2011 Northern Ireland Assembly election

One crucial element to Assembly elections in Northern Ireland is the question of how many candidates to run in each of the constituencies. On the face of it, this should be a fairly simple calculation, based on the following steps:

1) defend all seats won in the last election
2) if the party’s likely vote share multipled by seven exceeds the number of seats won in 2007, run an extra candidate
3) that’s it.

The problem is, of course, to get a good feel for the vote share, given that there has only been one election since 2007 using the 18 constituencies, and that most of the boundaries have been changed from 2007; matters are further complicated by the withdrawal of Sinn Féin in South Belfast, of the DUP in North Down, and of the DUP and UUP in Fermanagh-South Tyrone; and we also need to bear in mind the impact of the TUV in 2010 (likely to be diminished in 2011) and the likely retirement in 2011 of the three MLAs elected in 2007 from beyond the five big parties (Kieran Deeny, Independent, West Tyrone; Brian Wilson, Green Party, North Down; Dawn Purvis, PUP, East Belfast). So my recommendations below, based almost entirely on the 2010 Westminster election results, should be taken with those caveats and with a certain deference to local circumstances of which I may be ignorant. But my reading of the Westminster result, and its implications for the party strategies for next year’s Assembly, is as follows:

Sinn Féin targets for 2011 Assembly election
West Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 5.0 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 4.8 quotas, defending 5 seats; run five candidates
Mid Ulster : 2010 Westminster election 3.6 quotas, 2007 Assembly 3.3 quotas, defending 3 seats; run four candidates
West Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 3.4 quotas, 2007 Assembly 3.1 quotas, defending 3 seats; run four candidates
Fermanagh and South Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 3.2 quotas, 2007 Assembly 2.5 quotas, defending 1 seat (1 lost by defection); run three candidates
Newry and Armagh : 2010 Westminster election 2.9 quotas, 2007 Assembly 2.9 quotas, defending 3 seats; run three candidates
North Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 2.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.1 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
Foyle : 2010 Westminster election 2.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.2 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
South Down : 2010 Westminster election 2.0 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.3 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
Upper Bann : 2010 Westminster election 1.7 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.8 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
East Londonderry : 2010 Westminster election 1.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.5 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
South Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 1.0 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.1 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
North Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.9 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
East Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.5 quotas; run one candidate
Lagan Valley : 2010 Westminster election 0.3 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.5 quotas; run one candidate
Strangford : 2010 Westminster election 0.3 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.3 quotas; run one candidate
East Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.2 quotas; run one candidate
North Down : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.1 quotas; run one candidate
South Belfast : did not contest 2010 Westminster election, 2007 notional Assembly 0.9 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate

Best chances of gains: FST 2nd (recoup defection), FST 3rd, Upper Bann 2nd, Mid Ulster 4th, East Antrim
Most vulnerable: North Antrim

Comment: SF’s overall vote in 2010 was down a pip from 2007, but this is more than accounted for by their withdrawal in South Belfast. On the Westminster figures, they should not only regain Gerry McHugh’s seat in FST but gain a third as well (if they can maintain the squeeze on the SDLP). The second seat in Upper Bann was missed in 2007 due to poor balancing, and recedes a bit on 2010 figures; only three candidates in Mid Ulster got more than three quotas last time, so a fourth may well manage to sweep an extra seat. In East Antrim there is almost a Nationalist quota, almost evenly split between SF and SDLP; it will be tight. The flip side of the potential East Antrim gain is the vulnerability of one of the Nationalist seats in North Antrim from where the new voters have been moved; though even there the SDLP are in the weaker position. At this stage, all else being equal, I would expect SF to make two or three net gains, mostly from the UUP.

DUP targets for 2011 Assembly election
Lagan Valley : 2010 Westminster election 3.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 3.7 quotas, defending 3 seats; run four candidates
North Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 3.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 3.6 quotas, defending 3 seats; run four candidates
East Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 3.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 3.0 quotas, defending 3 seats; run three or four candidates
Strangford : 2010 Westminster election 3.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 3.4 quotas, defending 4 seats; run four candidates
North Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 2.8 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.5 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
East Londonderry : 2010 Westminster election 2.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.7 quotas, defending 3 seats; run three candidates
South Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 2.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.5 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
Upper Bann : 2010 Westminster election 2.4 quotas, 2007 Assembly 2.2 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
East Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 2.3 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.9 quotas, defending 3 seats; run three candidates
South Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 1.7 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.6 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
West Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 1.4 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.5 quotas, defending 2 seats; run two candidates
Mid Ulster : 2010 Westminster election 1.0 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.4 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
Newry and Armagh : 2010 Westminster election 0.9 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.9 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Foyle : 2010 Westminster election 0.8 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.2 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
South Down : 2010 Westminster election 0.6 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.1 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
West Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.8 quotas; run one candidate
North Down : did not contest 2010 Westminster election, 2007 Assembly 2.4 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
Fermanagh and South Tyrone : did not contest 2010 Westminster election, 2007 Assembly 1.8 quotas, defending 2 seats; run two candidates

Best chances of gains: North Belfast 3rd, South Belfast 2nd, Lagan Valley 4th, North Antrim 4th
Most vulnerable: Strangford 4th, East Belfast 3rd, East Londonderry 3rd, South Down

Comment: Despite the grim circumstances of the 2010 election, the DUP vote was not down by very much, and those voters who did opt for the TUV are surely likely to return either directly or by transfers. Still, the position is not a strong one, and on the Westminster figures it will be very difficult to hold all the party’s seats in East Belfast, Strangford and East Londonderry. The South Down seat is also vulnerable due to boundary changes, though here the UUP look even worse off. On the flip side, gains should be very possible in North and South Belfast, and perhaps also in Lagan Valley and North Antrim where Nationalist seats are lost on the new boundaries. My sense would be that the DUP will hold their ground, more or less.

SDLP targets for 2011 Assembly election
South Down : 2010 Westminster election 3.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.3 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
Foyle : 2010 Westminster election 3.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 2.6 quotas, defending 3 seats; run three candidates
South Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 2.9 quotas (boosted by SF withdrawal), 2007 notional Assembly 1.8 quotas, defending 2 seats; run three candidates
Newry and Armagh : 2010 Westminster election 1.6 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.4 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
West Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 1.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
East Londonderry : 2010 Westminster election 1.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Mid Ulster : 2010 Westminster election 1.0 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.2 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
West Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 1.0 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.0 quotas; run one candidate
Upper Bann : 2010 Westminster election 0.9 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.9 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
North Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.9 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
North Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.6 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.8 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
South Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.6 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.7 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Fermanagh and South Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Strangford : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.6 quotas, defending seat; run one candidate
East Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.6 quotas, defending seat; run one candidate
Lagan Valley : 2010 Westminster election 0.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.3 quotas, defending seat; run one candidate
North Down : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.3 quotas, defending seat; run one candidate
East Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.2 quotas, defending seat; run one candidate

Best chances of gains: South Down 3rd, West Tyrone, East Antrim, Strangford, Newry and Armagh 2nd, South Belfast
Most vulnerable: FST, South Antrim, North Antrim

Comment: The SDLP vote went up slightly in 2010, though as with SF this is more than accounted for by the circumstances of South Belfast. The two most likely gains as far as I can see are West Tyrone (which was missed through sheer carelessness and overnomination in 2007) and South Down (where Unionism loses a seat in the boundary changes). The others listed here are a bit more speculative, the strongest being East Antrim, where as noted above there is almost a Nationalist quota, almost evenly split between SF and SDLP, and Strangford where the Nationalist vote share is less but the SDLP have more of it. If the squeeze in FST is maintained by SF, the SDLP seat there will be difficult to defend; and a significant improvement on previous votes will be necessary to save the seats in North and South Antrim. But I think the party should come out about the same overall.

UUP targets for 2011 Assembly election
South Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 2.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.5 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
Strangford : 2010 Westminster election 1.9 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.3 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
Upper Bann : 2010 Westminster election 1.8 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.5 quotas, defending 2 seats; run two candidates
East Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 1.7 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.4 quotas, defending 2 seats; run two candidates
East Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 1.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.5 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
Lagan Valley : 2010 Westminster election 1.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.4 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
North Down : 2010 Westminster election 1.4 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.7 quotas, defending 1 seat (one lost by defection); run two candidates
Newry and Armagh : 2010 Westminster election 1.3 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.9 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
East Londonderry : 2010 Westminster election 1.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.2 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
South Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 1.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.3 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
West Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 1.0 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.6 quotas; run one candidate
Mid Ulster : 2010 Westminster election 0.8 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.8 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
North Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.8 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
North Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.7 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
South Down : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.6 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Foyle : 2010 Westminster election 0.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.3 quotas, defending seats; run one candidate
West Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.1 quotas, defending seats; run one candidate
Fermanagh and South Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 0.0 quotas, 2007 Assembly 1.4 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates

Best chances of gains: South Antrim 2nd, West Tyrone, Strangford 2nd, North Down 2nd (recoup defection), Lagan Valley 2nd, Newry and Armagh 2nd
Most vulnerable: East Belfast 2nd, South Down, North Belfast, East Antrim 2nd, North Antrim, Mid Ulster

Comment: The UUP vote in 2010 (counting in the two Conservative candidates) was actually up slightly from the 2007 Assembly, even before taking into account their withdrawal in FST. In both South Antrim and Strangford, this should be easily enough for a second seat, and in West Tyrone enough to regain the seat lost in 2007. Regaining the seat won by defector Alan McFarland in North Down, however, looks a tougher proposition, and second seats in Lagan Valley and Newry and Armagh will require an improvement in vote share. On the other hand, the UUP were fortunate with transfers in 2007, with lucky breaks in a number of constituencies which may not be repeated, and South Down, affected by boundary changes, now very vulnerable. If the party manages to stay level with its 2007 result that can be considered a success.

Alliance Party targets for 2011 Assembly election
East Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 2.6 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.2 quotas, defending 1 seat; run two candidates
South Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 1.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.9 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Lagan Valley : 2010 Westminster election 0.8 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.7 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
East Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.8 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 1.0 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
Strangford : 2010 Westminster election 0.6 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.7 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
South Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.5 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.9 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
North Down : 2010 Westminster election 0.4 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.7 quotas, defending 1 seat; run one candidate
East Londonderry : 2010 Westminster election 0.4 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.3 quotas ; run one candidate
North Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.3 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.2 quotas; run one candidate
North Antrim : 2010 Westminster election 0.2 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.2 quotas; run one candidate
Upper Bann : 2010 Westminster election 0.2 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.1 quotas; run one candidate
West Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 0.2 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.0 quotas; run one candidate
West Belfast : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.0 quotas; run one candidate
South Down : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.1 quotas; run one candidate
Newry and Armagh : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.0 quotas; run one candidate
Mid Ulster : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.0 quotas; run one candidate
Fermanagh and South Tyrone : 2010 Westminster election 0.1 quotas, 2007 Assembly 0.1 quotas; run one candidate
Foyle : 2010 Westminster election 0.0 quotas, 2007 notional Assembly 0.0 quotas; run one candidate

Best chances of gains: East Belfast 2nd, East Londonderry
Most vulnerable: Strangford, North Down, South Antrim

Comment: The Alliance result in 2010 is looks lop-sided at first glance – strong in Belfast, floppy elsewhere – but the picture is substantially confused by the absence of the party leader in South Antrim, and the peculiar local circumstances of North Down, which mean that the apparent vulnerability of those seats on Westminster results is illusory. If Naomi Long and her colleagues can keep even half of her votes gained in the Westminster election, there should be a second Alliance seat in East Belfast; best chance for new representation is East Londonderry.

Obviously, there may well be local circumstances operating in a number of seats which make the Westminster numbers a less reliable yardstick. But that is my reading of them, for what it is worth.

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  • Jamie

    One question: Has Peter Robinson said if he is going to run again for the Assembly and if so do you think he will get re-elected?

  • Nicholas – great analysis, as ever, in setting out the field for the battle(s) ahead.

    I’ve no argument with your overall pitch, but am interested in the likely fate of the independents and small parties, so a few questions for Nicholas or Sluggerites out there who may be more in the know than me:

    a) is Dawn Purvis likely to run again (Nicholas suggests not), this time as an independent, and if she did, wouldn’t she be in with a decent chance of holding?

    b) is Alan McFarland likely to run again, this time as an independent, and if he did, would he not pick up a sufficient chunk of the Sylvia / dissident UUP vote for a quota?

    c) with Brian Wilson retiring, wouldn’t the Greens have a decent chance of holding a North Down seat if their candidate was someone like Steven Agnew? How close to quota might likely Green candidate Cadogan Enright be in South Down?

    d) any other possible independents or activity to watch for from small parties or new entrants?

  • joeCanuck

    Any chance of distilling all of the analysis down to likely outcomes?

  • slug

    I was wondering about these questions too.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    To deal with the article adequately would require a comment which is almost as long.
    But to summarise this is an analysis based on “statistics” not necessarily a bad thing…but as the author admits a possible ignorance of local factors (we all labour under that)…but an undue reliance on statistics factors out an understanding of the politics and the personalities and even the geography.

    The suggested number of candidates is more or less right. More than likely Mr Whyte himself was in two minds on some choices. So no surprise then that many looking at the same 2010 “quotas” would perhaps quibble at some suggestions.
    With basically two quotas in North Belfast, I see no logic in three SF candidates. Frankly SF will take their vote from Ardoyne and the New Lodge Road….a candidate based in each of these areas is really all that Id suggest. True that Glengormley or Upper Antrim Road come into the equation but not enough to run three people.
    And yet for political and geographical reasons, Id argue the opposite in West Tyrone for SDLP. In essence SF will be running a candidat from the diverse parts of the constituency (and outside it!!!) but the history of the voting there suggests a Strabane-Omagh split and in the context of PR the party will need a person from each coucil area.
    And the analysis of FST takes little account of the political reality. Based on statistics the SDLP seat is vulnerable……but not on the politics (its vote in neighbouring constituencies held up and in West Tyrone improved). The inescapable logic is that SF got votes from “soft” SDLP people. I dont seriously think the SDLP seat is vulnerable.
    With 0.4 quota in 2010 in East Derry….APs “best chance of new representation” certainly but a long shot surely especially as they doubled their percentage from 2005 to 2010 and must be at near optimum unless theres an “event” on an East Belfast scale.
    Overall the picture is little change from 2007….a seat lost here and a seat gained there will mean that the 108 seats will be roughly in the same proportions as before. The “centre” will remain the same with the AP gain in East Belfast offset by the loss of “Independent” Deeney in West Tyrone.

  • Brilliant Analysis

  • Left Votes?

    Any thoughts on Eamon McCann for Derry?

  • lamhdearg

    I cant see Al going any better in east belfast, in north belfast DUP 2, UUP1 Fred is quite pop. as for the rest of the country i have not a clue.

  • Erasmus

    I would have the SDLP down as a shoo-in in Stangford where they only missed out by some 30 odd votes the last time.
    To quote from NW’s excellent website:

    ”Under the Boundary Commission’s proposals, Strangford (as usual) is much the most altered constituency. It loses seven Castlereagh wards, five (Ballyhanwood, Carrowreagh, Dundonald, Enler and Graham’s Bridge) to East Belfast and two (Carryduff East and Carryduff West) to South Belfast, but gaining three Down district wards (Ballymaglave, Ballynahinch East and Kilmore) from South Down. This makes the new constituency 1.3% more Catholic, and 1.2% less Protestant than the old. This must increase the chance of the Nationalist Assembly seat so nearly missed in both 2003 and 2007.”

  • lamhdearg

    Back in the old days that was called gerrymandering.

  • Gendjinn

    The wildcard at play in the next election is the possibility of SF becoming the largest party and thereby taking the post of First Minister.

    How the DUP and UUP play that card could radically alter how the 2011 election plays out. Likely motivating voters to move to the DUP and SF. We can look at FST from the general election for an example of how this will impact 2011.

    Certainly going to be a really interesting election. Although, in NI aren’t they all?

  • Gendjinn

    It’s gerrymandering if the intent is to create a seat for a particular party.

    And it’s remarkably original and somewhat refreshing to hear unionists complaining about it. When 3/4 of the assembly is nationalist then you can whinge about it, until then your hyperventilating is just that.

  • General comment – I somehow missed the vulnerability of SF’s seat in Lagan Valley, which I think is so eroded by boundary changes that it cannot now be held, and will fall to one of the Unionist parties.

    Patrick – good questions, but like you I will defer to local knowledge.

    FJH – in North Belfast the Shinners are not that far from getting three candidates to outbalance the SDLP. If I were them I would try it. In West Tyrone, the SDLP seat was lost in 2007 through over-nomination, and if I were them I would consolidate behind a single candidate who should then win. In FST you’re probably right; my aim in this piece was to look at the General Election results which were very good for SF and very bad for the SDLP there. Alliance in East Londonderry is indeed a long shot, but look at the overall votes – each of the big parties has just a bit over a quota (a bit over two quotas for the DUP) and those transfers can end up in odd places. But I agree that Alliance’s vote would need to be up again in that seat next year for this to be credible.

    Erasmus, that’s perfectly accurate as far as the last Assembly election goes; the above analysis looks more at the Westminster votes where the total nationalist vote was 1000 votes less than my projected total for the Assembly on the new boundaries. Those votes may have been tactical votes for Nesbitt which will return, or my projections may have been incorrect, or both!

    Gendjinn: I am astonished that the smaller Unionist parties continue to bang on about Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister. This only reminds those Unionist voters who are worried by such a prospect that the most effective way of preventing it is to vote DUP!

  • slug

    If we thought that Caitriona Ruane would be nominated as First Minister you would see a greater effect. At least on the unionist side.

  • Dewi

    I don’t think the TUV are totally finished. Allister will surely get a seat and with focussed targeting maybe one or two others.

  • “those voters who did opt for the TUV are surely likely to return either directly or by transfers.”

    I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a safe assumption.

  • Patrick,

    > a) is Dawn Purvis likely to run again

    She’s bound to, and I’d imagine she’ll only benefit from Naomi Long not standing for Alliance this time as Chris Lyttle isn’t as well known. The real question is who the PUP (who haven’t gone away you know!) will run in East Belfast. I suspect Dawn will retain the majority of her support, and the PUP candidate will poll badly.

  • PaddyReilly

    It doesn’t follow that it has to fall to a Unionist candidate. It could revert to the SDLP, or the transfers be used to elect a second Alliance candidate or (remotely) a Green candidate.

  • PaddyReilly

    It being the Nationalist seat in Lagan valley

  • Crow

    Seems the most likely outcome would be Nationalist losses in North Antrim, South Antrim, Lagan Valley off-set by gains in East Antrim, Strangford, West Tyrone, South Down for a net gain of +1.
    Unionist losses in South Down, Strangford, East Antrim, and perhaps East Belfast off-set by gains in Lagan Valley, North Antrim, South Antrim for a net loss of -1.
    Non-Aligned losses in West Tyrone off-set by possible gain in East Belfast for no overall change.
    So the final tally would be Nationalists 43, Unionists 57, Non-Aligned 8.

  • Paddy you’re forever making up demographic trends that don’t exist.

    Save yourself some disappointment. Accept that Paul Butler’s gone in Lagan Valley and no nationalist shall replace him.

  • Paddy, SF were on 4% in the Westminster election and the SDLP on 5%, with 11% for Alliance and the remaining 80% between three Unionist candidates. For the Nationalist seat not to fall to the Unionists requires some pretty heroic assumptions – which of course you are entirely free to make.

  • Gendjinn

    Nicholas,

    you are assuming rationality on the part of the voters, but as has been amply demonstrated emotions trump logic for many, many voters.

    Focusing the anger of voters on the DUP for creating the possibility of an SF first minister will garner them votes, not too many but what else do they have?

  • Erasmus

    Nicholas,
    It looks like an inevitable SF loss in Lagan Valley alright but not necessarily a nationalist loss. You cite a drop in the Catholic population of 6.4% based on recent revisions. Lopping of Alliance voters brings you to a nice even 6 percentage points. Based on the last Assembly election that still leaves a combined nationalist vote of some 13%.
    *If* the SLDPer can get ahead of the shinner he/she must have a fighting chance.

  • PaddyReilly

    I am totally aware that Paul Butler is gone in Lagan Valley. But as for the rest:-

    Yes, Erasmus states the facts completely correctly.

    In 2007 the Nationalist (SF + SDLP) 1st preference vote was 19%;

    This was only the 1st pref vote, with transfers it was slightly higher;

    The new constituency is 6.4% less Catholic;

    We assume that it was the Catholics who were voting SF and SDLP, not the Protestants;

    The new constituency will thus be 12.6% Nationalist voting before any transfers;

    It is liable to be 13+% after the Green candidate is eliminated;

    There is a tendency for the Nationalist vote to increase ever so slightly in all districts apart from the extreme East;

    Provided the SDLP candidate gets ahead of the SF he will have a fighting chance: if SF sensibly decide not to stand (as for example they did in S Belfast) this chance will improve.

    I can see that Nicholas Whyte might take a more pessimistic view, but this is because he is making predictions based on the Westminster results, which understate the potential vote of small parties (Alliance, TUV, SDLP etc), due to electors being less willing to turn out when there is absolutely no chance of their candidate winning anything, and much more willing when there is a seat in Stormont they might capture.

  • PaddyReilly

    P.S. One quota is 14.28%. In the elections of 2007, 1% of the vote was 418 votes.

  • Erasmus

    Paddy, the nationalist vote was actually 20.2% in 2007 if you include the small WP vote. Applying a strict pro rata allocation of the ’07 AP vote to the ‘lost’ 6.4% means a nationalist drop of 5.8%. Crunching all of this you are left with a probable total residual nationalist vote of 13.4%; in a situation as tight as this fractions of percentages count. That is even before you factor in putative demographic changes and the additional ‘shredding’ effect of a likely TUV candidate.
    It is worth noting that the SDLP came within a hair’s breadth of winning a seat in Strangford in 2007 when operating from a total nationalist base of 11.5%.
    The crux is whether the transfer-friendly SDLP can get ahead of the transfer-repellant shinners. Of interest here is the reversal of the relative strengths of the two parties in the last election – bucking the general trend. I’m not as familiar as many of you with the situation on the ground but it suggests that the ‘lost’ nationalists contained a disproportionately large number of SF voters.

  • Irish Aussie

    Not sure about your maths, 2007 results had 44 nats 54 Unionists, if you give Deeny to the Nats and Dawn to the Unionists, that makes 45 Nats, 55 unionists, 7 Alliance and 1 Green.
    i think Sinn Fein will pick up a seat in Upper Bann, which should make it 47 Nats, 53 Unionists and 8 Non – Aligned (by your reckoning) and the end of majority unionism.

  • PaddyReilly

    Yes, Nicholas Whyte’s conclusions are predicated on the idea that Nationalist voters are all so thrane that every single one of them turned out in the General Election to vote for their man, and none of them stayed at home or was tempted to vote for one of the parties with a chance of winning the seat.

    However if you look at the 2005 general election votes, only 3,197 voted for Paul Butler (SF), whereas he attracted 5,098 1st pref votes in the 2007 Assembly election, and similarly Patricia Lewsley gained just 2,598 votes for the SDLP in the 2005 General election and Marietta Farrell 2,839 for the same party in 2007.

    Conclusion: an Assembly vote will attract an extra 2000 odd Nationalist votes over and above what they got in the General Election. Going on the 2010 vote that would bring the Nationalist vote up to 5,300, which is 80 votes above the quota.

    So it is by no means a foregone conclusion that the Nationalist seat in Lagan Valley is irremediably lost. However, the demography is so close that the actions of the politicians, the enthusiasm of the voters and the mechanics of the final count are all important.

  • Crow

    Irish Aussie – You are quite right about my math. I accidentally used the 2003 results as my starting point instead of 2007. So the revised final tally would be Nationalists 45, Unionists 54, Non-Aligned 9. I would expect the SDLP to take Deeny’s seat next time whether he stands or not. Purvis’ seat would seem destined for the Alliance’s second, assuming their vote holds. SF were on track for a second in Upper Bann but then they lost their best prospect when Ward abandoned ship.

  • At some point I look forward to NI politics not bothering with the x% protestant 100-x% catholic headcount.

    Some politicians also believe in – and rely on – voting across traditional divides. Under STV that means that transfers may switch from first place nationalist to second place unionist when a local issue (eg planning or primary school) has been well supported by a sitting MP or MLA.

    If the SDLP’s campaigning in Lagan Valley leading up to the May 2009 election had been more fervent I might have given them the benefit of the doubt. But it wasn’t, so I don’t rate their chances of getting a seat. And SF are in a similar position – the split nationalist vote won’t help them.

    Unless TUV turn over a new page and come back strongly – UUP should have best chance of picking up the 6th seat.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Alan, you have a point and it comes into play espically if the SDLP candidate drops out first, generally up to 20% of SDLP voters transfer to UUP before SF, thats when Alliance are also out.

  • Drumlin Rock

    in the Euros JAs votes went 50/50,to DUP/UUP, it was a strange contest tbh, and it will depend somewhat on if its Tom or Basil. Remember a No2. vote from an eliminated candidate is exactly the same as a No1.

  • Politico68

    I think the figures show that there will be still a nationalist seat in Lagan Valley. SDLP and SF combined had 19% vote share in 2007, even if that drops to qbout 13% There is still a Nationalist seat, no?

  • Politico68

    I think it will be 47 Nats, 53 UNi, 8 Non Alligned

  • Dewi

    A party prediction:
    TUV 3
    Green 1
    Alliance 8
    Ind – 1 – Dawn Purvis
    SDLP – 20
    UUP – 17
    Sinn Fein – 29
    DUP 29

  • Drumlin Rock

    dewi we should do a graph on how your predictions will change over the next 9 months 🙂

  • Dewi

    yeah – it’s so strange how important the TUV are in this….

  • Drumlin Rock

    my prediction is they wont win any seats atm dewi, but circumstances can change all that. The strength of the UUP & DUP NA candidates will have an influence on JAs chances, but unless he gets some high profile defections I think their vote will actually fall generally, the momentum has been lost.

  • Dewi

    hmmm – not enough Unionists….Prediction#2
    TUV 3
    Green 1
    Alliance 8
    Ind – 1 – Dawn Purvis
    SDLP – 19
    UUP – 18
    Sinn Fein – 28
    DUP 30

  • dantheman

    Out of interest, what happens if both the DUP & SF get 29 seats. Who gets to be First Minister?

  • We assume that it was the Catholics who were voting SF and SDLP, not the Protestants;

    You’re analysis almost made sense but for that.

    Not all Catholics will vote for nationalist parties. In Lagan Valley a reasonable proportion will vote Alliance.
    And if you check the full STV results you’ll see that when Marietta Farrell was eliminated more of her vote transferred to Lunn than to Butler.

  • Dewi

    Good question Daniel.

  • TUV Alliance Green Sinn Fein and DUP sound about right.

  • Politico68

    What happens if DUP and SF get same number of seats?

    Chaos is the answer methinks!

  • Surely a reasonable and mature compromise in Northern Ireland’s best interest would be out of the question

  • Guys, the actual text from the St Andrew’s Agreement legislation is unambiguous about the designation of First Minister.

    Section 8 of the Act says:
    (4) The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the First Minister.
    (5) The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the deputy First Minister.

    The main change from the 1998 Act is that there is not joint nomination (or cross-community support). The SF First Minister theory only comes into play if ‘Nationalists’ are the largest ‘designation’ not if SF are the largest party. So the DUP and UUP can pulp all those election leaflets and perhaps campaign on real issues…

  • Mark McGregor

    John,

    Read on, we’ve done this before:

    (6) If at any time the party which is the largest political party of the largest
    political designation is not the largest political party—
    (a) any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(4) or
    16B(4) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the
    largest political party; and
    (b) any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(5) or
    16B(5) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the
    largest political party of the largest political designation.

    Also, it explains that in tied situations they go to 1st preferences.

  • Cheers Mark, I was a bit surprised that this was still being peddled as such a ‘major’ issue, that explains it…

  • cynic47

    Steven Agnew will not pick up Brian Wilson’s personal vote and will therefore be an also ran. He blotted his copy book by recent comments in relation to an invasion by young people of a local shopping centre. If Sylvia Hermon gives her full personal backing to two candidates endorsed by her they could get elected. More disappointment for the Tories in North Down. They might struggle to hold on to the Council seat they pinched from the Alliance Party

  • PaddyReilly

    when Marietta Farrell was eliminated more of her vote transferred to Lunn than to Butler.

    Yes of course I know that. That is why both Erasmus and I have emphasised that the SDLP has a fighting chance of winning where SF does not.

    The new boundaries obviously changed the political complexion of the constituency. But how? We don’t have exact data on who voted for what where, but we do know that the new constituency is 6.4% less Catholic. I guessed that these people voted for SF, and to a lesser degree, SDLP, and assumed that the new electorate is 6.4% less Nationalist. Erasmus took 0.6% off to allow for Catholic Alliance voters.

    So assuming the most optimistic definitions of Nationalist (includes Workers Party, making 20.2%) and the most cautious assessment of the loss to Nationalist camp (5.8%) then we still have 14.4% of the constituency likely to give a 1st preference vote to a Nationalist candidate. (A quota is 14.28%)

    As the transferred Nationalist voters lived in overwhelmingly Nationalist estates in the part of the constituency which is closest to West Belfast, one assumes that they are more likely to be SF voters. As the retained Nationalist voters tend to live in the middle of Lisburn in mixed areas, it is reasonable to posit that they are more likely to vote SDLP.

    Therefore, there is a good chance that SF will be eliminated before the SDLP (General Election returns did show the SDLP getting more votes that SF) and the SDLP will mop up their transfers.

    Not all Catholics will vote for nationalist parties. In Lagan Valley a reasonable proportion will vote Alliance.

    I never assumed this. I merely assumed that the Catholic voters transferred to West Belfast were likely to be Nationalist voters, and so their loss would have a corresponding effect on the Nationalist vote. Erasmus thought it more likely that only 5.8% would be Nationalist voters.

    So in summa, there is still in Lagan Valley just about one quota (14.28%) of voters who would be prepared to give their 1st or 2nd preference to an SDLP candidate. It is simply a matter of getting them out, and convincing them of this possibility is obviously stage one.

  • Drumlin Rock

    think it goes down to the party with most first preference votes, or highest percentage, same thing, more likely to come into play in executive seats carve up.

  • Drumlin Rock

    the change was in the westminister bill.

  • Erasmus

    ”So assuming the most optimistic definitions of Nationalist (includes Workers Party, making 20.2%) and the most cautious assessment of the loss to Nationalist camp (5.8%) then we still have 14.4% of the constituency likely to give a 1st preference vote to a Nationalist candidate.”

    Ooops. Your arithmetic is better than mine.

  • Fine Paddy. Just make up the numbers. Why stop at one nationalist quota. Give them 5 out of 6

  • I don’t see much evidence of significant change likely in 2011.
    I did a quick run of each constituency with an eye first to established quotas (that have persisted over a few elections) and then on how the transfers would run in each case to fill the other seats. Obviously tactial stupidity will lose seats (the SDLP in West Tyrone spring to mind) as will slippage from the egos that need to top the poll rather than spread the quotas. Each is given below with a note where its needed. Most interesting is probably Foyle where Eamon McCann may finally get his hands on an MLA salary (if you simulate the counts, his high proportion of a quota may attract enough transfers to squeak in). Similarly, the Alliance’s performance in East Belfast masked some slight slippage that may be enough to cause them trouble they don’t need in a couple of their seats (and what appears to be the lesser capacity of the UUP to offer transfers).
    Usual health warnings apply to all of this, of course (nevermind trying to factor in what the Tories and TUV will do).

    E Ant
    DUP 3 UUP 2 SDLP 1

    E Belfast
    DUP 2 UUP 1 Alliance 2 Purvis 1

    E Derry
    SDLP 1 SF 1 DUP 2 UUP 1 TUV 1

    FST
    SF 3 DUP 2 UUP 1
    (although if TUV run – SDLP 1, from DUP)

    Foyle
    SDLP 2 SF 2 DUP 1 PBP 1 (see their Westminister result – if they get transfers they are in).

    Lagan Valley
    DUP 4 UUP 1 Alliance 1

    Mid Ulster
    SF 3 SDLP 1 DUP 1 UUP 1

    N and Armagh
    UUP 1 SDLP 1 SF 3 DUP 1

    North Antrim
    SF 1 DUP 3 TUV 1 UUP 1

    North Belfast
    SF 2 DUP 2 SDLP 1 UUP 1

    North Down
    DUP 2 UUP 2 Green 1 Alliance 1
    beyond predicting really

    South Antrim
    SF 1 DUP 2 UUP 2 SDLP 1 (see performance relative to Alliance)

    South Belfast
    SDLP 2 SF 1 Alliance 1 UUP 1 DUP 1

    South Down
    SF 2 SDLP 3 DUP 1

    Strangford
    DUP 3 UUP 1 Alliance 1 SDLP 1 (transfer slippage between DUP, TUV etc)

    U Bann
    SF 1 SDLP 1 UUP 2 DUP 2

    W Belfast
    SF 5 SDLP 1

    W Tyrone
    SF 3 SDLP 1 DUP 1 UUP 1

    Overall Result
    DUP 33 (loss of 3)
    SF 28 (no change)
    UUP 19 (+1)
    SDLP 17 (+1)
    Alliance 6 (-1)
    Purvis 1
    PBP 1
    TUV 2
    Green 1

  • PaddyReilly

    Do I detect a lack of scientific detatchment?

    The Stormont system spoils minorities. There are very few constituencies with no nationalist member and after the election I suspect there will be less (E Belfast, N Down perhaps). In Strangford in 2007 the SDLP candidate came within 31 votes of winning a seat with just 8.5% of the 1st preference vote, with SF having only 3.0% to be transferred.

    At the same time there is only one constituency with no Unionist representation, and that only for the last four years, for the unusual reason that it covers an inner city area with a quite extraordinary degree of religious and political segregation.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Reasonable enough predictions.
    If the Sluggerites with political nous including yourself sat down to do this, we would all get about 100 out of 108.
    A few observations….
    SDLP might get any two from three in SouthAntrim, East Antrim and Strangford but all three seems too perfect.
    They will prolly hold on in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

    Eamon McCann? Interesting but I cant see it.
    Yet I think your overall result is just about right (McCann excepted) .
    One other point. You have Ford to lose South Antrim……remember he wasnt the candidate there in May…..but he was near the quota in 2007 and although he had a long wait he got there. Id think his ministerial profile would help in 2011…but certainly an interesting thought.

  • I think mine is more an estimate of how many seats will be won if there is good vote management and reasonable economy in the number of candidates put up (i.e. I’d only put up three if there was more than 2.5 quotas).
    As to S Antrim – as I ran it, I think that it may come down to four – DUP, TUV (if they stand), SDLP and Alliance – and I wonder if the elimination of the TUV or DUP will put the other ahead of SDLP and Alliance. I suspect that the SDLP could be a shade ahead (Alliance vote in 2007 bucked the trend), eliminating Ford then electing the SDLP. As with E Antrim and Strangford, it’s a very tight call – but as their vote probably didn’t come out as enthusiastically for the Westminister poll, I think they might creep in (although whichever of SDLP and SF polls higher in E Antrim is likely to sneak it).
    As to Foyle – again, there isn’t enough gas behind a 2nd unionist candidate. After the distribution of the UUP vote/DUP surplus McCann will probably be sandwiched between the SDLP and SF on the last count with SF transfers tipping him home.
    It is all guesswork, of course.

  • Marcus

    Reasonable predictions!

    I couldnt see the SDLP gaining 3 seats in South Down though. the SF vote will likely increase and also John McCallister is popular across the board. Also the Greens may eat in to the possible vote needed for a 3rd SDLP seat.