Alliance back in the fight?

At one point during the election campaign I read a senior Alliance member and good friend of Slugger boasting they were one of only two parties running in every constituency. I reminded him as it was the first time in 10-15 years for six of the eight constituencies held by Nationalists that wasn’t much of a boast.

Now the results are in what can we tell about Alliance’s first visit to those constituencies in such a long time?

FST – Vasundhara Kamble 437 (0.9%)
West Tyrone – Michael Bower 859 (2.3%)
Foyle – Keith McGrellis 223 (0.6%)
Mid Ulster – Ian Butler 397 1.0%
Newry and Armagh – Andrew Muir 545 (1.2%)
West Belfast – Maire Hendron 596 (1.9% )

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  • slug

    Creditable perforamnces – a foundation upon which to build towards council places in the first instance as the whole sectarian consensus in Northern Ireland is challenged.

  • lamhdearg

    At their core i see Alliance as unionist with a tiny u. And they would need help from moderate (sdlp) nats if they are to make a break through across ulster. This would require the Sdlp to disolve.

  • VI Lurgan

    Performance was poor in these and other areas but I do agree that a party must start somewhere. There is clearly a need to increase profile locally and if voting does move from sectarian headcounts, and heres hoping, then percentage share should increase. Naomi Long did not come out of left field however and significant effort has been used over many years to get her to where she now is, coupled with the anti-Robinson vote I accept. Similar efforts need to be made in other areas and I feel Alliance has not got the resource or finance to do this. I also don’t know if I could put up with David Ford’s whining.

  • slug

    I think Alliance has neglected some of these areas but my sense is that this neglect will change. West Tyrone in particular looks promising. Its all about building up to council seats in the first instance.

  • Mark McGregor

    Eh? With RPA they have not a chance of a single council seat. Even under the current council system they’d have at mostly 100 votes per ward up to 200.

  • John East Belfast

    “Creditable perfomances” – LOL !!

    AP wont scratch the surface in nationalist constituencies.

    In any constituency where there is a clear unionist – nationalist vote it doesnt make an impact either – eg South Belfast where Anna Lo was easily as high profile as Naomi Long.

    It doesnt even make an impact in constituencies where there is a clear unionist battle in non Belfast areas such as North Antrim, Strangfiord.

    Infact it has only made an impact in East Belfast with a capable high profile candidate and a seriously scandalised Robinson.
    Also EB has serious previous Alliance form – Napier polled 15000 votes in the constituency 30 years ago and Long’s first attempt was half Alderdice’s go in 2001.
    EB also had a strong Labour vote in the 60s which gave the Unionist Party a run for its money Pre Paisleyism.The UCUNF experiment back fired with the unionist left wing vote.

    Hence EB offered a perfect storm for Alliance but this is not the start of any mood change in NI.

    As for the “sectarian consensus” I assume you mean the competing political ideologies of unionism and nationalism and by “tribes” I assume you mean the people who vote for either.

    There will always be unionists while there are nationalists and there will always be (I assume) nationalists while there is a Union.

    I wish it werent so but that is the political reality of NI and believing that is going to go away is delusional

  • VI Lurgan


    While previous elections provide a basis for debate on voting patterns, these do change – See PR in EB for confirmation. I don’t see an avalanche to Alliance at either Stormont or local elections but I feel you underestimate public’s wish to move away from sectarian headcounts, if it feels it can trust the candidate and their vote will count.

  • Mark McGregor

    Are you having a laugh?

    West Tyrone includes both Strabane and Omagh Councils.

    Both Councils curently have 3 wards each.

    Each ward has a quota of 845 – 1121.

    Alliance don’t even have 17% of a single quota. If you think there is a council seat to be won you need your bumps felt.

  • slug

    West Tyrone is the sort of constituency that Allinace can grow. Alliance have held council seat in Omagh in the not too distant past. Its all about hard work on the ground. With the right candidate

  • Mark McGregor

    I’ll add Alliance percentage of quota for Council elections in Strabane and Omagh to build on works out similar to the PBP quota for an Asembly seat in West Belfast.

  • Crow

    While the Alliance’s 6.3% was an excellent result, it does mask some issues. To the point above, a massive 47.6% of their vote comes from Belfast, of which 30% comes from East Belfast alone (Interestingly the DUP, SF, and SDLP all record 21% of their vote in Belfast).

    Also concerning for the Alliance, is that outside of East Belfast, only one other constituency had a full Assembly quota; neighbouring South Belfast. In East Antrim, Strangford and perhaps South Antrim, thanks to boundary changes, they will now be fighting tooth and nail with SDLP for the last Assembly seat. Admittedly there is some squeeze going on in each of these consituencies but it looks like being a tough Assembly election for the Alliance.

  • Granni Trixie

    Sound analysis Crow,boundary changes present additional challenges but dont forget that PR suits a party such as Alliance – they can garner votes from many quarters. First past the post doesnt usually favour – that is why the outcome for Anna Lo of first preferences as well as Naomi bodes well for the future. .

    Remember also that Alliance has to run elections on a shoestring (unlike the UU who this time had 200K curtesy of Lord Ashcroft-Tory coffers) – so have to use what they have smarter.

  • PaddyReilly

    In point of fact, Alliance had no Assembly quotas in this last election and neither did any other party, because it wasn’t an Assembly election: the matter at hand was who would top the poll in each constituency and be sent to Westminster.

    Predictions made using the 2007 Assembly election did not work for the General Election, and those made using the General Election will not work for the next Assembly election.

    If there is a General Election and you are an Alliance Party supporter, what do you do? You could either stay ay home because your party has no chance, go to the polls and vote for them, achieving nothing, or go to the polls and vote for one of the top two parties, hoping that your action will influence the outcome. I would reckon that Alliance Party voters have done all three.

    The problem is that when there is more than one electoral system operative, some of the voters are acting in a manner which is appropriate for the election at hand, and others aren’t. If we are then gifted with a third type of electoral system to please the Liberal Party, the public will be even more inconsistent.

  • Cushy Glenn

    Alliance have spent two decades shrinking from their noble aims to a coffee house cabal for the guilty Prods, elderly RC middle classes and professionals, and the mavericks of the urban professional cadre who can’t commit to some socialist debating society of lumpens because they wouldnt’ want to park the Volvo outside the community centre.

    By some freak they attracted an articulate and hardworking member of the working class who rode the wave of anti-Punt feeling and even if she was lucky, she earned her luck. Like the redoubtable Seamus Close she succeeded in spite of the party to which she belonged.

    As a young pup I remember respectable Alliance votes West of the Bann, and high profile councillors in Londonderry, but they disappeared like snow off a ditch when they couldn’t find a strategy to combat the penetration of the Shinners into the middle class other than to exhort them to nice and decent. Their political skills couldn’t adapt to the nasty world of the 1990s and their farewell tour was the Referendum in 1998. Alliance was always little more than quango fodder for the NIO, and will undoubtedly revert to that role ( if the assembly is a glorified quango to administer joint authority, it arguably already has). At least the Shinners keep plugging away in North Down, Strangford, and other unfriendly territory- though they have rather more money to keep up the fight

  • Bulmer

    I find it interesting how few people are voting. There is at least another 15% who possibly could vote who aren’t bothering. Can I suggest a lot of these have no interest in tribal politics but see no-one else to vote for. If Alliance was to pitch itself as a centre left party might it actually find a role? Wishy washy centre right is the only other game in town for Unionists. (and funny how two MPs are now definately centre left).

    Add in some form of PR next elections and?

  • abucs

    I think you need three things to get lots of votes.

    1) a high profile
    2) seen to be able to affect government
    3) appeal to a certain set of voters

    Alliance is in a difficult position to expand but it is possible.

    1) With the East Belfast MP they have the high profile at the moment and i believe they will have a great chance to defend that seat.

    2) Very difficult with being seen to be affective in government. They have to get themselves a role in the local Assembly and build on that – even if they have to be ruthless towards the bigger parties who will oppose them.

    3) As Slug says, lots of local work on the ground is needed to build relationships and be seen to make a difference. Actions always have had more effect then preaching.

    I think one thing that might help them in the future is if there is a consolidation of Unionist or Nationalist Parties (and preferably both).

    While at the moment, dissafected UUP can go DUP and vice versa and the same with the Nationalists a consolidation will play into the hands of Alliance as they would then become the best “second pick” of a lot more voters. Similar to the Lib Dem vote in GB.

    If they can get to a critical mass through Unionist or Nationalist consolidation or by improving 3) then 2) and 1) will start to be easier to achieve.

  • Granni Trixie

    Cushy Glen: I simply do not recognise the Alliance you describe. Come to think of it do you think that someone like Naomi Long would join such a party? I wouldn’t.

  • abucs

    It would be a great boost for Alliance if they could convince the Lib-Dems and their major co-alition partners to have their member as the speaker at the House of Commons.

    Perhaps she could be promoted as a neutral between the two major co-alition partners.

    It would help to support 1) and 2) and in turn possibly 3) from above. It would also help in her re-election in East Belfast.

    Outside chance, but Alliance should be in there making the big parties aware of the possibility if at any stage the Speaker position becomes an issue when cobbling together a co-alition government.

  • Neil McNickle

    I wonder how Alliance will play when the Tory/Lib government start slashing NIs bloated public sector??

  • Granni Trixie

    Alliance have shown themselves to be realists – cuts are inevitable including within the public sector but Alliance strategy is to push for fairly applying cuts and spread the pain. I feel sure this approach will continue.

    APNI policy on water or rates charges reflects this for instance.

    Another wasteful change was introduced by Michael McGimpsey re free perscription charges. Whilst I do not know if APNI has a policy on this, for me the same approach is right one. Schemes need to be based on ability to pay. The more smartly we use resources the less we have to claw back on job related cuts.

  • Ulidian

    I know this is very late, but here are some more stats from last Thursday:

    Hezlett Primary School (East Londonderry)

    Box 80 – 117, 194 & 367 out of 651
    Box 81 – 117, 242 & 390 out of 742
    Box 82 – 133, 259 & 385 out of 673

    So the ward turnouts were 17.76%, 33.64% & 55.28% at 12, 5 & 9 respectively.

  • Neil McNickle

    So Granni Trixie, it was a ‘wasteful change ‘ to bring in free perscription charges? I thought it was very admirable that Michael says if you are sick you shouldn’t have to pay through the nose to get better!
    What about the average NI worker on about £250 pw who has to decide between medicine for himself or putting food on his families table?
    Very easy to criticise from your lofty tower (Malone Road) Granni Trixie, but those of us in the real world were very glad to see Michael introducing free perscription charges.
    Financial budgeting for some people really does come down to pounds and pennies and not just the Alliance version (Mercedes or BMW).
    Party for all (As long as you have plenty of money and live in Cultra/Malone)

  • Neil McNickle

    Also I notice now Alliances sister party are in government the lies of ‘oppose cuts at all cost have already been replaced by “cuts are inevitable including within the public sector but Alliance strategy is to push for fairly applying cuts and spread the pain”.
    I think you’ve been hang round with your new chums in the DUP too much, electoral promises broken before the ink on the ballot papers are dry.

  • Granni Trixie


    You really are in the wrong – to presume that I do not know the economic and other realities of life. Yes, I have been upwardly mobile but as followers of this site know I have had to overcome tremendous adversity to get there. When you have been hungry etc you never forget it.
    I dont want to go all into MOPE mode but clearly remember
    not being able to do cookery in school because my family simply did not have the small sums of money required towards ingredients.I also remember our tea was cooking apple sandwhiches!.

    So Ofcourse I know that for some families the cost of a perscription is a problem. That is why every time I pay say £3 for one, it is on my mind that there ought to be a system whereby those who can afford to pay for it do so. Just a personal opinion but the case for universal benefits are long over.

  • John East Belfast


    On the prescription charges we have to remember that the % of the population who were not already exempt was in single figures – it was an incredibly low figure.

    And as one of the people who did pay I was always annoyed at the flat charge inequality of the system – ie £6 for something that often, if allowed to be bought over the counter, for often a fraction of that.

    Therefore on the basis we had already paid for health care via tax and nic (ie the few people who would have been considered liable that is) then we were effectively being charged twice.

    Then there was a lot of fraud where people who would be liable said they werent and the Health Authority didnt have the resources to audit it.

    And of course somebody in a job but already financially stretched may have just opted to not buy the medicine (they had already paid for)

    Therefore picking on a small number of people to pay in such an inequitable way was a no brainer to me to just make it free to everyone as part of the NHS.

  • Neil McNickle

    Exactly John,

    Why should the public have to pay for the Health Service twice? Universal free health care should be the one thing guarenteed by the state!

    Perhaps Alliance want to get rid of the NHS and have an American style system were you only get treated if you have insurance? I’m sure that will play well in Cherry Valley, not so sure about Dee Street!

  • Granni Trixie

    For the record, I certainly do not want a US style health service far from it, I believe in universally free service.

    I am just trying to think creatively about waste and save frontline services and jobs.

    JEB: some useful points.

    Would have thought more of you if you had insights about your prejudices.

  • Granni Trixie

    For the record, I certainly do not want a US style health service far from it, I believe in universally free service.

    I am just trying to think creatively about waste to save frontline services and jobs.

    JEB: some useful points.

    Would have thought more of you if you had insights about your prejudices.

  • Neil McNickle

    But Granni you stated “case for universal benefits are long over.” Your words not mine??

    And if you want to talk about waste, Alliance want us to join the EURO immediatly! So we can bail out Greece and lots of fun stuff like that!

    So lets get this clear Granni, charge Northern Irish people for prescriptions and send the money to Greece is that the plan?????

    PS and what prejudices would they be now?