Some thoughts on North Antrim

The TUV’s election campaign is now in full swing with 10 candidates contesting seats. The media have focused on the recent spat in the courts between Ian paisley junior and Jim Allister over the DUP’s election literature. Clearly the most attention vis a vis the TUV is on North Antrim. Most in the media seem to regard it as a close contest and the DUP certainly seem to be taking it very seriously despite claims here on slugger and elsewhere that victory is guaranteed: their actions seem to indicate a less sanguine approach.

To be fair the result is hard to call and political analysts whom I greatly respect point out the 18,000 majority Jim Allister would have to overturn in order to win the seat. However, that figure although making Ian Paisley junior’s victory seem likely is far from a complete picture.

A number of factors will decide the election in North Antrim.
The simple fact is that Ian Paisley senior did garner a large personality vote. He had been the MP for half a lifetime and to be fair had achieved significant progress for the constituency in the early years of his leadership. In later years the closure of some of the area’s employers could hardly be blamed on him. Ian Paisley junior has worked hard in the constituency but is not the same towering figure as his father; and although the father can probably pass on some of his personality vote, he cannot do so with all of it. Although Jim Allister may be no match is charisma for Ian Paisley senior: neither is Ian junior.

The rows over expenses recently raised by the court case where Jim Allister was refused an injunction are interesting and seem to be being used by the DUP as an attack on Allister. However, it is far from clear whether this is a terribly effective tactic as it will also serve to remind people of Ian Paisley junior’s expense claims relating to offices and other large claims. In addition once the battle becomes partially about character Ian junior is vulnerable over his ill chosen comments about “knowing of” Semyour Sweeney.

Central to that 18,000 majority is of course what were all those DUP supporters actually voting for? If they were voting specifically for the DUP then indeed Jim Allister, having left the DUP, stands no significant chance. If huge numbers were votes for the Big man and are willing to now go as he suggests then Jim may as well give up.

However, those votes may in large measure have been for a been for a specific vision of unionism: a unionism willing to say that unionists should not agree to enter a mandatory coalition power sharing with Sinn Fein; a unionism willing to forego power for itself if the price of that power was too high. Many of those North Antrim votes may have been for a unionism which for 40 years was not willing to bow to the demands, bribes and threats of others but held to certain principles.

A central question in the election in North Antrim (and elsewhere) is whether or not the electorate feel that the DUP should have made what it regarded as the necessary pragmatic choices which have brought it to political power or whether it should have remained where it was; or driven a harder and better bargain for unionism. The DUP claim to have obtained the best deal possible: the voters thus far have seemed less than entirely convinced. The disaster for Coca Cola and Pepsi’s response when Coca Cola changed their recipe comes to mind: there is one unionist party which has changed and one which will be chosen? If that DUP vote was for a specific vision of unionism rather than for loyalty to the DUP then that 18,000 vote majority is worthless save as a statistic to record a vast swing to the TUV.

Of course the old DUP vote is not the only relevant issue. At the 2005 election 55% may have voted DUP but some unionists also voted UUP. If those voters stick with the CUs it may change little. However, any gain in their vote is unlikely to affect Jim Allister and Ian Paisley junior’s vote equally. If the CU vote falls, its relative distribution is also likely to be relevant. Former UUP voters might feel that the DUP have moved to where the UUP used to be and support them. Alternatively they might decide to vote TUV either because they agree with Jim Allister or to defeat the DUP.

North Antrim also contains a sizeable minority of nationalist / republican voters and again their votes could be relevant. However, it is unclear whether tactical voting to keep the TUV out will be any greater than a desire to defeat the DUP. In reality I would suggest that nationalist tactical voting will be limited in size and hence, relevance in the outcome.

The reality of course is that many factors will affect the voting in North Antrim: loyalty to their usual party, support for specific principles, acceptance of pragmatic compromises, views on candidates characters. Character and personality will undoubtedly be part of the voting dynamic but principles and policy will also be there. Which of Jim Allister and Ian Paisley junior will be Edmund Hillary and George Mallory remains to be seen.

  • cynic47

    If IPJ loses this election, and the outcome is far from certain, I wonder what other talents he has to turn to, to earn a living as his political career goes down the tubes? He has even been made redundant as a retained and salaried researcher for the retiring MP.

    I get the feeling from talking to some DUP insiders that there would be few tears in parts of the party if he does get a licking.

  • Peter Fyfe

    I think you are right regarding the small impact the nationalist tactical vote will make. The pact in FST will not have garnered much favour among nationalists.

  • Wabbits

    And if yer granny had balls she’d be yer granda ! All ifs and buts. Paisley will win. His majority will be smaller than that of his Da but it’s still a winning situation for him. Stop kidding yourself Turgon.

  • Harry J

    Any chance Allister will tell the people of North Antrim about his expenses as an MEP?

    Mr Allister received somewhere in the region of £150,000 in flights during his five years (we dont have the exact figure because he hasnt published them)

    Will Mr ALlister tell the people of N Antrime exactly how much he received, how much he spent and where the rest of the money went?

  • Carsons Cat

    Turgon,
    you seem to be, perhaps understandably, playing up Allister’s chances of victory. Can the TUV survive though of Ian Jnr wins? In particular, would Allister’s ego allow him to continue on having been personally defeated in such a personality dominated contest?

    Also, you may be understandably downplaying the court battle but surely a defeat on the law for Jim doesn’t help the TUV morale much in N Antrim or maybe even elsewhere whereas in N Antrim in particular it gives the DUP workers a bit of a shot in the arm.

  • emanonon

    A major factor in North Antrim is the fact that neither Paisley Junior or Allister is liked by the voters. That is not to say they will not vote for them while holding their noses.

    The North Antrim UTV debate may be the key to this election, remember what happened on the leaders debate in the UK – the third candidate won easily. Could that happen in North Antrim if the voters decide that the third candidate is more likeable and has policies that they could support?

    A strangely open race in what should be a very safe seat.

  • cynic47

    Harry J

    You have been punting this crap since before the European election. Did he obtain the money by deception or was it there to be claimed? If he did anything wrong is he a worse person than the Robinson family, a better person or just about on the same level?

    Is it right that a DUP MLA can contribute £500 to his local football club to buy space for his poster to appear on their pitchside wall?

  • Harry J

    f he did anything wrong is he a worse person than the Robinson family, a better person or just about on the same level?

    except jim has critised the DUP for those exact expenses.

    Time for jim to come clean

  • Harry J

    Is it right that a DUP MLA can contribute £500 to his local football club to buy space for his poster to appear on their pitchside wall?

    course it is, they were advertising their constituency services. I know other parties dont know what that means.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Show of hands, who was using black paint? Driving through Kells today and i saw seven posters of Paisley Jr painted over with black paint. One poster had DUP / IRA wrote on it – I wonder who’s supporters would do that?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    There will be no nationalist tactical voting, either to boost moderate unionism or boost TUV. Frankly Nationalism/Republicanism is better served by fragmented disorganised unionism.

    the opposite is also the case. fragmented nationalism/republicanism benefits unionism.

    with each tribe having two parties…reasonable alternatives…..any growth of dissident republicanism benefits unionism. likewise the dissident unionists in TUV are a boon to SF SDLP.
    I suspect most unionists (as well as the vast majority of republicans) see Eirigi and the like as raving nutters. Likewise the TUV are viewed like that by republicans and nationalists.

    no nationalist should be worried about the prospect(unlikely) of a TUV victory in North Antrim.
    Ultimately what the Gods destroy they first make mad……Eirigi and the TUV.

  • cynic47

    Harry J

    “We don’t have the exact figure”

    Would that be the Royal “We”.

    Remember you have told us that you are not even a DUP voter! Hope your leader doesn’t get proof of that.

  • cynic47

    Harry J

    That £500 would be public money I assume?

  • cynic47

    You could get a decent fountain pen for £500.

  • Hogan

    I think the issue was that the DUP MLA in question paid £500 of public funds (i.e. that of the taxpayer) to advertise on a pitch-side hoarding of a local football club of which he was a director at the time????

    Willing to be corrected though?

  • alan56

    Paisley Jr will probably with a much reduced majority. Will this be real victory for DUP or a defeat for some senior DUP strategists?

  • alan56

    After Jeffrey and Arlene, just wondering if Tom Elliot is next DUP target. He has abandoned Ulster Unionism in FST

  • Ulick

    What happened to the TUV challenge in Upper Bann>

  • Ulick

    What happened to the TUV challenge in Upper Bann>

  • Lionel Hutz

    I think there is a strong chance that Allister will win his defamation case should he proceed. The leaflet has got to be libellous. Its just not so bad as to warrant an injunction.

    Think Allister was playing a game rather than seriously thinking he would win on that. It has backfired though and made him look silly

  • FitzjamesHorse

    David Calvert was mentioned but a DUP (sic) person I know told me categorically he had heard that Calvert wont stand.

  • The Raven

    I have no doubt that IPJ may win. But the traditional turnout over there – I live “next door” in EL – is going to be down, and well down if word on the street is anything to go by.

    Emanonon is quite right – neither candidate is particularly well-liked, and even there, people are tired of the “we’ll stand up for Ulster” mantra. It may indeed be quite open, for many reasons far from the usual.

    By the way, Gregory Campbell is noteable, mostly by his absence over here in East Londonderry. The UUP candidate is very visible on the streets, and getting a very good reception where ever she goes. She’s certainly a more visually appealing prospect than the incumbent dinosaur.

    Even the Shinners are venturing into Coleraine where they wouldn’t have dared before. An increase in their respective votes, coupled with a general spurning of Campbell, and it starts to get very open over here too.

  • daisy

    Letter from North Antrim

    We’ve waited many years for the Big Man to retire. We’ve had to put up with his sectarian tribal taig baiting for more years than any of us care to remember, although he was always quick to remind us that many “Roman” Catholics came to him for help and he was only too willing to help “them” (I wonder why?). Then along came his heir. He “knew of” a major property developer, he and his father took advantage of the very cheap rents(!) in Ballymena and in general ruled their feifdom like parternalistic landowners. What did they deliver? IPS was good on agriculture (always seen at ploughing matches and the annual bull-fest at the King’s Hall) but he was better than his heir at the old personality bit which matters a lot in the rural areas. Did our world stop turning because he didn’t represent a significant minority?

    No, it didn’t, and regardless of whether the representative for the Developers Unity Party or the Trust Us Very party win, it won’t matter a jot. It will just be the same old same old in North Antrim. The world will keep turning and we’ll survive, albeit without representation for the significant minority. Thank the deity for equality laws.

  • Michaelhenry

    the t.u.v, the thinking persons dissidents.

  • The Raven

    Daisy’s nailed it. It’s actually quite sad to read, put in those terms.

  • emanonon

    Daisy

    Then you know what you have to do, support the non DUP/TUV candidate.

    Tactical voting is going to be widespread in South Down as Unionists vote for the SDLP, is it possible in North Antrim?

  • Drumlins rock

    one option Turgon has seemed to overlook is the possibility of Voters turning to the UCU from Paisley, I dont see why he should predict that their vote will go to the TUV, I would hazzard a guess that the UUP vote in NA has become pretty hardcore over the years of pressure from the Paisley Dynasty and even with a candidate from the conservative side of things it should hold firm, the good people of NA are also not the stay at home types even if they do complain about the choices, and the “plague on both their houses” could just sway a fair number the UCU way, enough to win? unlikely, but maybe enough to deny it to the TUV.

    PS. The idea of Tom Elliott going to the DUP is about as likely as Micheal Jackson and Elvis doing a duet on the steps of Stormont.

  • iluvni

    I see Diane Dodds MEP has now put her expenses online. About time too.

    http://www.dianedodds.co.uk/expenses.php

  • martin r

    “one option Turgon has seemed to overlook is the possibility of Voters turning to the UCU from Paisley”

    He hasn’t overlooked it, he obviously knows enough about North Antrim to know that it isn’t an option. Paisley following DUPers with vote for junior, traditional hard-line DUPers will vote for Alister, no “option 3” is required.

    Harry J, I have no idea who you are but you seem to be a very bitter man to the point of it totally clouding your ability to view things even vaguely sensibly. The EC pay out a flat rate for air travel every time one of our members travels to the parliament, so the more he attends the more he gets in travel expenses. What’s he supposed to do, lift a salary for a job that he does nothing to earn,…………………….like so many of our other “politicians”.

  • cynic47

    Lionel

    You reckon Mr Alister looks silly over the courtroom visit? I think he was putting down a marker. Unlike PR when JA threatens legal action he actually carries through.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Silly insofar as at the end of the day he lost the initial part of his case. There will many people who will take from that that the Paisley leaflet is true and he has now drawn attention to it.

  • “Silly insofar as at the end of the day he lost the initial part of his case.”

    Whether it was Jimbo’s intention or not, the judge’s ruling could well have one or two Dupper candidates also a tad anxious. The imnunction was declined not one the basis of whether Paisley Jr’s allegations were correct or not but seemingly because at election time “freedom of expression” is paramount.

  • “imnunction” make that “injunction”.

  • “at election time “freedom of expression” is paramount”

    I suspect a play about Paisley set in the ‘I know of him’ era would not be broadcast until after the election.

    I’ve provided some additional evidence on NALIL blog which reinforces Checkov’s blog published last Monday: “Questions Over Paisley Campaign Letter”.

    How were recipients of the letter, immediately following the announcement of an election, expected to interpret the enclosed photo, especially when the son, an election candidate, appears to feature more strongly than the father, the retiring MP?

    Who paid for this correspondence to the North Antrim electorate? If the money came from public funds to what account was it charged and when?

  • emanonon

    Anecdotal from North Antrim – many of the Free Presbyterians are not voting DUP, they see the statements of the DUP at the last election regarding SF as lies and the DUP and Paisleys have therefore sinned.

    They don’t want to vote for Allister either as they belive he is in a similar category.

    As a sizable vote in North Antrim where will they go….?

    Nevin

    That could play havoc with their election budgets if it was not included! In fact it could render Junior ineligible to take a seat if he won and the budget was exceeded. Interesting to watch how this will play.

  • Thanks for that observation, emanonon, I’ve updated NALIL blog.

  • Nevin

    Just as a matter of interest, have you had any communciation from the DUP about your post?

  • martin r

    The situation in North Antrim is actually quite simple. Supporters of the DUP who have changed their view along with the party leaders will still vote DUP, those who haven’t will vote Alister as he now represents what the DUP used to stand for.

    The only other factor is that Junior hasn’t the long term credibility of Paisley Senior to carry him through with the “don’t knows”. But make no mistake, even Paisley Senior himself had decided to stand again, he would probably have got in but almost certainly with the smallest majority he’s ever returned. Some of his most loyal followers in the past are the very ones who now feel the most betrayed and are making huge efforts to drum up support for Jim Alister across the area.

  • No, oneill. Perhaps, if they have read Checkov’s Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness or NALIL blog they will be formulating some answers to those questions as well as reflecting on emanonon’s observation.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Show of hands, who was using black paint? Driving through Kells today and i saw seven posters of Paisley Jr painted over with black paint. One poster had DUP / IRA wrote on it – I wonder who’s supporters would do that?

    Probably the sort of party whose members think that Torrens Knight should be released from jail.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    emanonon
    Although its obviously unusual for SOME Free Presbyterians to be shunning the DUP…it does fit the profile of various reformed types in the gospel halls.
    To them its a choice between God & Mammon and Paisley has got away with serving both. Obviously the financial side of things sits uncomfortably with some of them.
    Over 200,000 voted DUP in 2007. And frankly some “saved” folks would not readily seek out the company of some of those “unsaved” folks.
    While the majority of DUP MLAs remain Free Presbyterians and other gospel hall Christians…..increasingly they are disconnected from their “secular” and “godless” supporters.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Comrade Stalin,

    Thats were I think the search would end too.

  • dundonald voter

    the problem comrade stalin is that the dupes used loyalist terrorists for years until they refused to back them because they realised they used them. i mean peter himself dressed up in a red beret and was quit happy to pictured with the hard men of ulster. ian sen sat very comfortably with them for a long tome hence his relationships with the notorious john mckeauge william mcgrath and a few others. now the urban loyalists had enough of them but if you remeber comrade the rural loyalist (notably billy wright) who the dup said they would stand up for his freedom of speech work it out comrade

  • dundonald voter

    the dupes definition of it all was if you were a catholic terrorist you were a terrorist but if you killed catholics (terrorists) you were one of our own and they could understand you. just look at their we refuse to talk to terrorists and there was me thinking at sunningdale agreement big brave ian sitting over the road from stormont (knockdene) with leaders of the boys brigade!!

    david ervine told the public that dupers approached the uvf not to call aceasefire. one question was the uvf a terrorist organisation??

  • dundonald voter

    was it not the hard men of ulster in 1977 when paisley called for the loyalist strike that he used? people were murdered during that strike comrade and i heard no call from paisley to call it off. i didnt even hear him try to call it off when there was intimadation being used to prevent men going to their work. (nudge nudge wink wink) no it was called off because people had enough of the grand old duke.

  • dundonald voter

    the most despicable thing i ever heard from a politician was what ian sen said to the ruc officers who threw him out of stormont for breaking the law dont come to me when they start burning you out of your houses. meaning not that he would do it but the loyalist terrorists might do eh. (nudge nudge wink wink)

  • Turgon

    FitzjamesHorse,
    I usually agree with many of your views but I am afraid the term “gospel hall Christians” is a bit silly. Gospel Halls are what the Brethren call their churches / meeting houses. Brethern voting habits are interesting. Those who vote probably have tended in the past to vote DUP; some with whom I am friendly I believe still vote that way, others I know now vote TUV.

    However, many Brethren do not vote and feel that a Christian should not do so. A more common view in the east of NI in my experience.

    The Brethren are a small group and many of the other fundamentalist Christian denominations which may have similar views to the Brethren would not self describe as “gospel hall Christians.” It is not a very useful term.

  • emanonon

    Nevin

    Have you looked closely at the Paisley poster in particular the background, is that the Houses of Parliament? If not why is it there and what does it represent?

    If so it may again break electoral law.

    Lots of things to speculate on, is Paisley sailing very close to the wind?

  • Harry J

    Probably the sort of party whose members think that Torrens Knight should be released from jail.
    Posted by Comrade Stalin on Apr 17, 2010 @ 06:16 PM

    or that attacks the police or that supports a guy arrested on child abuse charges.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Turgon, I can assure you no slight was intended.
    My original text would have referred to “tents” and I thought that would be seen as offensive so I chose the words “gospel hall”.
    I intended it as a “catch all” term for small reformed churches (other than the FPC, Elim whatever) and if it was careless, it was not intended to cause offence.
    Incidently I dont think I used the term “Brethren” as in a religious context I see it as specifically Plymouth Brethren and my understanding of those I have worked with is that they (perhaps merely as individuals” were not “political”.
    I meant…and I think you underline the point…that a strand of Christianity sees Politics as being at odds with serving God. And I meant to illustrate that to some extent the FPC involvement in politics was against the grain.

    It is the fashion of the Overclass on Slugger O’Toole to express their Overclass credentials by being offensive about various religions.
    Like most Overclass fashions, it is not edifying.

  • Turgon

    FitzjamesHorse,
    No insult taken. oddly though tents are not looked down on at all. tents are very popular amongst fundies though I am a bit dubious about them as they seem a rather daft idea considering our climate.

    The Brethren issue I agree. Some do not like being called Plymouth Brethren but I am unclear exactly why. I believe the Brethren started in Plymouth (hence the name). However, some try to say that they are not a denomination at all but just independent groups of believers. That is sort of true and indeed different groups differ in many things – mainly level of strictness. However, to all churches apart from the Brethren they are a denomination.

    As to the voting patterns of assort prod fundamentalists they are indeed interesting. I keep meaning to do another blog on that issue but to be honest I am going to bed soon and yet again I feel I should do it tonight but will pass on the opportunity.

  • granni trixie

    Turgon and FJH:
    what’s this …extreme politeness …consideration? trying distance yourselves from Slugger Overclass?
    (to use your term).

  • FitzjamesHorse

    granni trixie,
    politeness. I know no other way. The way I was brought up I suppose.
    Those who are impolite know no other way. The way they were brought up I suppose.

  • USA

    Two points:
    1. Ian Paisley Jr will win in North Antrim.
    2. Religion is balls.

  • Drumlins rock

    FJH, the voting pattern of the Brethern is interesting, because generally they dont vote on principle, believing the Bible says the Government has been put in place by God and to overthrow it whether by revolution or voting is going against Gods will, I’m not sure how ridgedly this view is held across all Gospel Halls, but as they make up less than 1% of the population the influence they forgo is probably minimal, although on a UI vote there is a big difference in 50%+1 and 49%+1 !!

  • dundonald voter

    Probably the sort of party whose members think that Torrens Knight should be released from jail.
    Posted by Comrade Stalin on Apr 17, 2010 @ 06:16 PM

    or that attacks the police or that supports a guy arrested on child abuse charges.

    Posted by Harry J on Apr 17, 2010 @ 09:52 PM

    harry why do you continue to post stuff like this when your party the dup were the worst at it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt9VlUXWG1E wat6ch this harry for attacking police men!!! dont come crying to me when your burnt out of your homes

  • dundonald voter

    or that attacks the police or that supports a guy arrested on child abuse charges.

    harry when your out canvassing for ian junior again ask his father about william mcgrath(otherwise known as the beast of kincora and a member of the free presbyterian church on the ravenhill road) ask him about what one of his parishoners told him about what was going on in the boys home

  • slug

    The Brethren were always for Paisley.

  • dundonald voter

    by the way harry the above has already be put in ed maloneys book paisley. read it harry

  • Stephen Blacker

    Soiled posters of Jr. in Kells have been removed and new ones put a lot higher up the lampposts. Who says the DUP dont learn from mistakes?

  • dundonald voter

    blacker its not they try to learn from mistakes the whole idea for them is not to be caught

  • Stephen Blacker

    dundonald voter,

    The thing they learnt was to put the posters further up the pole, not that people are angry with them, be it the TUV for sitting with the enemy or the rest of our voting society because they ended up delivering the Good Friday Agreement but 10 years later than necessary.

  • dundonald voter

    no that was forced on them blacker. and what every unionist leader told paisley for years there was nothing else on the table. by the way to days sunday life made reference to the ira decommissioning and said they only gave up 605 of their arsenal. so much for dupers we got them to decommision.

  • dundonald voter

    and as i said they never learn only change tactics when caught out. you have heard of the old saying changing the goalposts. now we have changing position on the lampost

  • dundonald voter

    60% post 13

  • Stephen Blacker

    dundonald voter,

    I know there was no other direction for the DUP to go but at least they got there even if some of their flock are very uncomfortable. They have changed tactics big style and St. Andrews gives them a comfort blanket so they can lie to the voters and pretend the GFA is dead.

    The issue on guns does not really mean a lot because it is not the gun that kills people its the person using it. I’m sure if I wanted a gun it would be possible so as long as they are not used its fine by me. The Dup came onto the sceen after the essential dirty work was done and claimed it for themselves.

  • dundonald voter

    very true blacker very true

  • USA

    I agree totally gentlemen. DUP got nothing but what was already on offer. St Andrews was all about getting them off the hook and into the only game in town. They acted like spoilt little children. Some of the stories about the DUP representation at St Andrews is embarrassing for the DUP.
    Luckily though, Peter the master tactician, negotiated that the FM position would come from the biggest party. Yep, more self serving greed that came back to bite him in the ass.
    Politically you should be 10 years ahead of where you are now, DUP shoulder most of the blame in my view.

  • dundonald voter

    well said usa

  • Stephen Blacker

    USA,

    If Paisley had been offered the post of FM in 1998 he would have joined the talks and Unionism would have got a better deal. All that has been achieved with the delay is 3 extra shinner ministers and a party that is in charge but has no idea of Conflict Transformation.