remarkable’s response to them. Always priceless.

  • truth and justice

    Turgon

    On this occaison your views were reasonable and fair, one question though did the TUV encourage their supporters to vote UUP?

  • Sammy Morse on Sep 19, 2008 @ 12:38 AM (Post 17),

    … this is probably the first example of a Unionist majority in a previously majority Nationalist area since the 1980s.

    Enniskillen is hardly a ‘previously majority Nationalist area’ – in 2005 the split was 48.6% unionist, and 46.7% nationalist. In 2001 it was 46% unionist, 43% nationalist. In 1997 and 1993 the unionist % was well over 50%!

    [check it all here: http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/lgfermanagh.htm%5D

    I can only assume that you are counting much of Davy Kettyles vote as ‘nationalist’ because of where it transferred? Even so, apart from the last two District Council elections that still wouldn’t have made it a majority nationalist area.

  • truth and justice

    Just an observation Sinn Fein are claiming they are under pressure on policing & Justice considering there vote held up it would indicate they are not under as much pressure as they are claiming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    I’ll try to keep my remarks brief thanks. I will also leave it to others to:

    write overlong comments covering every possible scenario on a topic

    pad out comments with 50 links no matter how banal or dull those links may be

    write at length about ‘the internet’ in the style of a 14 year old school girl. (And it’s not about syntax) It’s about content or the lack of it. To wit:

    “The fact that more women are blogging is worth noting, but not worth getting overly excited about. It is a natural progression and one that will most likely continue as more and more people get used to the medium. I have been intrigued at the number of people who will e-mail on my work blog, but will not post a comment. I have had dozens of such contacts and I think it reflects the fact that while some of us got the hang of this pretty quickly, there’s a bigger learning curve for others.

    To return to my opening comments- about Slugger being a ‘dangerous’ environment for a woman blogger. I think that stands as a fair comment, and in as much as people need to find comfort zones so too do others need to learn to share space. I guess its a little like the men only clubs that finally had to open their doors to all and sundry- so too will male oriented sites eventually become more agreeable spaces for both genders. In many ways, this is a new frontier, a very exciting one that can bring much light to some pretty dark places.”

    The defence rests.

    Touchy eds, posters who feel the need to write a history of the troubles at least once a day and people who take even the mildest criticism as an attack on their mother’s integrity. Jeez. *walks out*

  • Sammy – why don’t you get out? What’s the commitment?

    Get out? Sorry, don’t understand Dewi?

    Maybe, just maybe, what if the Republic’s economic eggs are in a better basket of goods and Britain’s aren’t

    They aren’t. If you think that Ireland is any more insulated from a property and financial services crash and credit drought than the UK, there’s more than tobacco in that pipe of yours. One would struggle to think of two countries more vulnerable to the current economic crisis.

    Even so, apart from the last two District Council elections that still wouldn’t have made it a majority nationalist area.

    Yes but no. I agree entirely that Enniskillen only recently flipped into being a nationalist majority, or at least nationalist plurality, DEA. But that’s true of large chunks of Northern Ireland. That’s why we had the ‘greening of the West’, Belfast City Council going into balance, etc., etc.

    In the 1980s, it is clear that Unionists, for all their bleating about garden-centre Prods not voting, enjoyed massive differential turnout in their favour in rural areas. Especially in mixed/majority Catholic rural areas. In the 1990s that changed, initially as Sinn Féin built up the best GOTV operation in NI, and later as the IRA ceasefire made it acceptable for more nationalists to vote Sinn Féin. Organisation was the engine, political change the fuel.

    Enniskillen is the first time that engine has backfired. As I said, one can over-analyse a local by-election, but if it represents a trend it might invalidate the assumption that I and others have been making, for example, that the Unionists are set to lose their majority in the next Assembly elections.

    Sinn Féin did not expect to lose this, and certainly not by 800 or whatever votes. At the very least, this is rather interesting.

  • Dewi

    “Get out? Sorry, don’t understand Dewi? ”

    Just that working for the Alliance could be a pretty depressing career.

    On the by election perhaps we do read to much into it. A high profile, capable, candidate got the vote out. Perhaps that’s all there is to it. I have to say I’m impressed by the civic commitment in NI – a 50% turnout in a council by election is very good – in Wales we barely got that on a referendum on our constitutional future…

  • Sammy Morse,

    Agree with much of what you say, apart from this: … that the Unionists are set to lose their majority in the next Assembly elections … . I think you’re an election or two too early, if it’s seats you’re talking about. If it’s votes, then several recent elections have already shown that the ‘majority comunity’ is down to being just the ‘plurality community’.

  • fair_deal

    SM

    There was a bit of an issue with nationalist turnout in the last Euro election. (Although it seemed to be subsequently resoved).

  • that the Unionists are set to lose their majority in the next Assembly elections … . I think you’re an election or two too early

    These things are hard to predict, but Upper Bann, South Down and Strangford each have a very flaky unionist seat, and if one of them goes next time it’s 54-54.

    I called Belfast right in 1997 and remember Suzanne Breen telling me to “be serious” about two days before polling day when I told her the Unionists where going to lose control of the election, and that that wouldn’t happen until next time.

    There was a bit of an issue with nationalist turnout in the last Euro election. (Although it seemed to be subsequently resoved).

    If it’s because the Shinners’ organisation was wrong, then it’s easily resolved but I doubt that was the problem. If the message was wrong, that’s a lot more difficult…

  • The Lines Man

    If the SDLP was a football team and kept getting results they have been for the last fews years ,youd think by now they would have changed the manager ?

  • PaddyReilly

    Nationalists not voting. That’s a lot more serious than Nationalists voting

    Before you start making enormous conclusions from this tiny tiny vote, I would like to say that I think Turgon has hit the nail on the head.

    In 2005 there were seven places to be won and the SDLP correctly believed that they could get two of them. They therefore canvassed and got their vote out.

    In 2008 there was only one, and only SF or the DUP was going to get it. For some reason the UUP was interested in making a showing, possibly they thought with the TUV and all things were going their way. But the SDLP correctly perceived that they had no chance, so they didn’t bother canvassing, which only would have benefitted SF. It wasn’t a conspiracy, it was just the ordinary sensible economy of effort in matters which do not benefit you.

    Therefore their vote went down and the DUP got in. Presumably things will revert to normal in the next full election.

  • PaddyReilly

    Small Earthquake in Tinpotistan. No milk-churns overturned.

    if it represents a trend it might invalidate the assumption that I and others have been making, for example, that the Unionists are set to lose their majority in the next Assembly elections.

    Now this is more interesting. There are 5 seats that Unionists are liable to lose in the next Assembly election, one in each of (in order of probability, with reason):-

    Strangford (tiny majority and boundary change)
    East Antrim (boundary change)
    Upper Bann (bad balancing by SF could be corrected)
    Fermanagh & S.Tyrone (small majority)
    East Londonderry (boundary change)

    There is also a chance that the SDLP will take a seat in W. Tyrone from Deeny.

    Equally there are four seats that Unionists think they might gain, in

    Lagan Valley (Boundary change)
    South Belfast (small Nat/Alliance majority and bad Unionist balancing)
    North Antrim (boundary change)
    South Antrim (boundary change)

    I have looked into these last four and I can’t really see it happening. The most vulnerable is LV, and there I suspect the SDLP will take back their seat from SF. There is still one Nationalist quota, even after boundary changes.

  • Dewi

    Paddy:

    Your nationalist gains:

    Strangford certainty, East Antrim likely, UB & FST maybe time after next, EL can’t see it.

    Unionist gains LV – pretty sure, NA – I think if Natinalist gain in EA happens then this does…Agree that the other two not as likely.

  • fair_deal

    South Belfast is the most likely. While the sectarian headcount is not particularly changed by the new boundaries the profile of voters is more pro-DUP v UUP than the rest of the old constituency

  • But the SDLP correctly perceived that they had no chance, so they didn’t bother canvassing

    You are grossly overstating how good the SDLP are at fighting elections even at their best and understating how much effort they put into the by-election.

    As for your predictions:

    Strangford (tiny majority and boundary change)
    East Antrim (boundary change)
    Upper Bann (bad balancing by SF could be corrected)

    All these are almost certain losses for Unionism next time. Pace Dewi, the Shinners threw away an Upper Bann seat last time.

    Fermanagh & S.Tyrone (small majority)
    East Londonderry (boundary change)

    Neither of these is all that likely next time.

    Lagan Valley (Boundary change)

    No chance of the SF holding or the SDLP gaining a seat here. Clear Unionist gain. Do you actually know anything about the areas going out?

    South Belfast (small Nat/Alliance majority and bad Unionist balancing)

    Fair Deal is right about the new boundaries suiting the DUP better but is discounting the effect of still very rapid demographic change in places like Carryduff, Four Winds, Ardenlee, etc. The least probable gain of the four.

    North Antrim (boundary change)
    South Antrim (boundary change)

    Both possible Unionist gains depending on changes in relative turnout. Of these, North Antrim is the hairier prospect for the SDLP than South Antrim, for in both cases it is the SDLP seat under threat.

  • fair_deal

    “still very rapid demographic change in places like Carryduff, Four Winds, Ardenlee, etc. The least probable gain of the four.”

    Which does much more to secure the SDLP and SF quotas. Leaving the Alliance seat the vulnerable one. Also the next assembly will most likely be after Westminster and if Unionism gets its act together winning the seat back would be a useful boost.

    Just remember Unionism managed to break the 50% barrier in the 05 Westminster, something it hadn’t done in a while for a number of elections. There is a bit of an untapped vote out there which a strong campaign got out and the 07 elections showed how not to do it 😉

  • Dewi

    “the Shinners threw away an Upper Bann seat last time.”

    I hesitate, and hesitate again before questioning you Sammy and I remember the excitement at the time – but on the last count it was pretty comfortable for the last UUP bloke. SF Transfer % @ about 2/3rds not brilliant but my maths suggests that 100% transfer would not have been enough.

    Codeword: death – charming

  • PaddyReilly

    So, re Lagan Valley.

    In the 2001 Census 18.16% described themselves as Catholic and 17.1% were “no religion or religion not stated”. Nicholas Whyte reckons that this translates into 20.62% Catholic by Community background. I think this is a little conservative. As far as I can see by comparing the census figures to the vote, putting yourself down as Protestant almost guarantees that you will vote Unionist. If you are “No religion or religion not stated”, there is a very small chance you will vote Unionist, you are much more likely to vote Alliance, or sometimes Nationalist.

    And indeed the results here bear this out: 18.6% Catholic and 17.1% NRORNS in the 2001 Census translate into one SF and one Alliance seat. The SDLP and SF together got 19% of the 1st preference vote.

    Under the Boundary changes, the constituency will end up 6.4% less Catholic than it was before. This would leave a confirmed Catholic population of 12.16%, Community Catholic 14.62%, already over the quota of 14.28%. If this turned out in strength and voted predominantly for the SDLP, it would even pick up transfers from elsewhere.

    Mixing religious data with voting returns is, I am aware, very bad practise. But what we have here is a constituency with a 19% Nationalist 1st pref vote which is set to lose 6.4% of its Catholic population. You are predicting no Nationalist seat on the strength of this. My opinion is that this still leaves the SDLP enough of a vote (12.6% shall we say?) to win a seat.

    They may be disorganised and pathetic, but I would wager, if there’s a real chance of the future of the province turning on this, they might make an effort. My role, as I see it, is encouraging them in the idea that this is worth doing.

    By the way I should point out that I predicted one Nationalist seat for Lagan Valley on Slugger before the last election, whereas a certain S. Morse thought or at least hoped that they would get none:-

    http://sammymorse.livejournal.com/18156.html

  • DC

    To do another Breen, let’s be serious, in fairness to Tirpitz he called it right in that Foster is one of the biggest names in Unionism, she is like the Domestos used for a good sectarian clean-up.

    The exposure she has had not just with her ministerial positions but Sweeney controversy et al has helped and this was the classic two horse race manufactured pretty much by the very sectarian system propping up Northern Ireland.

    It is something similar to Britain where dispite the Lib Dems performing well at policy level and seeming to have some good answers, people overlook them as a key government option and habitually look to the two parties that will actually effect change. It usually comes down to this two horse race mindset. In N I it is strongest Unionist and Nationalist horse. In essence Alliance never ever stood a chance.

    It is deeply unfair to compare this result in terms of Nationlist turnout given the candidate on the Unionist side, perhaps if it was Gildernew or someone bigger running, yea maybe. In my view Arlene Foster is more dynamic and effective than Robinson himself but this election was about faction fighting not facts, if it was factual Arlene’s face was beyond saving. Unionists hoodwinked again.

  • PaddyReilly

    Fair Deal

    Which does much more to secure the SDLP and SF quotas. Leaving the Alliance seat the vulnerable one.

    Not the case. Anna Lo (Alliance) finished up comfortably in the 2nd position. The weakest link was Alex Maskey (SF) who failed to make a quota. Presumably rapid population change in this area will allow him to do so, unless it’s all Chinese moving in.

    Also the next assembly will most likely be after Westminster and if Unionism gets its act together winning the seat back would be a useful boost.

    It was Frank O’Connor who said nothing is so dead as a dead marriage. In this case, nothing is so lost as a lost Unionist seat. You held West Belfast once you know!

    Just remember Unionism managed to break the 50% barrier in the 05 Westminster, something it hadn’t done in a while for a number of elections.

    This does not accord with my observations, which show a slow but consistent erosion of the Unionist vote, though it happens in European Elections first, because of transferable voting. The 2005 Westminster election Unionist vote was actually down on the 2001 Westminster returns. All that happened was that some of the smaller Unionist parties decided not to stand.

  • riverlagen

    It’s a given that TUV supporters voted for Arlene Foster in the by-election based on the fear of Sinn Fein gaining the council seat. Just like a drug addict who gives up the habit and then a year later taking a puff of a joint becomes addicted again. Will this happen to current/former TUV suporters who felt forced to vote for the DUP?

  • A Very Happy Unionist

    Truth & Justice

    As I told you on another blog they were actively canvassing with and for the UUP in Enniskillen.

    Riverlagen

    The TUV supporters were supporting the UUP candidate not Arlene they were seen with the UUP canvas sorry to disappoint you it is not a given they voted for Arlene

  • riverlagen

    A very happy unionist

    The UUP vote only increased by 2%. Are you trying to tell me that the TUV electorate in Fermanagh is at 2%. If that’s the case then it was a good call by Jim Allister and co not to run. The DUP did not lose any of it’s support base – actually increasing – which makes me surmise that the majority of TUV supporters voted for the DUP more than they voted UUP. so you have to be unbiased when you look at the voting habits in the Fermanagh by-election.

  • Bigger Picture

    “I might just as easily proclaim that all the unionists who did not turn out were actually TUV supporters so sickened by the DUP and UUP that they would not vote for either despite Jim Allister and Sammy Morrison’s pleas and that lots of the unionists who did vote would have preferred to vote TUV”

    Hard to understand then how the unionist vote actually went up?

    “which makes me surmise that the majority of TUV supporters voted for the DUP more than they voted UUP”

    Don’t kid yourself these are the people who were so disgusted and so betrayed by the DUP that they then went round and voted for them again? Sounds like complaining and then going back for more. If these are the great and high men of principle that they make out to be i would have expected all of them on mass not to have voted. It was said on an earlier thread that Sammy Morrison didn’t even vote at the last election, is that true? Surely if that is the attitude of people in charge then what hope does that offer you in thinking that loyal TUVies went out and voted DUP?….Not much.

    The bottom line is that the TUV whether rightly or wrongly made themselves irrelevant in this election and any momentum they had at Dromore has been squashed. When Jim now shouts about Dromore the DUP will simply counter that they are winning for unionism, standing up to republicans and the only party that can win for unionism in a nationalist area. The TUV can’t do that and they have been badly hurt by this result, make no mistake about it. Although Turgon I am sure is happy that a unionist won, many (I use the word loosely in the context of the amount of actual TUV supporters) in his TUV would have been even happier to see the DUP receive another more comprehensive bloody nose. Instead the unionist electorate rejected infighting and bitter sniping and placed their confidence once again with the DUP. That’s a very hard one for Jim to try and overcome.

    By standing aside he has also cut by more than half the number of areas where the TUV can now stand. With the TUV standing unionist seats are at risk in FST, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, South Antrim, North Belfast, Strangford, South Belfast, South Down, East Antrim and Upper Bann. People will now rightly question the relevance of the TUV when all they can offer is nationalist gains and false promises of resistance when their leader drew up the DUP’s current stance on p+j, something which clearly the electorate support and want the DUP to continue pressing.

  • Rory

    “The TUV of course did not contest this election but asked their potential supporters to go out and vote for either of the other unionist parties.”

    Damn! Only but for that clever tactical advice by top TUV brains their supporters might have ensured a republican victory by voting Sinn Féin.

  • Turgon

    Bigger Picture,
    As ever your analysis has merit and may be correct. However, it has a very significant flaw. The unionist vote went down: it was the proportion which went up.

    I am not directing this at you personally but all those commenting on falls in one party or a rise in another party’s percentage vote are on very shaky ground. Their theories are all useful and valid contributions to debate but remain purely interesting hypotheses due to the significant fall in the total vote.

    Come the next major election we know in full but for now “We see through a glass darkly.”

    Regards

  • PaddyReilly

    With the TUV standing unionist seats are at risk in FST, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, South Antrim, North Belfast, Strangford, South Belfast, South Down, East Antrim and Upper Bann.

    Do you mean at Westminster or Stormont? If Westminster, Nationalists are hardly going to take East Antrim however split the Unionist vote is, and if you mean Stormont, the observation doesn’t apply because it uses transferable votes (and the UKUP was already standing).

  • Bigger Picture

    Turgon

    But your flaw is that proportions ARE more meaningful than the number of votes recorded. How come even though the TUV only got 700 votes in Dromore they lauded that they claimed to represent 22% of the unionist community?

    On the same note everybody’s vote went down, that very regularly happens in by-elections. The telling part is how, by proportion did people vote?

    The TUV can claim no spin or victory and have lost critical momentum. Even though they stood aside to prevent a seat falling to SF, the real reason was that if they had a stood they would have looked stupid for (1) splitting the vote or (2) getting a daft vote. Therefore Jim would have loved a scenario where the DUP still lost due to a falling vote. Then he would have been able to say that people have truly deserted the DUP and that they are a failed entity and it is up to him to lead the resurgance.

    However now he can’t do that and the momentum has shifted to the DUP who will continue their policy of resisting SF demands with some fresh electoral backing from the people.

    I agree that a by election doesn’t change the world Turgon but, as you have done yourself, it would be wrong to comment and draw attention to how this could affect unionist thinking over the remainder of this year. If Dromore showed the DUP that they needed to raise their game, Enniskillen has shown that the electorate approve of their stance now with SF and realise that the interests of unionists are best served by the DUP fighting for the cause. The alternative is to go back to direct rule with Brown and Woodward spouting the DUP line on these events.

    Of course it is no indicator of how any party will do but it tells the DUP that they need to keep up the work and continue standing up to republicans and the electorate will reward that. That is what is significant about this election and that is what will worry the other two unionist parties who really cannot provide an alternative to the DUP’s lead.

    PaddyReilly

    Stormont principally. But a TUV candidate in North Belfast would probably hand the seat to SF.

  • Bigger Picture

    Turgon

    I also meant to mention that in Dromore the vote fell from the previous elections but that didn’t stop some quarters either! Anyway best regards

  • Bigger Picture

    “The alternative is to go back to direct rule with Brown and Woodward spouting the DUP line on these events.”

    Sorry that should be SF line not DUP

  • PaddyReilly

    With the TUV standing unionist seats are at risk in FST, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, South Antrim, North Belfast, Strangford, South Belfast, South Down, East Antrim and Upper Bann.

    So if we’re talking about Stormont, of the above South Belfast is already lost, Strangford, East Antrim and Upper Bann are all now marginal regardless of whether TUV stand, and no Unionist seat in South Down or North Belfast is at risk.

    I don’t really see the TUV as causing any further loss of seats to Unionism at Stormont, because the Unionist vote was already split 3 ways due to the UKUP.

    However: if the TUV manages to take one seat in each of constituencies in which there are currently four Unionists, this should diminish the DUP’s numbers by around seven, which together with inevitable losses of the above mentioned marginals, would decrease its representation in Stormont to the same as or less than SF, allowing a certain red-haired gentleman from Derry with recent military experience to become First Minister.

    This is the real danger to Unionism of the TUV, not seat loss. But this First Minister, Second Minister thing is really ritual, it makes no real difference.

  • Tochais Si­orai­

    Boundary change in South Down, Paddy. UUP assembly seat now in serious danger of being lost to nationalist, even if no TUV.

  • PaddyReilly

    Boundary change in South Down, Paddy. UUP assembly seat now in serious danger of being lost to nationalist, even if no TUV.

    True, Nicholas Whyte reckons that the new South Down constituency will be 3.1% less Protestant than the old. But the 2007 Assembly returns for Unionist sounding parties were as follows

    DUP 8,153 17.7%
    UUP 4,447 9.6%
    UKIP 1,229 2.7%
    UKUP 424 0.9%
    Conservative 0.8%

    Which makes 31.7% so a loss of 3.1% would bring it down to 28.6%, still just over two quotas, which is 28.57%.

    Possible flies in this ointment are that not all the UKIP voters selected Unionist parties for 2nd pref: a couple of hundred went for SF and SDLP. Weird. But there are still very clearly 2 Unionist seats in South Down, which ever way the cookie crumbles.

  • PaddyReilly

    As an after thought to the above, I notice that in the 2007 South Down Assembly elections John McCallister (UUP, elected on final count) finished about 3000 votes ahead of Michael Carr (SDLP, not elected). The effect of the loss of 3.1% of the Unionist support base would be to halve this majority. Whether 5 years of Unionist decline would be sufficient to diminish this by a further 1500 I do not know, to tell the truth I doubt it.

    It would I think take two more elections for South Down to be left with only one Unionist. Some time around 2017, shall we say.