Strangford report: DUP’s residual infrastructure may make the difference…

We won’t be going in for constituency profiles, since the ones Sammy Morse provided two years ago are as comprehensive a tool as any we can provide. So from time to time we’ll be dipping into the most competitive/interesting races, and occasion dropping in to sample local opinion for ourselves. Today we start with what is on paper could be one of the more competitive races in Strangford. Much of that is based on the departure of its former MP in disgrace at the turn of the year. In actual fact, the hill the Ulster Unionist candidate must climb is rather more difficult than it might seem. In 2007, DUP one 4 Assembly seats to the UUP’s 1 with one going to Keiran McCarthy of the Alliance. As Chris has pointed out the Alliance Party’s McCarthy faces a perennial challenge from the SDLP for that last seat. Carmel Hannah’s daughter Claire is running in this election clearly as a prelude to running against the Alliance man next year in the Assembly election.

But ooking at the distribution of Council seats, the DUP’s advantage looks even more pronounced, with the DUP currently holding 11 seats to the Ulster Unionists 6.

Bare in mind that five of those DUP seats are held by UUP defectors, and you have a sense that the DUP here in Strangford are neither Paisley or Robinson’s men, but old anti Belfast Agreement Ulster Unionists who took longest to defect are probably the less likely to buckle.

It is their hyper local machines that will make the difference in the ground war. Can they get their vote out? And in 2007, it was still a considerable vote, with the party leading the UUs by 48.9% to 18.5%. Had Iris Robinson not left politics under such a dark cloud that no one would consider this constituency in the least competitive on the Unionist side of the fence.

Mike Nesbitt will have to rely on his considerable media profile (and perhaps some stronger messaging than he has shown heretofore) to compensate for poor party infrastructure. In Jim Shannon he is up against a personable councillor with a stable constituency machine. Nesbitt’s been using his blog to some effect

There are few big dividing lines locally, though there is some concern that the deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Fein over educational reform will lead the loss of the local prep department at the Regent House Grammar school.

There are now two TUV councillors, both former Mayors, although the strength of their party mandate will not be tested before the RPA report kicks in. It remains to be seen whether they can create enough interference to affect the eventual outcome in this seat.

In the boundary changes Strangford loses Dundonald and its surroundings (Ballyhanwood, Carrowreagh, Dundonald, Enler and Graham’s Bridge wards) to Belfast East and Carryduff (East and West wards) to Belfast South, gains Ballymaglave, Ballynahinch East and Kilmore from South Down.

The full sheet of candidates so far: Deborah Girvan (Alliance); Claire Hannah (SDLP); Mike Nesbitt (UCU-NF, aka UUP Conservative and Unionist); Jim Shannon (DUP); Terry Williams (TUV).

  • the DUP here in Strangford are neither Paisley or Robinson’s men, but old anti Belfast Agreement Ulster Unionists who took longest to defect are probably the less likely to buckle.

    I wonder exactly when it was that they all became pro-agreement.

  • NMCNSA

    What residual infrastructure?? There door knockers all joined the TUV

  • Drumlins Rock

    It is also hard to guage how much of a personal vote Iris got, its a hard one to call, Nesbitt has a good blog and is a fresh face,

  • Mick Fealty

    Most of his constituents won’t be reading the blog though DR…

  • cynic47

    Mr Nesbitt is not a person who will take “old hand” advice very willingly as he takes his first tender steps into the world of politics. This could cause him problems. I think that he has already made a few rash statements that he may find will be unhelpful in his quest to beat Shannon. He has plenty of blocks to toss at Shannon but it will depend on how he goes about throwing them. That’s where good local advice will come into play. Given his persona local UUP folk may be nervous about giving him a steer but he needs to seek it out himself by inviting it.

  • The Raven

    I know we love the analyses here, but really, aren’t the scenarios based on one of two outcomes?

    The situation remains the same

    or

    DUPs (here, and Shinners elsewhere) are given a royal kick in the bollocks for 2 years of non-delivery of…well…just about anything, and a further slap in the gub for being shown up as a tawdry party of money-grabbing, double-standard, same-as-every-other-politician no-hopers.

    There you go. Over-simplified, indeed. But the speeches will either be “despite the best efforts of the BBC and others to smear our beloved party, we remain the strongest voice of unionism blah blah blah” or “we will listen to the voters and re-engage to come back as the strongest voice of unionism blah blah blah”.

  • One point worth making is that this is one of two seats where the boundary changes affect the notional majority by more than 2,000; the shift of Dundonald into East Belfast reduces the notional DUP majority here from a bit over 13,000 to a bit under 11,000. In the unlikely event that the DUP lose to the UUP by less than 2,000 votes, they can blame the boundary changes for their defeat.

  • NMCNSA

    People tend to trust News readers as there used to them telling the truth. Put that against the DUP sleaze we have all witnessed and add the huge name recognition and Nesbitt will storm home with a large majority.

  • cynic47

    Raven

    You are correct. Collectively they have delivered next to nothing. Some of them have done local Councillors work and got their photo’s in the local rag pointing at a loose curbstone that they got fixed. Most have been a very expensive luxury with well paid teams of mates around them. This could be their day of judgement and a foretaste of what lies ahead for a lot of them not involved in the GE.

  • cynic47

    OOps

    Kerbstone!

  • Michaelhenry

    even if only 100 people vote in this election the 18 seats will have 18 winners and a lot more losers,to help that person or party of your choice to get in means we actually have to vote,and not just talk about it.

  • brendan

    Wonder how this line from his blog,

    “As a Victims Commissioner I worked very hard for individuals – in fact, I may have engaged with and helped more than any other commissioner”

    will go down with Patricia McBride?

  • Chris Donnelly

    The DUP’s performance in 2007 was very impressive here, and it’s hard to believe that vote will be as shaky as the UCUNF team believe.

    Nesbitt will eat into the deficit- probably take a massive bite out of it- but that’ll be it.

    Interesting to note Carmel’s daughter on the SDLP ticket. I may be mistaken but I don’t think she’d have a particularly significant local profile in the constituency.

    Given that the party had a Peninsula based councillor I’d have thought it a better move to stick with him.

    This move suggests Sinn Fein still have a (very outside) chance of making an impact in the nationalist race in Strangford, presuming the party break tradition and manage to find the appropriate local candidate.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    McCarthy has thus far repelled all ‘rebel’ boarders in that regard. I’d back him to top out Claire in that race next year. But there seems to have an (unusual) degree of forethought in that candidate choice.

    I’m not going hard with any predictions at this early stage until there’s been a bit more door knocking done… I’ll do another pass in a couple of weeks to see how much more competitive it has got.

  • Flow

    As a Strangford voter, I have a few comments to make about this one:-
    a) The DUP spread the vote well in the 2007 Assembly elections, but its final seat was only won by 31 votes, ahead of the SDLP candidate. The Alliance candidate was clearly elected ahead of two of the DUP seats.
    b) The notional majority has come down to slightly under 11,000, however, the other factor is the votes gained by the Conservative candidate in 2005 – if those were combined with the UUP vote it brings it closer to a notional majority of 9,000
    c) The TUV may be stronger than people think in the area – even 2,000 votes for it could make a difference
    d) Nesbitt has a strong public profile, which the previous candidate for the UUP did not – potentially worth some votes
    e) The 2005 election saw a shift in Unionism across NI – but some of those votes may go back to the UU/Tory party, particularly if it can sell its message effectively, that the DUP negotiations have weakened the link with the Union – In 2001 the majority was only 2,000

    The positive factor for the DUP is the candidate -Jim Shannon is popular, hard working and has a strong personal vote built on 25 years of service in Ards Council.

    I thin this one is too close to call – whatever the DUP party machine would like to believe.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick
    I’d suggest that the nationalist seat in waiting is more likely to be at the expense of a unionist rather than McCarthy at this stage- Flow’s right in what he’s said. Factor in the boundary changes and it’s probable that a nationalist candidate will come in after McCarthy- though getting the candidate right for either SF or the SDLP will be key.

  • cynic47

    The sitting SDLP Councillor did not, I understand, put his name forward.

  • Framer

    The last result has probably little bearing because of the departure of Iris and the fact that Taylor had abandoned ship in 2005 leaving no obvious successor.

    If Mike Nesbitt got a £35 haircut from a local stylist he could well win. It is a significantly suburban electorate.

  • Mick Fealty

    Flow,

    Thanks for that. Good post.

    Framer,

    I would expect to see some effect, but John D’s abandonment with little in the way of a party machine is part of Nesbitt’s problem now.

    In lieu of that, he ought to get a few haircuts, and do his shopping every day between now and the election in what’s left of the town’s ‘uncorporate’ shopping centre.

  • Drumlins Rock

    its a 13,000 majority! that is a massive, massive swing that is needed, I know it has swung the other way in the last 15 yrs but to reverse that in just a few months is a big ask for a new guy, in comparison Gregory Campbells majority is only 7,700 and he faces an excellent if rather unknow opponent. Its a big ask of the UCUNF to win these seats, and the sort of swing that normally takes place over 2 or 3 elections, and to be blunt the whole thing possibly rests in the hands of the courts!

  • NMCNSA

    Number of factors will come into play here-
    i – How much was a personal vote for Iris who was a very popular figure
    ii – How many votes will the TUV take from DUP
    iii – The Nesbitt factor, very well known and likeable.
    iv – The ABD (anyone but the DUP) factor, people are disgusted with the sleaze and corrpution.
    v – How disgusted people are with the DUP lies about not going into government with the Sinners.

    Result Nesbitt landslide

  • Garza

    DR

    Willie Ross (here’s johnny) is running in East (London)derry for the TUV. All of a sudden a wee bet for U&C there looks quite tempting. Particularly as Lesley Macauley is a pretty impressive candidate if unknown.

    The great two unknowns for the unionism in this election:
    ~ voter apathy
    ~ TUV’s vote attraction

    Makes this election hard to predict for unionism.

  • DR

    that is a massive, massive swing that is needed

    But imagine if it’s achieved?! Imagine if 2,3,4 (I’m not going to go too OTT at this stage!)seats are won by the UK brand of Unionism? Pro-Union and NI politics full-stop will have been changed forever here. Worth hoping and working for.

  • Drumlins Rock

    third one Garza, the “National Factor” if used right will the idea of actually voting for the Government play on the ground?
    and forthly “undisclosed scandal” if it comes out…

    Am glad to hear Willie is standing, it will take a few votes of the DUP, but I have to say my gutt feeling is the TUV polling wont be as high as some predict, as I said before a third of the Euro vote was anti-sleaze, a third was personal for the sitting MEP, and only a third of it was hardcore support. But I would think Willie would get about 2000 votes in EL, that certainly makes a difference. Back to strangford, how much do you think the TUV will poll there? Cedric could poll over 3,000 votes (8%) at his peak, I would guess that core vote is probably still out there, with a few more besides.

  • PaddyReilly

    How disgusted people are with the DUP lies about not going into government with the Sinners: Result Nesbitt landslide

    Can’t see how that follows. Surely if the electorate were disgusted about a party which promised not to go into coalition, but nevertheless did so, they would be equally disgusted with a party which went straight into coalition anyway?

    The question is, does the Unionist voters’ of Strangford (N Antrim, etc) loyalty belong to a set of super-thrane Unionist principles, or to the holy families of Paisley and Robinson and the party DUP, which formerly used to espouse them?

    More the former than the latter, I suspect, so divide the Unonist vote equally between TUV, DUP and UCUNF. Whichever of these manages to gain a couple of extra votes, will win.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I know that O’Neill, and think almost anything is possible, but its a very big ask in a short space of time, to be blunt the UUP needs to get back above 20% of the vote, and if they win seats this time its a bonus, realisictally its the next general election before a swing as big as that can be won back, however local factors can make a difference, as can good candidates, dont forget small majorities usually mean short parliments, we will be back at the polls within 4 yrs I predict.

  • Garza

    [quote]Back to strangford, how much do you think the TUV will poll there? Cedric could poll over 3,000 votes (8%) at his peak, I would guess that core vote is probably still out there, with a few more besides. [/quote]

    Strangford strikes me as an area which the TUV would do moderately well in. People in the Ards Penninsular (sp) frankly scare me a little lol.
    But again this one is too close to call. I have no idea how this is going to play out. Is Nesbitt popular enough? The NI electorate has a reputation for voting according to “celebrity” status – well known faces.

    I’ll go with U&C gain, just, only just. But there is 4 weeks left, alot can happen then.

    I don’t think the scandals will come unfortunately before the election, Labour will make sure of it.

  • Quincey

    I think there is a massive over-estimation of the TUV vote. The euro election is simply not a remotly reliable indicator. Jim Allister campaigned mostly on being a good MEP and a lot of people voted solely for that. Combined with a crap DUP candidate (that mickey mouse could have beaten) and a ‘mid-term’ protest vote against the scandals, and it paints a very different picture of ‘real’ TUV strength.

    I base it on something else as well- noise and ‘news’ on the ground. What i mean by that is that the TUV vote is a super-prod vote. And super-prods arent quiet. They protest, they heckle, they attack, etc.. They did with the DUP and from the TUV approach and noises you have to assume the same people and mentality are the TUV’s core. Now the thing is there have been no big protests, no massive parades, no hunger-strikes or token spectacles. There have been attempts, but all have failed miserably. The bodies arent there in number enough to carry them out.

    For all their faults (and i really dont think they have any more than any other political party, both as party or individuals), i think the PUL community has accepted that the new political ‘realism’ of the DUP is the only way forward for us.

  • NMCNSA

    Yes Quincey that may be one outcome, alternatively the electorate may see through the DUPs tissue of lies and corruption and see them for the narrow minded, homophobic crooks that they really are and vote them out onto their well fattened backsides.
    DUP are yesterdays men, they came to power saying No Never and as soon as they got there grubby little offices No Never became Oh Alright!
    Does anyone not believe that Peter ‘The Punt’ wouldn’t sell ulster into a United Ireland for a few planning applications?

  • Quincey

    Ive tried to set my view out with as much logic and factual evidence as possible.

    On lies and corruption – the DUP are no more guilty than any political party. They happen to be getting a lot more attention and scrutiny. Is there anyone in Northern Ireland who doesnt know something about their local representative? The ‘scandal’ is simply Northern Ireland beginning to approach political normailsation.

    Ad for narrow minded and homophobes- EVERY party including the Alliance has had representatives come out with views that could could be placed under that remit. Again teh DUP hsant had a monopoly on them. They simply have been the biggest party with the most representative and been under the most scrutiny.

    No never to oh alright is an incredibly simplistic interpretation for a long and difficult journey, ignores factual realities and the context of decisions and finally is of course a deliberatly emotive/ abusive party political soundbite.

    My personal study of politics here and throughout the world over the ages shows one thing- times change and context changes. Any political party that refuses to accept the realities of the world changing around them is doing the people they claim to represent a disservice. Things change, political direction has to as well.

    Do you suggest that the way forward for a successful political party doing its best for its country and people is to adopt a solid line and stick to it no matter what the cost or what happens?

    Any described capitulation by the DUP is semantic argument. Real politics, as in the daily operation of structures, cannot be based on soundbites.

    We arent in 1688 anymore, or even 1972. Its 2010.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Quincey, not sure how familiar you are with the DUP on the ground, but they always took the “High Moral Ground” and used it to gain votes, and they had no difficulty in using “vote for the Christian” line when canvasing, therefore they should be prepared to pay the price when them have misled thier voters.
    As for their change of view on powersharing, to go from undiluted opposition to virtually full acceptance, with a StAndrews fig leaf, was too much for many to swallow, and they punished them for it by voting TUV in the Euros, some of those will return having made their point, but the Robinson Family Sagas will probably force many to look elsewhere or stay at home.

  • Quincey

    Totally personally speaking, as someone from the Loyalist community who interacts with Unionists of all hues on a very regular basis, i simply do not sense widespread anger. Thats what i base my views on.

    As for the rest of your post, that is your view and your interpretation. I dont agree with the interpretation, simple as that.

    Unionism has to mature and grow up. It has to incorporate realism into its ‘raison d’être’. Soundbites, slogans, events of the past and our entire history are all important, but strategy and tactics should simply bear them in mind- not be based on them.

  • NMCNSA

    Oh the old its not just us excuse? the only party than can toch the DUP for scandal is SF (Nice Company your keeping!)
    DUP
    1 Iris Sex Scandals
    2 Iris dodgy loans
    3 Peter Dodgy Property deals
    4 & 5 Yet to be revealed
    6 Decieving the Unionist people

  • Quincey

    Hard to beat a bit of old school abuse. Thats the super-prod we know and love.