#AE11 Open Thread: Upper Bann (#uban11)

Upper Bann is one of the more interesting constituencies in a generally dull race. It’s been a cockpit for a lot of discontent on both sides of the communal divide. The long-running Drumcree affair was a running sore in the early days of the peace process, and only last week the sitting SDLP candidate Delores Kelly was attacked in the Kilwilkee Estate in Lurgan.

It currently stands at four unionist seats and two nationalist, one of  each stripe. On the Unionist side, the UUP are running three candidates: the veteran Lurgan man Sam Gardiner, Colin McCusker and Joanne Dobson. The DUP a more conservative two.

That could be a risky strategy for the UUP. Although all three are thought to be fairly strong, candidates. It could swing on the performance of  David Vance who is running a bit closer to home this time for the TUV (who ducked this contest last time, for fear of tipping the Westminster seat into Sinn Fein’s lap).

Sinn Fein are running two this time, and it could provide them with one of their few gains if they can tip Kelly out of the bottom, Banbridge end of the constituency.

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  • john

    I agree Mick one of the few constituencies that isnt so predictable.
    We should have 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 1SF for sure. The DUP may have had a sniff of a third seat but it is highly unlikely and sensible of them to make sure of the 2. The UUP on the other hand are very likely to lose one of their seats which makes the decision to run 3 candidates all the more stupid. SF are looking to pick up a seat some say at the expense of the UUP and others at the expense of the SDLP. I think the SDLP should be ok this year I think the rot has stopped in general across N.ireland and their vote has stabilised.
    The really interesting areas of the Upper Bann election is the 2 unknown factors. ie Alliance and TUV.
    Will TUV split the unionist vote to faciliatate SF or will they indeed mop up enough unionist trandfer votes to be in contention – unlikely but you never know. Then there is Flash Harry a very popular ”çelebrity” who performed very well at the last Westminster election considering it was for the toxic UCUNF brand. Will Harry get enough cross-community votes to be in with a shout? Almost certainly the most open of all the constituencies!

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ok lets try reality now John, less than a year ago DUP had 2.4 of a quota roughly, UUP had 1.8, SF had 1.75, SDLP 0.9, Alliance 0.2, and in the TUV type candidates usually manage 0.5 of one tops, many to come of the DUP one.
    So to get anything other than 2 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 SF & 1 SDLP is highly unlikely.
    Despite having a realistic chance of nicking the seat in a “perfect storm” the SF vote actually fell, with little chance of picking up transfers (even from their DUP stablemates) their 3/4 quota will compose most of the 7th one ending up in the bin. To claim Flash Harry will carry the vote with him is a pipe dream to put it mildly, if he doubles the vote it will be quite an achievement, and might keep him in the running long enough to keep Delores hanging on for another count or two before getting in.
    On the Unionist side, Vance is obviously better than the usual hardline options, but still wont get much more than the usual suspects, much of his vote will go to the UUP this time, either McCusker or Gardiner. If McCusker actually needs it, I think he will poll well, the absence of a UUP voice for the Portadown area has allowed the DUP to suck much of it up by default, the name is worth a good few, but also a young traditional Unionist will play well in this area, particularily with a weaker DUP candidate, the 3 way split might prevent him topping the poll, but he will be pretty close to quota, might just need them Vance votes after all!
    The DUP will prob get both in, but will drop just under the 2 quotas, needing Vance and UUP leakage at the end, the last seat is between Jo & Sam, Sam will prob pull in more firsts, but Jo will get much of the Alliance transfer, however the odds usually favour the incumbent.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Will the First Minister accuse him of finding somewhere closer to his Golf Club? 🙂

  • john

    2DUP 2UUP 1SDLP 1SF is the most likely outcome but seeing as about 100 of the 108 seats are virtually dead certs can you blame me for trying to create some excitement in an otherwise dull election.

  • RyanAdams

    I think this constituency will be very interesting indeed, although I believe we will be able to interpret the final seat result on the first count. I can’t see Sinn Fein managing to balance an excellent candidate like John O’Dowd with Johnny McGibbon. I would expect them to hit 1.8q, and the SDLP getting 1 full quota and not a lot more. Sinn Fein has the same problem here as in many other places. Its them against everybodyelse, so they shouldn’t be reliant on any significant amount of transfers coming from any direction.

    On the unionist side, I think the 2 DUP candidates will probably be elected on first and second count, and any surplus will probably go to the UUP and will probably allow them to hang on to their second seat, by a whisker.

    I wouldn’t expect Vance or Hamiltion to pose any serious threat to other unionists. I’ll be suprised if they can scrape any more than 0.4 of a quota each.

    Prediction; DUP 2, UUP 2, SF 1, SDLP 1

  • Sean Og

    2 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 SF & 1 SDLP, now move along. Nothing to see here.

  • Upper Bann…..ah.
    First off it is slightly unfair to say that Dolores was attacked in Kilwilkie. She was attacked at Bells Row the level crossing alongside the estate. Thats an important distinction. And also important that the reaction of people IN Kilwilkie is acknowledged.
    Im surprised…or maybe not…that the incident (along with a similar one in Coagh) did not merit a thread. Ah well.
    Its an interesting constituency but still the most likely outcome is no change.
    On the nationalist side Dolores Kelly (SDLP) has no running mate. She will get a higher first preference and is transfer friendly. She is Lurgan based but has a higher profile than in 2007. She will be safe.
    Importantly Sinn Féin are not talking about ousting Dolores (at least not publicly). Their tactic in different parts of the constituency seems to be to look for #2s at SDLP houses (even praising Dolores Kelly). Their angle is that theres three nationalist seats and that they got the maths and vote management wrong in 2007.
    On the UUP side, there is a certainty of one seat with a probability of two. But three fairly equally matched candidates going after a maximum of two seats is a recipe for tension. Certainly although McCusker has a “name” he has no real record and I know there is some resentment.
    The DUP are actually running a very defensive campaign. What we have we hold. So two sitting MLAs including the much weaker Anderson will be elected easily. Probably with a transfer.
    DUP 2, UUP 1, SDLP 1, SF 1,…and
    Sixth seat syndrome.
    With five seats filled, there will be more “Protestant votes” than “Catholic” votes to determine the outcome.
    The former mostly going for UUP and TUV….with some to Alliance.
    The UUP weakness is the three seat strategy and a likely downturn in general fortunes.
    The TUV have a high profile (by their standards) candidate and backed by well known council candidates, including some blasts from the past.
    Alliance..yes Harry Hamilton is popular but there are internal tensions between “old” AP guard who fought him last year and are less enthused about supporting him this year. Thats the reason that Sheila McQuaid is in the field. Two candidates with 0.2 of a quota in the bag makes no other sense. Not that you could discern any discord in the posters on the Northway. They are also handicapped by the fact that theres no good reason why UUP (or indeed SDLP) voters should transfer to them.
    “Give us your #2 vote so that we can get 9 seats and 2 executive seats……..so that we can get one seat from 17” is not the actual message at the doorsteps. A pity…..bearing in mind APs committment to doing the decent thing over 40 years. The message to UUP and SF voters has to be not to transfer to AP in their target seats.
    Sinn Féin are not entirely out of it.
    But the most likely outcome is that the “Protestant” surpluses and eliminations determine the outcome. Its a unionist seat……UUP just.

  • PaddyReilly

    Nicholas Whyte states: “SF supporters have been trying to persuade me that there is a third Nationalist seat here, but I don’t see it.”

    In 2007 it was demonstrated that after all the Alliance and Green votes had been transferred the SDLP had more than a quota. Sinn Féin won one seat and was limping towards a second, but was beaten by more than a thousand votes by the last UUP candidate.

    Would things have changed that much in 5 years? More than a 1000 extra Nationalist voters (or more than a 1000 less Unionist?) Nearly, I would say, but not quite.

    What puts the fourth Unionist seat at risk is not Nationalist fertility, but Unionist hubris.

    The SDLP has fielded one candidate. It will win one seat. SF has fielded two. It will get one in for sure and go 90% of the way to getting another quota.

    But that leaves 6 Unionist candidates chasing a maximum of 4 seats. The DUP has fielded two candidates. They will win two seats. But having 4 others (3 UUP and 1 TUV) chasing just two seats is bad strategy. They risk losing one of them.

    This is after all what happened in South Belfast in 2007. Unionists started out with marginally more votes than Nationalists, but too many candidates. Result: Nats 3, Unionists 2.

    So I imagine the result will be a photo-finish. If the UUP lose, they will field fewer candidates next time, but by then it will be too late. If SF lose, they will win next time.

  • UpperBann

    An interesting constituency. Can’t understand why DUP did not match UUP and put up 3 candidates. They must assume that TUV will eat into their vote. In the Jan 2010 Lurgan by-election TUV got 20% of the vote and DUP did not contest because they knew they could not win. Also tallies from European election show that TUV had around 5,000 to 6,000 votes, their 2nd best area.
    This time David Simpson is not standing and his vote will go to both Anderson and McCusker (who is playing up his father’s name). The battle will be won or lost on the Unionist side in Portadown. Six years ago DUP got 3 councillors to a single UUP councillor in Portadown DEA. But DUP were at their height then.
    It is estimated that the UUP vote for Hamilton at Westminster contained around 3,000 TUV anti-Simpson votes. The Alliance vote will be split between 2 candidates.
    UUP will lose votes to Alliance and UKIP (the UUP’s former election agent). DUP will lose some votes to TUV. So the crucial factor will be the transfers. DUP and UUP could vote tacticly and TUV would benefit as a result.
    Sinn Fein will have O’Dowd elected and SDLP looks OK. The second SF candidate would need to be ahead of SDLP when the eliminations come. I don’t see 3 nationalist seats here. Alliance transfers are more likely to go to SDLP than SF.
    If Unionists vote down the “unionist family” then they will retain the 4th Unionist seat. Alliance, TUV and UKIP complicate the picture, nevermind how many dissidents stay at home or spoil their vote.
    All we can say is that were will be at least 1 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 SF. Possibly 1 SDLP. And the rest is down to turnout and transfers.
    I have heard from those on the doorstep that there are a lot of floating voters who have not yet made up their mind. On the unionist side some who have not voted in recent elections because they were let down by the DUP are coming out to vote for the first time in many years.
    There could well be a different situation in the Council elections were there is more of a personality vote. There are some new candidates seeking to make their mark – but they are an unknown quantity.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Although they have little chance the Alliance vote and transfers here will be interesting, having one from each side makes you wonder will their vote follow likewise, and then will they transfer to each other rather than revert to their own tribe!

  • Drumlins Rock, in fairness to the Alliance Party they are just about the only one who could run a candidate from each community in a constituency.
    Although it makes absolutely no sense to run two AP people in Upper Bann on the basis of their previous underachievement (and only one in five places where they have a MLA) its nothing to do with sectarianism but its everything to do with accomodating Harry Hamilton without alienating the loyal AP people in the constituency.
    Hamilton gives them an introduction to a new voter.
    McQuaid gives them cover against Hamiltons opportunism/highly principled decision (delete as applicable).
    But the point is that in Banbridge, Lurgan, Portadown, Waringstown etc, the AP are knocking doors and seeking a #2 preference from all (including of course UUP and SDLP people) ……but in effect those UUP and SDLP voters are harming their own “party”.
    Normally if you cant win……..its safe to go with the least awful alternative but it has to be a priority of UUP and SDLP voters to restrict AP to below nine seats.

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, it probably wasn’t the intention but is how it has turned out, playing for no 2s is worth a try, but with the SDLP just under a quota there won’t be many there, so I guess their only hope is getting above the third UUP candidate and stealing enough there, but thats a long shot, ironically their best bet would be targeting SF no. 2s as they are most likely to have that big surplus at the end!

  • Sean Og

    The 2 Alliance candidates will be long gone before the 2nd Shinner so they are wasting their time looking for No 3s from SF voters. SF No 2s will stay within the party.

    Last man standing will be Johnny McGibbon with half a quota.

  • JR

    Like paddy I think it will be a photo finish but I will put my neck out and give SF the last seat. The 3.5% jump in the nationalist vote in this constituency for last years westminster election and the fact that the community breakdown from 2001 tells us that the constituency has 43% coming from a catholic background make me think that 4 quotas out of six an increasingly tough task for Unionism.

  • Drumlins Rock….transfers are about surplus as well as eliminations. In the specifics of Upper Bann, SF will have a surplus which will keep McGibbon in the race for final seat. Kelly will be around the quota.
    With two DUP and one UUP certain….Alliance will unlikely get a quota ..and would be reliant on UUP transfers if it was in with a shout. In Upper Bann a UUP voter would be mad to givea preference to an Alliance candidate whose first action in the assembly would be dis-respecting the UUP mandate.
    Likewise in (say) East Belfast, AP wont get two quotas so will be reliant on eliminated transfers of SDLP and perhaps UUP votes. Again as the first action of Judith Cochrane or Chris Lyttle would be to consider that 9 seats=2 seats and say 17 SDLP=1 and 17 UUP =1 then it would be madness to give them a preference.
    Now of course this is all perfectly fair logical to AP people. But possibly not to those who support SDLP or UUP.
    And the UUP and SDLP should be pointing this out in Upper Bann, East Belfast and North Down.

  • PaddyReilly

    Johnny McGibbon will not be last man standing with half a quota.

    The last man standing in 2007 was Ward (SF) with ¾ of a quota. This time we would expect Johnny McGibbon to be left with 7/8 of a quota. Or 15/16. The Nationalist vote always goes up, but normally only by a few hundred votes. It remains to be seen whether McGibbon’s imperfect quota exceeds the second UUP man’s final tally.

    Alliance will not take votes from UUP/UCUNF. It may detract from the UUP’s 1st count total, but unless the world has changed utterly, Alliance will be eliminated immediately and the borrowed votes devolve back to the UUP, where they will probably stay.

    Alliance does wonders picking up transfers, it is true, but with (at most) 3% of the vote between two candidates, it isn’t going to go very far.

  • Sean Og

    There are 2 reasons why I expect Johnny McGibbon to end up with less votes than Dessie Ward did last time. He hasn’t the same profile across the constituency and he’s too close to O’Dowd geographically. He’s also close to Kelly and if her vote holds up he won’t get 7/8ths of a quota this time.

    A Banbridge based candidate with a bit of profile could have surpassed Ward’s total but I can’t see McGibbon doing so.

  • JR

    It is interesting that this constituency is a mirror image of Fermanagh and South Tyrone in terms of community background. Both 55%-43%.

    If the Protestants of FST can easily elect three Unionist candidates why can the Catholics of Upper Bann not?

  • UpperBann

    JR, you should realise not to equate catholics with nationalists. Some catholics do vote unionist believe it or not. Many catholics will vote for Alliance this time round. So you can’t assume that SF and SDLP will get 43% of the vote. And many catholics will stay at home (not neccesarily all dissidents).

  • yes of course catholics vote unionist and they join UUP, DUP and TUV and get nominated to stand for council and assembly elections……….and they get elected………theres um…….well actually there isnt any.
    but that doesnt matter because the catholics who vote unionist are all too scared to admit it……intimidation.
    yes…those people who claim to represent catholics are troublemakers.

  • Backbencher

    One thing strikes me as very interesting in Upper Bann – why are the DUP only running two? Do they suspect that the TUV will take a considerable slice of their vote? Upper Bann unionists have always had a name for being hard line and I suspect this may be one area where the TUV do well.
    Like most areas it is only the last seat which carries any doubt. The early counts will see
    2DUP (Moutray probably topping the poll)
    1SF
    1UUP (McCusker)
    1SDLP (after elimination of Harry Hamilton) I suspect it could be Harry ‘Houdini’ after the election as he disappears from the political radar.
    That leaves the last seat between the 2nd UUP and 2nd SF candidates and possibly Vance of the TUV. I would make the UUP slight favourites as they are more likely to pick up the Alliance transfers than the other two. However if the TUV poll around 4000 first preference votes they could stay ahead of the 2nd UUP and nick the seat.
    The only way I can see SF get their 2nd seat is if the unionists voters don’t transfer down the slate.

  • JAH

    Why on earth is Vance a strong candidate?

    Anyone who reads his various blogs will realise that he’d put the clock back a generation and drag Unionism back down into the gutter with a bit of added anti islamic intolerance. What an image of Ulster to project if he won, that it was No Surrender politics yet again.

    I was looking at his election blog and he avoids any questions and in particular seems to be trying to show off his supposed economic credentials by using gooblegook economic terms only he was ever used according to Google. Clearly thinks the electorate are to dim to notice and will be impressed by his mastery of nonsense.

    Let’s hope they are not.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think it will be harder for the TUV to poll that high with 4 out of the 5 other unionists being quite “traditional” types, (being female Dobson is obviously not a traditional unionist!) and ironically Vance not appearing that traditional at all, McCusker in particular will appeal to the same target group.

  • Backbencher in a nutshell, it was generally expected over a couple of years that Philip Weir would get a DUP nomination. To some extent they are stuck with Sidney Anderson who looks completely out of place at Stormont. I am not exactly privy to whats happening in DUP circles but Id be surprised if Anderson wanted three candidates. Moutray would have been safe with threestanding.Anderson wouldnt.
    Interesting candidates on the nominations for councils including the man who told an open mouthed anti-fluoride in water meeting that Ballygown Water was a conspiracy against the Ulster people.
    So…David Vance…..all the Craigavon DEAs (obviously excepting Loughside) have a TUV council candidate. And hes well ahead in the Poster Stakes in Portadown.He could well influence the result.

  • Jo

    “And hes well ahead in the Poster Stakes in Portadown”

    Was same in east Belfast. The quantity of posters reflect his ego and his financial resource, not his personal popularity, or his voting support.

  • PaddyReilly

    If the Protestants of FST can easily elect three Unionist candidates why can the Catholics of Upper Bann not?

    The probable reason is that the FST prods are predominantly adult whereas the Upper Bann Papes are more likely to be children. In time of course this advantage will disappear. Whether this is the time, I do not know, but it is close to it.

    We can rule out the existence of any electorally significant body of Unionist Catholics: there may be some Alliance voters, but in UB that party is tiny, and in an Assembly election it is eliminated and its vote redistributed, with Catholic Alliance voters giving their 2nd etc prefs to the SDLP.

  • Barry the Blender

    2 DUP 2 UUP 1 SF 1 SDLP

    I’d stake anyone’s life on it

  • Total Nationalist vote at each Westminster and Assembly election in last 15 years:

    w 1997 – 36%
    a 1998 – 39%
    w 2001 – 38%
    a 2003 – 36%
    w 2005 – 34%
    a 2007 – 39%
    w 2010 – 37%

    It’s pretty clear that we have a pattern of results around the 38% mark, with some tactical voting to try (unsuccessfully) to save David Trimble’s seat in 2005 (which accounts for the increase in the Nationalist vote between 2005 and 2010).

    One can’t exclude three Nationalist seats this time, but I can’t see it as likely on past performance. I think it more likely that the Shinners will edge Kelly out, but even there I I would be inclined to bet against; SF have never managed either to double the SDLP’s vote here or to balance their own candidates well enough for it to make a difference. Still, I suppose there is a first time for everything.

    On the Unionist side, I am very confused by the nomination strategies of both major parties. This is the only seat where the DUP are clearly under-nominating, and it is also the worst case of overnomination by the UUP. The two DUP candidates therefore appear certain, but who knows what might come out of the mix of transfers at the end, with two UUP defectors and three UUP candidates competing for two quotas.

  • There seems to be a lot of constituencies where Sinn Fein is waiting on or predicting demographic changes. Upper Bann is one of them. But none seems likely..this time. But certainly points to a cluster of seat changes in the Future.
    SF are distributing an imprinted leaflet which is wildly optimistic.
    “Time for Equallity in Upper Bann….Election Day Thursday 5th May……Use Your Vote…….Nationalist 49% Unionist 51%”
    The reverse of the leaflet goes further “3 Nationalist Seats .Equality 2011” “Estimated (sic) Census 2011 Nationalists 49.2% Unionist 50.8%”

    Leaving aside SFs qualification to estimate an ongoing census, the Party has possibly confused Catholics and Nationalists although there are few if any Catholic Unionists).
    They also appear to have lowered the voting age to include anyone in making an appearance in the Delivery Suite at Craigavon Area Hospital.
    But the point here is that they are running two candidates and looking for three “nationalist” seats. Vote SF 1 and SF 2 and get Dolores Kelly for free seems to be the message.
    On the doorsteps (or maybe just some doorsteps) they are being remarkably kind to Dolores Kelly.
    Paradoxically I was told by a prominent Sinn Féin figure in Upper Bann that “Dolores Kelly is toast” which confirms something reported to me by a friend that they are saying that “Dolores is History”.
    Sinn Fein are just whistling in the dark in Upper Bann.

  • UpperBann

    David Simpson is not standing for DUP this time. His votes will not all stay within the DUP, some going to UUP and some to TUV. Moutray wants to top the poll (his vote fell from 4,697 in 2003 to 3,663 in 2007) and there is no chance of a third DUP seat – so they nominated two candidates.
    Anderson is much weaker than Simpson – he is ex-UUP remember. He stood as a “no terrorists in government” independent but only got 581 votes in 2003. McCusker (UUP) has the family name (his father was Westminster MP and got 25,137 votes in 1987). He has strong Orange Order connections and should poll well. Moutray has lost Orange votes because of the outcome to the Parades Commission issue at Hillsborough.
    So we could get a gain for the UUP or a first seat for TUV.

  • Backbencher

    Upper Bann is going to be very interesting.
    If O’Dowd votes transfers in the same ratio as in 2007 (ie 17% to SDLP) the second SF runner is in difficulty. The increased All vote may return to the UUP saving their second seat.
    Put my neck out here and make a couple of (wild) predictions
    SF to miss two seats
    McCusker in danger of being the losing UUP candidate (Surprisingly)