I have a lot of time for the Alliance Party. Most people have. Forty years of non sectarianism is no mean achievement. Of course they have made mistakes. I think that the “re-designation” fiasco might well have been their biggest and just about every Alliance person I have ever met agrees.
It was not their finest hour but they would say…..and I agree….that it was a decision made for the Common Good. Critically they have learned from it. They have a record of doing things for the Common Good. They would say thats the basis that they took the Justice Ministry. I dont go along with that….but theyve banked enough goodwill to be given the benefit of the doubt.
They are at worst ….harmless. They have done no harm over forty years to me and mine. Not many political parties can say that. They have their heart in the right place. On their sleeve. Inclined to be a bit “holier than thou” which is kinda ok because they are wonderfully easy to wind up.
No harm to me and mine. Or indeed to you and yours. That makes them at least worthy of a consideration when we enter the polling booth.
Of course people DO choose Alliance Party for much more positive reasons. They are a positive force. Voters give them that #1. But a trump card is that “they’ve dun me no harm” thing. That gets the #2s. And it didnt do Naomi Long any harm either.
They are for Fair Play. To make (say) two gains in the Assembly, they need to break new ground in (say) East Derry, North Belfast or Upper Bann. Only the latter is realistic. Or they need a second seat in East Antrim (very unlikely), East Belfast (possible) or North Down (also possible). Indeed if I was to identify the two most likely gains it would be East Belfast and North Down.
Now clearly Naomi Longs victory means two quotas are possible. But I think that most people would concede that she benefitted from some tactical voting to oust Peter Robinson. Some from UUP and some from SDLP and indeed others. I am sure Naomi Long appreciates that.
As Alliance canvassers knock on doors in unionist Bellmont, they may well be greeted by a UUP voter who will happily promise a #2 to Chris Lyttle or Judith Cochrane. After all Alliance Party have done them no harm.
They will happily accept it. Likewise the Alliance canvasser in Short Strand will get a cordial reception at a SDLP house. First preference promised to Magdalena Wolska but hey no problem with the #2 and #3. Naomi after all has done us no harm. We even voted for her last year. Fair dealers.
As Alliance canvassers go around Bangor West, they will encounter some SDLP voters. Second preference? Why not? Alliance have done us no harm and our guy isnt gonna win. Actually we gave Stephen Farry #2 in 2007. Just like 35% of SDLP voters. It elected him.
And in Groomsport , AP canvassers will discover some UUP people who gave Farry #2 last time. He was already elected. A second AP candidate? Yes why not. Alliance would not do any harm to UUP voters.
Alliance after all respect a mandate. Well maybe not in 2011. If they actually pick up nine seats (and two Execuive positions) on their fair play reputation and their “never done us any harm” #2 votes…that shows enormous lack of respect to UUP and SDLP voters who transfer to Alliance.
A scenario was put to an Alliance MLA last night. The Alliance Party gets nine seats in the Election and gets two seats on the Executive. The UUP get (lets say) seventeen seats but get one seat on the Executive. The SDLP gets (lets say) seventeen seats) and gets one seat.
In other words nine seats gets you two Departments and thirty four seats gets you two seats. The Justice Ministry being “outside” d’Hondt. The Alliance MLA seemed unsure of the response…a little embarrassed. Mainly it seemed like yes they would and David Ford is brilliant so he is.
A further scenario was put. That as Alliance votes are more valuable than UUP and SDLP votes…UUP and SDLP voters should perhaps not give transfers to the Alliance Party. And of course the same is true for the other parties.
Transferring to Alliance is cutting your own throat. Fair Play? Doing No Harm to me and mine or you and yours? It seems odd to ask for that crucial #2 votes from UUP and SDLP without indicating the consequence. “If your party of first choice gets twice as many seats as your party of second choice……your party of second choice gets twice as many seats”.
A hard sell in Belmont, Short Strand, Bangor West and Groomsport.
A bit shabby. But there seems to be a way out of this. David Ford got his Justice Department for the greater Common Good. Declining a second Department would also be in the greater Common Good. After all David Fords Alliance Party supports AV and would go further with proportionality.
Maybe its just a cunning plan devised by Professor of Cunning at Oxford University. The UUP and SDLP will voluntarily go into Opposition. There are three responses.
- Rules are Rules……as Trevor Lunn MLA said in another context last night. Alliance benefits. So what? They are under no obligation to tell UUP & SDLP “first preference voters” of the consequences.
- A Declaration (private if they wish) that the Party would not take a second seat in such circumstances. The APs longstanding commitment to Fair Play, fair voting is paramount. UUP voters and SDLP voters can rest assured that giving a second preference in East Belfast and North Down or indeed anywhere else will not be used as a means of screwing the UUP and SDLP.
- Practical Politics. The UUP and SDLP running with this charge against Alliance……”DONT vote for them”, “Dont give them a second preference” will not help the Alliance Party and would actually limit their chances of getting that eighth or ninth seat. So sitting in an Assembly with nine MLAs and one Executive seat (Justice) seems a better prospect than seven seats and one Executive seat.