#AE11 Open Thread: North Down (#ndo11)

Every year, North Down is a lottery. It has in the deep past been a bit of a no go for the DUP. That broke with the defection of Peter Weir from the UUP. The party now have two MLAs going into this election with a third candidate who has a chance of picking up a third.

But this IS North Down, so nothing is certain. Brian Wilson’s Green seat looks hard for Stephen Agnew to hang on to, despite a lot of positive press. Leslie Cree of the UUP looks safe enough, but will Alliance pick up a second?

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  • Drumlins Rock

    We cant read anything from Westminster in this case, even to say the UUP core vote is around 20% as it probably contained some IJP personal vote and that 3% Tory vote. On the other hand probably Lady Herman got a personal vote that will return to the UUP, although McFarland will hoover some of it up. So if the core votes get 2 DUP, 1 UUP & 1 Alliance elected what is normally left? Almost a quota of various dark orange unionists and a quota of light orange/yellow/greens, the UUP have a slight advantage as they can pick up from both these groups, but almost anyone has a shot, it will depend on the campaign.

  • Sean Og

    Spot on DR. All to play for for the last 2 seats. My guess is McFarland will take one of them – the Lady H factor.

    I wonder will Wilson, the second Alliance candidate, pick up some of the Green vote?

  • PK

    Hi interesting one, the DUP should have two safe seats Alex Easton and P Weir, Alliance one S Farry and one UUP probably Leslie Cree, the last two are up for grabs, I really dont think McFarland has a hope to be honest! My best guess

    3 DUP
    1 Alliance
    1 UUP
    1 Green

  • Drumlins Rock

    Do the TUV have a candidate? bearing in mind the Bob McCarney vote in the past.

  • PK


    Cant see it they have no profile at all in the area.

  • PK

    No named candidate as yet

  • Drumlins Rock

    Can’t understand that part of the world at all!

  • IJP

    If I may venture an opinion here… I noted after the election that anyone who said they’d voted for me had to have both a) known me; and b) really wanted a change of government. One or other of those was not enough! I’m not sure, therefore, that the figures from 2010 tell us anything at all about 2011.

    A result of this, confirmed from tallies, was that the UCUNF vote was significantly higher in and near Holywood than it was in Bangor. That already puts 1,000+ totally floating votes in play in Holywood, most of which I think will go to Stephen Farry.

    Other than that, all I can say is that anyone who thinks they know what’ll happen is making things up!

  • At the moment I dont have a lot of time for detailed analysis. North Down is a bit of a maverick place. Almost semi detached.And reflects three kinds of people who live there….working class loyalists (numerous but almost kept out of sight as they dont suit the image), conservative/unionists and a third liberal/bohemian and slightly raffish tradition.
    A decade ago, Peter Weir seemed a very unlikely DUP recruit. He seemed to me to be an up and coming UUP man who blew a career but to his credit, he seems to work away, a valuable but under-used DUP MLA.
    There are two safe DUP seats.
    Likewise there is one UUP seat. We often under-estimate MLAs with a low profile and I dont suppose Leslie Cree has really made a VISIBLE impact outside North Down but as long as he gets column inches in the Bangor Spectator its not that important to be on a Political Editors twitter account.
    So one UUP.
    I think there are four people chasing three seats. (with maybe DUP and UUP in the wings).
    Wilson and Farry of Alliance, Agnew of Greens and McFarland.
    There is a safe AP seat. Probably for Farry.

    But to some extent the other three are relying on the fact that they can tap into other interests as well as their own individual base.
    Anne Wilson is well respected. The only woman in the field and has “Green credentials”.
    Alan McFarland can probably rely on Sylvia Hermons official or unofficial endorsement, a military vote in Holywood and any spare capacity in the unionist vote.
    Agnew can rely on youth but also the “left transfers” of SDLP. Last time in 2007 the SDLP transfers broke 38-35 in favour of the Greens. It will be more this time out. The AP can no longer be complacent at picking up proxy Catholic votes.
    The final two seats……Ind, Green.
    Final result….DUP 2, UUP 1, AP 1, McFarland 1, Green 1.

    But actually Greens will do well at Council level and Holywood where SDLP are competing will be interesting. Only six candidates for five seats there in 2005 and AP picked up two seats. The AP second runner got a fraction of his running mates vote in 2005 and edged out the Green for the final seat.

  • Drumlins Rock

    IJP, in much the same way many round Donaghadee & Bangor voted for Slyvia in a similar manner I would guess. Those last two seats could go anywhere really, DUP/UUP/McFarland for one, and UUP/Alliance/Green for the other being the likely hoods ( I’m not say the UUP is in line for both btw! but they could pick up votes from either pool)

  • dwatch

    McFarland should sail home when he picks up votes from the same Unionist voters who voted for Lady Hermon against UCUNF last May.

    Leslie Cree will win a seat for UUP but Colin Breen Chairman of the North Down association will lose out.

  • I know this wont be believed but I actually started my recent post before I saw IJPs.
    We both introduced Holywood independently.
    Te curious thing about Holywood is that it did not have a Conservative candidate in 2005 (two of the North Down DEAs did) as it seems fertile territory in part explained by Mr Parsleys personal vote in the area in 2010. Nor did Holywood have a SDLP candidate.
    But surely Mr Parsleys vote included UUP votes. He was after all standing for the UNFCP

    If you look at 2005 in the Holywood DEA
    Dunne DUP 1282
    Alderdice AP 1240
    Peacocke & McKay UUP 1602 (combined vote)
    Parsley 343
    (Barry Green 577 was the only other candidate).

    The UUP vote in Holywood in 2005 was 1602 (garnered by Peacocke & McKay) was already higher than the votes in Bangor Abbey (1103) and Bangor West (1456). For the record 2094 in Ballyholme/Groomsport.

    But neither of us are fools. And neither of us know what will happen. Not much can be read into 2010 in Assembly terms.

  • PaddyReilly

    A salutary warning against trying to map the last Westminster results onto the forthcoming election. Lady Sylvia got 50% of the vote in 2005, 63% in 2010. The extra 13% was borrowed, and will go back to its source, most especially because Lady S is not an option in these elections. One might think it was partially borrowed from SF, SDLP, Alliance and Greens, who suffered a visible squeeze, losing half their voters or more in an election which they obviously had not chance of winning. However these parties were also squeezed in 2005, so it seems they should be counted among the 50% in 2005, rather than the extra 13% in 2010.

    Stephen Agnew did very poorly in the Westminster election, presumably because his supporters deserted him for Lady Sylvia. But in a Stormont election where Lady Sylvia is not running, one would expect they would return, possibly with a few of the Lady Sylvia types. He will get transfers from SF and SDLP, and from other sources, ahead of Alliance: Alliance fielding two candidates will also work to his advantage. The 2007 Green candidate took transfers from just about everyone, though the SDLP gave him the largest number.

    Alliance fielding two candidates is a bit strange, seeing as they have yet to achieve even one quota of first prefs. I suppose they think that given Lady S’s success, that North Down is a predominantly liberal constituency. But she must have taken a large chunk of her vote in 2010 from the DUP, and the DUP will get them back.

    There is no psephological reason to suppose Alliance will increase their seats, and the idea that the DUP will do so can only come from a DUP enthusiast. The DUP has peaked. It isn’t going to make any gains that I can see: it will lose a couple of seats to the TUV, a couple perhaps to Alliance or the SDLP. I’m not sure if this will make it not the largest party: in general its vote will hold.

    The TUV, if they stand, will get a decent vote, but well short of a quota, which they will not achieve because very few will transfer to them. Their vote will subtract from the DUP total, but probably return to them on transfer.

    So my prediction for North Down: same as FJH.

  • vanhelsing

    Don’t think the TUV are running in this one – well they don’t seem to have posted a candidate. UKIP are however [one to factor in]. Alliance running two is a mistake Farry took 1200 1st pref under quota last year and I really don’t think there will be enough transfers to get both in – they may find themselves in a world of hurt if polls go badly.

    DUP 2
    Alliance 1
    UUP 1
    McFarland 1

    and then 2 seats which will be fought out by Greens, DUP and the Alliance having some role to play in the outcome.

    McFarland will pick up Lady S votes.

  • PaddyReilly


    That makes 7 seats. You’re only allowed 6.

  • vanhelsing

    Paddy sorry – yeah make that one seat fought out by remainder and here we are trying to reduce the number of MLAs:)

  • If the DUP pick up 3, it will be solely at the expense of the UUP. I think Farry will get in but as others have said, he may actually fare worse than last time because of his running mate. Wilson will take a large share of her Husbands personal vote but not enough and so both she and Agnew will miss out.

    I don’t buy that Leslie Cree is safe. The UUP are not vote managing in this election and his running mate is not only ruthless but as a B will be listed above Cree on the ballot. Still, the UUP should return 1 MLA.

    I think Alan McFarland will pick up the 6th seat comfortably. The Lady Hermon factor is important of course but not just for obvious reasons. During the General Election it was McFarland who did the bulk of the canvassing with LSH and the electorate will not have forgotten that.

  • Flow

    At the Westminster election last year the UUP polled the equivalent of 1.43 quotas, down from 1.66 quotas in 2007. It’s not really that much of a change. The reality is that Lady Sylvia gained more from the DUP withdrawing from the race than any other factor. The majority of those votes will return to the DUP this time around, leaving a balance of around 28%, still enough for almost 2 quotas. The problem for McFarland is how much of that is a personal vote, and how much is a floating vote. Alliance could be making a rod for their own back. They don’t have a quota, unless they think the floating element of Lady Sylvia’s vote is coming to them in big numbers. I think the return will be 2 DUP, 2 UUP, and 2 from Agnew, McFarland and Farry, but it’s far too close to call.

  • vanhelsing

    The Ulster Unionists are in disarray in North Down – infighting – defections and a drop in manpower now Lady S has left. Still can’t see how Cree won’t get in.

    Think if McFarland polls well any transfers from him are more likely to go to the DUP [some to the Alliance] as Lady S voters will like the fact that the DUP gave her a clear run at Westminster and they are unlikely to go to the UUP after the way she was treated in ND.

    The DUPs third candidate is Dunne who has been a councillor for a while and is well known. My guess is it will be a fight between him and Agnew for the last seat with Dunne coming out on top if the DUP manage their vote right.

    SimpsonInBangor – you made a comment about Breen – what’s the story 🙂

  • FuturePhysicist

    I see this 2 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 McFarland, 1 APNI.

    Weir, Eason, Cree, Breen, McFarland, Farry

    Though Agnew does have more of a chance than people give him credit for. He’ll probably get the majority of SDLP and Sinn Féin transfers, that could be 1500 transfer votes right there, he also polled a decent 1,043 at Westminster elections, which isn’t too far from the poll that Wilson got when he stood independently. Alliance and McFarland transfers might come should the two candidates reach over a quota. There’s nothing to say he wouldn’t pick up unionist transfers either, the TUV in particular may transfer or rather “protest transfer” to a “non-executive” party and even key lower down transfers from the likes of the DUP who may wish to dent the UUP and TUV here could be vital. This is an Assembly election so a lot of voters may the effect of bread and butter politics can’t be underestimated.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Sorry I meant to say “Alliance transfers might come should the two candidates reach over a quota, he could pick up McFarland ones too.”

    Also with the budget debate being a key issue, disenfranchised liberal minded UUP voters who may have transfered to Alliance, could actually transfer to ahem … the Greens and even ahem the SDLP who voted against it. I think McFarland voted for, so that may lose him transfers.

  • PaddyReilly

    In the last Assembly election the Green candidate picked up transfers from everyone that was eliminated, though rather more than average from the SDLP.

  • orly

    Seems to be a lot of people assuming Cree and McFarland are safe.

    They’re complete nobodies. Sure they’ve been around for ages but I’m from North Down and i’ve never heard a peep out of them until they need some votes. Even then the most you get is a leaflet through the door. McFarland only just got back last time and the UUP vote has been dropping for years. I’m a unionist but I wouldn’t vote for them.

    If the DUP can manage the spread of votes there is no reason they can’t get 3 back with a tight squeeze.

    Alliance seem to be trying the tight squeeze to get 2 back but I don’t think they have enough to make this happen.

    There are lots of unknowns. Where do Bob McCartney’s votes go to? From memory he got my 1st vote in 2007 but this year there seems to be no natural place for someone like myself to go to.

    The Greens do have a shot. Agnew, as leader, has been visible and he’s know from the euro elections. A lot of the vote last time was personal for Wilson who seems to have ditched them after all their help. Bad form and it could impact on his wife.

    I can see it being 3 DUP, the UUP will likely get enough for 1, 1 Alliance and I can’t call a 6th. Feeling sneaky, I’d go with Agnew but it’s too hard to work out.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I think people are assuming quite safely that most of Bob McCarthy’s vote (that does vote) will be split between UKIP and the TUV.

  • Comrade Stalin


    There is no psephological reason to suppose Alliance will increase their seats, and the idea that the DUP will do so can only come from a DUP enthusiast. The DUP has peaked. It isn’t going to make any gains that I can see: it will lose a couple of seats to the TUV, a couple perhaps to Alliance or the SDLP. I’m not sure if this will make it not the largest party: in general its vote will hold.

    So you don’t think the DUP will take any seats from the UUP ? Like I said in another thread, I think your analysis is limited by your non consideration of anything outside of the numbers. Based on your analysis for example Naomi Long would have had zero chance in 2010. Several people made that mistake. But some of us saw what was going on in the canvass returns.

  • Backbencher

    First time to comment on here, trust you won’t go too hard on me.
    N Down is always a difficult one to call but given that the Unionist parties consistently pick up around 4.5 quota (ignoring Westminster) with the Alliance, Greens, Nationalists and Independents combined picking up the other 2.5 quota then it appears a straightforward four two split, with a squabble for the last seat in either block. In this scenario I would say 2 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 All and 1Green.
    However the 2011 result is complicated by the entry of McFarland as an Independent, which block do you place him in? He is certainly a Unionist but very much on the liberal wing and having left the UUP to support Hermon I would now put him very close to the centre ground. The crucial question in the makeup of the six seats is, will McFarland get elected and if so, where will his votes come from.
    I note DR suggests that the UUP are well placed to attract transfers from both blocks but I suggest that McFarland is even better placed. As a result I rate McFarland as one of the few Independents standing anywhere which has any real chance of a seat (the only other being McCann in Foyle). He is further aided by the dissatisfaction of UUP voters at the treatment of Hermon and the continued disarray among UUP ranks in the area. Given his association with the MP I think he will get enough first preferences (probably around 2500) to keep him in the race until the later stages where he will pick up votes from all quarters and as a result grab one of the later seats.
    Turning to the other seats, four of them, as most people have stated are fairly much guaranteed. The DUP will easily have two quotas and the UUP and Alliance one each. The Alliance have struggled to generate a quota in recent elections but will benefit from no Hermon on the ballot paper and the fact that Brian Wilson is not standing for the Greens and his wife is running for them. This leaves one seat which may not be as difficult to call as it first appears.
    Those in the running should include the third DUP, Greens and possibly the second Alliance. I have ruled out the second UUP as they will have lost most of their second quota to McFarland. If you assume that the big majority of McFarland’s vote will come from the Unionist block rather than the centre ground then the third DUP is likely to come up short as it is doubtful if there are sufficient unionist votes to generate what would be almost five quotas. The last seat looks like a fight between the Greens and Mrs Wilson (I wonder who Brian will be backing). A big factor in this, is how much of Brian Wilson’s vote was a Green vote and how much was a personal vote? I’m not sure what the answer is but for the Alliance to take two seats they would have to out poll the Greens by two to one. Given Agnew’s favorable profile I think this highly unlikely, hence the sixth seat to the Greens.
    That makes if 2DUP, 1 UUP, 1All, 1Greens and McFarland.

  • cedricsneer

    Most of voters recognise that North Down is different from other constituencies in that the voters go for the person rather than the party. They then predict the result on basis of support for the traditional parties as they have no real local knowledge.

    Four of the present MLA’s would seem to be safe 2 DUP Cree and Farry. The other 2 seats are impossible to predict. In 2007 McFarland was the weakest candidate and scraped in to the sixth seat. Without strong support from Lady Sylvia he is toast.

    If McFarland is ruled out the final two seats will be between Agnew, Wilson and the 3rd DUP candidate.

    It would be foolish to underestimate Wilson who is probably one of the best known and respected of all the candidates having served as a councillor for more than ten years. She is also former mayor is chair of the District Policing Partnership and has been chair of Community Relations Committee for many years and has had long standing involvement with many of the community groups in North Down. She is also likely to pick up a substantial proportion of her husband’s votes which were personal to him rather than Green Party.

    Steven Agnew will inherit many of Brian Wilson’s votes and over the past two years he has built up a considerable local following. He is an excellent candidate with a high profile but Green issues are not of immediate concern to the electorate as indicated by the recent Dublin election.

    The DUP had more than 2 quotas in 2007 and are likely to benefit from the turmoil in the Unionist Party. A third seat is a distinct possibility.

    My prediction at present is 3 DUP, 2 ALL, 1 OU although this could change as the campaign gets underway.

  • Dewi

    I wonder if Lady S. will give any advice?

  • Dewi,
    It very much depends on what her intentions are for 2015. She defeated her “own” party (UUP) by building a coalition. She got votes from all over the place.
    While she would obviously be supportive of McFarland, she may not overtly endorse him if she intends to stand again.

    When the Electoral Office issues the runners and riders, there might be a clue if she signs his nomination papers.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The papers should be already endorsed. Deadline was Monday.

  • PaddyReilly


    Based on your analysis for example Naomi Long would have had zero chance in 2010.

    I certainly never predicted that. In Westminster type elections there is frequently an incumbent with less than 50% of the vote and a lot of other parties. If one of these parties shows a good chance of winning, then voters from all the others will rally round it to defeat the incumbent. That is how Naomi won in East Belfast and McDonnell in South. Possibly also how Lady Sylvia won in North Down, certainly how she saw off the DUP in 2005.

    That is why I feel Alliance could take South Antrim at Westminster, if they could persuade enough people they were on a winning streak.

    On the East Belfast thread you state that the “DUP will recover a lot of their vote.” In point of fact they never lost any votes. They got 11,155 votes in 2007 before Peter Robinson got into familial difficulties: he won 11,306 after ‘Irisgate’ and all that. The only trouble was, Naomi won more.

    Politicians like to believe that they and their behaviour are the cause of swings in the voting. This may be the case in other jurisdictions, but Northern Ireland is refreshingly free of actual politics, with voting behaviour being largely determined by religion/ethnicity in the first instance, and relative wealth/age in the second. There does though seem to be a slight softening in the Unionist stance in certain areas: a number of people in East Belfast and North Down seem to be less worried about the prospect of a United Ireland, or more reconciled to its inevitability- not a great number, but enough for a couple of seats. There isn’t much sign of it elsewhere, though I believe Nicholas Whyte has his eyes on N. Belfast and E. L’derry.

  • My gut instinct is that 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance are safe; the last two seats being between McFarland, 2nd Alliance, 3rd DUP, Green and 2nd UUP, probably in that order of probability. But this is a very difficult one to call from the distance I am at, and there may be local micro-factors which are simply invisible.

  • PaddyReilly

    North Down may be extremely volatile, but I cannot believe that the constituency which elects Lady S with an overwhelming majority is going to send three DUP members to Stormont, which would probably be their (joint) best score in the province.

  • vanhelsing


    If you look at the quotas there are 2.5 DUP seats there based on old figures. The problem for the UUP is that now, with the well publicised split, there are two factions of UUP voters and actually I’d make the case for a complex three.

    Lady S voters [independent liberal unionists – could go anywhere]
    Core UUP
    DUP lenders [used to be UUP, then went Sylvia and would stick down McFarland 1 and DUP 2 in an election where Lady S was not playing a role]

    It will be tight but bear in mind that overwhelming majority is because I think the DUP didn’t run in ND.

    Clear as mud sorry

  • Drumlins Rock

    Although Lady Slyvia is not standing she still has a strong presence in the area, with McFarland in a way seen as her proxy, Chekov has pointed out several times on his blog her poor attendance record at Westminster, and general low profile since getting elected, will that have an impact on the ground? will her endorsement carry many of those personal votes across?

  • PaddyReilly

    Van Helsing

    There were not 2.5 DUP quotas in 2007: it was in fact 2.39. That is a significant difference: you would want to be over the half way mark to stand a chance. The DUP is not very good at picking up transfers: it is too far out on a limb. In 2007 the second candidate was only limping towards a quota, and was elected a few votes short of it: the third candidate came nowhere near. I can think of no reason why he should do any better in 2011.

    The splits in the UUP are very interesting but all factions of voters have transfers, which in the main won’t be going to the DUP.

  • cynic49

    I would caution the candidates in North Down reading this thread not to pay too much attention to “forecasts” here that really amount to activists slightly biased wish lists. North Down will be one of the most interesting of all the constituences and don’t be surprised if it produces the odd shock result. My totally unbiased thoughts for what they are worth is DUP to take 2, UUP to struggle to hold 1 but getting there in the end, Alliance finding they might have tried to be too clever, but at least they tried, taking 1 but having to wait for a few counts to get there. Greens are going to bomb, get a few bob on it! They have had their Andy Worhol moment and their day in the sun.
    Those last two seats will go to those candidates who want it the most. Wishy washy approach to this election could lead to the dole queue or a lost dream. Its all to play for!!

  • It very much depends on what her intentions are for 2015. She defeated her “own” party (UUP) by building a coalition. She got votes from all over the place.
    While she would obviously be supportive of McFarland, she may not overtly endorse him if she intends to stand again.

    On that score, a typically gnomic statement from Lady H to a question posed by one of the young politicos at Sullivan Upper the other night:

    After her speech, we started the questions; from which we learned she would not be rejoining the UUP until at least the end of the current parliament

    That “until at least” may mean something, it may mean nothing;) but it certainly sounds like she intends to be round on the scene for a little while yet.

  • 2 UUP, 2 DUP 1 ALL + McFarland.

    Sylvia signed McFarland’s nomination papers and he will probably benefit from much of her support.

  • cynic49


    Just points up that she a woman of principle. She got her massive mandate as an Independent and she is saying that she will see that mandate out until the next election. In other words she won’t be doing what so many have done in the past and after getting elected on a ticket jumping ship at the first chance.