Keeping it in the party: trojan candidates?

Jim Allister just spotted a clause in the latest consultation paper from the NIO, which effectively brings European elections into line with those in the rest of Northern Ireland, and indeed the UK. The objection is not as interesting as the scenario he paints of possible ‘Trojan Candidates’ taking the popular vote adn the relinquishing their seats in favour of a junior. Ahem… Does Jim know something about DUP plans for next year’s election that we don’t???

“Tucked into the NIO Consultation, which has just closed, on “Improving the Administration of Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly” is a radical and dangerous proposal to change how a vacancy from Northern Ireland would be filled in the European Parliament.

Since direct elections 30 years ago, any vacancy would be filled by the electorate through a by-election. Under the new proposal the electorate would be bypassed and the “nominating Officer” (Leader) of the Party to which the resigning or deceased MEP belonged, when elected, would name his/her replacement, without any recourse to the voters, nor would the name of that person ever have to have appeared on a reserve list, as occurs in Stormont Assembly elections.

Thus, within days/weeks/months after being elected an MEP he/she could resign their seat and their Party could then put in his place an individual who has never previously been advertised to the electorate. Such invites abuse and the unseemly prospect of “Trojan” candidates, which ultimately will bring the political process into disrepute. Additionally, the practice in Northern Ireland of at least one party seeking to tie its candidates to contractual terms could result in the spectacle of the elected member who “falls from grace” within his party being trundled out and an unelected placeman substituted. It is the electorate, not a cabal who should elect. Thus a proposal that someone whose name never appeared before the electorate, even on a B List, could end up being foisted on the voters is not acceptable.

There is an importance and relevance to the nexus and relationship which exists between the elected and the electors. Once the unelected can squat in the seat of the elected then that essential relationship is breached. Such would not be thought good enough for Westminster, nor is it satisfactory for the European Parliament.

I am not surprised to hear that the DUP has been urging this scheme upon the Secretary of State. As they struggle to find a high profile candidate for Europe, the option of replacing him/her, if elected, by a lesser known placeman – to allow the Trojan candidate to return to Westminster – will have its attractions. So whoever they select will have to face the question if they are pledged to see out their term, or will a slight of hand being worked upon the electorate?”

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  • Carson’s Cat

    So, Jim Allister opposes a move which would bring elections in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

    He’s really struggling to find stories these days.

    “Ahem… Does Jim know something about DUP plans for next year’s election that we don’t???”

    Doubt it. Jim doesn’t seem to know very much about very much these days. Perhaps his ‘crack’ team of advisors like Roy Gillespie have raised the issue with him.

  • autocue

    Allister acknowledging that a “high-profile” candidate will stuff him in a Euro-poll. Hardly a sign of confidence is it now?

  • … which effectively brings European elections into line with those in the rest of Northern Ireland …

    However, “the rest” of Northern Irish elections do not use a system of nominations to replace resigned/died members. It is used only for casual vacancies in the Assembly. For Westminster casual vacancies a by-election is always needed, and for the District Councils this is also still the case (though it is proposed to change this for the rest of the extended life of the current councils – whether this will then become a permanent feature in the new super-councils we do not yet know).

  • autocue

    horseman

    by-elections are not always needed for local councils. they only occur when one councillor objects to a co-option.

  • Half Pint

    Carson’s Cat,
    “So, Jim Allister opposes a move which would bring elections in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.”

    Do you support moves to bring NI’s abortion laws into line with the rest of the UK?

    Perhaps you, like Edwin Poots, believe Irish should get its own radio and TV station to bring us into line with the UK mainland.

    Sometimes it makes sense for Unionists to oppose these things. Why would anyone with the wider interests of Unionism at heart (as opposed to their own narrow party political concerns) want co-options for EU Par seats? Say, heaven forbid, Barbara Brown’s broom stick was struck by lightening as she was heading to Brussels or Staatsburg. Would it be better to have a Provo co-opted in her place or a by-election which a Unionist would almost certainly win?

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    Unless I’m seriously offbeam, the situation that applies in mainland Euro constituencies is surely that, if a sitting MEP departs, he’s replaced by the next name on his Party’s slate of candidates who contested the original election? Thus after UKIP’s Graham Booth stood down in the South West recently he was accordingly replaced by Trevor Colman. Either way, is Carson’s Cat seriously defending a proposal to entirely remove from the electorate oversight of one of their supposed representatives? Spurious affections of crypto-integrationist piety don’t really wash when one is disingenuously affecting to believe we should be brought in line with the more grisly political misfortunes the rest of the country happens to suffer from (if indeed it’s the case that currently Party Leaders, and they alone, fill EP vacancies).

  • autocue

    Half Pint.

    If Northern Ireland was brought into line with the rest of the UK, the parties would have to publish a list of three names for the three seats, if number one on the list dies/steps down then it goes to number 2 on the list.

    Still good to see you don’t refute that Allister is running scared.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Half Pint
    I suppose you would be concerned… jobs at stake in Allister HQ after all when he’s chucked out by the electorate. That shouldn’t be the basis for opposing the introduction of an electoral system though.

    I wondered if some half-wit would attempt to correlate the abortion issue to this. Congratulations, you win last prize for unionism.

    Being a unionist doesn’t mean that everything across the UK has to be the same. Even halfwits in the TUV should accept that one I’d have thought. However, there should be no reason why the election of MEPs should be different in Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom. There’s no reason why MPs should be elected in NI to how they are in GB and I think there should be a UK wide system for MEPs also.

    Why am I still a UUP voter?
    “Either way, is Carson’s Cat seriously defending a proposal to entirely remove from the electorate oversight of one of their supposed representatives?”

    Err, no. I’m not arguing that the people can’t vote for their MEP, simply that they’re elected on the same basis across the UK.

    “(if indeed it’s the case that currently Party Leaders, and they alone, fill EP vacancies).”

    Surely they have a list system – which would mean the electorate does give some consent to who any potential replacement would be.

    At the end of the day I’m not absolutely arguing that this is the best system in the world and we should all adopt it NOW. What I’m questioning is why Jim Allister is getting so exercised about it. The fact that he’s trying to make some minor change into an all-out assault on democracy shows a degree of panic in the good-ship TUVvie that we haven’t seen for a while.

  • Carson’s Cat

    I’ve just realised why Allister is SO opposed to a list system.

    Imagine the public casting their eyes down the TUV list of potential replacements.

    Just imagine the spectre….. Roy Gillespie MEP

    Walter Millar MEP

    No wonder Jim’s dead against the idea. He never lets the muppets out to make any kind of public statement. They’re fine for membership but you wouldn’t want them actually being seen of course. This system would expose the “talent” within the TUV for all its worth of course……

    Who exactly would Jim be putting on his list then?

  • autocue,

    … by-elections are not always needed for local councils. they only occur when one councillor objects to a co-option.

    Of course. But my point is that there is no current system in the councils for the automatic replacement, by nomination or co-option, of a resigned/died member.

    In theory, of course, if no-one objects to a ‘co-option’ for a Westminster vacancy, then no by-election would be needed there either. If, for example, the other parties chose not to stand, and there was only one candidate, that caandidate would be deemed ‘elected’ without a vote. I cannot, off-hand, think of any case where this has happened, though.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Horseman,
    Oddly, there have been effective ‘co-options’ for entire DEA fulls of Councillors.

    I think in the last 2 Council elections its happened in one area of Ards and one area of Cookstown where the same number of candidates were nominated as there were seats. Therefore no election.

    There was/is some talk that in at least one of these cases there was a little local unwritten understanding amongst the local Cllrs that it would be much easier just to maintain the status quo and not bother with an election.

    Probably not really relevant to this debate, but mildly interesting nonetheless.

  • eire

    Allister’s name had been before the public in the last NI European election? Yet the electorate in their madness chose not to elect him to his post? I think those who the electorate have deliberately not elected (sorry Jim) should be prevented from being given an MEPship. It is much more democratic, surely Jim, for someone who has never been rejected by the electorate as a prospective MEP to become one.

  • Carson’s Cat

    eire
    “Allister’s name had been before the public in the last NI European election?”

    Yes, it was in the public eye about 20 years prior to the European Election. It would appear that Jim believes he made such an impression however that he was a household name when he was drafted in to take the DUP vote.

    Jim however appears to be terribly opposed to the idea of someone with a very big profile being elected to something and then a bit of a nobody coming along to follow on behind….

    Kinda like Ian Paisley going to Europe and then being replaced by…. well Jim Allister.

  • Half Pint

    CC,
    What a mature response. The fact that an obvious DUP stooge (and, yes, I know I could be described as a TUV stooge) has responded with such nonsense suggests to me that there is something in this story.

  • I’m all in favour of co-option for council as it is a reasonable way forward for any unfortunate situation where a councillor dies or through illness is unable to cotinue. I think it has been counterproductive for both camps through the years where by-elections have been called which potentially upset the balance mid way through a term and following the terms end and fresh election the party has had the seat restored.

    Re an MLA i believe the system has a condition where the second name on the substitute list inherits the seat in the event of a death or illness – it doesn’t however work on the issue of a resignation from a particular party – that MLA can continue as an independent as has been the case with Arelene Foster JD and of course Jimbo himself…

    Jim raising the fact that an MEP may be allowed to resign his or her role to a second choice or the party discretion shouldn’t really be that much of an issue because

    a, that person would need ability to make an impact.

    b, an idiot in such a position would be of no benefit.

    Half Pint poses the scenario – “Say, heaven forbid, Barbara Brown’s broom stick was struck by lightening as she was heading to Brussels or Staatsburg. Would it be better to have a Provo co-opted in her place or a by-election which a Unionist would almost certainly win?

    I feel i am mature enough to state that yes someone should be entitled to occupy her seat should she die as she won the seat on behalf of Sinn Fein – this is where unionism has at times blown it’s own toe off – upsetting the electoral cross community balance mid term and then had this revisited on it at a later date – an election result is an election result until the next time round…. imo

  • Carson’s Cat

    Half Wit, sorry Pint.
    If you want to believe I have the inside track on some “story” or other then go ahead.

    I know its not nice to read nasty comments about your dad, but unfortunately that’s politics.

    Allister’s clearly been obsessed with who the DUP are going to put forward for Europe for some time now – to the point where he’s been accusing first-term Assembly Members who are incredibly unlikely to be the candidate of being possible “vote splitting DUP candidates”. Frankly when he’s that worried about people with a lower profile even than his own then we know that he’s clinging on to that seat by his fingertips.

    Go on then half pint – tell us who the TUV ‘subsitututes’ would be on any list system then?

  • Half Pint

    “Go on then half pint – tell us who the TUV ‘subsitututes’ would be on any list system then?”

    Once you have addressed the point I made in post 5.

  • Michael Shilliday

    CC, you really are getting desperate here. Allister’s point is that Walter Millar wouldn’t be put to the electorate at all if he were to be a serious replacement. That is in fact what his entire argument is hung on.

    Not that the facts are normally an impediment to you.

    Secondly, you have already been exposed on missing his point and the reality of Euro elections in GB. Those elections however, are a bit of a sham. Northern Ireland’s way of electing MEP’s is far superior to the closed party list system on the mainland.

  • this is all relative to Jim being re-elected isnt it Half Pint?

    what if he’s not?

  • autocue

    “Not that the facts are normally an impediment to you.”

    Coming from you that one takes the biscuit!

    Allister is clearly feeling threatened. By moaning about a “high-profile candidate” he is implicitly acknowledging that he expects to be gubbed by the DUP come the next Euro-poll. Gone is all the bombast about building a new Unionist movement, gone is all the ranting about the demise of the DUP, gone is all the gloating about how Dromore was the signpost to a Unionist new Jerusalem to be replaced with what? The pathetic croakey whinging about how a DUP candidate with a big profile will win a seat in Europe. What a feeble excuse for a political leader the TUV has.

    Maybe Half-Pint is going to start issuing legal threats again any time anyone attacks his daddy….

  • Michael Shilliday

    So you think it’s acceptable to put someone to the electorate in a European election with no intention of having them serve more than a token amount of the term before replacing them with a nobody the electorate was never asked about?

  • another question would be

    is it acceptable for someone to get elected on the strength of a party and then resign and continue in that role as an independent without consulting the electorate…

    every party has experience of this.

    as for a “nobody” it wouldn’t be likely that a ‘nobody’ would fill their shoes….

    and in the event of illness or death is it appropriate to have the electorate called upon again? was it ever appropriate?

  • Michael Shilliday

    What a daft question. Either Jim Allister was perfectly entitled to change parties, or Jeffrey Donaldson wasn’t and should have resigned in disgrace. Which is it?

    Should Jnr Dunwoody have been propelled into parliament on the Labour party’s say so? The electorate didn’t think so. It reminds me of one of our less likeable politicians being asked by a foreign journalist about defections. The response was that in Northern Ireland people vote for people and not parties.

  • a wile melee

    is it acceptable for someone to get elected on the strength of a party …

    For better or worse, you vote for people not parties. Yes, they may add, as a helpful guide to their policies, the party that they are a member of, but it is the individual who is elected.

    Frankly, the unionists voted for Allister, and Allister they got. Time to stop whingeing – the next election is only nine months off.

  • Hogan

    Roy Gillespie might not be the brightest knife in the drawer but he has more principles than to fight an election on a clear lie to the voters.

    You may not admire his politics but nobody can argue that Roy does not mean what he says!

  • you didn’t read the post MS

    i said “every party has experience of this” i wasn’t referring to any one particular party.

    Horseman – you are making a severe generalisation
    if that were true then manifesto’s would count for little and each ‘individual’ would print their own policies…

    Kieran Deeney maybe be the only person your argument would apply to here in ni

    in my opinion i disagree when you say that people vote without regard for party.

  • a wile melee,

    …if that were true then manifesto’s would count for little and each ‘individual’ would print their own policies…

    Of course people stand for parties, and usually stay in them. But your vote, whether you like it or not, is for them as people. If they chose to be in a club, lodge or party, that has no legal relevance. It is for them, and them only, to decide to be ‘loyal’. Basically, you’re taking a risk if you think that you’re voting for a ‘party’ because you aren’t. The voters should have had the sense to look more closely at Allister before electing him. But hey, they wanted a Prod super-champion, and that’s what they got!

    … i disagree when you say that people vote without regard for party.

    I didn’t say that.

  • I understand your point Horseman.

    i guess i support the changes to the system to ensure that when i vote for a certain party, on the basis of their manifesto and general track record as a ‘grouping’ should that person die/resign/become ill, another equally capable person from that same party will have the right to continue representing said electorate.

  • The Watchman

    I’m not a fan of Allister, having encountered him in person for the first time, but I think he has a valid point that Carson’s Cat wants to ignore as he goes about bashing the TUV. Automatic co-option by party list should have no place in a democracy and I am not surprised it is already practised in continental Europe

    If that’s the best he can do, he should curl up back on the fender (as per the rhyme). Maybe the Punt can tickle his chin.

  • noel adams

    NOT LIKE FOR LIKE SYSTEMS
    Other Uk regions have more meps and elections are on the list system hard to see how this would work in a region with just 3 seats.

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    Agreed, 3 is not the magic number, in any circumstance where we are obliged to have these wretched non-single member, non-FPTP mega seats. The simplest thing of course would be to fold us into either the current Scottish mega seat, or, to really spice things up, NI should be merged with a newly carved out West of Scotland seat. Call it Dalriada. I foresee miles of fun with that.

  • fair_deal

    “Jim Allister just spotted a clause in the latest consultation paper from the NIO”
    “Jim Allister opposes a move which would bring elections in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK”

    The issue isn’t whether this is an integrationist proposal or not.

    It highlights how JA’s preference for Direct Rule would create even more opportunities for “radical and dangerous” proposals with all local representatives reduced to the same position as JA is in this case, issuing a condemnatory press statement.

  • Inspector Cleauso

    Again Fair Deal is on the money.

    What really can Allister achieve, apart from being a perpetual thorn in the side of the DUP who are the only significant opposition to republicanism left.

    Does anyone seriously think that Jim Allsiter got elected in the first instance because he was Jim Allister and not the DUP candidate!

    He is motivated by a desire for revenge likely going back to EA Westminster election in the mid 80’s.

    Slugger contributor Darth Rumsfeld once posted that JA “may be a bastard but he’s our bastard”. Some will say that the same could be said of Ian Paisley but at least he was a likeable one.

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    Fair Deal is completely off the money for once. While there’s a case, of sorts, qua Unionism, to have different electoral systems for different and differing elected bodies, national elections ought already to have nationally uniform systems. We do for Westminster, we don’t for Strasbourg (with NI’s micro seat being the odd one out, at the moment). But where FD is surely especially wrong is in suggesting that the existence or otherwise of joint-Provo-rule Stormont makes any difference to whether or not we come into line with the Euro-seat rules prevalent in the rest of the country, or stay as we are? For this is always going to be an issue which is determined nationally, not locally. JA may well not be a nice man, but he’s a damn sight more honest than Paisley.

  • fair_deal

    Still UUP

    You are reading a bit too much into my point. I am not rejecting the NIO’s proposals to integrate our Euro election system with the rest of the UK.

    My issue is with JA who is concerned about such proposals but his broader political demand is to give the people he decries MORE power not less by the restoration of direct rule.

  • autocue

    The Watchman

    “I’m not a fan of Allister, having encountered him in person for the first time”

    I think the Ulsterism you are looking for is “ye couldn’t like him if ye reared him”!

    Incredibly intelligent man who seems to have just abandoned rational political positions and actually is moving further and further to the far-right. His press utterances genuinely do seem to be getting more and more hysterical. Without Paisley to kick around, Allister has nothing to say.