And so four days out…

It’s been a weirdly uneventful campaign, on the Irish side of the water. All the action has been over in Britain. But it is precisely because of that action that the outcome in Northern Ireland may be that bit much more important than usual.

Realistically, there are only two seats in play: Fermanagh South Tyrone (where, if the raw figures are anything to go by, will be SFs first northern loss for years) and South Antrim (win or lose, Reg will surely slide out of UU’s leader role). South Belfast is not certain, but at this stage your money on the SDLP incumbent should be safe.

East Belfast will be close, but the circular firing squad of liberals should take care of any awkward outcomes there. Mind you, if the Vance vote hits anything much over 4k, it’s going to be a wobbly ride home.

With the personal life of Mike Nesbitt making news Strangford must be trending towards a hold. North Antrim is looking like a two horse race, but junior should hold on, if only by dint of a huge store of nearly 20,000.

North Belfast should see a squeeze of both the SDLP and the UUP voters, as people run to their respective tribal champions in the DUP and Sinn Fein… but despite claims to the contrary, the seat should stay where they are…

Watch Foyle for a depletion of Mark Durkan’s lead over Sinn Fein. Boundary changes take 2k voters from SDLP and only 1k from Sinn Fein. Slugger understands too that Durkan’s campaign (which prominently references Irish unity) has not been going down well in the Waterside.

Upper Bann should in theory be in play, but the TUV have pulled out for fear of tipping it into John O’Dowd’s lap. Without them to cut into the DUP vote, and the CU’s decision to run a non Orangeman is a gamble in an area in which the Orange is still an strong influence, should get David Simpson over the line.

Watch the nationalist total in East Londonderry and the performance of Willie Ross. See too the SDLP performance in West Tyrone where a decent performance should haul back one from Independent next year. South Down should stay SDLP, but as much for unionists voting to keep the unpopular Caitriona Ruane out (though all good Tories should vote SF if they want to get DC over the line).

But turnout will be crucial. We expect a high turnout in FST where Sinn Fein are literally throwing the kitchen sink at the problem. But we expect a drop overall. Many parties are not taking this election seriously as a thing in itself, but as a dress rehearsal for the Assembly elections next year.

That’s why Jim Allister and the TUV will be looking at raw tallies and trying to extrapolate onwards how many Assembly seats will be in play next year.

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    This election is about the survival of the 2 new parties – the TUV and the UCUNF. If the Tories dont get a reasonable majoity then their relationship with the UUP will simply be supplanted by their relationship with the much larger DUP and if the TUV dont get decent %s outside of NA to show they can deliver assembly seats then it will simply become a one-trick-constituency party like the other breakaway disser Unionist parties of the past.

    What is quite incedible is the lack of detail in the British press about what ‘Unionist’ support really means for a ‘minority’ Tory government now being pedalled by the nicely name Tory ‘house magazine’ the Telegraph and how the Tories can suggest that LibDems are not suitable for government but the flat-earthers of the DUP are.

    In the very intersting FST it is arguable whether it is better or worse for SF to lose as a loss will alow them to beat the arse of the SDLP in the much more important Assembly elections.

    ps A thread on what constitutes success or failure for each party would be interesting – or have I missed it?

  • Mark

    Very interesting Mick, not that different from the results I was predicting on another thread. I was accused of being a member of the DUP because of those predictions

    It must be something in the Dorset water!

  • Granni Trixie

    As somebody who has sweated in SB and EB I ofcourse take great interest in the results.

    In SB so many who express admiration for Anna Lo end up saying ” I’ll have to study the information before I decide who to support”. Leaving aside this is mere politeness in some cases, I also think that it indicates that people are ameniable to change.

    In EB I have found that people tend to express enthusiasm for Naomi or slam the door muttering something about the DUP. Some want to engage with discussion about “Peter R. “is taking our vote for granted”.

  • madraj55

    On East Derry, Are you suggesting that Nats might vote for Ross just to topple Gregory. Isnt GC popular among nats in Co Derry then? I’m shocked.

  • Mark

    I think “what constitutes success or failure for each party” has been briefly discussed elsewhere but it is fascinating.

    I am a unionist so don’t really have enough knowledge or inside track to work it out completely but it looks to me awfully hard for the SDLP to have a “successful” campaign – unless they consider holding their position as such – they look a little marginalised to me – a shame in many ways considering their role in NI politics over the past decades.

    Some fascinating months ahead.

  • Re-engaged

    Very similar to earlier threads post in terms of the questions it asks. Wit FPTP it is unlikely we will in this election as the shifts are more subtle than in 2001 and 2005 where the DUP base was growing into a major block.

    SA is now almost certain to go UC – that few people are even thinking anything less is a real indicator. SB and FST are the only other 2 races where we seem to be in for a genuinely tight finish, which as it is the 2 where we have ‘pacts’ that is not surprising. Would however be interested in:
    – is TUV a NA party aka the UKUP with big Bob and therefore 12 months will be hard work for wee Jim to hold on with what will be a 4 yr old message
    – is UC stronger than UU on it’s own and how much above the recognised politicians will Nesbitt, Ringland and Hamilton fare?
    – MR effect on SDLP (she is awful)
    – How many DUP seats will come close to becoming winnable (in other parties opinions) in next GE (it could be soon and say Ringland gets close will UC carry some momentum into autumn election [if it happens])?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    The SDLP dont do success any more but rather damage limitiation – keeping their 3 seats would keep them happy.

    In terms of the UU if they get 1.5 ie SA and half FST – then surely this is disappointing but enough for them to claim ‘progress’ which no one will believe but keeps the corpse warm.

    For SF who are not interested in the Westminsters – less than 25% will be disppointing and more than 27% a success – after SB is factored in.

    The DUP 8.5 (FST AS .5) will be a success and possibly get them a link up with a Tory government.

    The Alliance around 7% will be a success.

    TUV average of about 15% in constuencies contested will be a success.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont actually think it has been “weirdly uneventful” at all.
    The effect of the Internet and Blogging has been to put political anoraks like myself into a “ghetto” where the Election is everything.
    When we go blinking out from our bunkers into the “real word” we expect real people to be as enthused as we are.
    Happily for their sanity….they are not as enthused.
    Really nothing out there in the Real World has changed at all.

  • Mark

    Yeah, pretty much what I thought.

    No-one agrees with me but as far as the UUP are concerned I think it is 0.5 but I better not pursue that too far in case I get accused of DUP-ness! 🙂

    TUV 15% in constuencies contested is probable but no basis for a future I think……

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    sorry, you think .5 would be a success or .5 is what they will get?

  • Mark

    I think its what they will get – probably!

    Though do you not think that a Unionist taking the Tory whip at Westminster could almost be claimed as a 1 or at least a 0.75?


  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I’ll meet you half way ( well three quarters actually) and go with .75 – though if the boy Rodders starts sounding all DUPesque after the election then there obviously will have to be a reappraisal.

  • Mark


  • liam

    Mark, could you or anyone tell me what the sdlp have achieved in there 30 years. excluding the brave solo run (w/o the support of his main colleagues including mc grady and by extension ritchie) by john hume in engaging with gerry adams?

  • liam

    Upper Bann is too close to call according to sluggers own poll, nationalists there are flocking to John O’Dowd, Dolores ‘DoDo’ Kelly does not really offer an alternative. I think Sinn Fein even if they lose FST will come out of the election the big winners as the biggest party and looking like gaining maybe five/six seats in the next assembly with a DUP bloc significantly weakened by UUP and TUV gains making the share out of executive posts very interesting indeed, any wonder the DUPare looking to reduce the number of Departments! HANDS OFF!

  • Mark

    I think they gave an alternative to the “Armalite and Ballot Box” for law-abiding Roman Catholics

    I sense you might not agree with me Liam but that and also (in places) giving a more left of centre outlook and representation in an an predominantly right-wing country was an important contribution – in the overall scheme of things

  • Mick Fealty

    I take your point FJH. But I’m comparing it with the last two Westminster elections. In the first (2001) there was a major slide towards SF from SDLP with an lesser shift from UU (who were, prior to that election, peculiarly dominant to the contemporary eye) to DUP…

    In 2005, the DUP finished the deal, and the SDLP managed rally enough energy and defensive muscle to keep two seats and, implausibly it seemed at the time, replace the loss of Newry and Armagh with South Belfast.

    The power relationships have simply returned to their prior, slightly atrophied, state. The one thing that might throw a spanner in works will be turn out. A low turnout for Durkan in Foyle could make things interesting there for instance. And a large differentiated turn out in FST could also make a difference.

    On the SDLP, they simply haven’t worked their message out yet (and Margaret’s been in the job since February).

    They’ve not hammered SF on the most obviously ‘problem’ of how abstentionist MPs ‘represent’ people when they actually don’t, because it is clear they (corporately at least) cannot articulate the reasons why they bother.

    Instead they just seem hurt when SF hit them on their attendance record. It’s as though no one has informed them ‘there’s a bloody war on’…

  • slug


    I thought the SDLP had a clear message on the benefits of participation at Westminster.

    Just shows how differently different people can see things.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As to 2001…yes the SF-IRA benefitted from people able to vote for people, who were no longer involved in Terrorism. And if that was a tipping point..2005, 2007 strengthened it (greater distance from the bad old days) but essentially there can be little more movement. The SDLP support has proably bottomed out. any further slippage will be generational.
    I think 2005 was also a tipping point in unionism but again theres no real room for further tipping. UUP prolly bottomed out in 2005/2007.
    Are we ready for more seismic shifts. No.
    The much promoted DUP demise wont happen……with the likelihood that UUP could only gain South Antrim (in part due to TUV).
    TUV also are over promoted.
    DUP has weathered the storm from UUP and TUV.
    Likewise Alliance Party gaining a seat would be seismic but highly unlikely to happen. While I like your circular firing squad metaphor, its a clear case that Long has not established herself ENOUGH in East Belfast.
    Likewise SF-IRA have rode out the seeming threats of personal scandal, Jean McConnell, the dissidents.
    They might even gain a percentage point or two.
    SDLP likewise has not had any “bounce” from Ritchies election.
    And the “Conservative” non sectarian UUP did not get off the ground.

    Where does that leave us?
    Every trend predicted by the Media and hyped ad nauseum on Slugger O’Toole by partisans did not actually happen.
    Yet looking thru Slugger threads you will see posts defending DUP, SF from the onslaught of “hype”.
    They have consistently shown that all the new trends were smoke and mirrors.
    I recall that Labour Ministers in the 1974-79 NIO used to constantly advise SDLP that the Workers Party would sweep them aside.
    The simple truth is not that it has been a “weirdly uneventful” campaign. It has been a campaign where much that has been predicted in a partisan (posing as expert punditry) way has manifestly failed to happen.

    The disconnexion between Politician and Voter is much talked about.
    Dare I suggest that there is a Disconnexion between the Journalist and the Voter.
    My enduring impression of this campaign has been the image of Journalists interviweing Journalists.
    The cosy relationship between Politician and Journalist was emphasised by that “Spin Alley” nonsense (the Debates were of course demanded by the Media and not surprisingly the Media judged it a success.
    Of cpurse the majority of us dont actually own a Blackberry so the sight of Sky, BBC and ITN hacks constantly referring to their Blackberry in a kind of “ya boo I own a blackberry” way.
    Its all very well this being the Internet Election.
    But journalists should really get hold of the idea that the Internet isnt real life.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Essentially Mr Fealty…the Media tried heavily to influence our “local” election and discovered its not nearly as influential as it thought it was.

  • Mick Fealty


    I filed a piece with the BelTel two weeks ago saying that very same thing. If you are looking for pro internet hype, I’d like to see it.

    England has been interesting, and it won’t have gone back to the original lines of engagement. The Tory front line was to have substantially have been the south west of England. Because of the debates it won’t be. And, I suspect, Lord Ashcroft’s best laid plans will only make a difference in the margins of those gains.

    So the war will take out Labour seats rather than Lib Dem seats and the LibDems perhaps even the odd Conservative. At home, however, other than the proportion of votes, nothing much will change.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Quite possibly right on England. The Tory strategy was one frontline in Middle England. They did not really anticipate a second front in the West Country.
    Nor indeed did Labour expect a battle on this scale in their (near) heartlands.
    My focus was of course are own little 18 elections.

  • It’s been a weirdly uneventful campaign, on the Irish side of the water.

    Surely the norm? How many different ways do you regurgitate orange v green?

    though all good Tories should vote SF if they want to get DC over the line


    I’m surprised at the short-sightedness of analysis here. DC will be over the line whatever happens in South Down. Voters will warm to a minority government seeking to firefight the effect of Brown’s ego trip years on the economy.

    All signs that forcing a 2nd election early on would favour any new incumbent.

  • slug

    FJH we of course have to wait for results before pronouncing too definitively.

  • “It’s been a weirdly uneventful campaign”

    Paudie McShane, the unsuccessful candidate for the SF nomination is East Antrim, has apparently been very successful in eluding media coverage of his recent alleged ‘eventful’ activities. You might have thought that his resignation would have whetted the appetites of news editors but apparently not. Maybe the peace process must be protected at all costs. Weird or what?

  • John Joe

    Nevin, its been a particularly weird election from the point of view of stories that appear to be out there but simply aren’t being run with. In McShane’s case, it’s not like SF are in contention for a seat in EA.

  • “abstentionist MPs ‘represent’ people when they actually don’t”

    I disagree, Mick. DUP and SF ‘representation’ takes place mainly now in constituency offices rather than at Westminster. This work done in the constituency translates into votes at election time.

    The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee can expose the misdemeanours of ‘good republicans’ and others but if the MSM ignores the NIAC reports then the latter’s work is largely in vain.

    Much fuss has rightly been made about expenses wrongly claimed by MPs and MLAs but little is said about those who fail to avail of the resources available to promote the best interests of constituents.

  • John Joe, some stories could well have a knock-on effect in other constituencies, especially if these stories expose the credibility of political parties. However, some parties can probably do no wrong in the eyes of their devotees.

    Other stories could jeopardise the OFMDFM or undermine claims made by, say, the Chief Constable.

    These stories are unlikely to impact much on the Unionist/Nationalist balance unless they impact on ‘internal’ fragmentation thereby letting the ‘other side’ through.