#AE11 Open Thread: East Londonderry (#el11)

East Londonderry constituency is mostly remarkable for the deselection of an incumbent UUP MLA David McClarty by the local Association. On the face of it, it seems, well, a bit nuts. Accordingly, you’d nearly have to back McClarty as a decent bet to retain his seat. But given the party is running two official candidate, they could of course all find a way of helping to elimate each other early.

Keep an eye on the TUV here. Unlikely they will take a seat, but it will be a good indication as to how well there message is going down in a very traditional unionist seat. And Barney Fitzpatrick too. If anything the Portstewart Alliance councillor’s posters predominate in Dungiven. He polled nearly 2000 votes last time, and its clear the party are investing in him as a future west of the Bann breakout (which at the least should get him a seat in whatever follows the current council set up).

But what do you think?

Sammy Morse’s 2007 profile

Splintered Sunrise from last year’s Westminster elections

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • FuturePhysicist

    Should be interesting to see if there’s anger here about Altnagelvin to hurt the UUP, then running two candidates could be a serious mistake. Then again, I don’t know or think that the TUV would be keen on satellite radiotherapy unit either.

  • Drumlins Rock

    quick look at Westminister, DUP with 2.5 quotas, UUP with 1.3, TUV half a one, Alliance 0.4, SDLP 1.1, SF 1.4.
    Which should def give DUP 2 seats, SDLP 1, SF1, obviously there is 1 UUP, but split 3 ways lets call it 0.4 quotas each, obviously the Alliance, SDLP & SF bits could pull in a seat, but that would take a miracle, so a third Nationalist seat is out, and not enough transfers will get Alliance in on their own, the question is how long can they stay in the fight with 5 Unionists.
    On the Unionist side, cant see TUV making it as they won’t pick up transfers till the end, McClarty might gain the most when they eventually drop out. But if Alliance drop out first McCauley and Harding might gain more, but if say McCarity drops out … in other words UUP 1 with the last seat anyone guess between UUP2, exUUP, and DUP, with Alliance outside chance.

  • Dewi

    Hedging bets a bit there DR!

  • Drumlins Rock

    I know Dewi, my head got sore trying to work it out! I think the unknown is the swing between DUP & UUP, either way but I hope towards us, possibly the UCUNF disaster has been underestimated and combined with double jobbing could pull a percentage point or two to make all the difference.

  • john

    3 Dup 1UUP 1 SF 1 SDLP. Nationalists will have to wait until the next election to have a shot at a third seat

  • FuturePhysicist

    Well there’s definitely the fourth unionist seat can be kept, but looking at the transfers it does give McClarty some good odds by simple “benefits of neutrality” relativism, the party surplus of the DUP may prefer him to other rivals (first anyway), as may the TUV so he could be fighting it out with Alliance, assuming they have the joint nationalist surplus quota for it.

    It’s really a matter of ensuring his personal vote can keep ahead of the eliminations first.

  • Barry the Blender

    The way I see it, Gregory to top the poll, the Cathal Hassan, Dallat and George Robinson. They should be safe.

    We’ll then have a plethora of candidates at or around the 2K mark.

    I would have assumed that Alliance transfers would have favoured David McClarty as much as anyone else.
    Nationalists are running 4 candidates, and after the elimination of the bottom one (Conway I would have thought), all three should be ahead of Firzpatrick so that the alliance will be eliminated.

    David Harding of the UUP looks like the most likely candidate to come bottom of the poll to me. If the UUP had stuck with their incumbent then they might have been looking at 2 seats. As it is, they’ll be lucky to pull a quota between both candidates.

    2DUP 1 SF 1 SDLP last 2 seats between McClarty, McAuley and McQuillan (possibly TUV) .

  • granni trixie

    I am always interested in the old chestnut: what are the circs in which people vote for a party (policies,values and branding) or for individuals?. Usually a mixture.

    The UUP is a prime example. Some people will not give up the tradition of voting for the UUP,whatever. But will others continue to vote for individuals standing under UUP banner despite the Party losiing credibilty for well rehearsed reasons plus the subliminal message that there is internal dissent and UUP people cannot work together so how can they work with other parties?

  • Following on Granni Trixies point…..and Im assuming that David McClarty is the subject….the correct answer is that…”it depends”.
    I have a certain amount of sympathy for Mr McClarty whose main fault seems to be that hes not the kinda man that would turn up at a UUP selection meeting and tell people “I have a portfolio of skills”.
    Ms Macauley…strikes me as exactly that kinda person.
    So now hes an Independent.
    In my experience there are people who think that they are bigger than the Party label (Jim Allister?).
    And sometimes a Party underestimates the personal vote of an erstwhile member (Sylvia Hermon?).
    Of course many in East Derry will share my sympathy with Mr McClarty. I dont know whether he has been treated shabbily or not but if enough people think he has…then he will get a decent vote. One which might influence the outcome but not enough to have him elected?
    Where do his transfers go? TUV? Alliance? Or “home” to UUP?
    The Alliance situation is interesting. Barney Fitzpatrick won election to Coleraine Council in a bye-election after a DUP councillor was disqualified.
    I dont have the figures in front of me but he got around 30% of the votes. His performance in Westminster 2010 was probably related to that. It will be interesting to see if there are longer term consequences. They are running council candidates in all of Coleraine and most of Limavady.
    The nationalist position is odd. Two safe quotas but East Derry seems one more place (Upper Bann, Fermanagh-South Tyrone, West Tyrone) where they are too optimistic about demographics. Westminster 2010 was a disappointment, largely in the new ex-Foyle DEAs. The voters there were not enthusiastic but the prospect of being transfereed to East Derry and losing a nationalist MP was probably not very appealing.

  • RyanAdams

    I think the Ulster Unionists are playing with fire here. In the 2005 local government election, in Coleraine Central David McClarty took 1478/2398 UUP votes, and brought the other candidates in on his transfers, so its safe to say he does have a personal vote here, and I would expect him to do better than the UUP candidate which gets this area of the constituency. Its also important to note that in entire of Coleraine district, this was the only DEA in which the UUP beat the DUP.

    The DUP will have a challenge on their hands to hold on to the three seats, especially with a challenge from Alliance here. They must be able to balance the vote much better this time or it looks like McQuillian will lose his seat.

    As far as the nationalist side looks, there will be no change with SF and SDLP 1 each.

    My prediction is for no change.

  • separatesix

    The unionists who don’t transfer to Boyd Douglas are foolish, they ought to be transfering to every single unionist candidate, with the boundary changes they can’t afford the luxury not to. I’ve heard on good authority that Boyd Douglas has a realistic chance of being elected to the assembly. I’d stake my house on Lesley Macaulay being elected, 100 % certain David McClarty will not be elected. Sinn Fein have been extremely active canvassing in the constituency

  • separatesix

    Some hardline unionists in East Londonderry dislike David McClarty as he’s viewed as too moderate but they may give him their second last preference ahead of Alliance’s Barney Fitzpatrick, I personally didn’t bother voting in 2007.

  • granni trixie

    Believe it or not, I was not thinking of David McClarty at all – I was generalising, based on observations of others and of the rationale for why I vote the way I do in a PR situation. .

  • Barry the Blender

    The organic alliance vote isn’t big enough to let them hang in the race long enough to pull in the transfers they could otherwise hope for. To reiterate Alliance will be eliminated here; alliance are not challenging for an Assembly seat.

  • separatesix

    If Gregory Campbell tops the assembly poll it would demonstrate that the electorate are’nt that concerned about triple-jobbing. At least Boyd Douglas has previous experience of being an assembly unlike Archibald-Fleming.

  • PaddyReilly

    Unusually, the two Nationalist parties have departed from their usual restraint and nominated two candidates apiece, which does not seem a very clever or a very hopeful manoeuvre. Hitherto the Nationalist vote has never gone much over 34%, which is less than two and a half quotas. It is hard to see why either party should think that it is going to win two seats.

    I suppose it must go back to the sectarian geography of the constituency: with an alleged 38% community Catholic, with an extra 2% coming through boundary changes, it would only take a small decrease in the Protestant population to bring the Catholic proportion within a whisker of what, in this electoral system, would be three quotas.

    However, 5.5% of the vote went to Alliance last time round, and it may be these are mainly Catholic voters. We would expect though that their transfers would go to the SDLP. Still, it does look like the combined Nationalist vote would be just enough to be too few for three seats. Next time round the boundaries will have been changed, and it will probably be inevitable.

    Barry the Blender’s statement that “the organic Alliance vote isn’t big enough to let them hang in the race long enough” is incorrect. It’s all down to the luck of the draw. If the first count produces results such as

    Fitzpatrick (Alliance) 5.6%
    McClarty (Ind) 5.4%
    Conway (SDLP) 5.0%

    Then the two lower candidates will be eliminated and Alliance, the universal recipient, will go sailing towards a quota on their transfers, like a surfer on a good wave, picking up with every subsequent redistribution. If the percentages are reversed, then they are lost. That’s the long and short of it: neither an Alliance defeat, nor an Alliance victory are inevitable. However, the excessive number of Unionist and Nationalist candidates gives them a good chance of this happening.

    In a constituency where there were 3 DUP seats, it seems inevitable that one of them should go to the TUV. So if I had to venture a guess, I would predict one seat each of TUV, DUP, UUP, Alliance, SDLP, SF. The Stormont system will only have achieved its full potential for facilitating splits when no party wins more than one seat in the same constituency.

    I wouldn’t put any money on it though, since the result for Alliance is so unpredictable. Two seats for the DUP is probably more likely, though at whose expense, exactly, I cannot say.

  • My gut feeling is much the same as PaddyReilly’s. Alliance are within sniffing distance of an unexpected gain, but it is very far from certain.

    I do sympathise with the Nationalist parties. It’s not so much the sectarian geography as the simple geography of the constituency which compels the running of two candidates, one from Coleraine and one from Limavady, if your vote is at that sort of level.

    On Alliance transfers: in 2007, Fitzpatrick’s 1670 votes went 810 Unionist, 620 Nationalist, rest non-transferable. Of course, his votes in 2011 may well come from different places.

    I’m not quite so sure about Boyd Douglas. He did rather badly in 2003, getting only 2.6%. He kept his council seat in 2005 with no Unionist party running against him. A lot will depend on whether there is a real TUV momentum, and a functional TUV machine. It didn’t work for William Ross last May, and he had represented the area for 27 years.

  • Barry the Blender

    I do think that you tend to see what you want to see when it comes to the Alliance party.

  • I think that the aspirations and alliances of Party members and activists is different from that of their actual voters.
    While many UUP and DUP people are at daggers drawn, the vast majority of their actual voters just see shades of “us”.
    Likewise SDLP and SF activists may not get along but the people who vote for them see no real difference.
    Of course Id expect that UUP, DUP, SDLP and SF people to deny that.
    Therefore the direction of an “activist” transfer is determined by whats best for his/her Party but the transfer of a regular voter is more about the broader tribal interest.

    Im not sure that the Sluggerite readership, often activists, fully appreciate that point.
    To some extent Alliance now see themselves as allies of their benefactors in DUP and Sinn Féin. We already have one open declaration here by an AP member that he is giving a second preference to the DUP. We have seen another AP member in the last 24 hours speak in glowing terms about Sinn Féin.
    Some see a common cause between UUP and SDLP over budget or their increasing marginalisation by the Big Two propped up by their client David Ford.
    Yet I think it would be a mistake to think that a whole new pattern of transfers will emerge because of the these over-hyped new alliances.
    There is a total disconnect between the politicians and the voters on this.
    Good relations in the Stormont corridors is one thing.
    Quite another in East Derry.
    Therefore I dont see any windfal to Alliance in East Derry because of whats happening in Stormont.
    I dont rule out anything but there was a context to APs rise to the dizzy heights of having a council seat in Coleraine.
    Fitzpatrick won it in a bye-election.
    The Alliance vote had actually been falling in Coleraine District for a decade and reached just over 1,000 votes in the whole Coleraine area in 2005.
    Fitzpatricks council election victory as a result of DUP disqualification was stunning. Ive not been able to find the exact figure but the percentage share of vote was about 30% so I cant see that being anything more than special case.
    In 2010, he got less than 2,000 votes in the entire East Derry area so I cant see how a figure (even allowing for percentages) of less than the vote AP was getting in Coleraine alone at the end of the 20th century translates into a seat.
    If Fitzpatrick is to rely on transfers, he would be foolish to rely on DUP and SF rank and file voters being attracted to him.
    More likely he would court fellow moderates in UUP and SDLP camps. But they would be mad to transfer to AP. I suspect that UUP and SDLP will be making that message clear in the constituency.

  • granni trixie

    That is not my reading at all (re allies). Alliance has always aspired to model relationships within and without which are cooperative rather than adversarial, consistent with the ideal of decisions making by building consenus and trust.

    SF and the DUP usually fight it out (in my mind) for last place on the voting paper and I see no reason to change this time round. However, I have felt an obligation this last few years to try as far as I can not to cast up their pasts.
    FJH: some of your analysis is crap. (this time, not always).

  • “Ive not been able to find the exact figure”

    Here are the details, fjh. Barney Fitzpatrick got 694 votes and 28% of the share in the Skerries EA by-election. Perhaps a bit like East Belfast where AP benefited from another DUP local ‘difficulty’.

    I see that AP got 29% and nearly two seats in the Skerries EA back in 1993 but that was before the Drumcree debacle and the arrival of SDLP and SF candidates.

  • Granni Trixie…..by the day you are becoming more at ease with the DUP and Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party benefactors.

    Im sure my analysis of events are often “crap” ….more so if it contradicts your neutral view of the Alliance Party.
    Im indebted to Nevin. My own notes just say “nearly 30%, a three fold increase”.
    Twas 28% up from 9.7%. It seems highly unlikely that in a comparatively short time they will plunge to that level in Skerries so quickly. Nor does it seem likely that they will attain 28% in two weeks time. If they thought theyd be matching or improving it they would run two candidates.
    As Nevin observes AP slip back when Nationalists calculate theres a winnable seat. Which makes East Antrim and Strangford interesting.

    Where they stand in the pecking order after first count and other early ones in East Derry is crucial. But unless that Alliance guy who is a shrewd gambler is seen in William Hills in Coleraine en route to his “own” constituency.Im unconvinced.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Granni Trixie…..by the day you are becoming more at ease with the DUP and Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party benefactors.

    Why not ? Give me some good reasons why anybody should try to support the SDLP or UUP instead. I keep asking this, and I’ve still not got an answer.

  • separatesix

    As I’ve previously stated Boyd Douglas will denfinately be elected to the assembly, he was an independant the last time, this time however he has the TUV name behind him. William Ross polled badly at Westminster but that dosen’t reflect a lack of support for the TUV, I dare say some Tuvistes voted Campbell because they knew ross coulden’t win but will switch back to TUV for the assembly election. The nationalist parties shoulden’t get too excited as the current six seat assembly model is likely to be reduced.

  • separatesix

    Very often on Slugger when people are making electoral predictions, what they are tends to colour what they see, they have party bias, I don’t have that. I’m getting a real sense that Boyd Douglas shall gain a seat even though Mick Fealty disagrees

  • PaddyReilly

    I am very pleased to hear of your lack of party bias, Separatesix, and in this matter I am inclined to agree with you.

    The TUV won sixty six thousand first preference votes in 2009. That’s enough for eleven seats in a Stormont election. Admittedly they are unlikely to get much in the way of transfers, and didn’t exactly shine in 2010, but this is a multiple choice election, like 2009.

    Where ever the DUP got three (or four) seats in 2007, we should expect that they will take one. I would have thought this guarantees them five seats.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Paddy, 2009 was exceptional, low poll, weak DUP candidate, expenses scandal, but most importantly Jimbo was the incumbent. In 2010 the TUV were so far of the quota in most areas it would take very strong local circumstances to give it any chance, that includes EL, I dont think the 3 way split in UUP votes is enough in this case, they may be in the mix for the last seat, but certainly aren’t at the top of the list. There is however one other constituency (apart from North Antrim) where I give them a fair chance of taking a seat, but will save that view for its thread when it comes up!

  • PaddyReilly

    Well, here is the rub. In predicting how the TUV will do in a multiple choice election in 2011, do we cite the results of a first past the post election in 2010, or a multiple choice election in 2009?

    I think if you look at the results of Westminster elections over the last decade or so, you will find that they can not be used to predict the percentages of parties in the Assembly elections which occur soon after. People vote differently when there is just one winner to when there will be six. When there is one, they tend to vote for a candidate from a large party: when there are six they can vote for the party they prefer.

    So while I am prepared to believe that the TUV vote will not be as high as in 2009, I still don’t think it will be as low as in 2010. This to me suggests that there will be one successful TUV candidate in every constituency where there were more than two DUP candidates returned in 2007. Thus the TUV might become nearly as large as Alliance.

    But we can only wait and see.

  • “AP slip back when Nationalists calculate theres a winnable seat”

    fjh, I think in more recent elections the main parties will also stand candidates where they risk losing their deposits just to build their overall NI percentage – a little bit here, a little bit there – it all counts.

  • roadnottaken

    While I won’t get ahead of myself and say that Douglas is guaranteed a seat, I’d predict that he will likely take one from the DUP. The DUP have again went with no strategy here…and therefore, McQuillan could be toast in the final results.
    Douglas is in a strong position as PaddyReilly said, due to the DUP incumbency factor, and also due to the internal UUP/Alliance struggle. Inevitably Alliance will transfer willy-nilly (mainly SDLP/UUP), but as a SF voter I am seriosuly considering both Fitzpatrick and McClarty..but mainly down to the fact that a third Nationalist seat is not in reach just yet. Although, if SF were stronger then I think that seat would be Archibald’s.

    A further caveat for thought…I believe it won’t be long until we see John Dallat exiting the Assembly. Co-option of Conway quietly during the Summer recess??

  • John Dallat is 64 (courtesy of Wikipedia) and certainly may retire before a full term.
    But he did have a good “Water” Campaign so may be around for a full term.
    Thomas Conway as a co-option? As running mate, he might be in with the best chance….IF…..I repeat IF that happens. Likewise he was the 2010 Westminster candidate.
    The best geographic position for a single SDLP MLA? Im not so sure……hes from the Rural DEA in Derry.
    Boyd Douglas has a genuine chance but he may need more TUV council candidates than he has around him. Gregory Campbells double jobbing might affect the DUP (McQuillan). The sixth seat is very open.

  • roadnottaken

    I spoke with Dallat last year and he seemed genuinely fatigued with elected life in general.. although this was during the height of the leadership campaign, and he was openly critical to a group of us of both candidates. I was surprised he ran again. Conway is a surprising choice, I know. But inevitably they have the problem of replacing such a popular character like Dallat who has been a genuine, humble and hardworking representative. So for that reason Conway needs time to bed-in at Stormont and gain a presence round the constituency..
    Though I wouldn’t rule out Orla Beattie for co-option.

    Douglas will most definately struggle for transfers, but I think he’ll finish it a good position it what will be a tight race between a multitude of Unionists..

  • separatesix

    At least Jim Allister acts in unionist interests by instructing his supporters to transfer to other unionist candidates unlike the DUP only want narrow party gain, they’re too pally with Sinn Fein these days. Dup voters ought to transfer to Boyd Douglas and UUP as well.

  • PaddyReilly

    Do I detect a teeny bit of party bias creeping in here, Seperatesix?

    I’m afraid that everyone has to accept that voters transfer mainly in a centre-ward direction. Some SDLP voters give a second pref to SF, but a large percentage of them give their second choice to Alliance, and third to the UUP.

    Equally there are plenty of UUP voters who would never in a month of Sundays vote for the DUP, and as for the TUV—well, forget it. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

  • Not so sure about that Paddy Reilly.
    In the specifics of East Derry in 2007.
    The terminal transfers from AP …..
    went 45% to UUP and 34% to SDLP which bearing in mind that there are more unionists shows a slight favour in SDLP).
    Only 7% of AP transfers went to DUP and SF (in fairly equal numbers).
    While AP might now be best friends forever with their benefactors in DUP & SF and we have moved away from Conflict it is still unlikely that the actual AP voters will see things that way.
    If we look at Gregory Campbells transfers (two DUP men were still in the race) they went almost 80% to DUP and about 15% to UUP. There was no help for AP.
    Thats not much different from the situation when UUP man Stevenson exited the race (76% UUP,19% DUP).
    SF exited the race with 67% of transfers going to SDLP and 30% not transferring.
    SDLP had two sets of transfers
    Beatties elimination.76% to Dallat,16% SF and 2% UUP.
    Dallats election. 12% to UUP but 87% not transferred.

    The danger is of course thinking that 2007 is 2011. Conflict and animosity is further away. And there is (allegedly) a SF-DUP-AP axis.
    But frankly I think the members, strategists and involved supporters of Parties are thinking quite differently from the vast majority of voters.

  • PaddyReilly


    I can’t see what you’re saying that contradicts anything I said.

    TUV voters transfer in a centre-ward direction. Some give their number 2 to the DUP, others to the UUP. Number 3 might be same in reverse. Number 4, possibly Alliance.

    Alliance party voters are already in the centre, so if they transfer at all they give their number 2 to the UUP or SDLP. At least up till now: whether they will really transfer to SF or DUP I cannot say.

    I don’t detect any favour to the SDLP. I just suppose that more Catholics are voting Alliance than Protestant.

    What you refer to as transfers are actually number 2 preferences. The system does not allow us to see number 3s: they are counted as transfers from the number 2 choice.

  • Apologies if I possibly misread your earlier post.
    My point is that voters who arent actually “members” of political parties are a truer guide to transfer intentions than full blooded partisans or political observers.
    I feel that those hyping a “new” politics eg the DUP-SF-AP axis are calling it wrong.
    It may seem “logical” for a member of Alliance to talk about transferring to their new allies in DUP and SF but it will not appear logical to AP voters on the ground.
    Their transfers will follow much the same pattern as before.
    Likewise the other parties.
    Even allowing for movement because we are four years further away from our conflict.
    Even allowing for movement because of new “coalitions”, I think there will only be a slight movement away from the norms

  • separatesix

    I’m not party biased but I feel if a voter is going to vote within a particular tradition he should vote for every political party within that tradition. DUP and UUP should transfer to the TUV in East Londonderry. “DUP – let’s keep Northern Ireland moving southward!” coulden’t believe my eyes.

  • separatesix

    Paddy Reilly makes several good points, does anyone think Jim Allister QC could end up the same way as Bob McCartney?

  • He already has.

  • separatesix

    I really hope that’s not the case.