Slugger’s Big Heid Coont Breakfast 2011

A slightly smaller crowd that previously gathered at 8am this morning up on the top floor of the Europa Hotel. After a quick plug from sponsor Mark Prentice (MD of Firmus Energy – who can help you to Keep ‘er lit) a number of guests popped up to the podium to make their comments on the Assembly and AV referendum results and take questions from the bacon butty-guzzling guests.


Asked to comment on the role of Twitter in politics, Conall McDevitt explained that Twitter is subject to trolling. A minority with a vested interest will try and use it – like they would in any social setting – but they can and will be challenged by others in the medium. He also noted that for the second election in a row, SDLP has beaten the UUP in terms of popular votes, but ended up with fewer seats. Notes that the “middle ground” is softening up and transfers

After commenting on that Belgium has been without a government for the past year and is coping very nicely thank you, election pundit and Doctor Who fanatic Nicholas Whyte gave his take on the state of each party’s performance.

One timely contribution from the floor pointed out that the original 1973 education on STV warned against “plumping” (for a single candidate or party) but instead encouraged voters to use the full length of the ballot paper to maximise their impact on the STV ballot. Perhaps, voter education as well as participation encouragement is something the Electoral Commission and EONI will be addressing as they reflect on the May 2011 election process.

DUP strategist Lee Reynolds answering questions at Slugger Big Election breakfast - photo by Mr UlsterDUP strategist Lee Reynolds let us into the secret of the DUP’s success:

  • narrative – parties need to tell a story for people to follow – he recommends the book The Political Brain;
  • credibility;
  • organisation – fewer and fewer people are involved with political parties and willing to go around door and do the leg work required;
  • discipline – in terms of message and vote management;
  • and a good old dash of predestination!

He remarked that female candidates are more transfer friendly – a subject I’ll return to in a future blog post.

Dropping by for a few minutes, Mark Devenport took criticisms from the floor on his chin about the BBC’s simplification of the count, with its concentration on first preferences and lack of detail on its website graphics.

Later, UTV’s Mark Mallett got an easier ride with praise for their coverage.

(Lots more photos by Mr Ulster over on Flickr.)

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  • DUP strategist Lee Reynolds let us into the secret of the DUP’s success:

    narrative – parties need to tell a story for people to follow – he recommends the book The Political Brain;

    Whose tale is the DUP spinning, Alan. Is it an original work of art or is it just a program dictated to them by others elsewhere and which they do not have the political brains not to follow?

    Who is the author of everyone’s woes and difficulties in these changing times?

  • As I was around in 1973, I recall the adverts on STV.
    Its not actually my recollection that they “warned” against plumping but rather (and again this is my recollection of 38 years ago) set out the alternative..that a person may want to plump….or vote the ballot paper.
    (for those who are much too young to remember the advert it featured two mature rustic gentlemen in a pub).

    As a counting agent on Friday (South Belfast) my impression was the ballot paper was not fully used. Now again others might quite properly have formeda different impression. But I am comparing this to my last experience in probably 1982. Different era of course.
    Certainly this time a lot pf people seemed to plump for just one candidate or limit their choice to just three or four candidates. When the votes have been properly analysed and compared it will be interesting.

    I dont think there is a “right or wrong” way to use PR. The Voter is always right and if he/she feels ok about plumping….so be it.

  • Apropos of Lee’s promo for The Political Brain, I’d also push ‘Don’t Think of An Elephant’ by George Lakoff. It’s expressly written for a centre-left perspective rather than the DUP’s target but I found reading the two together to be very instructive.

  • I had a count to be at yesterday, so I didn’t make the breakfast, but Lee’s suggested reading is now winging its way via Amazon.