Jim Allister set to upset both pro Agreement Unionist parties?

This election is way too screwy to bet with any confidence on concrete predictions. I’ve heard the estimated size of the TUV vote run from 15,000 to 80,000. But Brendan over at Stakeholder notes that Paddy Power is giving the shortest money on a 60,000 plus haul of first preferences to Jim Allister. That’s certainly above current DUP estimates. And the TUV think it could go significantly higher. If it does break 60k, depending on how the Nationalist race goes (Maginness is arguably a stronger candidate than the party’s 2004 choice Martin Morgan), Sinn Fein’s Ms de Brun will likely top the poll. You will note just how quickly after the campaign’s start the DUP softened their ‘let’s top the poll’ message.The TUV thinks the expenses row is demotivating the support for the two main parties, (and it seems to be hitting Unionists in general more than nationalists) but they hope to prosper from it. The DUP are putting their hopes in limiting that damage by focusing on his expenses as an MEP (something they most know in much fuller detail than they are prepared to go in public since Allister was their MEP until two years ago.

It remains to be seen whether Allister’s performance under withering fire (for 40 minutes; up to three times longer than the other politicians on the show) from an extremely well briefed Stephen Nolan this morning, in which he was interrogated about his earnings as a barrister (having done work for former party colleagues Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson).

If the prices at Paddy Power are in any way realistic, Allister is proving much more competitive than many expected at the outset of the campaign. The odds are against him taking the third seat. But he doesn’t need that to happen to stir up some muddy water in Unionist politics. High enough, and Mrs Dodds will not make quota. Higher and Jimmy Nicholson may be caught up in a messy race for last place.

From what I can make out they are most active in this campaign in Upper Bann, Lagan Valley, East Antrim, East Londonderry and North Antrim. Their most credible result will be to stack up enough seats in these places to take seats off the five or six most vulnerable DUPers in 2012. Or, if they push it right to the top, look for some of the more unhappy bods inside the Assembly to peel away to them in advance.

On this last, Peter Robinson allegedly has signed contracts from all sitting MPs that in theory would bind the resigning member to resign his seat as well as the whip. How well that might stand up in court, is quite another matter of course.

But probably the party with the greatest worries in this campaign must be the Ulster Unionists (or UCU – NF). Much of the on-the-ground intelligence is anecdotal (all parties have to run their Stormont offices throughout the campaign so there is a short of that close to the ground intelligence you get with other elections).

Their support is widely held to be the most vulnerable to the stay at home response to the Westminster affair, regardless of the quality of the campaign. And they have been far from effective in making the Cameron effect translate to local audiences. Mark Devenport’s Potemkin Villages schtick probably most accurately sums up the faux nature of their campaign. Other party’s gleefully report a meltdown in their former support on the ground.

On the sunny side of the street this time out, both nationalist parties have much to be happy about, it would seem. The SDLP vote in 2004 was poor. They’re saying this year’s campaign is a larger scale version of the successful 2005 doorstep campaign in Foyle. But what they are hoping for is a Belfast South scenario; where they squeeze through the pack to take the last seat.

They calculate they need another 20,000 votes from 2004. Though the read across is not that simple. One of the things in their favour is the differential way the Westminster row is feeding into the Unionist and Nationalist bases. And, they say, the possibility of winning a second nationalist seat seems to be motivating people who have not bothered in the past, to get out of the house and do their constitutional business.

Sinn Fein is quietly confident. They have studiously avoided talk of topping the poll, though that is pretty much the educated guess of most of the other parties in the race. Though McGuinness’ ‘traitors’ moment has played badly with some of their activists, it is proving very popular on the doorsteps. Conor Murphy’s promise* to continue the subsidy of water rates is playing well too.

For once there is a kind of edgy harmony between the two parties, or at least a studied avoidance of face to face contact. Sinn Fein concentrated on digging in as the major force in Northern Irish nationalism, and the SDLP, with fingers crossed, hoping to swing in for that last seat behind them.

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  • Mark McGregor

    Who says the ‘traitors’ comment has played well on the doorsteps? SF? They would.

  • They calculate they need another 20,000 votes from 2004.

    Odd maths. Nicholson was 38.5k ahead on the final stage in 2004 with an undistributed SF suprlus of 7.2k. That means they need to close a gap of 31,300 or so. Not impossible, but not 20,000 either.

  • oneill

    “But Brendan over at Stakeholder notes that Paddy Power is giving the shortest money on a 60,000 plus haul of first preferences to Jim Allister”

    50,001 to 60,000 has also dropped dramatically from 6/1 to 9/4 in a week and I seriously doubt it’s my tenner which has made the difference!

  • andy

    Sammy M, what is yours/alliance predictions at this stage?

  • I’m refusing to call the last seat at all. There is a lot of churn out there.

  • sj1

    Well I haven’t seen hyde nor hair of a shinner, or any one else for that matter, so if they can’t be bothered why should I?

  • slug

    The most fresh candidate and campaign is the Greens. Agnew was very good in the two interviews I saw, and I just watched with interest his PEB. He has arguments on the green economy, he is clear about his position on the issues that matter to him (which are the same issues as greens everywhere care about).

    Expect the Greens to get a little more this time (i.e. more than 1%).

    If this were Pete Baker’s thread he would accuse me of campaigning so I apologise about that, though I am not a Green Party member.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    What is interesting is what each party might PRIVATELY think it needs from the election.

    For SF that probably means:
    Success – top the poll and any increase in % vote.
    Acceptble: Any Increase in % vote but not top the poll.
    Failure: Any decrease in % vote.

    For DUP that probably means:
    Success – top the poll or only small decrease in % vote: < 3% or less than 20,000 vote drop. Acceptable: Moderate decrease in % vote (3 or 4 %) and 2nd behind SF. Failure: Large decrease in % vote (>5% about 30,000 votes)

    For UUP/Tory/NF Crypto Alliance that probably means:
    Success: 3rd Seat and any increase in % vote.
    Acceptable: 3rd Seat and small decrease in % vote (less tha 3 %).
    Failure: Large decrease in % vote (>3%) and/or loss of 3rd Seat.

    For SDLP that probably means:
    Success: 3rd Seat OR increase in % vote.
    Acceptable: small decrease in % vote.
    Failure: Large decrease in % vote (> 3%).

    For TUV that probably means:
    Success: > 50,000 votes.
    Acceptable: >30,000 votes
    Failure: < 30,000 votes

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit, what was the point in that?

  • alan56

    Number crunchers out there tell me if this is possible: SF should consider 2nd pref for TUV.

  • John O’Connell

    There is a lot of apathy on the doorsteps and combined with the expenses claims issue I think we’ll see surprise results.

    I’m calling the third seat for Alban Maginness. I think Allister will do well and Nicholson will suffer to an extent for the Tory link, leaving Alban to step in to the gap with a very much improved European vote for the SDLP.

  • percy

    Why is SammyMcNallt being attacked, I thought his analysis was spot on.
    What are ppl objecting to?

  • Nomad

    Isn’t looking at this election through nationalist/unionist prisms to miss the point. It seems to me much more clear cut to look at it in pro/anti EU or Lisbon treaty terms… then it seems much easier to pick your candidate.

    Not that I’m against pondering what is *actually* likely to happen either though..

  • Brendan, Belfast

    Those odds on 50,001 – 60,000 have actually dropped from 6/1 to 9.4 since about 3pm this afternoon. Is someone in Paddy Power thinking they miscalculated?

  • Sam Flanagan

    Brendan, I think you will find the betting is coming from “political insiders” who are getting the feedback from their own private polls. They would see this as a nice “little earner.”

    If you look closely at Paddy Power website you will see he is so daft he actually gives odds on chess games! He is definitely asking to get taken to the cleaners there, as the game results are so easily rigged and professional chess players are, shall we say “quite cynical” especially the Eastern European ones!

    Too bad you came across this little ruse a bit too late. lol

  • AdamsandLoughgall

    Allister has the DUP on the ropes over double-jobbing and robbo’s greed etc (before he even gets to their jumping into bed with SF) – but there will be no change. He will be a gallant loser but that is not much different from a non-gallant loser. For all the anoraks and statisticians out there the simple fact is that there are comfortably 2 unionist quotas. That leaves SF.
    The good citizens of NI will continue to vote tribally and the seats will be taken by the same three parties. Its a pity as on this occasion – they are represented by the three worst candidates in the field.

  • blinding

    It is fairly obvious the DUP are spooked by something with their announcment of the prohibition of double jobbing.

  • ??

    robbo annoucned this ages ago, its now the tories who are the double jobbers are more. One tory has 10 OTHER JOBS!

  • ?????

    so please tell me the rev songstress has to give up the record deals

    has Mark Brooks joined the dup yet

    has Iris welcomed him with open arms

    what is the hold up?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    thanky kind sir.

    But the timing seems a bit strange?

    It is a funny old game and although neither SF nor DUP will ever admit but it – but it is in SF’s interest that the DUP do well. A big TUV vote will seriously rattle Robbo and possibly the working reltionship with SF (in spite of all the problems) and unfortunately it is looking like Jimbo has got some traction as there is a general feeling afoot, with the ongoing expenses malarkey, that the Euros are an opportunity to ‘send a message’ without actually doing any lasting damage to your party of choice.

  • Excellent header piece from Mick Fealty. Some good analyses in previous comments (thanks, especially, Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit @ 07:54 PM).

    But the real intriguer is that throw-away by alan56 @ 08:28 PM.

    Is Party discipline and ward-heeling that good? If so, go for it.

    Above all, here in London, so far: single flyers from — in order — the egregious millionairess Lynn Featherstone (masquerading as LibDims incorporated), Labour, UKIP and Bob Crow’s vanity trip. Beyond that: nothing, nada, zip, zilch. No Tories. No posters. No canvassing. And certainly no enthusiasm. Expect a 30% poll at best.

    I envy you lot.

    And this good socialist, were he able to, would be sorely tempted to follow alan56 @ 08:28 PM‘s thought …

    They don’t like it up’em.

  • Silverline

    Jim Allister was torn apart by Nolan shows he is no better than the rest with double standards

    A) Family working for him
    B) Claiming rent on an office he owns
    C) Pocketing the extra on airfair expences

    Its a discrace

  • rj

    Adams and Loughgall (post 16)

    Who said there are 2 comfortable unionist quotas? Last time Allister (32%) plus Nicholson (16.6) came to 48.6%. The second quota required transfers from Gilliland.

    More discontent among unionists than nationalists and a modest swing from UCUNF to Alliance (as in 2007) could leave unionism further away from 2 quotas. Nicholson has to depend on near total transfers from Allister and hope for respectable share from Alliance in order to beat Maginnis.

    Disaster territory comes from Nicholson (who is not having a good campaign) falling behind Allister (who is). Then Maginnis is much more attractive to Alliance/Green voters as well as getting some UCUNF transfers. Result: 2 Nationalists, not because SDLP have done very well, but because TUV have done well and UCUNF have done badly. Danny O’Connor might remember much the same in 1998 in East Antrim.

  • cynic


    For an Alliance supporter, ho ho ho, Jim Alister has got right under your skin big time.

  • andy

    After hearing Jim on the Nolan show, i think he has shot himself in both feet. Nolan took no prisoners

  • cynic

    Nolan is good at that. Remember Iris’s performance? Brutal!

  • Result: 2 Nationalists, not because SDLP have done very well, but because TUV have done well and UCUNF have done badly.

    This also depends on SF doing very well, getting a big surplus and transferring it heavily to Maginness.

  • Driftwood

    The good citizens of NI will continue to vote tribally and the seats will be taken by the same three parties. Its a pity as on this occasion – they are represented by the three worst candidates in the field.

    And don’t we all know it. thankfully it’s a euro election and makes no difference.

    The sooner we get Direct Rule from London (and Trumpton/Stormont abolished forever)the better.
    And I hope Cameron, or rather Osborne, slashes the block grant here. time to get real.

  • peter

    The TUV is definitely winning in the poster competition. In Upper Bann it’s almost a joke, now they have a billboard in the middle of Portadown and Lisburn.

    A lot of things seem to be playing into Jim’s hands as the DUP hasn’t looked as bad as this since their election. I don’t think he will get the seat but a big turn out for him could mean a DUP which is less cooperative with SF in the future.

    Alban to grab the 3rd seat due to such a big split between the unionists.

  • brendan,belfast

    Sam – you wrote, (amazingly with regard to eastern European chess players)

    “Too bad you came across this little ruse a bit too late. lol”

    To my credit I haven’t come across it yet. I’ll stick to politics, thanks.

  • Silverline


    You mention geting direct rule back, it wont be remember the plan B it was joint authority is that what you really want? I belive there would be a return to violence if this happened and I would hope this is not what you would want? Is life not better than it was? Under direct rule you would have had water charges, no free perscriptions,No freeze in your regional rates No frree transport for 60+.Every life that has been saved makes Northern Ireland a better place!Sinn Fein have bought into a British State with them supporting a British police Force, 50 / 50 recruitment is ending in 2010 and Unionism has a veto in the NI Assembly on the North South bodies and structures. Going back will loose all these gains for Unionism!

  • Driftwood

    The constitutional guarantee means it cannot be joint authority. Dublin will have an advisory role on some issues yes, but i’m comfortable with that, and some moderate nationalists should be as well. We need less government. We are overburdened with institutions and quangoes that intrude on everyday life. There are plenty of safeguards that mean discrimination in all forms will not be tolerated.
    For sheer duplication of petty bureacracy, we cannot be a free enterprise economy under the scale at present.
    I cannot see the dissolving of stupid self serving quangoes as a precursor to any form of violence.
    And Unionism v Nationalism is not a zero sum game. It is of benefit to Unionism that Nationalists feel life is better in NI in general through economic benefits, ie by better health care rather than having bus timetables in Irish etc.

  • dublinsfsupporter

    Driftwood if the GFA is brought down it would be de facto joint sovereignty that London would bring in. That means that in essence the six counties would be no longer part of the UK but de facto run from Dublin.

  • oneill

    “Brendan, I think you will find the betting is coming from “political insiders” who are getting the feedback from their own private polls. They would see this as a nice “little earner.””

    I can’t imagine too many of the Prodiban (unless in heavy disguise, fake beards and Armagh GAA baseball hats) would be too comfortable seen wandering into a Paddy Power’s shop, so there must be a hell of a lot of their dough going online…

    Any confident SDLP should pop along sharpish, the odds for your man to take a seat are…er…shall we say, “attractive” at the minute.

  • Mick Fealty


    We heard a lot about bringing down the BA when the DUP was in opposition. It didn’t happen. Even if the TUV maxes it out, it won’t happen. They’ll do what SF and the DUP did before them; seek a price on a .2.1 settlement they can live with.

  • BonarLaw


    To quote Morgan J in the CTI case :

    “The Northern Ireland Act 1998 provided a legal framework within which the Executive Committee, Ministers and the Assembly were to operate. That framework was significantly altered by the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006…”

    The 1998 Act is in effect the Belfast Agreement. The DUP has already “significantly altered” it and will do so again. I think the direction of travel is clear.

  • George

    The legal framework within which the Executive Committee, Ministers and the Assembly were to operate was “significantly altered”. Let’s see how:

    Morgan J was talking about Section 20 (4):

    “(4) The Committee shall also have the function of discussing and agreeing upon-

    (a) significant or controversial matters that are clearly outside the scope of the agreed programme referred to in paragraph 20 of Strand One of that Agreement;

    (b) significant or controversial matters that the First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly have determined to be matters that should be considered by the Executive Committee.”

    So what this does, the court noted, is have “the effect of giving the First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly the power to determine that particular significant or controversial matters should be considered by the Executive Committee”.

    So there is now a joint veto by DUP and SF in place for “significant or controversial matters”.

    What direction are we traveling in if giving Sinn Féin a veto over matters of significance is the cost?

    What other significant changes will the DUP be managing next time around?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    There’s not going to be a second nationalist seat (though a big So what? if there were – it’s fricking Strasbourg: Unionists Don’t Care any more than their fellow countrymen across the water do). It would, as has been pointed out, take very precise Unionist vote-shredding PLUS Unionist apathy PLUS an enormous Sinn Five tally PLUS straight down the line Sinn Five-to-Stoop transfers. It’s not going to happen. Less unlikely, though not likely even then, is a perfect storm happening for Jim Allister and him displacing the dud Nicholson. I can’t see that happening myself, but my money is long since bet on him doing far better than the wiseacres thought he would even a month ago.

    Not being a TUVist – despite being completely sympathetic to their basic analysis – I’ve no idea what their post-Strasbourg survival plan is. But it’s going to seem a lot more plausible with the stack of first prefernces they’ll have when the Euro votes are counted. They are going to win Stormont seats, and those seats are going to come mainly at the DUP’s expense. Good. And it’s lamentable that we in the UUP are scooping up these votes.

    For what it’s worth, we should be a broad enough church, truly catholic in our Unionism if you will, to be able to have within us opinions like Allister’s and opinions like, well, whoever there is who actually, honestly, truly supports whatever incarnation ‘the Agreement’ is presently in. But it really is too much to hope that Jim Allister will come home. That’s not his fault: we’re still in full-on Trimble mode (‘proven vote winner? No thanks! We don’t want your stinking votes!’) and seem set to be until we finally vanish.

  • loi

    Just watching the pieces about joint authority. If as I hope, David Cameron is the new PM, I don’t think joint authority is going to get a look-in. He’s sincere in his committment to NI and his actions and statements since becoming leader have shown that. I reckon Dublin will be treated as a hear neighbour with a land border with part of the UK but no input of any significance.

  • loki

    Sorry- should be near neighbour

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    There never was any threat of ‘joint authority’. That was just one more lie Paisley told. And you can’t find a single one of Dodds, Donaldson or the Punt who’ll repeat.

    But to repeat this for first time listeners: the reason why there will never be joint authority is not just simply because Dublin would sooner get collective national rectal cancer than sign up to that, it’s due to the still more practical business that Dublin is utterly incapable of ever meaningfully sustaining any authority north of the border.

    London can do what it wants, and does, because it has the coercive power to do just that. Dublin, contrariwise, is quite incapable (in addition to being quite unwanting) of imposing itself upon this place. Thus one last time: joint authority wasn’t threatened, and it isn’t possible. Unionism’s worse case scenario is London’s solitary authority imposing a consultative binational relationship with Dublin over the head of Stormont – and that’s already happened. It was something called the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Some of you may remember it, and, to coin a phrase, it hasn’t gone away you know, albeit it has Windscale-to-Sellafielded itself by becoming the British-Irish Agreement.

    Robinson (and Trimble’s) best pro-Agreement argument was that reviving even power-sharing devolution effaced the consequences of the AIA/BIA. Where I and other rejectionists disagreed was that in a choice between two disagreeable things, devolution with Sinn Five involved was markedly worse that the ineffectual, disintered mutterings of the Republic were via the AIA. So there you go: what Donaldsonian traditionalism was ultimately all about in a single blog post. What an exciting medium the interfest is.

    [Ironically, and, for once, employed correctly so, my submit word is ‘work’].

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