The TUV outside North Antrim

Most interest in the TUV has focused on their prospects in North Antrim. It is difficult to say how the campaign is going as Northern Ireland does not have the almost continuous opinion polling seen in the rest of the UK; not that people always tell the truth to opinion pollsters anyway (even less so here). However, as far as can be seen the election there is going to be a tightly fought battle. The TUV are of course also standing in 9 other seats throughout Northern Ireland. The TUV’s detractors have repeatedly suggested that they will loose in North Antrim (even the most optimistic DUPers have stopped saying that they will loose heavily) and that they will fail to gain anything even approaching an assembly election quota elsewhere.

That analysis is possible but it would require a large shift in the voting intentions of the unionist population. In the European election the TUV gained approximately a third of the unionist vote. Some of that may have been a personality vote for Jim Allister; some may have been a result of the double jobbing and expenses scandal; some of it may be that TUV voters are more prepared than DUP or UUP voters to turn out. All of those are possible though the converse: that people thought Allister had little chance; that they are now more annoyed by the more recent scandals; that they are now more prepared to vote TUV are equally possible. Unless all 66,000 of Allister’s votes are in North Antrim (statistically impossible) or almost all apart from the North Antrim vote have left the TUV the simple fact is that the TUV must have significant support throughout Northern Ireland. If (highly unlikely) TUV support is spread in a uniform geographic fashion throughout Northern Ireland’s unionists, then any constituency with three or more unionist MLAs at the moment is likely to produce a decent TUV turn out at this election and to return a TUV MLA at the next Stormont elections.

TUV support is, however, most unlikely to be a purely North Antrim or an evenly divided phenomenon across Northern Ireland. Rather TUV support is stronger in some areas than others. There are clearly some seats the TUV are not fighting where they might have done quite well (Upper Bann is the classic case in point). In others they have no realistic hope. I do not think Walter Millar in Mid Ulster or Ivor McConnell in South Down expect victory though their relative positions within the unionist vote will be interesting.

However, there are other seats where, although to be fair not the front runners, they look remarkably like the main challenger. Sammy Morrison seems to be making a major effort with considerable reward in East Antrim. Willie Ross will still have some personal vote in East Londonderry and it must be remembered that he only lost the seat narrowly in 2001. Some might think of this as a liberal seat but that is to look only at the prosperous middle class parts of Coleraine and the Triangle. The more working class vote there is far from liberal and the large rural areas of the constituency have not and never will be likely to vote for the likes of Lesley Macaulay in large numbers. In Lagan Valley it certainly looks as though Keith Harbinson is the major challenger to Jeffrey Donaldson and although Donaldson is clearly the favourite there is always the possibility of some sort of disastrous banana skin befalling him. In addition if CU voters want any prospect of stopping Donaldson, Harbinson is the only realistic chance they have.

There are some seats where the TUV do seem to be in third place: Mel Lucas seems to be up against a hard slog in South Antrim and in Strangford Terry Williams is probably less fancied than Jim Shannon or Mike Nesbitt. However, the shine seems to have begun to come off Nesbitt and his candidacy can have the look of a vanity campaign about it. If former DUP supporters do wish to register a protest against Iris Robinson’s venality, they might want to vote for a more ordinary citizen than the ex UTV presenter.

There are also the constituencies where all sorts of odd things could happen. In East Belfast depending on whom one listens to Peter Robinson is either as safe an investment as property or else in enough trouble that he would only be worth a £5 bet. If Robinson loses votes compared to last time, it is unclear where they will go. Naomi Long is a decent Alliance candidate but few would be likely to make a straight switch to her. Trevor Ringland is likewise a reasonable candidate but does not seem to have electrified the electorate. David Vance can be expected to pick up at least some of a Robinson protest. He is also said to be doing well in the more working class parts of the constituency where Ringland and Long are unlikely to make much headway. If some of the UUP support feel that Ringland cannot beat Robinson, as he almost certainly cannot; that vote may then move to David Vance. Vance could yet cause Robinson major problems.

Another difficult constituency is North Down. Sylvia Hermon is the favourite but again there are complexities. The DUP are not standing yet Hermon is far from a natural home for the 35% of the vote Peter Weir gained at the last Westminster election. In addition North Down did elect Robert McCartney who was far from liberal. Thinking that the have yachts are necessarily liberal may be a dangerous assumption.

The TUV could end this election with one seat and a series of surprisingly close runners up. Alternatively they could capture two or more seats: or they might end up heavily defeated everywhere. If the TUV do end up with good results in multiple constituencies, the effects of the Dromore byelection which helped end the chuckle brothers and Jim Allister’s European election result which so shook the DUP will look minor compared to the political earthquake which such a result would presage.

  • From what I’ve seen so far on the doors going around with different candidates (subject of a post sometime this week), I’m not sure Harbinson is “the major challenger”. Trimble has a lot more recognition and engagement on doorsteps. It could be a race for second place.

  • chewnicked

    Apart from Jim Allister’s,how many constituencey offices do the TUV have, Turgon?

  • I am unsure. Our party does not pay 10 times the market rate to relatives for the rent of multiple constituency offices and then charge it to the tax payer.

    We will never be able to compete with the likes of the DUP in terms of milking the tax payer.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    There are so many caveats in your post that Im not really sure what youre trying to say. There are no really hard and fast predictions there. Other tha Harbinson being Donaldsons main challenger in Lagan Valley.
    Are you saying that TUV will win any seats?
    Are you saying that they will be the second unionist in any seat?
    Are you saying you dont know?

  • chewnicked

    Fair enough but as you know, there’s no substitute for hard work on the ground which is why the likes of Shannon (dull but a grafter) will beat the gimmick that is Nesbitt.Any serious party needs to build from the bottom up and gain credibility (and bank future votes) by delivering on the mundane day-to-day issues such as benefits and housing.

    I’m sure that the TUV doesn’t want to be perceived as the mirror imager of Eirigi…

  • PrivateBob

    Your articles usually provide more insight that ‘the TUV will either do very well, quite well, or badly’ which seems to pretty much sum this one up.

    To be fair though, this election is hella difficult to call considering all the personal, local and national crises!

    Out of interest Turgon, do you personally think that Allister will win in North Antrim (let’s face it, it’s the most likely)?

  • Private Bob,
    I do not do predictions centrally because I am no good at it. I also avoid doing them publicly for the reason that being wrong loses credibility. Very selfish I know but an honest answer.

    I am not good at predictions because it is so difficult. I meet lots of people and discuss politics but it is a tiny fraction of a percentage of the vote. I was about right in my guess on Jim Allister’s Euro performance: I overestimated a little (I guessed about 70,000-80,000 when he got 66,000) but the turn out was low so I could argue I was very close to correct. However, it was a guess and let us be honest no matter how clever I think I am (or anyone else thinks they are) it was an uneducated guess.

    Also although in some ways I like to feel I am more analyst than spin doctor, I am biased as I am a supporter and member of the TUV. Hence, I cannot feel that I can be objective in predictions. Predictions will always be more spin than honesty.

    I am also a bit morose in many ways and tend to see the worst in everything I am involved in: I try to combat that and may overcompensate.

    Taking it all together my predictions are probably useless.

    Finally I am much more interested in analysis than prediction. It is much more interesting and is about more than just guesses.

    After all that you asked and my answer is that I think Jim will probably win North Antrim: not by a huge amount but I think he will manage it.

  • Not sure about the definition of ‘liberal’ used here. Bob McCartney was a Liberal Unionist. Just because someone doesn’t believe in a fixed sectarian carve-up of a government doesn’t make that person illiberal.

  • Turgon

    Fair criticism. However, expecting that level of nuance is sometimes over optimistic.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Very honest answer.

  • Turgon – an insightful article. I am interested (and this is a real question without side), what is Jim Allister’s motivation for being in the race – is it ego, that he wants to make a difference and “keep unionism honest” or does he really think that he can change the institutions and the law that created them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I worked on the “No” campaign in 1998, wrote speeches and worked as a press agent for the UKUP in the subsequent assembly election (seems a lifetime ago!) and as such I think the current undemocratic structure are wrong but it seems to me that the “rules of the game” are set and the majority of unionists want the structures as they are.

    Surely there is more advantage to someone of Jim’s beliefs to be inside the DUP working to preserve the Union than outside shooting at the biggest Unionist party?

    I am not a DUP’er but would love to understand if there is something more than the usual Ulster Protestant “I can’t get my own way and be the boss so I’ll set up my own Church/Party/Loyal Order” to JA.

  • Oracle


    The TUV are doing very well in North Antrim and Lagan Valley, in North Antrim although the TUV are well ahead of the DUP on the Euro poll in these areas and that fact comes from SDLP Alliance and UCUNF tally men as well as the TUV’s own box counting.
    The DUP realised this at the time but downplayed Alisters votes while inflating their own, the problem with voting in Northern Ireland is apart from the die-hard party faithful of whatever source the ordinary punters want to vote for winners nobody wants to trudge to polling stations unless there is a healthy chance of success, so will the never ending TV photo-ops for Junior and just the brand name see him through even though he is something of a figure of ridicule, or will the same sort of numbers venture out again for Jim Alister because if they do he will win.

    The evidence of this voting anomaly is the SDLP winning election after election in Nationalist areas even when the majority of Nationalists in those same areas would have preferred to have voted SF instead.
    However once SF drew level with them then the vote for winners mentality kicked in and SF just completely and utterly blasted the SDLP away, yet in Foyle, South Down and South Belfast SF are having major problems denting the SDLP vote sufficiently enough to erode the air of victory off the SDLP candidates in those constituencies, hence failure with no promise of success in the near future
    I feel the TUV may suffer from the same problem but it may be only short term, the TUV only have to gather enough votes at these Westminster elections to create a momentum for the next assembly elections to cause the DUP major problems and that the magic target of 6,000 votes in each constituency if they achieve that then the DUP will be calling Houston because they will “have a problem”

  • PrivateBob

    I appreciate that answer, it was very honest. Predictions are usually worthless but I have to admit that I enjoy them! I failed to mention it in my last post, but your analysis of various constituencies was insightful!

    On an unrelated note..does everyone have to log in again each time they visit the site? Is there a way of staying logged in, because I can’t seem to find any..?

  • Peter

    As a voter in the constituency, on what basis is it assumed that Keith Harbinson is doing well in Lagan Valley? Is it other than anecdotal?

  • Turgon

    It is anecdote combined with a bit of canvassing returns. See above re predictions, why I do not make them and why I am rubbish at them. It cannot be much other than that. We do not do opinion polling much during campaigns in NI and even when we do polls those asked tend to pretend greater moderation than they mean. As a reference remember that just before the DUP’s 2005 triumphs there were polls predicting their annihilation.

  • Turgon

    Re logging in, I seem to have to. To be honest I am not dying about the new format. I think there is too little space for text. I also do not like the reply function. I know I am hypocritically using it but I do think overall it disrupts the flow of the conversation. Finally the search function on old slugger was great once mastered: how do people think I was able to throw back quotes against my opponents. The new search function is rubbish. Fortunately I have a good memory and have saved some juicer comments from assorted opponents.

  • Peter

    Thanks for clarifying that Turgon. Keith is certainly getting quite a lot of media exposure – not that he ever says anything interesting (in my opinion of course). Also his posters were up like a shot and seems to have a lot of canvassing going on – Admittedly I did witness one guy getting chased off the property.

    It is too hard to tell from my limited perspective how he will do, although unfortunately I would take the view that Daphne Trimble is proving an uninspiring candidate for UCU!

  • Exactly

    on the reply functiuon can i note that without recent comments its quite difficult to track down where they are.

    for example me and turgon can continue this part and the comments might become lost in the middle of the thread where the tendency is to go to the bottom of the post.

    i think this format is suited to a lower no of comments. I wonder though does is result in a lower no of comments as well though by hiding discussions mid stream

  • iluvni

    Personally speaking, TUV lost my confidence with their handling of Trevor Collins and his Torrens Knight petition.
    That was the TUV’s cast-iron guarantee moment…and they flunked it.

  • Mark Burstow,
    I am biased of course but I do believe that Jim thinks the institutions can be changed. Not immediately but I think he feels that a head of steam can be built to achieve this. I do believe that all the parties want this apart from SF, maybe deep down even SF. However, they need a catalyst and the TUV is that catalyst for a better form of government.

    I do not think Allister is personally driven by a “I must lead Ulster” complex. Maybe I am hopelessly naive but that is my belief.

    I believe we will succeed in helping get reform of the institutions. However, even if we do fail I do think the TUV will have helped prevent the dafter compromises other parties make in their quest for power and its trappings.

  • Exactly,
    I have suggested to Mick that the reply function is a bad idea on slugger. Slugger gets too much traffic. I preferred the old site

    (well of course I would, actually I want computers banned and us all to go back to the quill. If this does not stop something awful will happen. One day we could wake up with women voting: how horrible. Imagine a woman prime minister: what a disaster that would be.)

    Sorry I digressed.

    I think the old system was better suited to the sheer size of a blog like slugger. However, we are where we are. I do hope the reply function can be disabled as to my mind it disrupts the flow of the conversation.

    The other thing I personally dislike is that remarkably little of the screen width is allocated to text. Since I do long (yes I know too long) blogs it means that the reader has to scroll down forever. Still please address comments on design to Mick.

  • Turgon,

    Good of you to respond, as ever people’s motivations are perhaps more complex than we might otherwise think.

    I agree that the institutions are horribly undemocratic and that those in very high office aren’t fit to lead a British legislature, however ………….. the thought that somehow, one fine day, the majority of the people of NI will want a democratic assembly, never mind integration is (to me) unbelieveable. We’ll see but one thing I am certain of – we need one Unionist party with all the best representatives therein and Messers Robinson, Allister, Empey et al need to waken up to that soon, come together and work out a way forward.

  • Ha Ha Ha

    so turgon no response to your leaders expenses query? how hypocritical

  • Ha Ha Ha

    belfast to brussels flight £250 – jim was paid £1000 per trip, what happened to the rest?

  • Alan

    Turgon I caution against getting carried away in the performane of TUV in this election. Westminister is a different beast to PR elections and the DUP regardless of your views on the big political issues do have very strong individual candidates and this election is highly influenced through name recognition and beyond Jim Allister this is were the TUV will struggle and also UCUNF with so many relatively unknown candidates. In Lagan Valley you have Donaldson and Trimble; Harbinson in this type of election will underperform as opposed to in a PR election. The local papers would suggest Trimble is mounting a strong campaign and consequently I expect a strong Donaldson vote to beat Trimble and TUV inclined voters that may not like Donaldson certainly don’t want Trimble as their MP and with only vote are unlikely to waste it on Harbinson. In 2001 the DUP got 6000 votes at Westminster but on the same day got 12000 votes at Local Government. This demonstrates the pulling power Donaldson has and I predict he will notch up one of the largest votes in NI – again!

  • Alan,
    Whatever I said before I agree that Donaldson will be difficult to beat short of some sort of completely unforeseeable disaster. One never knows what a week or two will bring though. I guess it is all up to the court of public opinion.

  • dingdong

    can one candidate ask another candidate “do you have a super injunction in place covering yur private life?”

  • Drumlin Rock

    I think the super injunction even prevents that dingdong, maybe someone should challenge the injunction?

  • Drumlin Rock

    That is if such an injunction/injunctions exist!

  • SammyMehaffey

    If you saw he politics show last evening you would have seen Nesbitt destroy Donaldson who could only repeat the ‘begging bowl’ act. I was not a nesbitt admirer but he came across to me as the most intelligent local politician I have listened to for ages.

  • SammyMehaffey

    I wish the disaster would hurry up and happen. I was told in january on a golf course in Tenerife that it was due to be in the Sunday Times next day. Do these injunctions last forever?
    And is it not time you told us what the disaster is that might befall Daniel?

  • SammyMehaffey

    If I send you a stamped addressed envelope will you tell me the story or send me a DVD?

  • SammyMehaffey

    Does an injunction apply in the Republic?

  • dingdong

    I don’t know if it does apply apply in the Republic. The Newton Emmerson piece in the Irish Times mid jan suggests it may not; but even this piece is highly cloaked.

  • Harry Jay

    I predict that the TUV will get ten votes (one for every candidate).

    They would have got 11 but Turgon lives in FST.

    Everyone out there is clever enough to see what the DUP is doing and how we all must move on.

    All except uneducated dinosaurs like Turgon.

    Bye Bye Jim, Bye Bye TUV

  • Doodler Jumper

    Turgon, what do you reckon of Willie Ross’ chances up in ELD? Its not getting much press but I think it could be up there with NA as one of the key DUP v. TUV battles. The UC’s have fielded a very weak candidate and so the only real threat to Campbell is Ross.

    By all accounts the DUP campaign in ELD is fairly slow compared to Paisley’s machine in NA. Is complacency creeping in? I seem to remember that complacency didn’t work out well for Ross in ’97 and ’01.

    This time Ross has got himself a website and twitter account which I guess is an effort to kill-off the ‘out of touch’ image. The DUP have their obvious problems (expenses, Robinson, P&J etc.) which will surely affect their vote like any other constitency… The variable I can’t get my head around is the Ross-factor. Voters put an X beside his name for nearly 30 years… Will they do it again?

    I’m not convinced its as clear-cut as people think and its potentially the TUV’s best chance outside NA. At 10-1 its definitely my outside punt for the election.

  • cynic47

    Harry Jay

    How many names do you post under? Trouble is if all your Bye Bye predictions are wrong it will be Bye Bye to your various current disguises and you will reappear under a new crop of names. Cunning but not clever!

  • dingdong

    Harry Jay,

    since your allegiance is to the DUP and Peter the Punt surely by now your motto should at least be buy buy! even at a fiver its a bargain!

  • madraj55

    I have a feeling that behind the scenes, Allister is not that bothered about actually winning seats, but is so bitter about his former party, that it’s enough for him if the westminster seats taken since ’03 by DUP go back to their equally bitter rivals, the UUP. Sunny Jim doesn’t seem to be a bit concerned that with his obvious bigotry [he doesn’t want nationalists represented at Westminster in any seat, or by either nats party], he will lose moderate unionist voters. But, I was forgetting of course, he has written those off anyway.

  • union mack

    doodler jumper

    Willie Ross has not a snowball’s chance in hell of even coming close to Campbell in E. L’derry. He may have Twitter, but Campbell has a strong network of constituency offices, and people will remember that a trek to a farmhouse near Dungiven is not exactly brilliant if you have a constituency enquiry. Additionally, and I have been saying this for a long time, this constituency could see the DUP run very close by the UCU candidate. David McClarty was a weak candidate and still polled over 21% last time out, and Macaulay will appeal to voters outside the UUP’s traditional base. Combine this with Ross polling maybe 2,500 and it’s much closer than you suggest. Wait and see.

  • orly

    Always hard to guage the mood in North Down.

    There’s a history voting for Bob McCartney and then 35% last time out for the DUP when they weren’t in government with SF.

    Lady Hermon has a good chance of winning it but doesn’t seem to be on the attack so to speak. In fact, besides SF, she’s the only one who hasn’t sent out any election guff in the post so I don’t actually know exactly what she’s in favour of or against.

    At this stage the TUV have as good a chance as anyone else in this constituency. Likewise they could end up a distant 3rd depending on how the chips fall.

  • kells

    The TUVf will not get one seat,so what is the point of all this wishful bullshit?

  • Harry Jay

    The TUVf will not get one seat,so what is the point of all this wishful bullshit?


    And the DUP will win 11.

    Bye bye Reg, Bye Bye Jim

  • dundonald voter

    is that 1 or 11 harry

  • dundonald voter

    harry it could buy buy peter!1 dup could lose at least 4 seats. east belfast east londonderry north belfast upper bann and of course south antrim. these could be very marginal. and strangford were the cu’s have a very able man in mike nesbit roll on the elections

  • dundonald voter

    ive a feeling im going to enjoy these elections. north antrim shaping up very weel to

  • slug

    We still havnt any guff from UCUNF in North Antrim (or SF).

    The DUP’s guff has a photo of Jim Alister that has been stretched horizontally to make him look worse.

    The SDLP’s guff is full of the importance of representation and how nice they would be to Protestants and British people if there would be a UI

    The TUVs has lots of photos of Iris Robinson, Peter Robinson, and of IPJ with Seymour Sweeney. However it really assumed everyone was fully aware of all the twists and turns of debate and I found it a bit heavy even though I have followed all these turne.

    Cubitt’s was an interesting read – he wants our executive to be run by NI MPs and abolish MLAs. Not sure how the ministeris are chosen however-dHondt perhaps?

    Jayne of Alliance is a nice person – a librarian – and will generally make life better by encouraging protestants and catholics to set aside their sectarianism.

  • dundonald voter

    in east belfast harry check out suzanne breen’s article about how the brave peter wouldnt let her go round and canvass with him. now when she went round with vance she found out what the people of east belfast were saying about the punt. buy buy peter

  • slug

    I like what I see of Macaulay so far. She’s engaging.

  • slug

    It sounds as though the East Belfast voters are angry with Robinson so it will be interesting indeed if the voters vote strategically to get him out.

  • dundonald voter

    slug i think thats what is happening or in the minds of people in east belfast. the resident dupe harry is in dreamland and obviously hasnt been canvassing in east belfast or if he had i can assure him his optimism wouldnt be as high. 9by the way harry can i have what your drinking?

  • dundonald voter

    by the way slug i was really impressed with mike nesbit and i believe he tore jeffrey apart on the politics show. (jeffrey actually goy very annoyed for a change! which was a sure sign that he lost not only on points but a knockout) the politics show has done mike nesbit no harm at all

  • dundonald voter

    but wait for it the dupe will come on dismiss nesbit with a bye bye mike!!! no reason behind his bye bye but he will get one. matbe just be the kiss of life nesbit needs!!

  • lamhdearg

    How do you see the vote split in the east dundonald, i have pistol pete by 2000 votes.

  • dundonald voter

    i think vance will take more than people think especially in the working class areas. if the unionist party hole there last vote i think ringland would get in. (and just a thought if the unionist party received near or over 9000 votes when there party was in decline and real decline he has a real chance)

  • dundonald voter

    lam deargh i think in my opinion pistol punt could lose by 2000 or more

  • dundonald voter

    the 1/4 the bookies are offering is very generous to say the least

  • dundonald voter

    and in generous i say that about the punt being such a favourite

  • lamhdearg

    2005,pete 15000, reg 9000, nao 4000, 2010 pete 10000, naomi 8000, trevor 7000,david 4000, Rough i know but its just a bit of fun.

  • mick

    we all see what the DUP are doing selling us out to terrorism ou may eat your words i predict definate gains for jims TUV