General Election 2010 – the Alliance.

There was something for everyone in this election but the undoubted highlight was Naomi Long’s stunning victory in East Belfast.
A quick look at the Maths shows an astonishing 26% increase in Ms Long’s vote from 2005. At 37% that’s 7.5% better than Napier’s showing in 1979 and 5% up on Alderdice’s best performance. OK we know Robinson’s problems but to completely eclipse Ringland was another matter. I await informed internal explanations with great interest…..
Things are not all great however – Wiki demonstrates how localised is the Alliance support and Mark has posted previously on the desultory votes in Nationalist held seats. Indeed outside South and East Belfast results were not that clever. What’s the game plan for 2011 I wonder?

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  • Politico68

    Can someone tell me if this is true, i heard that currently 51% of under 18 year olds are from a Catholic background?
    Anybody know if its the case and what it might mean for future elections?

  • Johnny Boy

    hmmm, just one reply up to now and not even related to the post…. well this is embarrassing.

    To answer your question politico68, this is the type of stuff the late http://Horseman loved, but not quite sure how he arrives at some of his figures.

    Broadly speaking however, its true, and has been for a while now.

  • Johnny Boy
  • slug

    Best if people stick to the question of the Alliance party.

    (There has and will be plenty of opportunity to talk about % Catholic v Protestant at other times and places for those who are interested in that sort of thing).

  • Johnny Boy

    Agreed. Just helping the man out.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Alliance performance needs to be contextualised. A look at the 1970s shows that they actually did a lot better than they do now. Holding 8 out of 78 seats in 1973 is actually better than holding 7 out of 108 in 2010.
    And geographically they are more restricted also. Unfair to mention that in the old 12 constituency days.they held a seat in North Antrim… effectively this became their East Antrim seat……but in 1973 they held seats in North and West Belfast.
    They have been squeezed since Sinn Féin entered electoral politics but its interesting to note how “well” they used to do west of the Bann.
    Far too much has been made of East Derry (6% in 2010) as a target although if that seat is taken its at the expense of unionism and does nothing to reverse the greening of the west.

    But in West Tyrone 2%……FST 1%…..Newry Armagh 1% Mid Ulster 1%….South Down 1%……….Foyle less that 1% and West Belfast 2%…it is asyou say localised.
    It was always thus?
    Well no
    While cheerleaders claim that 5% in North Belfast is a great result was 7% (and a seat) in 1973.
    West Belfast 2% (9% and a seat in 1973)
    South Down 1% (7% in 1973)
    Foyle 1% taken with East Derry 6% (was 8% in old Derry in 1973)
    Newry Armagh (1%) taken with Upper Bann (3%) was 7% in old Armagh in 1973.
    West Tyrone (2%) taken with Mid Ulster (1%) was 5% in old Mid Ulster in 1973.

    A risible vote west of the Bann….in decline…..and no prospects. Restricted to The Pale around Belfast with the natives breaking in at North and West Belfast.
    There were “special circumstances” in three constituencies which helped and hindered Alliance.
    They were hindered in South Antrim without Ford and with moderates persuaded to back Empey. And in North Down they couldnt deal with the coronation of Sylvia Hermon but they will hold their own in 2011.
    The special circumstance in East Belfast helped them. Whether it was Naomi Longs hard work (the Alliance cheerleader view) or Robinsons little problem (Alliance detractors)….the truth is probably somewhere in between that Longs local reputation capitalisd on Robinsons misfortune…AP will fall back slightly next year but will be comfortable with a second seat next year. Thanks to the new force in Norn Iron politics…the Belmont Bowling Club.
    AP is safe in Lagan Valley where pressure is on the nationalist seat. same for South Antrim.

    Alliance do best in the outer suburbs where nationalists cant quite cobble together a quota and AP have been able to count on transfers in the likes of Strangford and East Antrim.
    Looking at the bare statistics for these two….or the statistics plus political nous……or statistics plus political nous plus wishful thinking produces different results with AP and SDLP cheerleaders talking up the prospects. But by any stretch these are both legitimate (long term?) nationalist targets and if AP loses them, the Pale restricts just a little more.

    But surely the overall position in Assembly 2011 looks almost the same as it is now….and will be for a very long time.

  • Politico68

    Sorry Slug, did’nt mean to knock things off track and thanks for the info Johnny 😉

  • slug

    I take on board many of your points but I think your post is a tad begrudgely in terms of recent track record. There’s no doubt that Alliance are not what they were in the 1970s but if you use a different reference point, namely 2000 (i.e. 10 years ago), they have made something of a comeback-adding an MLA in the last assembly election, adding an MP at Westminster, a minister in the executive (even if this minister was via a deal rather than a NI election). They’ve been quite clear in their progressive approach to candidate selection with people drawn from a range of groups defined in terms of religion, gender, sexual orientation and race-something that I regard as important.

  • Politico68

    I think people in general are getting over excited at Alliance recent performance. There is nothing to suggest that they are going to make the sort of gains necessarry to significantly challenge either the Nationalist or Unionist voting blocks. I would go so far as to say that the East Belfast seat is only borrowed, it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest Peter Robbing-son will take it back once the electorate cool down a bit. Some good spin and a bit of ‘Poor me’ marketing will do the trick. left leaning Unionists have no political group out there to vote for so I think they make up the Rump of Alliance votes, the rest just don’t bother. That rump is very fickle they can change their mind pretty quickly and i think we will see that happening next year, Big style.

  • slug

    I agree that ‘unionists’ (or perhaps better to say the broad nonnationalist community) do switch their votes around quite a lot and that Alliance will have to compete for votes above a relatively small core vote. That they have succeeded in recent years is I think down to a consistent position, good message discipline, good leader , and pluralist values put in practice in a candidate selection broadly representative of society.

  • Politico68

    If as predicted there is a leap in the Nationalist vote in the 2015 Assembly elections,i think you will see Alliance in deep trouble as Unionists desert them. They need to do a lot of work very quickly to hold their position. I also believe that younger SDLP voters are more comfortable transfering to SF, this could also cost Alliance in terms of the transfers they need.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    If we look at the recent track record and specifically your examples.
    The Minister in the Executive was as you acknowledge a deal to which they would not be entitled on the “maths”.
    I think I have been reasonable in asserting that Longs victory was in part due to her own reputation but surely the Robinson factor played here…..Politico68 is perhaps underestimating the victory….that the seat is borrowed (its certainly possible) but it might just have opened the eyes of the Belmont Bowling Club to a world beyond unionism.
    Im tempted by the example of Martin Bell winning Tatton from Neil Hamilton…but Im giving AP the benefit of the doubt here that something seismic happened in East Belfast and its long term.
    As Ive said before I was in East Belfast just a week before the election and something was certainly “in the air”.
    You in part…..overstate the AP gain in South Belfast…..the Womens Coalition seat was the one gained and to some extent they were in the same “vote market”. The seat returned home…..
    But there is indeed something beyond the constituency vote in Anna Los victory…..the very welcome recognition of the fact that there are more communities than we became used to thinking.

    The selection of candidates issue is actually quite interesting with a gay candidate west of the Bann and an “ethnic” (horrible term to use I know) in FST…..especially when the UUP cant quite make up its mind on Catholics and an openly gay DUP person is unlikely…… and the SDLP and SF cant realistically attract Protestants although they are gay and women friendly.
    AP does provide a bridgehead for progressive unionists on social issues and perhaps long term on political/constitution issues.

  • slug

    2015? Who in their right might is predicting elections that far off?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I take the opposite view……an increase in Nationalism has two effects on unionism. Neither are “good” for them.

    They can circle the wagons at an Orange Lodge in Broughshane with Jim Allister in command…..or they can look for the best deal …probably thru AP and moderate unionism.
    Either way the old “imperial”, homogenous “Britain” that unionists clung to is actually a relic of the past……look at the fault line in the Tories over “new Britain” and how uncomfortable some look.

    We are closer to the night they drove ole Dixie down. But its a slow (if inevitable) process. AP provides the bridge.

  • Politico68

    I am referring to Horsemans predictions regarding the demographic shift in terms of young Nationalists coming onto the register. You can be sure the Unionists parties are looking that far ahead.

  • Greenflag

    ‘You can be sure the Unionists parties are looking that far ahead.’

    Yes they’ve always been known for their far sightedness 🙁
    And the moon is made of cheese 🙁

    Horseman I believe was trying to educate those ‘unionists’ who are educable in the political sense of the likely future in NI . As a protestant himself Horseman was only too aware of the NI demographics and their likely impact on the politics of NI over time.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think people in general are getting over excited at Alliance recent performance.

    I disagree. It broke a few records. The first Westminster seat won since partition (or as near as dammit) by a non-tribal candidate. The first seat won by Alliance, who were written off by most people including some of those now pontificating on this thread as if they still have credibility on these matters. The first time a DUP leader has been toppled, and the first time he’d lost an election in 30 years. The total defeat of a well financed UCUNF candidate. etc etc.

    I would go so far as to say that the East Belfast seat is only borrowed, it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest Peter Robbing-son will take it back once the electorate cool down a bit.

    Naomi’s seat was hard won and both she and the party will need to continue fighting to retain it at the next general election. But I have no reason to believe that the fight cannot be won. I think the election will be fought on the standard of service and reputation that Naomi delivers for the next five years, and given Naomi’s record I don’t think the electorate of EB will have an issue here.

    This seat will be top of the DUP target list and the full brunt of their machine will be brought to bear, and Alliance will have to treat it as if it was a target seat and fight the election with the same zeal with which it fought it this year. It would be a serious mistake to be complacent.

    I’d be a bit more certain in saying that I don’t think Robinson will stand for the seat again. Unfortunately, and this is something I don’t take any delight or succour from, the Robinson brand has been severely damaged. I don’t expect it will be rebuilt. I’m no longer even convinced that Robinson has the enthusiasm for the First Minister job that he once did and I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if he took the decision to retire from politics or at least returned to being a backbench MLA.

    Some good spin and a bit of ‘Poor me’ marketing will do the trick.

    Now you’re being silly. Or naive, I’m not sure.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You can be sure the Unionists parties are looking that far ahead.

    You can be sure they aren’t, and that will be reaffirmed when Tom Elliott is confirmed as UUP leader.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Im tempted by the example of Martin Bell winning Tatton from Neil Hamilton…but Im giving AP the benefit of the doubt here that something seismic happened in East Belfast and its long term.

    The part missing from that analogy is that Alliance faced two candidates who were, on paper, more probable to win. Both the UUP and DUP had access to a great deal of finance, preferential press, etc etc etc. Alliance had none of that, only the candidate, the party, and the campaign itself on the ground.

    I remember Tatton well. Both the main opposition parties stood down and encouraged their supporters to support Bell, which pretty much sealed his victory. It would have been nice if Alliance had these extra benefits. And while UCUNF demonstrated the same incompetence in electoral strategy that they did everywhere else, Trevor Ringland was squeaky clean and had a background in important cross-community work.

  • Crow

    At 6.35%, its 2010 tally was one of the Alliance’s best results in some time but interesting that almost half of this came from the four Belfast constituencies and 42% from East and South Belfast alone. A promising result in East Londonderry but no significant in-roads elsewhere. Some potential for a second seat in East Belfast next year but I would be a little less confident with Naomi absent from the ticket. If Deeny opts not to stand in West Tyrone, Alliance should be lobbying hard for his endorsement. They wouldn’t be able to take his seat but it may give them a foundation to build upon.

  • Politico68

    Unionism naturally want to protect the union, part of that has to be a study of the demographic changes and the likely mood of new voters coming on stream particularly when its clear that two thirds of recorded Deaths every year come from the Unionist Community.
    This is where Alliance might get squeezed badly, if the Unionist block drops dramatically over the next 5-10 years Alliance could lose thier Unionists voters. So my point is that Alliance need to work much harder to keep their base. Maybe disenchanted left leaning Unionists are a good target for them but they need to Up their ‘left’ credentials.

  • Politico68


    I think the SDLP are a shoo-in for W Ty if Deeny backs away.

  • Munsterview

    “……I would go so far as to say that the East Belfast seat is only borrowed, it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest Peter Robbing-son will take it back once the electorate cool down a bit…….”

    Peter Robbing-son ………. is this new or have I missed it before ? Either way, good one !

  • USA

    I heard Tom Elliott on the radio recently. He was conforming to the “old school” unionist mantra. He was resoundingly unimpressive, even backward looking.
    Basil Mcrea, a man I don’t know much about, came off as a much more favorable candidate. Open, inclusive etc. That is the approach the UUP need to adopt if they ever hope to rebuild their vote counts.
    I remember thinking if the UUP elect Tom Elliott they are merely re-arranging chairs on the Titanic. Nothing new in him, just old rope.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Basil is a nice guy. Unfortunately he has little or no competency in anything in particular.

  • Marcus

    In South Down the Alliance vote went down and the Green Party vote went up. This also happened in 2007 and will likely happen to a greater extent in 2011.

  • YelloSmurf

    The Alliance vote increased significantly in WT this time round. The increase was from a low base, and it was not enough to win an assembly seat, but it was a significant increase. If that vote can be sustained, we may be looking at a council seat in Omagh Town. The big question is whether that vote can be sustained without a candidate like Michael Bower (who is ineligible for Omagh Council as he moved to Bangor when he got married). Support for Alliance outside greater Belfast is low, and it’s incredibly low west of the Bann, but it is on the way up. I predict that we will gain 2 MLAs (although it could be just 1 or as many as 3), and a number of council seats, including a few outside core areas.