The Steeples stay at home

Probably the single most striking fact about the 2010 General Election was the turnout in Fermanagh South Tyrone.
Using the usual sources:
Nic Whyte, The BBC (a nice controlled victory speech by Ms Gildernew) and Wiki.

We can track the turnout in FST in all elections since 1950:
1950 : 92%, 1951 : 93%, 1955 : 93%, 1959 : 62%, 1964 : 86%, 1966 : 86%, 1970 : 92%, 1974 : 88%, 1974 : 89%, 1979 : 87%, 1981 : 87%, 1981 : 89%, 1983 : 89%, 1986 : 81%, 1987 : 80%, 1992 : 79%, 1997 : 75%, 2001 : 78%, 2005 : 73%, 2010 : 69%.

The late, much lamented, Horseman describes each psephological episode wonderfully well here.
For my purposes a few diversions to begin with:
1) 1959 turnout was low due to nationalist boycott of Sinn Féin due to the Border Campaign so we can ignore that outlier.
2) There were significant boundary changes pre 1997 General Election. It’s probably reasonable to assume a one off drop as party machines found their feet.
3) I must admit I hadn’t realised that the turnout in the second 1981 by-election was higher than the first.
4) I’ll take advice from anyone wiser than myself but don’t think the tightening up of identification processes would have had as significant effect here as in more urban areas.

So, what have we got?
1) From 1950 to 1983 everyone voted in FST unless they were dead, ill, mad or had moved away.
2) From 1983 to 2010 there has been a dramatic decline reaching a point this year when, in the most competitive constituency in the whole election, about 13,000 healthy and sane individuals abstained. That’s a new political phenomenon.

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  • Drumlin Rock

    Dewi, have to head out for the day, bit of parading to do, but will try to give you my analysis later!

  • Mrazik
  • Alan Maskey

    I voted many times for Bobby Sands; we used abstentionist SDLP tickets first thing in the morning lest they turn Turk later on. Maguire’s crew had a great machine and no vote went unused. The Orangies did not like having Mr Sands as their MP and so came out in bigger numbers to oppose Mr Carron. But by then the PSF electoral bandwagon had begun; a few Provies, I think, were arrested for voter fraud in Carron’s election. The hcances of getting caught by the Orangies was low but the RUC were on the ball and I almost got nicked. But a good machine saved me:)
    The Orangies vote early and often too. Their problem was they had much more to lose if they got caught.

  • JAH

    So they had a choice between a MP who won’t represent them (but take his expenses) and a compromise right wing candidate with no idea what he was for only what he was against…

    I’d stay at home as well.

  • Mr Crowley

    By “his expenses” are you suggesting that there is some truth in the ‘average industrial wage’ fable and that PSF MP expenses are actually the property of the CEO of Adams PLC?

  • “From 1950 to 1983 everyone voted in FST unless they were dead, ill, mad or had moved away.”

    Or it could have been the mad, dead and moved away did vote, they just did not look like they did when alive, etc, and gradually the type of ‘work’ Alan mentions had dried up after 97. After all a vote of 93% would be high by Stalinist or Saddamite standards.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chuckie bigot admits to vote-stealing. Slugger continues to chalk up firsts.

  • JAH

    Haven’t a clue. But she (sorry Michelle) chalked up at number 360 on the expenses league table despite abstaining.

    Plus her assembly salary et al.

    Not an endorsement of democracy. Not a lot point in voting.

  • Dewi

    I’m sure there’s some truth in that Mick but surely personation is easier to spot in rural areas – wouldn’t the invigilators probably know the voters by name?
    Is there a process reason for the “work” drying up?

  • Munsterview

    On August 24 I had an extensive exchange with the person / persona or whatever….. ‘Alan Maskey’, leaving them unmasked on……..

    If this person / persona ticks off your prejudicial boxes so be it! Hoewever in accepting anything from this source as prima faci correct, be warned, you and any other so doing are also undermining your own credibility !

  • Drumlin Rock

    Dewi, Photo ID has been introduced in recent years, so impersonation is much much harder, voter fraud was common enough in past years to knock a point or two of those totals im sure, on both side but prob more on nationalist side.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Ok back to the subject,
    first thing to say is the nationalist/unionist percentage are roughly the same, so the fall appears to be across the board, but the questions is are they for the same or different reasons?
    It is very easy to get the first 4% drop from the last election accounted for, postal/proxy votes have almost halved, the system is probably too onerous now and there was only a very short period to apply.
    We can try loads of other reasons, ie. last minute, unknown non-party candidate on the unionist side.
    Disafection, dissident support, less workers on the ground on the nationalist side.
    In reality maybe it is just normality is even reaching the dreary steeples, and the expenses scandals have put some off. We shall see next year if the trend continues.

  • Rory Carr

    It might do well for those blathering on about MP’s expenses as though they were a form of additional income to understand that they are nothing more than a reimbursement of allowable expenditure already made by the MP’s in the course of carrying out their constituency business. I do hope that that is not too difficult a concept to grasp but I do apologise that it might burst the balloon of their attempt at denigration by false assertion.

  • Danny

    Don’t forget the number of students who would be at Queens at the like and so can’t vote at home.

  • Drumlin Rock

    silly boy danny, mummy votes for them, never trust students with postal votes either they will remember them on the day the results are announced, proxys for students. Oh btw just to be sure SF put on a bus to bring them home in case they havn’t got proxys.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: understand that they are nothing more than a reimbursement of allowable expenditure already made by the MP’s in the course of carrying out their constituency business.
    Quite. It’s not like any misconduct has ever been detected in recent years, is it? And the requirement for receipts means that there is zero prospect that any of the 650 MPs could ever claim for something they hadn’t purchased on their many, many trips to London. Of course, a hypothetical possibility exists that someone could come to some arrangement with a sympathetic or deserving landlord to under-utilise, loan out, or sub-let an overpriced flat, for instance.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    As you seem to have inside knowledge, how common a practice is electoral fraud these days – is it still as bad as it was in 81?

  • Alan Maskey

    Mainland Ulsterman: I cannot speak for today. But impersonating is a long tradition and was down to a fine art in Fermanagh South Tyrone, where PSF inherited Maguire’s machine.
    I am sure Adams and the West Belfast PIRA have it down to a fine art. All political parties go through the electoral role and they know who will vote which way. Impersonation for Bobby Sands was comical it was so big. Though local Protestants in rural Fermanagh would know their RC neighbours, the UUP polling officers would not, so it was a piece of cake, even for disfigured PIRA guys.
    Once the polls opened, away we went and all through until they closed. The rest, as they say, is history.
    A disciplined party like PSF would not let votes slip through their fingers and there would be plenty of PIRA men and women to draft in.
    Currently PSF pollsters would know where the extra push is needed (FST rather than West Belfast and I am sure the local machine lets them do their best)

    Maguire’s machine had, of course, done a good job on the postal votes as that is the first thing to get out of the way. Though I would imagine PSF are polished hands at it now, it really only matters in the true marginals.

    Everyone does it but those with less to lose will do it more. If it does go sour, as it has in other elections, the word will go out to cease and desist.
    Which is exactly what I will do now as my teddy bear awaits.

  • Rory Carr

    Reader, the simple fact that the expenses system is open to abuse does not in the least detract from the point I made. The reimbursement of expenditure does not constitute additional income yet contributor after contributor on here (and in the wider public) believe that it does. Indeed there is a perception on life generally it seems that this is the case. “He’s on expenses”, you’ll here it said slyly of someone or other with a knowing nudge in the ribs.

    In all the years of my working life whenever I had to travel on company business I always found myself out-of-pocket regardless of the generosity of the allowance regime. There was a time when some professions had an easy ride with receipts-free claims – journalists were always regarded as fortunate in this regard – but no longer – imagine trying to slip a fast one past one of Murdoch’s or porn-king, Desmond’s lackeys while on a venture for the Times or the Express mowadays.

    The important thing to remeber is that reimbursement of expenses does not constitute additional income, it is not a perque. I do accept however that fraudulent claims are a different matter.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Totally agree – expenses these days is a ruse by accounts departments AGAINST employees / claimants. I must have lost thousands over the years in unclaimed expenses on my travels up and down the country and overseas, through not getting a receipt or sometimes feeling embarrassed about the amount I need to claim. Going to your boss to ask for money – even money owed to you – is really awkward and embarrassing for a lot of people.

    It’s a system that suits the corporates well – the maximum you can get is your money back; but in all likelihood, you’ll miss something, so inevitably the employee ends up out of pocket to some extent. Nice little earner for them.