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.

Blogging at: http://heartsofoakandsteel.wordpress.com