David Ford on d’Hondt: “I don’t think it’s a particularly proportional system.”

BBC NI political editor, Mark Devenport, calculates that the Alliance Party are in prime position to pick up the tenth, and final, ministerial position to be distributed under d’Hondt.  Now that “the government” have been re-elected…

The NI Justice Ministry comes later – and may only be a temporary appointment.  From Mark Devenport

Steven Agnew’s last gasp victory for the Greens leaves Alliance on 8 seats – exactly half the Ulster Unionist total of 16.

Under the D’Hondt system the UUP gets one department, but when its turn comes for a second pick, its seats have half the value.

So it’s 8 versus 8. At this point the tie breaker is how many first preference votes each party received, with the UUP vote tally also being halved.

According to this method, Alliance is also ahead, so should take its first ministry before the UUP get a chance for a second.

That’s unless former UUP member David McClarty, who was elected as an independent after failing to be selected as a UUP candidate, can be persuaded to return to the fold.

And David McClarty isn’t giving anything away.

Btw, speculation that the new Green Party MLA, Steven Agnew, could also intervene is, I would suggest, ill-founded – given the 2006 NI Assembly Speaker’s ruling on the definition of a “political party” for the purposes of d’Hondt.

Adds  Although he focuses elsewhere, Mark mentioned the same problem for the UUP.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    Unless Agnew joined Alliance. That is a highly unlikely outcome as I’m sure Agnew would be keen to maintain his own identity and not be part of the government.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “Unless Agnew joined Alliance”

    He appeared to rule that out today on Radio Ulster, though not in the strongest of terms. I’d imagine, given his colleagues’ fortunes in the South, he’d be resistant..

  • granni trixie

    I am sure I am like the general population,having forgotten the details of, and why the d’Hondt system was adopted in the first place. Even if some anomolies have resulted from the crude system, in “the special circs of NI” it does appear to have facilitated a phase of stability which (I would argue) is a key goal in the wake of a violent conflict.

  • Lionel Hutz

    True grannietrixie, but this has nothing to do with any anomolies in D’hondt. If D’hondt ran for all 11, it would be DUP 4, SF 3, UUP 2, SDLP 1, All . That’s a very fair outcome.

    The problem is the carve up of the Justice Department. You can’t blame d’hondt for this. Any system that it is only partially used will result in unfairness. I think that with regards to justice dep, they could run the cross-community vote as part as D’hondt so that when the picks a dealt out, the party that wants to take justice can pick it but only gets it if they get the vote. If the parties were pragmatic about it, Alliance would end up with justice as part of it d’hondt

  • Granni, as I see it the present arrangements not only give the DUP and SF the OFMDFM, they also give them first pick of the other 10 ministries and they could give AP a ministry in addition to the justice portfolio. I’ve run d’Hondt using that online gizmo on 13 ministries and compared it with OFMDFM plus 11 ministries.:

    My – Official

    1. DUP – DUP
    2. SF – SF
    3. DUP – DUP
    4. UUP – SF
    5. SF – DUP
    6. SDLP – UUP
    7. DUP – SF
    8. SF – SDLP
    9. DUP – DUP
    10. AP – SF
    11. UUP – DUP
    12. DUP – AP
    13. SF – UUP

    I suggest my system is fairer to the UUP and SDLP and it doesn’t give AP two ministries.

  • dodrade

    What will it take to get McClarty back in the UUP fold? A full-page apology from Elliott in the Belfast Telegraph? His Deputy Speaker job back? One of the two ministries? I’m no Alliance voter, but it would be a pretty dirty stitch-up if they were deprived of a ministry this way and McClarty owes the UUP nothing after they way they’ve treated him. Would it even be legal?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel:

    The problem is the carve up of the Justice Department. You can’t blame d’hondt for this. Any system that it is only partially used will result in unfairness.

    It’s time to change the record now, Lionel.

    BTW the fruitcake part about d’Hondt is that if Alliance get a ministry under that scheme it will only because the UUP shrank. If the UUP and SDLP were the same size as before Alliance wouldn’t be entitled. How can you defend that as fair ?

    dodrade:

    I’m no Alliance voter, but it would be a pretty dirty stitch-up if they were deprived of a ministry this way and McClarty owes the UUP nothing after they way they’ve treated him.

    I want to see Alliance taking two ministries, but I’m not sure the party would be able to justifiably complain if McClarty makes this move back to the UUP. Firstly, I suspect that if Alliance were able to obtain a ministry by getting an MLA to join the party they would do it, and they would be right to do so. Secondly, Alliance are not “entitled” to two ministries, but are positioned to obtain them largely because of the outworkings of the system and the DUP/SF axis.

    If the UUP are able to play that system within the rules, then that is that. To complain about it would be firmly in the “whinging” territory and would lead to the party being punished by the electorate.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BTW if McClarty decides to switch back, I’d be making sure that the East Derry electorate were given plenty of opportunities to contrast his supposedly moderate stance with that of his party leader.

  • granni trixie

    I agree – if McClarty is “persuaded” to rejoin UUP and by the rules the UUP have a second Ministry, I doubt if you would find Alliance whinging on and on….as it would be done by the existing rules.

    Geddit?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Agreed Granni. After all that has happened, or what might happen, Alliance cannot point to the rules when they are in the party’s favour and complain when they are against. Like I said, though, it would be for the electorate in East Derry to decide eventually.

  • Cynic2

    The d’Hondt calculator Mark linked to earlier doesn’t give Alliance a seat. If they get two it will be perverse.

    Why don’t the DUPs ad SF just be grown up ad put Justice into the Pot with the rest

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why don’t the DUPs ad SF just be grown up ad put Justice into the Pot with the rest

    It would actually be progress, of a sort.

  • iluvni

    Any chance the Pledge of Office be amended to ensure that if any are found to be up to their necks in expenses scandals, questionable associations with developers, caught on shagging on the sly, demonstrating continued sheer incompetence or unwillingness to work with their scrutinising committee, lying, celebrating the deeds of terrorists/freedom fighters….I’m sure there’s more….theyll resign their post this time.

    No stepping aside, smoke and mirrors, appointing their own investigating teams and dictating the terms of reference…

    Any chance of that, like?

  • joeCanuck

    Life ain’t fair and gravity sucks. Get used to it.

  • otto

    Nigel Dodd’s alluded to changes to d’hondt to encourage co-operation on this morning’s Politics Show. The obvious and transparent change is to let cross-community selection take precedence in the order in which ministries are allocated but not to let any party take more ministries than d’hondt would permit in total.

    The DUP and Alliance both called for a reduction to eight departments in their manifestos. If the OFM, DFM and eight ministries all drew down on d’hondt allowances the parties (assuming no junior ministers, transfers or additions) would have DUP (4), SF (3), SDLP (1), UUP (1), AP (1) which looks pretty fair and all inclusive.

    If we also reduce the Assembly to 80 MLA’s (16 new constituencies with five MLA’s each per Alliance’s suggestion) that’s one in eight MLA’s being a minister which is plenty.

  • joeCanuck

    Any chance of that?

    Iluvni,
    I’m sure you’ve heard an analogous question – do turkeys vote for Christmas?

  • Light23

    “I’m no Alliance voter, but it would be a pretty dirty stitch-up if they were deprived of a ministry this way and McClarty owes the UUP nothing after they way they’ve treated him. Would it even be legal?”

    I’d be pretty pissed since I voted Alliance 1, McClarty 2. I only gave him my second preference because he seemed sensible/moderate, and presumably as an independent he wouldn’t engage in silly political point scoring for the UUP.

    Now my vote could end up helping the UUP and Tom Elliot, while costing Alliance their Executive slot.

    He should just run his term on his own and then retire from politics at 64.

    I didn’t even know it was possible that he could stand as an independent and then become a de-facto UUP member as part of government.

  • al

    When are the ministerial positions assigned? I assume that will be first on the agenda for the new sitting?

  • Gopher

    The UUP, SDLP and Alliance party should not take their ministries, lets have an opposition and interesting politics. They could even split the shadow posts between them (though they would likely fall out over those too)

  • Comrade Stalin

    otto:

    The obvious and transparent change is to let cross-community selection take precedence in the order in which ministries are allocated but not to let any party take more ministries than d’hondt would permit in total.

    I cannot see any changes to the number of ministries/MLAs being proposed during the coming term, but it might not be long after that ..

    I would much rather see a proper government/opposition system with the government being elected based on a weighted majority of the assembly. Initially, I’d expect it to be set up in such a way that would prevent the exclusion of Sinn Féin.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The UUP, SDLP and Alliance party should not take their ministries, lets have an opposition and interesting politics.

    A coalition with a failed SDLP leader and a UUP leader who cannot contain his Paisleyite tendencies ? No way.

  • Reader

    Cynic2: The d’Hondt calculator Mark linked to earlier doesn’t give Alliance a seat. If they get two it will be perverse.
    It’s no good at breaking ties as it doesn’t know the first preference count as a tiebreaker. Put in 8.1 instead of 8 as the Alliance seat count and it will show everything in the right order.

  • Lionel Hutz

    BTW the fruitcake part about d’Hondt is that if Alliance get a ministry under that scheme it will only because the UUP shrank. If the UUP and SDLP were the same size as before Alliance wouldn’t be entitled. How can you defend that as fair ?

    —————

    Well would in that case, would they not have got the 11th pick? If SDLP had 16 seats and Alliance got 8?

    I agree that D’hondt can be unforgiving but it’s better than alliance getting appointed by two larger parties at the expense of a smaller. Prior to the election it would have been the SDLP who lost out. This time it is at the expense of UUP.

    Change the record? No. Now I can say this without the accusation of being labelled a whinging stoop. If Alliance get two ministries with UUP only one, it is an insult to democracy. We are supposed to have a mandatory coalition. Alliance mandate is significantly less than UUP. To have twice the power is an insult!

  • Lionel Hutz

    If it happens, I hope that the SDLP walk out of the executive. It will become a carve up and that is the perfect opportunity for the SDLP to walk on a point of principle which can’t be claimed to be an example of SDLP whinging

  • joeCanuck

    To have twice the power is an insult!

    To be brutally honest, how much power really comes from redistributing money donated by our fellow citizens across the pond?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Im not sure, but whatever it is, the alliance will get twice as much of it as they should. Lol

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel, I’m up for fairness on the same level as any other democratically elected government in the world. Not this stupid cake-slicing mechanism cooked up by your pals.

    Leaving aside the stuff we are not going to agree on, the SDLP are kind of damned if they do/damned if they don’t. Walking out of the Executive is not a straightforward call. Margaret Ritchie’s time on DSD was probably the best thing that happened either to her or her party in recent years; and it will work out well for Attwood. There are certainly opportunities to make a difference within the Executive again – with the heavy price that this means endorsing the status quo that they are claiming is so unfair.

    It’s an agonizing decision and I don’t envy them, although the subtle irony that they are being constrained by the system they designed is fascinating.

  • joeCanuck

    Ford says that d”Hondt is not his preferred method of distributing Ministries. Perhaps he might have had the decency to let us know his alternative, preferred, method.

  • Gopher

    “A coalition with a failed SDLP leader and a UUP leader who cannot contain his Paisleyite tendencies ? No way.”

    Okay let Alliance go into government and let the failed leader and the guy with political coprolalia go into opposition. Despite the chronic incompetence that make up the power brokers of both parties that threw up these leaders I can’t believe both leaders will still be in jobs after the local election count. Do people not resign anymore?

  • iluvni

    McClarty needs to make the biggest decision of his career immediately and rejoin the UUP before the carve-up. In such a decisive position, no Unionist should be responsible for handing a ministry to Alliance.
    That would be unforgiveable, despite the UUP’s fantastic ability to shoot itself in the foot time and time again.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ford says that d”Hondt is not his preferred method of distributing Ministries. Perhaps he might have had the decency to let us know his alternative, preferred, method.

    Alliance policy is that the coalition should be a voluntary one with the support of a weighted majority in the assembly. Something like 65-70%.

    iluvni:

    In such a decisive position, no Unionist should be responsible for handing a ministry to Alliance.

    On the other hand, of course, McClarty would be seen to be endorsing Elliott’s “scum” comments.

  • Cynic2

    Time for change. They should just run d’Hondt and let it happen. Justice and all. The sight of the Shinners responsible for suppressing the Dissers will be wonderful.

    There are two sides to this

    A SF Justice minister would also have to take steps to secure all those arms dumps that they they didn’t hand in and that now appear to abe arming the Dissers. Can you image the negotiations with the Army Council on that one?

    Second, and to be serious, one of the most impressive things post election was that several DUP speakers (Gregory Campbell included) freely agreed that the war is over, PIRA have gone away and SF have transformed into a legitimate democratic party.

    So it is time to move on and bringing Justice into the mainstream in 2011 rather than 2012 should be part of that even if it ends up with a SF Minister

  • Cynic2

    Alliance don’t qualify for any Ministries by my calculation.

  • Eglise en bois

    reality check if d’hondt was run fairly for all 11 ministries, the UUP would get 2 and Alliance 1, so David Ford can whinge all he likes, he is entitled to one ministerial post and hopefully thats what he’ll get.

    For those who voted for David McClarty and thought he wouldn’t rejoin the UUP, particularly in this scenario, you were crazy, it was always going to happen.

  • Eglise en bois

    As for Steven Agnew joining with the Alliance, had Eileen Bell, the former, Alliance speaker, ruled that David Ervine could join with the UUPin a lose coalition, back in the dim and distant past, then yes Steven Agnew could join with the Alliance, but she decided that or the law was interpreted that to change parties you had to join a recogniseable party, and obviously Steven Agnew couldn’t with any credibility be the leader of one party outside the Assembly and be a member of a different party inside!

  • joeCanuck

    Comrade,
    Thanks for the info.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Eglise:

    reality check if d’hondt was run fairly for all 11 ministries, the UUP would get 2 and Alliance 1, so David Ford can whinge all he likes, he is entitled to one ministerial post and hopefully thats what he’ll get.

    There won’t be any whinging from Ford. People will be disappointed obviously, but those are the rules and the public won’t tolerate people who only support the rules when they go in their favour.

    For those who voted for David McClarty and thought he wouldn’t rejoin the UUP, particularly in this scenario, you were crazy, it was always going to happen.

    Count me as one of the crazy ones. If I was screwed over and insulted by my party and they came crawling on their knees for me to come back I’d make damn sure to think slowly and carefully about it. McClarty was elected on an independent mandate, not an Ulster Unionist mandate and he needs to think about how people will react to any change very carefully.

    As for Steven Agnew joining with the Alliance, had Eileen Bell, the former, Alliance speaker, ruled that David Ervine could join with the UUPin a lose coalition,

    Yeah, but that doesn’t apply to the selection of the Executive, as section 18 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 states that the counting is done on the basis of what party the MLA was a member of at the first sitting of the assembly.

    The little stitch up the UUP tried to do with the PUP (who presumably are not “scum”) was more to do with speaking rights and the allocation of committee chair/vice chair positions, AFAIK.

    The only way for this to happen is for Agnew to actually become a paid up Alliance member before Thursday. Which is not going to happen.

  • ayeYerMa

    Could McClarty even be enticed towards the DUP? I’d assume that would let Alliance have the seat, but in some ways that could work into the DUP’s hands in that could trigger both the SDLP and UUP to be so pissed off with Alliance getting the 2 seats that they form an opposition. After all, the DUP wants reform in the name of a voluntary coalition as well.

    Though, McClarty remaining independent might also be just exactly the same situation, but I don’t see him remaining independent with a UUP offer already on the table.

  • Comrade Stalin

    ayeYerMa,

    As I pointed out elsewhere, the problem with the current setup is that walking out, and into opposition, is tantamount to walking out of the spotlight. Alliance – granted that it was/is a small party – was able to make precisely zero impact by acting as an opposition.

    The system was specifically designed this way by the UUP and SDLP. Some of the objectives were laudable (keep the then-minority parties DUP and SF from pissing into the tent) and not so laudable (consolidate their own place in power at the expense of small parties). The upshot is that you have to stay in the executive in order to have a chance of making a difference.