FM #AE11 Row: ‘No-one’s mentioned it to me on doorsteps’ – McCallister (#sdo11)

Ulster Unionist deputy leader and South Down Assembly hopeful John McCallister may have helped spark a bad-tempered row after his Nolan Show rubbishing of the “we must stop Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister” sham fight, but it hasn’t made him any more convinced that it’s an issue on the minds of the electorate.

When I spoke to Jim Wells in Newcastle this week, he reckoned that the First Minister question was one of the main issues being raised with him on the doorstep. I asked John McCallister, who has been canvassing the same towns and villages of South Down, if he was having a similar experience.

No-one has even mentioned it to me yet – maybe because they know my views on it – but no-one has even mentioned that to me, no. It is about jobs, the economy, corporation tax … health and education – those to me are the biggies.

So, is this an issue for unionist voters – as Wells says, or a non-issue – as McCallister says?

When asked if Jim Wells is likely to get the better of him in the fight for the potentially single unionist seat in a constituency with redrawn boundaries, he acknowledged the possibility … but only if the DUP man is sufficiently ahead of him in first preference votes:

I’m a much more transfer-friendly candidate and a much more transfer-friendly party than Jim. I have actively, over the last fours years reached out beyond the bounds of unionism and said ‘I want to work for everybody in South Down’, and I would like the opportunity to continue to work for everybody in South Down.

I’m under no illusions of the difficulties that I face, so I do need everyone – if they want a moderate unionist voice – to get out and vote for me.

Whatever the local situation on the ground in South Down, is it still true more generally across Northern Ireland that the UUP remains more transfer-friendly than the DUP?

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  • dodrade

    Given that the DUP and Sinn Fein have had a much better working relationship than most would have predicted in 2007, and that since joining the executive Alliance seem to have a much better working relationship with them than the UUP or SDLP I don’t think we can assume traditional transfer patterns will continue. I’m not an Alliance voter, but I’d be surprised if most still consider the “non-dinosaur” Tom Elliott-led UUP more progressive than the increasingly liberal DUP. Jim Wells’ green credentials and National Trust background in particular i’d imagine would make him particularly transfer-friendly in South Down.

  • Alf

    McCallister is trying to play down the Coco FM issue because obviously it will lead to more votes for the DUP. No unionist wants to see OC Ireland flaunting about on the world stage as First Minister of Northern Ireland and that will undoubtably (with help from Finnoula O’Connor and Brian Feeney) keep the DUP on top.

    Ably assisted by the election of Tom Elliot as UUP leader, McGimpsey’s debacle in Londonderry, McCrea waffling about dissidents being as well armed as PIRA etc etc etc.

  • Mark McGregor


    When asked every single politician will claim the main things raised on the doorsteps are exactly the same things they are presenting as important during their campaign.

    In reality the most important thing for most people is getting rid of the politicians on their doorstep as quickly and politely as possible.

  • Alf


    You’re not wrong about that.

  • Mark, I well understand what’s going on – that’s why I’m asking every candidate the same first question.

    It’s the sheer transparency of the claims that the voters’ agenda so neatly matches their own parties’ manifestos which fascinates me.

  • Mark McGregor


    I hear the SDLP in Antrim Town are just as bad as everyone else 😉

  • andnowwhat

    On Hearts and Minds Martina Purdy said that, on asking constituents, it was not an issue with the people she spoke to.

    Last week on the radio someone accounted the story about a ballot paper that had every candidate marked as first preference and on it was written “as promised on the doorstep”.

  • Driftwood

    John is a neat guy (leaving aside the non Clarkson friendly ‘caravans bill’) but Wells ticks the bigot boxes in Kilkeel, Rathfriland etc, always at loyalist band parades in mixed areas, hard to see past the bigot box. Wells is also a Free P and with the ‘in’ crowd. The fear of a dirty fenian being FM music will see him home here.

  • andnowwhat

    Wells was exposed by a constituant on the radio at the time of the Downpatrick St Patrick’s day parade debate.

    We need new blood ASAP. Too many are our politicians are so easily disarmed by a little touch of their history.

  • Drumlins Rock

    can I let you into a big secret guys? the main issue on the doorstep is… wait for it… this is genuine and applies across all parties… this issues will arise in 90% of all idscussions… you ready?


    hasn’t it been great the last while?

  • I dont think that a very large percentage of ordinary voters are actually aware of the changes made by the St. Andrews agreement. That might account for the few numbers of people raising it as an issue.

    If it happened in practice, I suspect there would be a lot of people raising their eyebrows and thinking “how did that happen?”