Gamechanging moments 2: Unionism realigns…

Now truth is we will not know for sure how things line up for unionists until Monday, but the unprecended coverage of the detail of the verification process (brought to you mostly by Slugger (and When Slugger Cowpes) we know there is crisis looming at the heel of these results. The DUP puts themselves ahead of Nicholson 20 to 16. The UUs put themselves just ahead of the DUP on 18 to 17. Health warnings come with both. There is, no matter how thoroughly you check it, a sampling bias towards your own tallies. Add to this is verification and not an actual count, and well, there’s the caveats.

The SDLP at this stage are conceding their docket is beaten…So it looks like, unless we’ve all gotten our sums completely wrong, that the incumbent parties of 2004 will come home as expected. But the game has changed, and quite profoundly, if the tally estimates are right.

There is a tranche of DUP seats now in peril for the next Westminster election. Some, directly from the TUV (North and East Antrim). Others from a strong Nationalist surge in the likes of Upper Bann. And Lagan Valley and South Antrim look vulnerable to a UU and TUV pincer attack.

Count that down, and the DUP go from holding 9 out of 10 unionist seats to 4 out of 9 seats. There may be others I’m not taking account of that could be vulnerable in a three way unionist split if the incumbent were to step down (East Londonderry, for instance).

You’d have to say that was carelessness in the extreme.

Bear in mind too that the ructions in England today also mean that a UU rally in fortunes (however skin deep) mean that it could be on a rising Tory tide in the next general election. And that election might come sooner rather than later.

I’ve been saying privately for days now that this election looks like a turning point in the general fortunes for the two tribes. If the last four years have been a prolonged crisis for Nationalism, the next four may presage a similar crisis for Unionism.

Some months ago, Frank Millar warned the DUP that their easy triumphs over an incompetent Sinn Fein Education Minister, and their heavily legislated locks on the devolution of Policing and Justice was leading them in to the illusion that they could go on draining that particular milch cow ad infinitum.

They took an old campaign off the shelf (Unionism must top the poll) and tried it one more time. Their polling a focus groups approved. No one told them on the door steps it was wrong. But as Noel Whelan noted at our Slugger Live event in 2005, landslide defeats are often silent.

This is not in the strictest sense a defeat for the DUP, but in a moral sense a new party to their nominal right, has conjured itself out of the ether and eviscerated their comfortable lead, dragging them from easy complacency to a near brush with electoral death.

According to one liberal Unionist I spoke to this evening, the DUP is suffering the same problem as David Trimble had (though this a very different configuration to those days): when they had the opportunity to press on generously they faltered.

Now they linger on a shakey rope bridge. The UU, soon no doubt to transform into the Ulster Tories, ahead of them beckoning them on (if they understand the best way to play this game), and the TUV telling them they have to come back.

I would not like to be in Peter Robinson’s shoes when this is over. His compensation: that he is not (yet) Gordon Brown.

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  • Nomad

    A growing number of even the most hardline unionists are coming to ask what the DUP is for and where it is going..

    Apathy is growing as the message is shrinking.

    Perhaps with great success, and less to fight for, the electorate finally wants more.

  • The Raven

    And I have to ask, because the rumour mill has been on overdrive the past couple of weeks – are there more jumpers from the DUP coming over the next few weeks? Big name jumpers? Anyone else hearing that?

    In particular, one returning to the UU fold…?

  • SM

    Would be even more intriguing if some big ones jumped all the way to the Conservative side of the CUs…

  • Elvis Parker

    If Nicholsons vote has gone up in the midst of this internecine unionist squabble it is a strong endorsement of the Conservative and Unionist project. And proves every media commentator in NI wrong. Indeed rather than facing a fight for the last seat Nicholson looks highly likely to be the first unionist elected!
    How can Devonport, Reid, McAdam et al have got it so wrong.
    It was a black mark against the BBC that they were completely in the dark about the Conservative/Unionist link up but to have misread public opinion so badly… Peter Johnston for one will be livid

  • PB

    Hi all – just back from work. What are the latest estimate percentages for the unionist parties?

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    TR,

    That one was handed to me (Mick), and I asked for verification. I’ve not had it, so treat it like it was a game of Chinese whispers (or partisan gaming)…

  • Seymour Major

    The Turnout was down by 9% from 2004. Query, is the drop in turnout spread evenly between Unionist and Nationalist?

    Until that question is answered, I am not going to write off the SDLP

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Dont like his politics but Allister fought an excellent campaign and is a very impressive politican almost singlehandedly Lundifying the DUP.

    You have to wonder if Deputy Dodsy didnt suspect what was in the undergrowth of Unionist thinking and rather than standing himself asked herself instead if she’d fancy a few shopping trips to Brussels.

    We cant have the UU/Tories claiming victory if their % of the vote only holds steady, that would by their own statements as posted on here, be a poor result with no stirring of the mythical garden centre Prods. The fact that the DUP did badly is not down to the UU but to excellence of Allister.

  • Query, is the drop in turnout spread evenly between Unionist and Nationalist?

    No, it wasn’t. Read this thread.

  • Scroller

    DUP in trouble but so is the NI Assembly

  • observer

    There must be something in all these not unexpected rumours of a serious drop in the DUP vote and the prospect that Nigel is not going to get a few days respite every week from the trouble and strife. A big clue is that all the DUP staffers like the pride of North Down Silverline, an undercover APNI supporter ho ho, and our old friend ?? or Question mark question mark when he’s in full typing mode. We need some urgent feedback from these guys to make or break our weekend.

  • Elvis Parker

    Sammy McNally werent you writting off the Conservatives and Unionists until yesterday and saying the SDLP were going to take the seat?
    Now reality is beginning to bite you are struggling to dis a very creditable performance

  • the joxer

    Really, it’s all about who hates the taigs most. Paisley’s DUP held the title for long enough and reaped the electoral rewards from the Unionist community.
    Now ‘sunny’ Jim has taken over as the heir apparent to the ‘no catholics about the place’ mantle.
    The expected ascendancy of Jim and the Hardliners highlights the demise of the latest unionist party to share power with catholics/nationalists from Terence O’Neill through to Trimble and now Robinson.
    It is interesting to note that all unionists leaders seduced into power-sharing are quickly jettisoned by an ever-intolerant unionist electorate whilst despite their many compromises, (surrenders?) Sinn Fein has largely brought their vote with them.

  • Scroller

    Really, it’s all about who hates the taigs most. Paisley’s DUP held the title for long enough and reaped the electoral rewards from the Unionist community.
    Now ‘sunny’ Jim has taken over as the heir apparent to the ‘no catholics about the place’ mantle.

    Have to agree joxer think you hit the nail on the head

  • oneill

    Now truth is we will not know for sure how things line up for unionists until Monday, but the unprecended coverage of the detail of the verification process (brought to you mostly by Slugger (and When Slugger Cowpes) we know there is crisis looming at the heel of these results.

    Not clear if Mick meant crisis for specifically the Dupes or Unionism in general. If it’s the former then definitely- even going on their own figures they’re looking at a 30% drop on their 2004 performance. Perhaps in the longterm this catastrophe will work to their benefit though, it won’t do them any harm whatsoever to have their arrogance well and truly kicked out of them. They’ll also realise that rehashing the old slogans of 20 years ago won’t work in the new political climate when they’re actually in bed with the very same party they were apparently also going to smash. Allister has run a very competent and tight campaign and as has been mentioned capitalised fully on the visceral hatred of the Dupes within a sector of the electorate that has grown over the last few years. But where does he and the TUV go from here? Unlike the TUV, the DUP aren’t a one man band and if they both develop a bit of humility and engage the obvious brain power which is there a bit more productively than they did this time, there’s no reason why they can’t recapture the cultural/ethno-nat wing back from Jim A.

    But overall, no matter how Monday’s result, it’s more an opportunity than crisis for Unionism. Bearing in mind the caveats already mentioned, it looks like the combined vote of the DUP/Conservatives and UUP/TUV has stabilised or maybe even increased slightly compared to the combined vote of the UUP and DUP in 2004- proving people do want choice, not “agreed” candidates foisted on them. More importantly despite (we can say now post election!) a less than inspiring candidate, the Conservatives and Unionists have proven there is a firm base there to be exploited for a radically different type of pro-Union politics. As long as there is a realisation that “change” means also a “change” of attitudes and approach within the UUP (ie not just a change in name and financial resources) there is a very hopeful future ahead.

  • drumlins rock

    its the nature of the beast joxer, prods split left right and centre at the drop of a hat, and the TUVs vote has loads of factors feeding it, the anti catholic brigade are only a part of it, Jim played that well, as he did the whole campaign, just enough of the old “never never never” to keep that wing happy but played it soft enough not to put of alot of people who simply saw him as a strong articulate and honest candidate.
    I’m not sure how much this will carry over to other elections as the personal vote was high, and ironically the worst thing could be if he is elected as its hard to run a party from europe!
    I also think if Jim Nick does come in top unionist it will give the UUP/CU a boost to really fight the DUP for westminister.

  • watchman

    If the DUP are claiming 20%, I would be inclined to think it’s slightly lower, after all, they appear to have made a habit of overselling themselves to the electorate!!

    Observer – post 11 – I also noticed the almost everpresent dundela avenue brigade have been exceptionally quiet. I suppose they need a bit of time to let their heads stop spinning at the shock, before they start spinning their lines again…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Elvis Parker,

    I have argued on Slugger that I thought UUP would flatline and most UU people like Seymour Major or Frustrated Democrat admitted weeks ago that this would be a poor outcome for the crypto Alliance of UU/Tories. In Britain and in the ROI the oppostion parties have done extremely well – the cryptos have not done so though this is partly down to Nicholson being such an uninspring candidate.

    What I did get completly wrong was my initial view that the TUV would get less than 20,000 votes but having seen the odds offered by Paddy Power I realised weks ago that I had this completely wrong and although I would love Alban to get a second Nationalist seat he was always an outsider – but not quite as much as an outsider as he was a few days ago.

  • realpotitik

    If these indications prove correct Conservatives and Unionists will be well positioned for a possible autumn general election.It is hard to see Lady Hermon resisting this tide ,it was always hard to see why she was against any link with the Conservatives when she is the only candidate in line for a cabinet seat and well able for it .Perhaps her reasons are cultural as she possibly feels more comfortable in Westminster with Labour MPs.With the declining number of Blair babes she may find a new niche within the incoming less blue blooded/more socially diverse Conservative intake to the Commons.While Kilcooley is obviously inportant to her the IDS visit on Monday emphasizes compasionate one nation conservatism through new Tory social justice policies.Important to us in Northern Ireland is a reduction in real and relative poverty and the concentration on the under 3s for better educational chances.It is time to move on from the sterile 11+ debate-childrens education potential is determined by 3 depending on parenting which determines brain size.
    These ideas should flow fast and furious into the stale Northern Ireland political debate and real delivery oould actually make some impact in deprived ares.This is where one nation conservatism can dovetail into the broad church which the Ulster Unionist party under Empey contines to aspire.UUP can avail of these new ideas along with influence in a future Conservative Government through spending plans,tax incentives and infrastructure projects.

  • PaddyReilly

    Sammy McNally werent you writting off the Conservatives and Unionists until yesterday and saying the SDLP were going to take the seat?

    I think Elvis that it is not a matter of “the seat” but “a seat”.

    As I said before the election, if TUV does well, then it is UCUNF who will take the second seat, and the final contest will be between SDLP and DUP. And by all accounts they have done well.

    As things stand, DUP SDLP and UCUNF are all going to end up with scores in the upper teens.

    The SDLP, which seems to have got the same 1st preference vote as last time, will this time benefit from SF transfers. Transfers from Greens and Alliance will go to them and UCUNF. Slightly more probably, because the Aliiance/Green vote is slightly up.

    Then the TUV’s vote will be redistributed and UCUNF will benefit, probably to the extent of making a quota.

    So that leaves the DUP looking for enough transfers from the TUV to push them ahead of the SDLP. Will they get them? The trouble is, all TUV voters who have spoken to Slugger (see other threads) say they won’t.

    Some TUV voters transferred to no-one. Some gave a second pref to UCUNF. But they all agree that the Lundyite DUP have been cut out of their will.

    So who gets the third seat still depends on exactly how thrane the TUV bunch are.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    realpotitik,

    re. Sylvia – quite a lot of wishful thinking going on there, also I would keep IDS away from anything involved with motivating people to vote – he is even less inspiring Nicholson.

    re. Westminster – with 3 Unionist parties, probably 4 in North Down = zero UUP/Tory crypto Alliance seats.

  • borden

    Paddy Reilly,

    hope you’re analysis is spot on! How did you come to the conclusion that the SDLp vote is in the high teens -I was hearing it as low as 13/14%. Perhaps Sammy Morse might know.

  • AS Drumbo

    In particular, one returning to the UU fold…?

    Posted by The Raven on Jun 06, 2009 @ 01:00 AM

    If this refers to the member for Lagan Valley he may struggle to get back in such is the contempt he is held in by the UUP activists, remember all his friends left with him, in any case there is a rumour he is planning to join the Conseratives, interesting but I suspect fanciful.

    In any case with him claiming to have revealed his ‘costs’ in this weeks Ulster Star despite the figures being available on http://www.parliament.com one suspects there is a little secret to come out, why else try such a cack-handed stunt?

  • The SDLP vote won’t be in the high teens. The low end of mid teens was how I, and I think most others, read it.

  • borden

    Sammy,

    15/16% for the SDLP then? How did Parsley get on? Very impressed with him -transferred to him after Maginness

  • PaddyReilly

    How did you come to the conclusion that the SDLp vote is in the high teens

    What I actually said was “Upper teens” meaning more than 15% (and less than 20% in the case of the DUP).

  • John K Lund / Lllamedos / Suchard

    I wonder if the penny has at last dropped and we are witnessing the grass roots of normal politicisation shooting. It makes a change from Armalite politics and intimidation by thuggish and exteremist political elements and all the half baked marxist and uber religious maniacs have at last been shown the door. The Northern Ireland electorate have been lead by the nose long enough by a bunch of pseudo nationalist and religious zealots from both sides and like The Berlin Wall once the cracks were breached the whole degenerate edifice of both ante deluvian so called polical creeds will be consigned to the dustbin of history. What a way to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the final destruction of the greatest Fasacist con ever.

  • Mick Fealty

    o’neill,

    “…overall, no matter how Monday’s result, it’s more an opportunity than crisis for Unionism.”

    I would agree with this. I have to hold my hand up and say I negatively read the UU campaign. Although, in my defence, I have argued, against the local tide, that the Cameron link up was an inspired move.

    Perhaps some of those who thought it was basket-case politics will now have second thoughts; particularly when they look across the broader chaotic vista of Unionist politics.

  • Borden – Ian did well. He motivated our vote and they came out in areas where the turnout was generally poor (highest turnout in Belfast was in Gilnahirk, an Alliance heartland; highest turnouts in North Down were all in strong Alliance areas). Given how difficult this election is for us, it was very pleasing, and Ian himself and the party collectively bust a gut for it.

  • Dave

    Can the unionists afford the luxury of fragmentation after St. Andrews? They should really consider if more unites them than devides them and, if so, merge into one party.

    “It makes a change from Armalite politics and intimidation by thuggish and exteremist political elements and all the half baked marxist and uber religious maniacs have at last been shown the door.”

    That’s right. They’ve been shown the door to Stormont and have duly entered it.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    A stangant UUP performance is *not* a Good One. It’s an ongoing disaster. Worse still, it’s exactly the sort of result that says to everyone involved in getting it, ‘steady as she goes: the plan’s working!’ Wrong, utterly, devastatingly wrong. Anything but an increase – and even then, something rather more than loose change – in the UUP share of the vote is deadly, deadly stuff. Especially when you remember that this is an exceptionaly low turnout by NI standards, thus motivated voters would have stood out by a country mile. The UUP, contrary to what we might have hoped, does not have those.