Real change or mirage in NI political behaviour?

The Belfast Telegraph’s True Colours survey has attempted break out for local politics by leaving out  yourchoices of national identity and party to vote for. This either omits what’s most important in politics or shows the irrelevance of party campaigns, according to taste. The exercise is frustrating because try as I might I can’t find any published data. Quite probably the fault is mine and someone will dig it out. Although flying blind, the first thing to say is that the survey is self- selecting and therefore of limited value. Nevertheless the findings so far tend to endorse the same basic message of the correctly sampled Life and Times surveys year after year – that the public as a whole – if less clearly the actual voters – would welcome a break out of the tribal bonds and could survive in each other’s nirvana. ( See 2010 results in mid- June).  Politics has yet to catch up, although cracks can be spotted in the hard surfaces of party platforms. It’s good to see the chair of Platform for Change Robin Wilson breaking public surface to find some encouragement in the survey, albeit in improbable form.   

 Asked to consider their policy alignments, almost a third of supposedly ‘nationalist’ respondents found their natural home in a ‘unionist’ party, while more than a quarter of their purportedly ‘unionist’ counterparts engaged in the opposite form of political cross-dressing. And that is before we mention the ‘others’ – as numerous as the ‘nationalist’ definers.

And which party’s policies came out top? Well, well, well: the much-maligned Ulster Unionist Party.

Chris Donnelly, also of this parish is gloomier about whether real change is possible.

It is in the gift of parties to liberate the electorate if they so desire by finding a means of genuinely accommodating the expression of the others’ identity within their respective political visions.

Voter behaviour isn’t quite monolithic, as Peter Robinson’s fate in the Westminster election last year dramatically showed.  Gaps can be seen  between the behaviour of parties and voters alike during elections and what they do after the results are in. Let’s hope it widens, so that by the time of the next election voters may actually vote on the basis of parties’ performance in office. While deadlock seems solid duirng the campaign so far,  the cause of a smaller more efficient system of government could well revive once the party coloration is removed and they’ return to their Stormont offices. Radical reform  can be ruled out. Once again everyone will  win prizes, though the size of the prizes may alter.

 True Colours and Platform for Change are avoiding becoming political footballs by putting party affiliation to one side.  However it would be good to know what success they’re enjoying by publishing the results of their respective reforming projects.

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  • One or two of the policy questions are not well written, eg making it almost a choice between small hospitals and acute services. And at the end you are asked what designation you are and what party you last voted for.

    Did it three times alternating in the either or votes (like question above) and then skipping them in the final session as just bad questions. They all came out much the same, and all it really shows is that there is very little difference between the parties on policy (though if you skip the answers you become more DUP).

    A bit more reform and practical and you end up with a unionist Party, and keep it as it is and have your cake and eat it you’ll be more nationalist. For all that, another fairly average poll thing from BT and anything extrapolated would be of only passing bemusement.

  • Mark McGregor

    Almost a third of supposedly ‘nationalist’ respondents found their natural home in a ‘unionist’ party, while more than a quarter of their purportedly ‘unionist’ counterparts”

    Give me the actual data so I can judge how close these figures are – until then it’s talking up one and down the other.

  • justoh

    I am a member of a (small) political party here and the True Colours survey suggested that i should vote for another political party that i would never vote for. I filled in the form faithfully and expected my party to flash up. But no.
    Make of that what you will.

  • aquifer

    So the Ulster Unionists should dump the Orange disorder faction. Hardly news.

  • alex gray

    Interesing most agree with UUP policies. The issue for the UUP is how well the party at the centre is putting these across. The other thing I think might be quite important is the extent to which this is an election of constituencies rather than a general election, often with local issues determining the result.

  • “Belfast Telegraph’s True Colours survey”

    Brian, has the Belfast Telegraph shown its true colours during the course of this election campaign? Very little of the MSM and the blogging circus is value free. I’m a great fan of networking so I’m very conscious of the visible and hidden dangers of networks.

    Here’s a variant on that old power and corruption quote: “Money Corrupts. Secret money corrupts absolutely.” Follow the money; you might be surprised where it leads. Beware of the mirage agents!

    It’s a fabulous day in the Kingdom of Moyle so I think I’ll don the boots and sunglasses before the red mist descends 🙂

  • alex gray. The way the UUP’s Basil McRea put the party’s view across on Nolan this morning seemed designed to, [as James Joyce said about ‘Finnegans Wake’], to take the english language to the extremes of communication. If so, he succeeded.

  • alex gray

    Yes I agree. I think the UUP policies which the public support are those of the part of the UUP that isn’t turned on by Basil. I suspect the modernisers in that party could be the reason why the UUP can’t make an electoral breakthrough even if the public support a lot of what party stands for. The modernisers are well ahead of the electorate and sometimes it is difficlut to escape the conclusion that most of these new faces in the UUP are just in it for a meal ticket.