Why the DUP is refusing to fight the Lurgan by election…

Horseman has spotted that the DUP is not in the running for the by election in the Lurgan ward of Craigavon Borough Council early in the new year. The byelection follows a series of attempts to get David Calvert co-opted directly on to the council. At the back end of October, the Portadown Times reported:

Mr Calvert experienced a massive snub almost a fortnight ago on his first attempt. Just five members turned up for the special council meeting to replace the TUV’s Councillor Mark Russell who resigned recently, and Mr Calvert was the party choice.

Seven are required for a quorum, although five members were in an adjacent room having a cup of tea. They refused to enter the meeting where David Jones (Independent) was waiting to propose the name of Calvert, and Mr Calvert was left in limbo as the meeting was adjourned.

Mr Calvert has resolutely refused to step down as TUV candidate, despite an angry meeting of the party’s Upper Bann Association on Wednesday, during which an officer bearer walked out. Afterwards, the association issued a statement, giving him unanimous support and slamming the unionists who stayed away from the council meeting.

So the line-up for the poll in the Lurgan Ward on Wednesday January 13 will be – David Calvert (TUV), Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP), Liam Mackle (Sinn Fein) and Pat McDade (SDLP). You can discount the two Nationalists from any chance of winning since the Lurgan ward since in the last four council elections nationalists have only managed one out of seven seats.

Even at this distance, you’d have concede Dobson victory. Leaving aside any alleged tensions inside the local TUV associate, the electoral record in Lurgan suggests this is one of the deeper wells of UU sentiment in what was until 2005 David Trimble’s Westminster seat. Horseman puts it this way:

In Lurgan the unionist vote divided evenly between the DUP (39.4%) and the UUP (40.2%) at the last council election in 2005 (and thus before the TUV existed). Any leaching of support to the TUV would virtually ensure that the DUP could not win the seat – and experience has shown that around 40% of the DUP’s voters have deserted it for the TUV.

If Dromore is relevant then it has little to do with scale. The Dromore pre by election figures for 2005 the DUP took 49.8% of the vote to UUP’s 31.3%.

This time the councillor who is stepping down is TUV, in a ward will likely return a UUPer. As Horseman puts it, it robs political anoraks of “an opportunity to gauge the relative strengths of the three main unionist parties in the run-up to the Westminster election”.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour… In the meantime, the loud and continuous complaints from the DUP’s most problematic political opponent/ally of how the DUP ‘done us up like a kipper’ may do the rest…

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  • slug

    Its amazingly local and in my opinion amazingly boring. In a sense, who cares? Is this really of interest? I think I mustn’t be an anorak.

  • Mick Fealty

    Certainly not as much as Horse thinks it is… But sometimes it pays to keep attention on what is actually going on at the margins…

  • Mick, Jim Allister has put his shoulder to the Calvert wheel.

  • AndyPandy

    The real story here is that Harry Hamilton was dropped. This is boxing clever by the DUP. Let UCUNF and the TUV tear lumps out of each other – given the nature of the TUV candidate, highly likely, and incur the wrath of the local people for forcing a costly by-election.

  • Sean

    Just goes to show how desperate the Dupers are to avoid an election! They won’t even fight a bi-election for fear of showing how weak they are.

    I predict an outrageous public opinion opined by Iris in a sad cas of misdirection

  • 6countyprod

    This is a personality-driven issue.

    If the TUV had had the freedom to propose anyone other than Calvert, there would not be a by election.

    Calvert has already been rejected several times by the electorate in the area, and obviously commands little or no respect from the elected councillors on Craigavon Borough Council. He couldn’t even get a seconder. His domination of the local TUV party machine, and his indefatigable ego, is costing the rate payers of Craigavon a small fortune.

    The DUP did not oppose a TUV candidate, as they promised, but, it seems, they could not stomach the thought of actively supporting someone as petty and divisive a character as Calvert.

    May the best woman win!

  • Garza

    AndyPandy I think not. The DUP do not want to give the TUV any kind of victory in the run up to the general election, which it would likely do – th eTUV would get a chunk of the DUP vote. Its all about the “Big Mo”.

    The DUP are privately very worried about the TUV.

  • Guest

    “The DUP do not want to give the TUV any kind of victory in the run up to the general election”-Garza.

    Very true.It could also be the DUP dodging a bloody nose so as to be fully fit to agree to the transfer of policing.Either way,if Horsman’s figure of 40% re voters switched to the TUV is anywhere near right,they’re going to get a beating eventually.

  • … if Horsman’s figure of 40% re voters switched to the TUV is anywhere near right …

    It is.

    Both Dromore and the Euro elections showed that the TUV takes about 40% of the combined DUP/TUV vote (aka the ‘extreme unionist’ vote). Those are, so far, the only elections where the two parties have gone head-to-head.

    I disagree with Mick (and slug, needless to say) – this election is very interesting, or would be if the DUP were in it. In their absence it becomes a fairly boring little walk-over for Dobson. But even the DUP’s absence is of interest, showing their fear of the TUV so close to a ‘real’ election.

  • 6countyprod

    Why the DUP is refusing to fight the Lurgan by election…

    The obvious reason is, of course, that the DUP is sticking to its Gentleman’s Agreement with the TUV not to oppose a TUV candidate to replace Mark Russell.

    I’m curious as to why some folks think it is in some way cowardly for a party to keep its word. I suppose that is something quite unusual in politics and therefore difficult, particularly for the cynic, to understand.

  • 6countyprod,

    That’s an obvious ‘excuse’, but somewhat sullied by the DUP’s attempt to co-opt another ‘independent unionist’ back in November.

    If they were really keeping some kind of agreement thery would have seconded the co-option of Calvert.

    Nothing in their deal said that they should not fight an election, if one came about, did it?

  • AndyPandy

    The DUP did not oppose Calvert. They agreed not to oppose Calvert and they kept their word.

    When Calvert failed to get a seconder, they suggested a non-aligned community worker, who Calvert’s proposer David Jones supported.

    It was Arnold Hatch who forced this by-election by refusing to support anyone but Harry Hamilton, who was then subsequently dropped as the UUP nominee in favour of the delightful Ms. Dobson, Personal Assistant to MEP Jim Nicholson.

    The DUP rightly said they would not be involving themselves in a costly farce, brought about by a squabble between the TUV and the UUP, much in the same way as Allister kept out of the Enniskillen by-election, which was subsequently won by Arlene Foster.

    Strange, no-one accused Allister of running away then.

    As it happens, I think the more coverage the likes of David Calvert gets the better. Then people can see what a nasty, divisive poisonous bunch the TUV really is.

  • anonymous

    Then people can see what a nasty, divisive poisonous bunch the TUV really is.

    Just like the DUP then?

  • bleeding heart liberal

    Where’s my green and alliance candidates?

  • 6countyprod

    Horseman,

    I don’t know if the details of the co-option deal between the DUP and TUV were ever published (maybe you have a link), but I was under the impression that the DUP agreed not to oppose the TUV candidate in Craigavon if the TUV reciprocated on a different council.

    I don’t think the two sides ever agreed to actively support the other.

    In the final analysis, Calvert’s intransigence loses the TUV a (their only?)seat on the council, costs the rate payers a packet and leaves the DUP looking good.

    Good move, David! 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Horse,

    If… indeed…

  • 6countyprod

    AndyPandy,

    ‘Then people can see what a nasty, divisive poisonous bunch the TUV really is.’

    I don’t agree with you that TUV members are all like Calvert. Word on the ground is that, had the TUV proposed anyone other than Calvert, it was a shoe in.

  • 6countyprod

    Thanks, Nevin.

    A couple of relevant portions from the link above:

    ‘…agreeing that the TUV would not contest the Ballymoney seat left vacant after DUP councillor Roy Wilson stood down while in Craigavon the DUP will not contest a seat when TUV councillor Mark Russell leaves’

    ‘…Cllr Mark Russell, for personal and business reasons, will shortly stand down from Craigavon Council. When he does the DUP has agreed not to oppose the co-option of a TUV replacement.’

    Looks like the DUP lived up to its end of the agreement.

    So, I’m left wondering, what’s all the yappin about?

  • AndyPandy

    The yappin would be that Allister assumed not opposing meant actively supporting. Hardly says much for his negotiating skills – he can’t negotiate a council co-option but he seeks the leadership of Unionism. Fat chance!

  • Sean

    Because 6 while the Dupers lived up to the letter of the agreement they failed miserably to live up to the spirit of the agreement something they seem to do a lot of lately

  • AndyPandy

    Sean

    Spirits don’t count for jack! Its words on paper that matter.

    If its spirit you want I suggest a visit to your local….

  • The DUP, like Brave Sir Robin, run away from the judgement of the electorate here in Upper Bann, decrying the 30k cost of the by-election whilst telling us how courageous they are.

    It seems to have escaped these brave-hearts that the DUP’s decision not to allow the co-option triggered the costs they moan about.

    The DUP chose not to allow the co-option – plain and simple, Rather liked their local Association.

  • Sean

    You are wrong Andy if you expect people to live up top their end then you have to live up to yours

    Fine print cuts both ways in these cases

    Besides which unless your legal system works different than ours if it comes down to giving some one the benefit of the doubt the judge will always side with he who appears to co-operate over the beligerent and obstinant

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The good news is Craigavon will get an excellent councillor which wouldn’t have happpened any other way.

    The people will speak and the DUP will not be there to hear them!

  • bangordub

    All Politics is Local surely.
    Just as John McGahern observed that the local becomes the universal if observed honestly.
    Well spotted Horseman.
    Detail is everything

  • 6countyprod

    Absolutely, bangordub, all politics is local.

    In Upper Bann in 2007, where people know him well, Calvert polled 3% of the vote – about one fifth of a quota. If you think that’s bad, spare a thought for Mr Vance. He could only manage 1.9% + 2.7% in his last forays into local politics; probably eliminated in the first round, I can’t remember.

    A by election at this time is a total waste of time and money, and I reckon Calvert will again be humiliated. Not because he is TUV, but because he is David Calvert. Nobody wants his obstinacy and abrasiveness any more than they wanted Vance’s.

    McConnell or someone else could have retained the seat for the TUV, but, unfortunately for their party, Wee David seems to rule the Craigavon TUV roost!

  • bangordub

    6countyprod,
    I do agree with Horseman that it would be a useful barometer of the political temperature within unionism at the moment though.
    Does anyone have a bigger picture perspective in Unionist politics at the moment?
    Even the UCUNF thingy has now become a row about “Pacts”.
    Am I the only one thinks this?

  • 6countyprod

    Bangordub,

    Perhaps I’m assuming too much from your ‘handle’, but you folks in North Down may not think that spending £30,000 on a worthless poll is a waste of money, but ‘us simple country folk’ are a little more stingy! The money could help keep open a swimming pool in the borough instead of being flushed down the toilet.

    I know that certain politicos on Slugger are salivating with the idea a DUP defeat of some description, but it looks like they’ll have to wait a while longer.

  • bangordub

    6countyprod
    Fair Comment.
    I wasnt considering the finance, merely the interest in the result.
    A DUP defeat is academic to me. I’m interested in the present state of unionism. ie: retreat into entrenched bunkers vs new thinking and engagement with nationalists.
    An “educated guess” would be that about 15% of Unionisism wants to go TUV’wards, Thats about 8% of the electorate.
    Was just curious how that panned out into votes

  • slug

    Bangor Dub

    Local byelections are poor barometers.

    We will have a general election in a couple of months which will be an excellent barometer.

    Be patient.

  • 6countyprod

    Your ignorance of Upper Bann is only exceeded by your regard for roll over Unionism. Well done.

  • bangordub

    David
    What t. f…..?
    Are you serious?

    6countyprod
    Agree with you about general election. Lets see if the local translates into the big picture, my original point mate

  • Bangordub

    I think a DUP defeat is essential if we are to have good government. It is also vital if Unionism is to align on agreed principles that can translate into a more positive future.

    We have seen just how ineffective the DUP/Sinn Fein axis is. The UUP/SDLP axis proved little better.

    Surely it is the big picture that matters and that must mean changing the texture and substance of government.

  • bangordub

    David
    “It is also vital if Unionism is to align on agreed principles that can translate into a more positive future.”
    Ok. Any ideas as to what those principles may be?
    apart from “No Shinners in Govt”

    I’m leaving the middle bit out as it could be argued forever

    “changing the texture and substance of government.”
    Do you mean by this excluding the democratically elected majority nationalist party? Yea or nea?
    If so, or indeed not, what are you proposing and how do you explain this?

  • 6countyprod

    Bangordub,

    There are a few Davids in Upper Bann who live in bitter little cul-de-sacs, and there doesn’t appear to be much one can do to help them move out of the past. But feel free to keep working on them.

    I think that the DUP has peaked as far as elected representatives are concerned, and they will probably lose some ground in future elections. They may lose some seats to TUV candidates in local and Assembly elections, but the overall pro-Stormont Unionist vote I think will hold up well with at least 80%+ of unionists voting for continued sharing of power and responsibilities between the two communities.

    As for the Westminster election next year, I think there is real potential that the TUV could help the UUP to regain a number of their seats or even let nationalists make gains. I would however be very surprised if the TUV were to gain a seat themselves. They will play, as usual, a negative rather than a positive role. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe they have yet to actually win an election. They are, I suppose, more a spoiler party than people who plan to contribute anything constructive.

  • Bangordub

    No terrorists by right in government seems an eminently sensible idea UNLESS other unionist partie seek to voluntarily coalesce with them.

    The issue here revolves around why we accept a mediocre ineffective form of government that patently does not work. The issue here is why we do not have any form of opposition to hold the Executive in check. The issue here is why certain parties MUST be in government. I’m afraid there is no such divine right for Provos to govern, nor is there a need for unionists to appease, no matter how the GFA establishment shrills.

    There will, of course, be some 6countyprods, who fail to understand the tectonic plates of Unionism are moving and you can content yourself with them.

  • Anoni-moose

    David (Vance) is clearly some kind of sectarian dinosaur who simply doesn’t realise that in 2007 we had the St Andrew’s Agreement, and there was peace and everyone lived happily ever after, and nobody needed to mention terrorists in government, because there no longer were terrorists in Northern Ireland. Instead there was peace, a new dawn and good governance.

  • elvis parker

    ‘Nobody wants his obstinacy and abrasiveness’
    Once upon a time these are precisely the ‘head-the-ball’ qualities that were required for the DUP – and of course Calvert was a leading member then.
    Strikes me that just because the DUP have realised that their bigot nonsense was undermining the Union and have reformed themselves they shouldnt be so hard on former members like Calvert and the TUV.

  • Sean

    David

    you have shifted your rhetoric from no fenians in government to no terrorists in government to no terrorists by right in government. You really haven’t really changed your tune just your optics, you really are a true unionist. Your positions are as maleable as they need to be

    As for this and future elections the dupers and the tuvers seem to be paving the way for the emergence of the ucunf as the only place the small u unionists can flee from the sand box fight on the extremes of unionism

  • Strangford Resident

    elvis
    When did the DUP reform themselves?
    Or does telling Iris to keep her gub shut constitute a reformation.

  • Sean

    It is simple really.

    I oppose the concept of having terrorists in the government of Northern Ireland. What a shocker, right? However, as a democrat, I accept that people have the right to vote for terrorist linked parties, no matter how morally repugnant that is. (That’s the bit that republican apologists like yourself pass quickly over – as if it is the most natural thing in the world for terrorist godfathers, convicted bombers, convicted murderers, convicted bank-robbers to be in power, to be sure)

    But unionists do not have to agree to a political process which automatically allows such a monstrous party to gain executive power. Indeed, were unionists right-thinking they would see that it is not in Northern Ireland’s best interests to have an organisation dedicated to the destruction of Northern Ireland anywhere near it’s government.

    Unionism can realign alongside the tenets of good government which are based on voluntary power sharing and an opposition being permitted to the Executive. It also means the overt dysfunctionalism of the private fiefdoms in the Executive must end and true collective responsibility introduced. Not radical, but sensible.

    If the DUP prefer to align with Mr McGuinness and chums, fine. I am sure the electorate will be interested in that choice and pass judgement accordingly.

    As for your “No fenians in government” slur, it’s pathetic misrepresentation but a little wallowing in imagined victimhood seems good for the republican soul, right?

  • Sean

    What about the terrorists in the UUP that formed the original nIreland government? Did they have a right to be in government

  • “What about…”

    Plus ca change.

    How about Irish Republics recognising that they have no divine right to govern?

  • What about the

    What a fabulous way to begin and argument on slugger

  • Sean

    Ah yes if you have no answer then change the focus a fabulously successful tactic……..not

  • Domino

    Bringing it back to the original question.

    If we apply the effects of the euro results the DUP would lose 43% of their vote to the TUVs

    That would bring us too

    UUP: 3,928
    DUP:2185
    TUV:1662
    SF: 734
    SDLP: 633

    This is the most simplistic analysis you could possibly do but I think it illustrates the point effectively.

    The DUP don;t want to be absolutely drummed in an election immediately before the Westminster Elections. I think Simpson’s seat is lost to the DUP. It is by far the UU’s best prospect and they don;t want to start making the problem worse.

    I would just like to point out with the above that it is not a prediction its just an analysis. You will really struggle to get a 30% turnout for this one its going to be pretty pathetic.

    With the DUP not running the TUV vote won;t suddenly jump up. In fact it may fall because people have nothing to vote against.

  • Domino

    Thanks for that thoughtful analysis.

  • slug

    You can call David Vance many things but sectarian is NOT one of them.

  • 6countyprod

    Domino,

    Right on, ‘simplistic‘ is the operative word!

    OED – ‘simplistic’ treating complex issues as simpler than they really are

    And Mr Vance reckons it’s ‘thoughtful analysis’. I’m not sure if he’s being sarcastic or sincere.

  • Comrade Stalin

    David,

    We have seen just how ineffective the DUP/Sinn Fein axis is. The UUP/SDLP axis proved little better.

    We agree. The trouble is, people keep voting for them. Democracy means that people get the government they vote for. Anything else is tyranny.

    Simple majority rule isn’t coming back. Neither nationalists nor unionists are responsible enough to have it. As evidenced by the actions of Unionism on Newtownabbey Council lately.

  • Harry

    When is this by-election. I think the DUP’s absence is surprising, and it always begs questions when the largest party in Northern Ireland decides not to stand in a very unionist area.

    But, I think the election will still be interesting, for I’m sure we can look at the DUP and UUP vote last council election, and see what happens to the DUP vote. Does it go more to Calvert or more to Dobson to see how the DUP is holding up in the area. If more goes to Dobson, the DUP will be pleased, those voters will return to the DUP in all likelihood when the DUP stand. But if the TUV take a large chunk of the vote, then there is obvious swing from DUP to TUV. Allister may know his party can not win the seat, but a good share of the vote will keep the momentum and provide another sign that unionism is now a three-horse race.

    I hope the UUP do not over-attack the TUV. In all honesty, I hope the UUP do not attack the TUV at all. At the moment all of TUV’s attention and anger is at Sinn Fein and the DUP, and with the UUP being the main challengers, it is likely some verbal assaults will be exchanged between the TUV and UUP. This though will only benefit the DUP – as it may well ruin the practice of TUV’s votes being transferred more to UUP than to DUP. If the UUP want to become the biggest unionist party at Stormont, it will rely on TUV transfers coming to the UUP over DUP and this election could ruin that if the UUP and TUV fight dirty. I hope the UUP therefore runs a positive campaign highlighting the strengths of the UUP over the weaknesses and bigot attitudes of the TUV