The election campaign grinds remorselessly onwards to the excited expectation of the political anoraks (and if you are reading this site you are a bit of an anorak: I as a blogger am a hopeless snorkel parka case) and the mild interest of real people. I thought at this point as we are about to enter the final week I would take a non impartial look at the current state of the campaigns.
Turning first to my own lot. The TUV campaign has been going well. Despite a relatively small base of election workers, one can hardly move for Allister posters, they are even here in West Fermanagh (I only put a few of them up). The canvassing has gone well with large areas of the province covered, albeit we do lack the numbers to speak to many people at the doors. There has also been a decent TUV presence at public events like the Balmoral Show (as there was for all the parties) and even today I met TUV canvassers at the Pipe Band competition in Enniskillen.
Allister has been on radio and television (most recently on Hearts and Minds). He has done well: quite strident but that is what one expects. He has covered the issues and avoided any embarrassing slips. Even the grilling on expenses on Nolan seemed to go quite well. A lot of TUVists are now convinced he can win; the media, although still seemingly sceptical have certainly stopped asking him whether or not he thinks he will hold his deposit.
The DUP seem to be having a fairly good election. Again the DUP canvassers cannot be faulted for the hard work of their postering and the assorted DUP politicians have been out in force. I am inclined to feel that Diane Dodds has been a bit shrill especially on the Politics Show and Hearts and Minds and at times has avoided answering the questions. However, again she has avoided any major slip ups; and whilst the dynasty building jibe may cause a few problems, the expenses saga seems to not be damaging her personally (and the Robinsons have avoided the worst of the fall out, especially as compared to other MP couples). In addition I would suggest that Dodds seems a pretty personable individual.
Part of the problem for the DUP has always been how high to pitch their expectations. Clearly simply to win a seat would hardly be a stunning result considering where they are staring from. However, the other major objective: that of topping the poll is a fairly big ask. Mick noted a few days ago that the DUP were talking that up less than previously. However, they seem to have come back round to insisting on the importance of a Dodds first. If they succeed, especially if Allister does well that will be a major victory for them. Most of those in the DUP with whom I discuss these matters seem quite cautiously confident that Dodds will top the poll. I feel that may be a bit over confident but of course I am not canvassing for them, I have always avoided predictions and am not going to start now. If they do lose out on the number one spot it will be a bit embarrassing but by no means a disaster. Indeed the level of vote which would represent a relative failure is an interesting question.
One reason suggested by my DUPish sources for their optimism is the same one which the TUV hold to and that is the prospect of a melt down in the UUP vote. It seems fairly clear that the UUP are having a less than brilliant campaign. They are doing fairly well in terms of posters and their campaign literature is pretty good (as noted by Mark). However, the saga over the Conservatives and Unionists at the start of the campaign, followed by Sylvia Hermon’s as yet incomplete defection along with the other complete defection is all far from the perfect back drop to a successful election campaign. Jim Nicholson himself at times seems less than enchanted about the new arrangements as when he at one stage said he did not really like being a guinea pig (I do not have a link). In addition running Nicholson on a time for change type ticket seem particularly problematic in view of just how long he has been an MEP. Finally Nicholson himself although far from awful is not the most dynamic candidate.
Set against all of that, however, is the possibility that some new voters will be attracted to the New Force. In addition one must never underestimate the ability of disinterested voters (people with real lives) to vote as they always have. Today one of Elenwe’s cousins said she would vote UUP because she always does and I am unsure if my pleas (extending to offering a celebratory barbarque if Allister wins) will bring her round to TUVishness. The UUP may yet win; however, I suspect there will be some anxieties in that camp before the end.
Turning to nationalism the election has been a much quieter affair. There are quite a few SF posters around but in all honesty less than I would expect for the part of the world where I live (where the SF vote is expressed using scientific notation). I suspect the strategy on SF’s part is actually very clever. They may lose some votes in protest about their current position, we do not know how many. Had they proclaimed a desire to top the poll too loudly they might have snatched relative defeat from the jaws of victory if they failed to do so. Instead the more softly softly approach will allow for little embarrassment if they fail to be first. I must admit that DeBrún herself has been much more impressive on the media than I remember her from before. The clothes look expensive and yet close to trendy: her whole appearance is much less the school teacher spinster than I remember from before. In addition being the only candidate in this election under little pressure, she has performed highly competently on the media and I felt was arguably the pick of the candidates on the Politics Show.
The SDLP have to my mind been disappointing. They have a pretty good candidate in Alban Maginness and there is at least a small chance of them winning if unionist vote shredding goes perfectly for them. In spite of that I must admit to feeling that their whole campaign is a bit lack lustre: they almost seem to be going through the motions with no real prospect of victory; the slogan of When we win you win is almost as bad as UUP slogans from the days of Trimble political suicide notes. Okay it is not as bad as Decent people vote unionist (what could be?) but it is not exactly inspiring or catchy.
The Alliance and Greens seem to be having a relatively quiet election. They have a fair number of posters even some in Enniskillen for reasons a bit beyond me. Alliance may suffer a little from Parsley being relatively unknown and although I like and respect Mr. Parsley, I did not like his recent I am not Paisley – it seemed a little childish (sorry Ian). However, they might gain if the UUP vote really does fall apart. In addition putting forward a young person is a good tactic for the future: I hope and expect to see Mr. Parsley reappearing in more elections. To be honest, however, living as I do out here in the barren wastes I am not really in a position to judge how Alliance is doing amongst the coffee mornings in the leafy suburbs. I am also ill equpied to comment on the Greens except to note that they may also benefit in North Down (their natural habitat apart from the bizarre disconnect of Green types having Agas and 4x4s) from Sylvia Hermon’s position in / out of the New Force.
As I said at the start that is where I see the parties at the moment. Whether the last week will bring any startling rabbits out of the hat from either one of the parties or the government or indeed whether the QUB debate (to be screened tomorrow) produces anything interesting remains to be seen.